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What You Should Know About Teens and Counseling

What You Should Know About Teens and Counseling

During the school year, my caseload includes a steady stream of teenage girls. (On average, I see around 20 clients a week: 1/3 individual adults, 1/3 couples and 1/3 teenage girls.) I didn’t used to like working with this population but in recent years, they’ve become some of my favorite clients!

Adolescent girls are a mystery to most everyone (including themselves) and I’m not saying I’m the teen girl whisperer, but for a variety of reasons, we often seem to be a great therapeutic match.

If you have an adolescent living under your roof, you really should consider getting her established with a therapist. You may be one of the few households that never experiences a “crisis of teen girl proportions,” but if/when it does, it’s great to already have a relationship with a therapist so you don’t have to start at ground zero in the therapy process. Perhaps even more importantly, a lot of situations that don’t necessarily meet the criteria for “crisis” arise weekly in the teenage world, and it’s beneficial to have another adult to be able to connect with your teen in the midst of these tumultuous years.

This is 2018. Counseling stigmas are a thing of the past. Gone are the days when only “troubled teens” needed therapy. “Great kids” benefit from therapy, too! Even well-adjusted, high-preforming, friendly teens could benefit from therapeutic support. (You’d be surprised at the level of stress being a “great kid” can bring on an adolescent!) The bottom line is: you’re never going to regret providing your teenager with another healthy adult point of connection.

Topics that I regularly address in counseling with my teenage clients:

  • Social Anxiety
  • School Stress/Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Communication Skills (communicating with peers and/or parents)
  • Managing a Bipolar diagnosis
  • Coping with ADHD and learning disabilities
  • Gender Identity Issues
  • Bullying
  • Sexuality topics…many and varied!
  • Suicidal thoughts and cutting
  • Strained family relationships
  • Sexual trauma
  • Stress associated with divorce and blended family issues

Here are a few other reasons you may have not considered as to why it’s good to get your teen in therapy…particularly with yours truly!

  1. I don’t know your family. I don’t have any loyalties to anyone. I offer a fresh pair of eyes to question long-term patterns of communication, secrets, expectations, etc. And your teen can speak to me freely about her family without fear of offending me or hurting my feelings, or concern that her disdain for MawMaw’s cookies will ever make its way around the family rumor mill. (Also…bring me MawMaw’s cookies! I’ll eat them!)
  2. I’m relatable. The window may be closing, but currently I still seem to pass for what the kids refer to as “cool.” Even yesterday, I had a new high-school aged client guess that I am 27 years old. (Which is to say, I now have a new favorite client.) It’s a great gift to your adolescent to provide a healthy adult voice (that still seems relevant) to help them navigate tough choices, discuss school stress and friendship drama, and begin to figure out who they want to be in the future.
  3. I don’t have an agenda. What should your student major in at college? I don’t care. Should your budding adult attend senior skip day? I don’t care. Should your 7th grader go to the dance with Person A or Person B? I DON’T CARE! 🙂
    What I DO care very much about is that your teenager is developing the skills necessary to connect with the part of herself that is her own compass, and make decisions that feel solid and good to her, all the way through her being. It’s not that I’m disinterested in what’s going on. I am simultaneously highly interested in my clients’ lives while maintaining a lack of worry or responsibility for their decisions. This is what (most) parents are generally unable to do, but it’s a stance that is really helpful for teenagers.
    Since I don’t have an agenda, you’d really be surprised with what all I’ll hear from your teenager. Giving your teen a relationship with another healthy adult will never be a bad thing. They may not open up to you at this point, but it’s definitely preferable if they can open up to someone. And, what is more, a person who is bound by confidentiality and a code of ethics and principles which will guide responses in a healthy and careful way.
  4. I’ve heard it all before. You can’t shock me. Many have tried. Few have succeeded. I won’t give examples here, because there are two distinct types of people reading this post: people who don’t need examples and people who don’t need their minds blown. 🙂 But suffice it to say, I’ve been counseling for over a decade and it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees when it comes to shocking disclosures, but there’s always a bigger picture that needs to be addressed carefully. I often help families navigate what just seems and feels like a big deal and what is actually a big deal needing extra attention.

I have offices in Walker, Louisiana and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I’d love to set up a time after school to discuss how counseling could benefit a teenager that you love! Contact me here to schedule an appointment!

If you are reading this and you have a teenage boy under your roof, you may be thinking to yourself, “Wow…Allison sounds perfect for my teenage son! Does she see teenage boys or only girls?”
To you I say: Maybe. I see adult males all the time. But there’s something about teenage male sexuality that I find to be best addressed with a male professional counselor. My FAVORITE referral for male teenagers (and lots of others…he’s a great therapist): Joel Gilbert. Joel is an excellent therapist, very easily relatable and very wise.

For the record, I do see adult males for individual work. What a difference a frontal lobe makes!

If you’re reading this and you wonder if I see kids younger than 13, the answer is, “no way!” For kids, I gladly refer to an awesome therapist named Christine Varnado. She does amazing work and kids are obsessed with her!

Step-parent Like a Pro: Equality without comparison

Step-Parent Like A Pro: Equality Without Comparison

So far in our step-parenting blog series we have looked at the very important role that step-parents play with their step-children, and specific ways you could add to your step-parenting skillset.

This week we are going to look at how to establish equality among step-siblings without the pitfall of comparison.

Some blended households have kids from both parents living under the same roof. (And God bless you in all your endeavors.) When that is the case, the main pain points often surround discipline and expectations being unequal between step-siblings. But, as is often the case, what works in a traditional nuclear family can still provide a good framework for blended families.

The traditional advice of parenting siblings is to set discipline and expectations for each kid individually, based on their own personality and strengths. This is true for blended families as well.

What doesn’t need to be case by case is the set of rules for how you treat each other.

There doesn’t need to be inequality in attitude expectations, language that can be used, signs of respect, etc. These should be seen as household rules and everyone at the house should follow them.

Handing down consequences.

  • Unless you’ve been around for a *very* long time (5 years or more maybe?) or you entered the scene when the child is very young (before Kindergarten, I’d say), then I feel strongly that discipline and consequences should either be handed down jointly or by the birth parent, when possible. It’s not always possible because perhaps you provide a lot more face-to-face parental contact than the birth parent (like they work off-shore, for example) but when possible, let the birth parent take the hit and handle the conflict.
  • You can join in and support the birth parent when appropriate (silent presence is okay, too), but you’re the support person here, not the one dropping the hammer. The step relationship by its very nature can sometimes be strained, so there is no sense in complicating it further, unless specifically requested by your spouse or you’ve been around a long enough time or came around when they child was very young to not be considered fully in the “step” role.
  • When it’s not possible for the birth parent to handle discipline, a pro-tip is to use “we” based, joining language to remind/gently correct: “Let’s get our chores done before mom gets home so she won’t have to ask us about them!” Whenever possible, join your step-child, side by side, shoulder to shoulder. Not out of equality necessarily, but out of humility, comradery and openness.
  • Back the birth parent’s play. Even if you disagree. Even if you would have handled it differently with your kids. Don’t disagree in front of the kids about discipline. Kids will suss out this type of division so quickly and launch a full-scale ninja attack to play you guys against each other!
  • Support. Listen. Empower. This is the fun stuff. Be a cheer leader and not a task master.

Structuring Your Household

  • Steps or not, if the adults are at the top of the food chain at home, and the adults are seen loving each other and modeling a healthy relationship, the whole house runs better.
  • God’s design still works, whether biological parents or step. If the mom & dad figures of the house feel solid, the household feels solid. So don’t feel bad about prioritizing each other. And still yet, use creative solutions that keep anyone from feeling like attention and quality time are zero-sum games.
  • All kids want to feel close, to feel securely attached, like the have a solid place to belong. You can do your part to act as the salve to that wound and it just may be the most impactful role of your life.

No blog can be exhaustive of all the challenges faced by step-parents. If you have any specific questions or concerns regarding your household, feel free to reach out to me. We can set up a time to come up with a game plan together! I have offices in Baton Rouge and Walker, Louisiana.

Step-Parent Like a Pro: Grow your skillset

Step-Parent Like a Pro: Grow your skillset

Ask most any step-parent and they’ll tell you, “parenting my step-kids is harder than parenting my own kids.” What’s the reason for that? Well, in my opinion there are several variations of that answer but it all seems to come back to one thing: Fear.

Fear about judgement or criticism from the other birth parent. Fear about damaging the relationship with your step-child or with your significant other. Basically, fear about doing something wrong or rocking the boat in some way. (This idea of fear comes up a LOT with coparenting as well, which we will eventually get to in this series.)

Combining our awareness of how being a step-parent challenges us emotionally with the idea that households operate the best when they look as much like gracious families as possible, we will be able to unpack some concepts of how to handle step-parenting in a way that promotes a culture of grace and love in the house.

Last time, we examined the role of step-parent and why it’s such an awesome and unique role. This week, we’ll look at how to skillfully proceed in your role as step-parent. How do you not just survive the job but knock it out of the park? We’ll look at hot to skillfully proceed in your role as step-parent and I’ll share some easy tips you can start today.

Considerations of Age

If you are a step-parent to older kids (I’ll call this 9th grade and above), your lane is to basically be the auxiliary adult. You just need to back up your spouse, and basically add peace, joy and stability to the household. You need to be WD-40! The fun uncle. If you have a different perspective on rules, routines, structure, you should absolutely express that…in private with your significant other. Your biggest opportunity for blessing is to encourage, support, champion, and provide positive stability. This is not the opportunity to strut your stuff and completely re-invent the rules.

If you’re a step-parent to younger kids, you will be a more integral part of developing the child’s story arc. Step-parents of younger kids intrinsically feel this weight. It shouldn’t be surprising if the child takes their (pre-verbal) angst out on the step-parent, as the symbol of all that is new and different in the family unit. A wise step-parent will understand that this is not personal, and use this as an opportunity to connect rather than recoil.

Considerations in Training

As a birth parent, it may be difficult to not get territorial, possessive or defensive about your kids and your parenting decisions. Feelings can easily get hurt in this context. Counseling support can absolutely be helpful if you’re in this predicament. The solution to this is often structural, and a trained eye can reshape and rebalance the household dynamic like only a non-emotionally invested outsider can.

As a step-parent, it may be confusing as to what your defined role is in terms of promoting a healthy family life and encouraging the kids to be his/her best “self” possible. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  • Be the type of partner who would never make your significant other feel like they have to make a lose/lose choice of partner vs. kids.
    • Cut down on the fear of there not being “enough” to go around.
    • There is plenty of room for both/and solutions in step-parenting. There is enough time in the day. There is enough love to go around. Open wide your heart and engage in your creative problem solving skills. Setting up the family for success in this way is a MAJOR win, and you can excel in this area by going out of your way to be the furthest thing from petty, needy and territorial. Be generous. Be patient. Just be cool! If you’re open handed, it’ll come back to you ten-fold.
  • Stay in your lane.
    • Clarity in the bounds of your role reduces fear of overstepping.
    • Don’t over-estimate your skill set in bringing peace and civility to a situation. Whatever the current dynamic of the family is when you arrive on scene, there are a lot of factors and causes for it. You’re not the chaos whisperer. You’re not Mary Poppins. You are not bringing healing to decades-long conflicts with your banana nut muffins!
    • Know your role. Observe. Keep your thoughts to yourself unless you’re asked. You’re here to make things easier in real, tangible ways.
  • You didn’t start the fire, but you can pick up a fire extinguisher.
    • You didn’t create these kids. You can’t re-create these kids. Put simply: Your step-kids are not your kinfolk. They have different aptitudes and attributes than your kinfolk have. You don’t need to walk around with the pressure that you have something to prove to the world through them.
    • Get to know their strengths and weaknesses, their potential and what really motivates them.
    • Work within the framework that has already been established before you arrived on scene.
    • Surely, you can teach helpful lessons and model positive character attributes. But you’re not going to remake your step-kids in your own image just because they’re at your house 50% of the time. Accept this and have reasonable expectations that everyone can agree to.
    • They are who they are. They will be who they will be. You can expect things from them like a respectful attitude, chores, honesty, etc. But you can’t expect straight A’s in math just because you were on math team.

Well…there you go! Step-parenting is the easiest job on the planet, eh? 😉 I sincerely hope you have found a tool or two to add to your toolbox of step-parenting skills! It’s a tricky role but you’ve got what it takes. I believe in you!

If you’d like to set up a time and work together to come up with a more specific plan for your household, just let me know! I have offices in Walker, Louisiana and Baton Rouge.

Next we’ll look at achieving equality among step-siblings without the pitfall of comparison.

Step-Parent Like a Pro

Step-parent Like a Pro!

We all know this story. It’s a tale as old as time!

Boy meets girl. They fall in love. All is right in the world. Then thy abruptly and awkwardly figure out how to parent the children they bring with them from previous relationships.

Ok, ok…it may not be the stuff of Disney movies, but this is real life, people!

Most people enter into the realm of step-parent with confidence and excitement. The assumption is that your love for your significant other will bleed over to their kids without much intention or effort. People think, “I already have kids, so I know how to do this! I’ll just do the same I’m already doing.” Or, “I love kids so this will be no sweat…fun even!” Yet in reality, nothing will test the limits of your maturity, patience and resolve quite like learning to be a step-parent.

Conventional wisdom encourages us to prepare to have a healthy marriage and not just focus your efforts on having an awesome wedding. In the same vein, wise step-parents will focus on how to enter into this role like a pro and not just assume that the honeymoon phase will encompass the whole family.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a handful of blogs on the topic of step-parenting and eventually on coparenting. Step-parenting is definitely not a “one size fits all” topic. What you’ll find in these posts are items to consider and make your own in the context of your family.

The two biggest factors that change your particular approach to step-parenting seem to be: 1) How old were your bonus children when you entered the scene? 2) Is there another biological parent in the mix? We will unpack how each factor requires a specific approach, and discuss a variety of considerations that will help you step-parent like a pro!

Tiny Pay, Huge Value

Although there are always special characteristics, needs and nuances to consider, I believe families are meant to look and operate like families, whether members be related by blood, marriage or adoption. While over the next few posts we will unpack concepts specific to step-families, these practical out-workings will simply be variations on this central concept.

I am a big fan of step-parents! It’s such a tough and often thankless job! I see so clearly a deep power and potency in the role of step-parent: to offer corrective relational experiences, to offer a fresh narrative to address past wounds or mis-beliefs about self or one’s place in the world, and to offer a less defensive, more objective, adult voice in the life of a child/teen.

It’s very, very difficult to get a child (or adult, for that matter) whose parents are divorced to articulate how that rift has affected them emotionally. This is in part because they are often taught to minimize the impact by well-intentioned family members, it’s normalized by society, or they don’t want to make their parents feel guilty. Another big reason why kids/adults don’t typically articulate the loss of the parental unit as “mom + dad together = family” (by means of break-up, never actually “together” or divorce) is because it may have happened when the child was pre-verbal. So in a sense, the grief is stuck in the brain in a place where it’s hard for language to get to. And it can be expressed in anxiety, anger, depression, or other attachment-based manifestations.

Now, I realize that a lot of people may not like to talk or think about that. But it is necessary to acknowledge this point because it highlights the importance of step-parenting skillfully and coparenting graciously.

These are fairly complex ideas to address concisely, since there are a number of presentations and points to consider.  So if you have specific questions or concerns, I’d love to sit down with you and come up with a game plan, whether from a parenting stand-point or a family therapy model.

Check back next week as we dive further in to the topic. You can even sign-up on the top right margin of this blog page to get the next blog emailed to you so you can make sure to not miss what’s next!

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Do You Want To Build A Snowman?
What Snow Days Teach Us: The Importance of Play

A snow day is a rare occurrence in south Louisiana. I have been a resident of this fine state since January 2005 and this is the second time I’ve seen snow; the first time I’ve seen such an accumulation like what we had a few weeks ago. And, believe it or not…we may even see some more next week!

If you’re anything like me, your social media feeds were filled with beautiful and amazing pictures of friends and their loved ones loving their lives, making the most of this momentous occasion. It was the best day on Facebook in a loooooong time! 🙂

All of this got my wheels turning about some things. What is it that snow days have to teach us? What is it about the snow that calls out our desire to make the most of those moments? Here’s what I learned…

  1. Play clarifies what is important. Snow days completely throw a halt on our regular activities. We have no choice but to stay home and connect with those we are hulled up with. Suddenly, everything that seemed urgent goes to the back-burner and you’re left with realizing that all you need to focus on in the fun right in front of you. This is a rare gift!
  2. Play is powerful. It requires us to be present and cast off our “cool.” True and deep connection thrives in the midst of play. The only cool/famous social worker out there, Dr. Brene Brown, has researched the effects of play in relationships. Here’s a great article she wrote that explains this idea further. Dr. Brown states, “doing things just because they’re fun and not because they’ll help achieve a goal — is vital to human development.” Play is one of the keys to creativity and whole-hearted living (Daring Greatly). If you haven’t read her work, you should!
  3. Your presence is required. That snowman isn’t going to build itself! While you can live vicariously through social media if you must (like…if you have the flu or a broken leg, heaven forbid), there really is no substitute to layering up and stock piling snowballs for the big fight. And you can’t pack a good snowball with a cell phone or remote in your hand, obviously!
  4. Time is of the essence. The snow is melting! These moments come so infrequently. Give it all you’ve got! There is literally no telling when another moment like this will come. Go out and wrangle your own joy. No substitutes allowed!
  5. Experiences build bonds…not stuff! In the midst of this holiday season, the truth is that your kids will almost certainly forget by Valentines day what you got them for Christmas. But they will remember your undivided attention, laughter and joy in play…you can bank that.
  6. Shared misery is bonding! Nearly getting frostbite on the tips of your toes and fingers and experiencing the shriek inducing sensation of 1,000 tiny needles poked into you is a ridiculous memory you won’t soon forget. Freezing your tail off while playing in the snow is a hilarious moment that is bonding…in the same way that a miserable night’s sleep in the tent in your back yard is bonding. Every insanely awful moment as a family will end up making it’s way to the highlight reel shared over holiday meals for years to come.

The most important lesson of the snow day is this:

You don’t have to wait for snow! Find another outlet of shared joy. (Or misery! Either way works, actually. 😉 ) Pick something you could more easily replicate and that isn’t entirely weather restricted, of course. The most important part is that you take the lessons you learned from the snow day and apply them to other family activities. You won’t ever regret it!

For non-weather driven play activities, check out the Red Stick Mom’s Blog! They keep a calendar of family-friendly activities going on in the area. You can always make your own fun, of course, but if you need help with ideas, this is a great place to start!

Counseling appointments in Walker, Louisiana and Baton Rouge are always available and you can take your first step in scheduling here.

The Ongoing Gifts of the Flood of 2016

The flood gave and the flood took away.

Are you currently rebuilding your house? So many of us in the greater Baton Rouge area (my family included) are still waist deep in the process of rebuilding our flooded homes. We’re now six months post-flood…which in some ways seems like a lifetime ago but some aspects will always seem like they happened yesterday.

The Flood Gave.

At Spring Life Counseling, LLC I am still seeing a big influx of clients for whom the flood was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The flood waters either exacerbated pre-existing issues beyond people’s ability to cope, or it exposed issues that were hiding in the dark. People aren’t necessarily coming in to talk about the trauma of wading through the waters as much as how the flood has taxed them beyond their abilities to keep their marriages, their families or their own selves afloat.

Substance abuse, sexual addictions, anxiety, depression, debt, angry teens, codependency, memories of past traumas, intense marital arguments over the color of the paint (that are really about how one of you never really feels heard or respected)…you name it…the flood has exposed it. That is one of the gifts of the flood. For issues coming to the surface so that they can be addressed, I suppose we ought to be thankful, but while you’re in the midst of the muck, it’s really hard to see the silver lining.

The Flood Took Away.

Along with bringing some things to light, it also took away some things from us. It took away convenience. Security. Coping strategies. Jobs. Normalcy. A sense of home. The list goes on.

When things come to the light, it’s an immediate step towards health. It doesn’t feel good, but you’re better off for it. The next steps are crucial. Seeking the help of a professional counselor can be crucial in getting you from exposure of an issue or wound to walking through the healing process.

When things are taken away from us, we need to grieve them and seek to find a new sense of normalcy. It’s 6 months after but for many the process of dealing with the unexpected and unwanted gifts of the flood is still in the beginning stages.

The best thing you can do after a tragedy is to connect with others. Connection is the antidote for a lot of the wounds of trauma. There is no reason you have to walk through this season alone.

If you think you may need some help talking through some of the issues mentioned in this post, please contact me. I have offices in Livingston Parish and Baton Rouge.

For those who are interested, here is a post I wrote about how I’m praying for those of us affected by the flood.

Should I Go To Counseling?

Whether or not to go to counseling is often a really hard decision to make. Even as a mental health therapist who has been in the field for a while, it’s not lost on me that some social stigma remains about the idea of seeking therapeutic help. Additionally, at the heart of most of us (Americans) is typically this “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality that seems counter to the therapy process. The people I meet with have already dealt with the internal struggle of whether or not to reach out for counseling support. But I still hear a lot of objections on a regular basis. Here are a few reasons why people wrestle with starting the therapy journey:

“Are you sure you reeeeeeally need it?”

Ok. Maybe. Maybe you don’t reeeeeeally need it. Maybe it would just be Helpful to you. Is that enough? Also, who reeeeeeally needs it? How bad off does a person have to get before they meet that criteria? Isn’t prevention the best cure?

“I can just deal with it on my own.”

Here’s the deal: you don’t get a medal for not asking for help. What you get is a longer, slower journey that could’ve been dealt with months or even years ago, but you decided that you weren’t going to ask anyone else to help you process through this. Can you deal with it on your own? Maybe. But why should you have to?

“I am not really the therapy type.”

You… Oh you! And your specialness! See above. 🙂
But also, since this is my own blog, I feel free to toot my own horn here. I’m the QUEEN of clients who “aren’t really the therapy type.” I’m honestly one of the least “shrinky” shrinks out there! I’d let my former clients attest to this, but it’s unethical to ask for therapy reviews. You’ll just have to take my word for it. If there’s anyone who you would possibly not hate having to go talk to in therapy, it’s probably me. 🙂

“It’s in the past. What’s the point of dragging it back up?”

This one is slightly tricky because it sounds rational. It actually falls into the category of minimization of your pain, and the expectation that you’re a super human who shouldn’t have ongoing effects of difficult life events. I always say, negative emotions will find their way to the surface one way or another. If you let them choose how they come out, it will be in the least convenient way possible. You’re better off bringing your stuff to the light and dealing with it head-on, processing and healing as the need dictates, rather than attempting to stuff it down deep.

“I don’t need counseling…I have God/Prayer/The Bible/My Church/Etc.”

You do have those things. You totally do. And where would we be without them? Counseling doesn’t diminish your ability to utilize those gifts in any way. Think about it like this: we’ve all sat through sermons that were less than awesome simply because someone was “pinch hitting” for your regular pastor. And then the next Sunday, you think, “Wow, I’m so glad Pastor So-and-So is back!” because your pastor is gifted at what he does and specially equipped by God for that task. The same is true for counselors. As a Christian, I believed I am called and equipped for this role, and it is my gift from God to give back to the body (and to people who do not practice their faith as well, as God’s gifts are for everyone to benefit from). You’re gifted, too. But this is my gift to the community and there’s something to be said about going to the right person for the job and not expecting all your needs to be met through your normal outlets.

“I went to therapy before and it just wasn’t that helpful.”

This may legitimately be the case. I’m sorry you had a less than stellar experience. There’s somebody for everyone, but apparently you didn’t find your right therapeutic “somebody” yet. I can’t guarantee that it’s me, but if you come and don’t think I’m the right fit for you, I’ll gladly make some referrals based on your preferences and goals. Also, I am working on a blog that I’ll post soon on how to pick the right therapist for you, so check back soon for more on this topic.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to find out./My family is really against counseling.” 

Comments like this really tug at my heart because they’re laced inextricably with shame. Come, my sweet friend, and let’s sift this out together. It’s ok to be human. Be the first one in your family to take this healing step and watch as health unfolds around you.

“Things aren’t THAT bad, are they?”

This is usually spoken by a spouse who is less than thrilled at the prospect of attending marriage therapy. Sometimes this person doesn’t want to be “found out” for his/her behavior. Other times it’s more about not wanting to hear how he/she is “failing” the marriage. But all of the time, statements like this are based in fear. Don’t let fear of being seen hold you back. Call fear a chump and remember that there are better days ahead than any you’ve left behind. Often, the only path forward is taking what’s been hidden and bringing it to the light. Healing takes place in the light, and it’s never too late (or too early) to start on the road to a healthier, brighter tomorrow. Everyone deserves a marriage that is full of connection and fulfillment.

“I would go to counseling, but it’s my wife/husband/son/boss/mom who really needs it.”

That *might* be true. If that’s the case, then you at least need help figuring out your boundaries and roles in your most difficult and important relationships in life. We all have people we wish we could hog tie, throw in the back of our truck and leave them on the therapist’s doorstep like a big, dysfunctional present. Short of that, we have to figure out a way to be in relationship with them and not lose our minds, our identities or our resolve. It’s ok to come in and seek help as a “therapeutic bridge” even if the other party is unwilling to join you at this time.

If you have any reason for not coming to therapy that isn’t listed above, I’d love for you to email it to me! If you know you’d like to attend therapy but there’s some other reason holding you back, we can discuss it here or you may find additional therapeutic help through my resource page until such a time that therapy is a more viable option for you.

And as always, if you’d like to discuss this topic (or any other), I’d love to meet with you in one of my offices: Denham Springs, Walker or Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

How to Be Awesome at Transitions


I hate to break it to you, but just as soon as you get settled into a rhythm in life, something is probably going to change. Life is full of transition points. In fact, in reflecting on the people in my personal life, I know more people currently undergoing life transitions than those who are not. Receiving a promotion at work, first-time parenting, taking care of elderly parents, dealing with divorce, returning to work after maternity leave, sending kids off to college, transitioning from student to full-time employee, getting laid off from work, being diagnosed with a disease or illness, pursuing a dream, marrying for the first time, dating after divorce, retiring, losing of a spouse, winning it big in the lottery.

All of these are major points of change; some positive, some negative. (Alright…I don’t actually know anyone who won the lottery. But if you do, I’d be happy to help you through your tough time of transition.) We don’t always get to pick these life transitions. Some happen to us yet others are more of our making. One thing is for sure: your ability to handle these transitions well can determine a lot about your happiness in life.

Here are a few things that will keep you grounded in the midst of life transitions:

  1. Stay flexible. In my opinion, flexibility is one of the secret keys to success in life. The more you train your mind to be flexible in how you view your role as a human, the easier points of transition will be. You are first and foremost a human. Over the course of your life, you will wear many different hats. Not allowing your identity to be too wed to any one role, and expecting things to ebb and flow over time are both important components to flexibility in transition. The opposite of flexibility in a transition is rigidity. Hunkering down, digging in your heels, fighting the transition. It’s not good for you, and it’s certainly not good for anyone around you. What do you say we skip that part, take a deep breath and just strive to roll with the changing of the roles
  2. Acknowledge the grief/loss. As mentioned above…whatever you transitioned from had a degree of expertise associated with it. You knew what to expect. You were good at that role. And stepping away from that “safe zone” is a loss. Even if it’s a great transition, like adopting a baby or getting engaged, there is still a sense of loss associated with leaving behind the familiar, especially if you were rocking it. It’s totally normal. Don’t feel bad about having a little twinge of sadness about leaving your old role behind. Take some time to reflect and appreciate the things you loved out of the role that you’re leaving before you jump head-long into the new transition. Doing some journaling in terms of chapters and phases is great for this.
  3. Have reasonable expectations. Most transitions tend to mimic learning to drive a manual transmission. Lots of lurching forward, awkward starts and stops. What I would call “spurty.” Whatever role you transitioned from, you probably enjoyed some degree of expertise. You looked and felt like a pro, but this new role feels weird and unfamiliar. Don’t expect to operate at optimum level right off the bat. Cut yourself some slack. You didn’t start off feeling like an expert in your old role either and nobody transitions like a seasoned professional. Just keep your head down, learn the basics, and you’ll find your rhythm soon. You’ll know where to find the best coffee and secret bathrooms before too long.
  4. Keep the lines of communication open. Regularly check in with yourself to assess how things are going. Then, schedule a meeting for a few months out to check in with someone else. Who you need to have that conversation with depends entirely on your new role. It may be a boss, your spouse, your parent, your doctor or your counselor. This type of check-in proves invaluable when it comes to feeling successful in mastering your new role…and helping you seem like you “give a rip.”
  5. Find a Yoda. You’re going to need someone with the inside scoop that has been in this role for a while. Find a Yoda who is further down the road than you are and just watch. You’ll learn tons! If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to ask questions. Most importantly…say “yes” to Yoda. Lunch? Yes. Special event? Yes. Seemingly inconsequential errand? Yes. Yoda will help you become strong in the force…I mean, get established in your new role.

While life transitions are inevitable, your ability to transition well is largely a choice and a skill set. Learning to roll with the punches can really determine your happiness in life. Whether good or bad, changes can throw you off your game for a bit. Transitioning well means less anxiety, frustration, depression, irritability, and isolation. You owe it to yourself and those around you to learn the skills of transitioning well.

Any time you need to process any of these types of life changes, give me a call!

How To Give A Rip: Part 4


Today is the last installment of our “How to Give a Rip” series.  We’ve looked at why it’s important for your character, how it can positively impact your personal and professional life, and how to guide yourself towards feeling more interested. Finally we will look at how dealing with one task at a time is the final trick in accomplishing your goal.

If you’re just now joining us, check out Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this conversation.

Figure out a way to give a rip about whatever is in front of you.

…about whatever is in front of you.

For several years now, multi-tasking has been championed as what busy people do to accomplish a lot of productive things at once. In truth, the research indicates the opposite: that multi-tasking is counter productive and causes tasks to take longer, be less efficient, or see a dip in quality. The vast majority are truly built to be “one thing at a time” people. Yet there is still this cultural draw to boast about being a “good multi-tasker” mostly because it makes you look really busy and important.

Multi-tasking can also be so appealing when you’re trying to just “get by” with your interest level. You can look like you’re invested but still distract yourself with what you’d rather be doing. You’re at your kids soccer game, but you’re returning phone calls. You asked your wife how her day was, but you’re listening while checking Facebook. (Hey-O! I guarantee I just stepped on somebody’s toes! Call me!) You seem to be doing the “right” thing but you’re not really invested…you’re not really giving a rip.

Divided attention can really shoot you in the foot. Intentionally give yourself fully to the task in front of you at school, at work, at home, at church, at the ballpark.

Jim Elliot puts it this way, “Wherever you are, be all there.”

In the course of any given day, we all play multiple roles. Fight the urge to bring the task from this morning into the afternoon. Don’t cook dinner thinking about your conversation with your coworker. Don’t give a sit through the sermon at church thinking about the fight you had with your sister. The mental energy it takes to focus on two or more roles at once really removes you from the moment and you lose the potency that is possible by being fully present.

When you invest yourself fully in the relationship or task before you, a part of your character grows that you’ll notice immediately, and so will others around you. And that’s what learning how to “give a rip” is really all about: growing your own character so you can be the best “you” in all roles of life.

For more information about the counseling or coaching services at Spring Life Counseling, LLC or to schedule an appointment at our Baton Rouge, Denham Springs or Walker, Louisiana locations, shoot me an email.

How to Give A Rip: Part 3


This week we’ve been discussing the whys and how’s of learning to give a rip in the difficult areas of life.

Figure out a way to give a rip about whatever is in front of you.

Today we will look at what genuine interest looks like, even in difficult situations. Yesterday we looked at how you can “figure out a way” to lead yourself to the attitude that you’d like to have. Let’s continue on with the second part of the perspective shift that could bring positive impact across all areas of your life.

…to give a rip…

In order to be a good spouse, parent, employee, friend, etc. you have to be as interested in the task or topic as the person you’re dealing with. Think about it: if your child is really interested in soccer but you could not care less, there’s no way that won’t come across to your child on some level. You’ll either foster resentment and isolation in your child, or you’ll see their interest level fizzle out. And that goes to all roles in your life. Your interest or “ability to give a rip” directly impacts your relationships with others.

People can sense feigned interest and it causes the loss of life-giving and energizing excitement. In marriage this comes across as lack of respect, dismissal, or conditional love and support. In work this reads like lack of commitment to the company.

Love who and what your spouse loves, (obviously this doesn’t apply if your spouse is in an unhealthy place such as addiction) and they will feel understood and supported.

Get excited about what your boss is excited about, and you’ll enjoy your work environment more, and possibly even experience advancement in your career.

Care about what your child cares about, and you’ll see that thing flourish within them.

In your friendships, if you pay attention and follow up about what is on the heart and mind of your friend, you’ll develop the kinds of bonds that last a lifetime.

Don’t let the most important relationships in your life be impacted because you can’t figure out a way to give a rip about what matters to them most. You’ll enjoy the strengthened connection between you when you make what is important to them, important to you!

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series if you’re just now joining us!

And find out more information about our counseling services here.