5 Signs You Need A Marriage Therapist

5 Signs You Need A Marriage Therapist

We all imagine that our marriage, whether current or in the future, will be perfect and we will live happily ever after. You probably have thought at one point or another, “I won’t be part of that scary statistic that half of marriages end in divorce! No siree, not me! Not MY marriage!” Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a great way to approach a relationship, but I think most of us can admit, it’s not totally realistic. I strongly believe that we can all grow and evolve as people and spouses over our lifetimes and one of the wonderful ways to do so is to work with a marriage therapist. Therapists give us skills for success and help us to see the patterns in our lives that we can’t recognize from the inside. Licensed marriage therapists also help us function more effectively in relationships and can act as a mediator when there is a breakdown in communication.

There are many reasons to work with a marriage therapist, even in the happiest of times, but I want you to be aware of some specific “warning signs” in a relationship that can show that you are on the road to a breakdown or, even worse, a breakup. A marriage therapist can be the detour on this road that turns the car toward a happier future. I have seen marriage therapists, quite literally, save marriages that otherwise were on the road to ruin. I have worked with many individuals and couples in a therapy setting, which has helped me gain a better understanding of why some relationships are successful and why some fail. Additionally, I have been married for 17 years, so I know firsthand the challenges and joys that come with deep intimacy. My goal is not to scare you or to make you feel shame or guilt if you identify with any (or even all!) of these warning sign. The truth is, marriage is hard — and that’s nothing to be embarrassed about. A marriage takes work, and unfortunately, I’ve seen too many couples who fail to put the necessary time into nurturing the relationship.

Read on to see if you need to make an appointment with a licensed marriage therapist!

# 1 You are dreading the moment that your spouse comes home (and you can’t wait for him/her to leave again)

There is no doubt that you will have moments when you wish your partner would give you some space to breathe or some time to be alone. I think the majority of adults I know crave periods of alone time. Alternately, if you find that this is MOST of the time, you might want to examine what is causing those feelings. Would you rather be alone? Would you rather be with someone else? Is there something bothering you that you haven’t voiced, and thus are feeling like you haven’t been allowed to be self-expressed? Do you feel stifled, like you are losing your identity? Perhaps you have had these feelings, but you haven’t stopped to really ponder what they mean. If the sound of their key in the door causes an intense emotional reaction, it is time to figure out why and how to fix it.

# 2 You are bored in your marriage

Sure, your marriage will be boring from time to time. The excitement of the honeymoon phase definitely doesn’t last forever, and it’s easy to get in a rut of eating takeout from the same restaurant while watching the same show in your same apartment with your same person. There will be times when you need to shake things up, do something exciting, and spice up your marriage. What if you have tried many tactics and attempted all the “exciting, spicy” things you can think of and you are still bored? Let’s take it one step further and say you’ve shared these feelings with your partner that you need his/her help in shaking things up. One of the most frustrating things in a marriage is not being on the same page. As two separate human beings, this is bound to happen from time to time, but you should never feel invalidated by your feelings. If you are craving something that your partner doesn’t seem to be able to provide, a third party can help you get back to being on the same page. If you feel like you are in a rut and need some strategies on how to get out, a therapist can help you come up with a plan to break the cycle of boredom.

#3 You are not happy with your sex life, or lack thereof

Couple with problems in relationship in bed

Sex. In the beginning it’s fireworks and passion and can’t-wait-to-get-home-from-the-restaurant-and-tear-each-others’-clothes-off! Flash forward to years down the road and between kids, jobs, self-esteem issues, and the aforementioned boredom, keeping things sexy can be very challenging. As someone who loves to talk about sex with both my clients and friends, I often hear about marriages that suffer because of the lack of sex. This week, my friend was telling me about how she pretends to be asleep when her husband asks for sex because she is too tired after putting the kids to sleep. Sure, it is understandable that when you have young children and you dedicate your day to taking care of them, you will naturally have less energy for sex, but if you can’t remember the last time or if you or your partner’s sexual needs are not getting met, it is time for an expert. It is such a common issue and one that can be overcome. Some marriage therapists specialize in sex and are more knowledgeable and experienced about the topic while other therapists are not comfortable speaking about the subject. If sex is something that you want to work on in your marriage, make sure to pick a professional who is comfortable and knowledgeable about sex and intimacy so you can have open and honest conversations. Also make sure both you and your partner are both comfortable with the person you choose. It should always feel like an open, safe space for both of you.

# 4 You are thinking of cheating on your partner

Let’s be honest here and admit that if you have been in a long-term relationship, the thought of “someone else” has crossed your mind from time to time. Yes? No? Are you being honest saying “no”? It is natural and normal to want what you can’t have. With polyamory and open relationships becoming more popular, people are exploring what monogamy means and what works for them, which is great if both parties are comfortable and happy. However, If you and your partner are in a monogamous relationship, intimacy outside of the partnership is an unacceptable form of behavior. Instead of feeling constantly guilty, take a step back and think about why you are having these feelings in the first place. If you are thinking about cheating or taking baby steps in that direction, it is imperative that you speak to a therapist before you make a decision that could irrevocably break your partner’s trust and ruin your marriage.

#5 You are not speaking the same language

We all know communication is key to a healthy relationship, so what do you do if it feels like you are speaking French and your partner is speaking German? You need skills to translate! For some couples, communication issues show up as having the same fight over and over, and for others, the silent treatment speaks volumes. Perhaps you used to talk about everything, but recently you feel like one or both of you has become more withdrawn. Dr. John Gottman, psychologist and famed relationship expert, has four predictors of the end of a relationship, known as the “The Four Horsemen” and, unsurprisingly, they all deal with communication. They are Criticism (“You are so selfish!”), Contempt (“Oh boo hoo! Your life is so hard! Get over it!”), Defensiveness (“I didn’t do anything wrong! This is YOUR issue”), and Stonewalling “…”. Stonewalling is when someone just shuts down. If you are seeing any of these come up in your relationship, you need to find healthier alternatives before it’s too late. Bad communication can become a terrible habit, and usually if you develop bad communicative tendencies they will spill over and affect all of your relationships.

Did you see yourself or your relationship in any of the above “warning signs”? Here’s what to do:

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. Talk to your partner and broach the subject of therapy.
  3. Find a great licensed marriage therapist to work with.

I often get approached by one person in a relationship who is afraid to bring up the subject of seeing someone to talk about their relationship. It can be scary to be the first one to admit there is a problem. You might not know if your partner is thinking the same thing or if they haven’t noticed the issue. It’s also common for someone to get defensive about needing couples’ therapy. What I want to recommend is that you don’t let this scare you away. If bringing up the idea causes you to fight, that’s also probably a warning sign that something is up. I definitely recommend approaching the subject in a non-accusatory way. Don’t start with, “We need to see a marriage therapist because YOU can’t make me happy.” Come at the subject from an honest and open place. If all else fails, reach out to a professional on your own. A therapist can help you work through your own issues and guide you in talking to your partner about couples’ counseling. At the end of the day, both of you have to want to work on your relationship, but someone needs to take that important first step.

couple in therapy session

You have the power to save your marriage and to gain skills that will help you in all aspects of life. As we said before, we are fans of people seeing therapists in the “good times” to learn, evolve, and gain tools to hopefully avoid crises altogether. That being said, it is never too late to fix problems and get a marriage back on track! Even in moments when everything seems really hopeless, a therapist can view the relationship from a different angle and help. I think fear stops a lot of people from seeking therapy. It’s as though people think that if they admit their is any signs of trouble, they are admitting defeat. Some of the happiest couples, and people, I know go to therapy regularly. I’ve talked about this before, but we don’t look down on people who take their physical health seriously (go to the gym, eat healthy, see a doctor when they are sick), so why should you think of your mental health or relationship health any differently? Ignoring your marriage and any red flags is the worst thing you can do. Especially if you have children, it’s important to think about how your marriage problems affect your ability to parent. One warning sign I didn’t mention actually involves children. Often children act out when they see a lot of fighting. Some children will mirror behavior, while others will become withdrawn or cry at the first sign of a raised voice. Even if you don’t have kids, we all have been in situations where a couple is arguing or giving each other the silent treatment. Those people are no fun to be around. Sometimes it takes your peers or other family members to alert you of a problem. Don’t shut them out because most likely they just want what’s best for you.

At LW Wellness Network, we take the guesswork out of finding the right person for you or your marriage. We have a group of fully-vetted, highly-recommended licensed marriage therapists ready to help you create your best possible relationship and, truly, live happily ever after!

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists or dietitians, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!

The Beginner’s Guide to Finding the Right Family Psychologist

The Beginner’s Guide to Finding the Right Family Psychologist

Finding the right family psychologist or marriage psychologist can be a very challenging task. In the following guide I will help and empower you with the tools and information that you will need in order to know how to find the best family/couple psychologist for your family.

Questions I’ll answer:

  • What is a Family Psychologist?
  • Do I need Family/Marriage Therapy?
  • Where do I start?
  • What should I look for?
  • What should I expect in therapy?
  • Treatment — what are the different approaches to family therapy?
  • What should I ask a potential family therapist?

What is a Family or Marriage Psychologist?

MFT stands for Marriage and Family Therapy, which is a specific form of psychotherapy that places emphasis on the emotions and actions of all members of the family. It looks at how certain behaviors affect relationships among members of the family, the individuals and the entire family unit. This type of therapy usually includes one-on-one time as well as sessions with all members. MFT can also be referred to as couples therapy, couples counseling, marriage counseling or family therapy.

Do I need Family/Marriage Therapy?

Have you ever wondered about the percentage of marriages that end up in divorce? For a while it was popular opinion that 50% of marriages end in divorce. You’ve probably heard people quote this stat, in fact. The truth is, there are mixed studies on the topic — and it’s definitely a topic that has been widely researched. Many studies today are actually estimating that the rate is dropping. (If you want to read up more on the argument, check out this article from Psychology Today.)

Despite what the actual rate is, the point remains the same: Marriages can be very difficult and many couples find themselves at a breaking point. But many aren’t sure what couples therapy could really do for them. So I talked to one of our LW Wellness consultants, Dr. Ella Lasky, who has her PhD in psychology and specializes in Couples’ Therapy.

Here’s what she had to say:

I love working with couples. About 80% of the couples who’ve consulted with me believe they have improved their relationships. In the process of couples’ therapy, people learn about the patterns they have created with one another and their own contribution to these patterns.

Research has found that if couples wait more than 6 years from the time they become aware of a problem in their relationship to get help, they have a reduced chance of repairing their relationship. It is more difficult for couples who have been in a strained relationship for a long time because the longer they wait the more rigidified their dysfunctional patterns become. The hurts, angers and resentments have time to grow and fester.

When couples wait until they are on the verge of separation, the odds of success are low.  One such couple contacted me recently. They each in fact had retained a divorce lawyer and had several settlement proposals on the table.  They had been unhappy for many years and had been unable to self-correct. I was able to help them to resolve some of their issues so that they could work together as a parenting team for the sake of their children.  They did divorce, but on more amicable terms than when they first began counseling.

Couples’ therapy works best when both partners are motivated to repair the patterns in their relationship that do not work well. When a couple comes into therapy after they have been off track for a shorter period, it is easier to help them understand where and when they got stuck. I work to help the couple understand how they hurt one another and how to build on the patterns that work well in their relationship, to re-establish trust and the feeling that they can rely on one another.   

Warm regards

Ella Lasky, PhD

Adults, Couples,  Financial Psychology

If family or couples therapy is on your mind, I wouldn’t wait. Your well-being is inevitably tied to your closest relationships and a professional can help you work through problems before they become worse. But not any therapist will work, so keep reading for more on what to look for.

Where to start/ Overall Recommendations

As a married woman with three kids, I can attest to the fact that challenges inevitably arise when you have a family. Marriage alone is challenging and when you bring kids into the pictures there are new problems that you must confront together (along with lots of exciting things, of course).

Knowing how to pick the right family psychologist/couple therapist could mean the difference between staying happily married or even staying together at all. Here are a few things I think everyone should look out for when searching for a family psychologist.

Tip # 1

Make sure to do your homework before meeting with a family psychologist.

Deciding to work with a family psychologist is an important first step, but now what? Before you turn to Google or even friend recommendations, know the specific type of family psychologist or therapist that will best suit your needs. Educate yourself about basic family theories and strategies so that you are an informed consumer when shopping around for a good fit. If you know a little bit about different approaches (which you can read about further down), you will be better able to ask questions and make comparisons between potential options.

Tip # 2

Assume that most therapists are not specialized in family therapy.

While this is a big generalization, I have extensive experience working with therapists who claim that they are family therapists, but they have no training in working with families. You need to find a therapist who is best equipped and properly trained to help you and your family.

When seeking a family psychologist it is important to understand the different professionals that can provide you with the support you need. You can read a little more about licensing qualifications below, but a good place to start is with The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

Additionally, if the issues that you are dealing with are specific, such as dealing with a child with an eating disorder or drug or alcohol abuse, you want to prioritize that within your search for a family psychologist.

Tip # 3

MAKE SURE that your therapist is a good team player

Working with a family psychologist for an hour or two a week is helpful, but it might also require other providers that will help support you. For example, this week we got a request from a family for a marriage psychologist who could help a couple who is on the verge of divorce. After speaking with the couple for five minutes, it was obvious that they are having challenges with their three boys, who, according to the dad, are out of control. The older son, who is 13, is acting out in school, the 7-year-old has a lot of behavioral issues, and the 5-year-old seems to be learning behaviors from his older brothers. The dad told me he is ready to give up because they had met with three couples therapists and none of their issues had gone away. The truth is, sometimes couples therapy is not enough. Sometimes it’s necessary for the entire family to attend sessions to better treat the family unit as a whole, or for certain members of the family to receive specialized behavioral therapy.

What should I look for in a family psychologist?

First and foremost, you want to look for a licensed therapist, which means he/she will hold a master’s or doctoral degree, have completed a minimum of two years or 30,000 clinical hours of supervised experience, and completed a state licensing exam. This person should be a provider who has a certificate in marriage and family therapy, or who has studied couple and family therapy from a two year program.

What to Expect from Your Marriage/Family Psychologist?

Marriage and Family therapy is typically more short-term focused, but the length of time will vary. On average, it tends to take about six months to one year, with sessions that are usually focused around finding a solution to a specific problem. If you are talking about marriage or couples counseling, most likely the therapist will begin by meeting with you together, followed by one-on-one time. The same goes in family therapy. The first session is designed so that all parties can get informed. This is when you will identify the specific problems/issues you wish to work through and it also gives the therapist time to observe the way in which you interact with your partner and/or members of your family. It’s also a good idea to establish how the sessions will run for the duration of the treatment. Things like who should attend and when, what are the basic guidelines for what can be discussed in/out of sessions and confidentiality between therapists and members of family/couples should all be outlined in the first meeting. Each session that follows should provide clear and active steps toward conflict resolution.

Approaches to Family Therapy

In order to best understand how to find the right family psychologist and educate yourself regarding family therapy, it is important to be aware of the two most popular approaches. First is Family System Therapy based on Murray Bowen, and the second is called Internal Family System (IFS).

There is so much to write about Bowen, but I’ll try to give you a brief overview that will at least give you a basic understanding and get you to start thinking about your options more critically. I find Bowen’s theory so valuable because it’s based on years of research on family patterns, meaning it’a all evidence-based. Bowen’s family system theory holds that individuals are inseparable from their network of relationships. Bowen believed that it was important for therapists to have an awareness of the challenges each member of the family experiences within the unit as a whole in order to normalize human behavior for their clients. While individual therapy addresses the individual and their own psyche, family therapy addresses the structure and how each member affects one other. Take a moment to think about your own family structure (either your current nuclear family or your family growing up). Think about how your experience within your family was different than that of your mother or father or a sibling. How did you family structure affect how you saw the world?

Bowen used something called a genogram, which is a basically an illustration that represents a family’s medical history and interpersonal relationships and can be used to showcase psychological influences, heredity and significant events that may impact a family member’s mental health and well-being. Bowen found it important to talk to each family member individually and construct a family history that extended back at least three generations. He then identified any recurring behavioral or mental health problems across generations. (For example, at first, he thought it took three generations for schizophrenia symptoms to present themselves within a family, but later, he changed his hypothesis to 10 years.)

In addition to the genogram, Bowen’s approach is based off of eight interlocking concepts. I won’t give you too much detail, but you can start to see how the family unit is complex and how it can affect the psyche of each of its members. These are things a family psychologist will address and help you understand even more clearly.

  1. Differentiation of self — this is central to Bowen’s theory and has to do with the individual’s ability to separate him/herself from the group in regards to feelings, responses to problems, etc, while still pursuing their own personal agenda. It’s essentially the ability to maintain an emotional connection to the group while keeping a separate identity.
  2. An emotional triangle — this refers to a three-person relationship, what Bown considered the smallest stable relationship system
  3. The family projection process — how parents impact their own emotional issues onto their kids
  4. The multigenerational transmission process — this has to do with how the levels of differentiation of self between parents and their children evolve over multiple generations
  5. An emotional cutoff — members of the family completely cutting off emotional contact
  6. Sibling position — this theory asserts that people who grow up in the same birth order position in the family (i.e. oldest child, middle child, youngest) will have similar characteristics
  7. The societal emotional process — this refers to how societal organizations (outside the family) are affected by the emotional processes within a family
  8. The nuclear family emotional process — Bowen believes four basic relationship patterns affect the problems that develop within a family: marital conflict, problems or concerns in one person, emotional distance, impairment of one or multiple children

Concept Two: Internal Family System

IFS refers to a concept known as the Internal Family System. It was developed in the 1990s by family therapist Richard Schwartz, Ph.D. He came up with the idea of an undamaged “core self,” which is the essence of who you are, along with three sub-personalities that reside within each person alongside the core self. The sub-personalities are exiles (aka, the wounded and suppressed parts of the self), managers (the protective parts of the self that do the suppressing) and firefighters (which provide distraction when the pain is caused due to suppressed parts being released). Common firefighters are things like alcohol abuse or other forms of addiction, which might be hiding the suppressed pain of the exiles, which could be something like past abuse. The goal of IFS is to heal and better manage these parts so there is more harmony with the core self. IFS is used with individuals, couples and families. It has been proven to help treat symptoms like depression, anxiety and other phobias.

A List Of Questions To Ask A Potential Family Psychologist

  • Where did you get your training? Are you certified?
  • How long have you been practicing?
  • What is your general approach to working with families/couples?
  • What are your recommendations for how we can the most out of each session?
  • Do you work with other providers/have a network you can make referrals to for more specialized problems should they become evident?

Finding a family psychologist is a detailed process, but the more educated you are, the better success rate you will have. Admitting you need help is not something to be embarrassed about or put off to a future date. Our families are so important, and the investment in the well-being of these relationships should could first and foremost in our lives.

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists or dietitians, please contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

What Makes You Happy? And How Can You Do More Of It?

I woke up this morning and reflected on a meeting I had last night with John (name has been changed), a very smart, successful businessman and father of two young children who found out last year he had a tumor and that he might only have a week to live. To make a long story short, further testing revealed that the tumor was treatable, and with chemo, he would most likely make a full recovery. The moment John found out the new prognosis, he felt like he had a new lease on life and vowed to live different from that point forward. He promised to no longer procrastinate on doing the things that he loves or has always wanted to do and to focus more on the people and activities that bring him joy.

 

Upon completion of six months of chemotherapy, John realized that getting the horrific news was the best thing that could have happened to him. On the work front, he changed things in his company and started only doing business with clients he actually wanted to work with. He also invested more time with his family and friends and started focusing on causes that are close to his heart.

 

As I was reflecting on John’s story it got me thinking about how it took a life-threatening diagnosis for him to decide to make a change and dedicate more of his life to the people and things that truly make him happy. Do we all need to get bad news before we do what makes us happy? What if we stop everything we are doing right in this moment and think about what happiness really is?

 

Clearly, I’m not the first one to ask this question — this is an age-old story. But the more I thought about what this means in my own life, the more I wanted to share my conclusions with others and inspire them to think about feasible changes that could start right now. All too often we put off happiness because we wait for external forces. How often do you think, “If only I had more money, I could travel more and vacation more with my family.” Or, “I never have time to relax. I would be a happier person if I just had more time in the day to spend focusing on me.” The truth is, we all probably know people with more money or who seem like they have more time or who get to go the places we always dream about. But are those people actually happier?

 

Seeking happiness starts from within, and the best thing to do is to come up with a clear understanding of what actually brings joy to our lives. So, a great first step is to meditate on what truly makes you happy internally. I encourage you to close your eyes for a few moments and try this guided mediation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDAIO74O27s

 

Then, create a list of things that make you happy or a list of goals that you want to achieve. For some it helps to think of this as a bucket list — what would you do if you only had a short amount of time to live? I took a break from writing to meditate and create my own list, and here’s what I came up with:

 

  1. Spend more quality time with family and friends
  2. Get my Book published and help inspire and empower others with my story and coaching Method called KARMA
  3. Invest in my health and wellness (work out more/do Yoga/eat healthier)
  4. Help people on a larger scale (more talks/presentations)
  5. Work with people, groups, causes on the prevention of mental illness and promotion of wellness
  6. Travel to India and Thailand and other countries and learn as much as I can about other cultures
  7. Empower at risk youth with skills and tools that can help them become more successful in our society

 

I think I could probably spend hours coming up with more to add to this list, but I figure this is a good start. What did you come up with? I’d love for you to share what’s on your happiness list in the comments section here on the blog or on Facebook.

 

Then the question becomes, how can we make this list actionable? I suggest reviewing your list and focusing in on one thing that you currently do, but not as often as you like. What would it take for you to do more of that tomorrow? The next week?

 

What if we set a reminder on our phone to remind us to do one thing each day that makes us happy. It can be a very small thing like getting your nails done because you know that will relax you or reading a book with your child (without thinking about your long to-do list or looking at your phone every few minutes…). The point in actually doing what makes you happy is to FULLY be present while doing it. If achieving your happiness goals seems impossible, break a larger goal into smaller, more manageable ones first! Feel free to share your goals and consult with a professional if you need some guidance and support.

 

I will end with one of my favorite quotes:

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” — Abraham Lincoln

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists, contact us today.

What Are You Thankful For — Even After Thanksgiving Is Over

There are many reasons to love Thanksgiving, even for a foreigner like myself who never celebrated this holiday prior to arriving in the US. Spending time with loved ones and remembering why you are thankful is a wonderful thing with very positive emotional and physical implications. This past weekend, seeing everyone sharing in person and on social media how grateful they are for the people in their lives put me in a good mood and got me to thinking. While I think it’s an incredible thing that happens once a year, I started to wonder how we can take the spirit of Thanksgiving and carry it with us throughout the year.

 

The act of taking just a brief movement and pausing to think about what we are grateful for doesn’t take long, but it’s so helpful in shaping how we approach our days and interact with the people around us. I decided I would start by writing down five things I am most grateful for:

 

  1. My loving, supportive family
  2. My health
  3. My friends
  4. My education
  5. Financial stability

Unfortunately, we get wrapped up with the busyness of  life and we go through our days as if we are on auto pilot. We don’t always pause to think about what is truly important to us. It’s also easy to get bogged down by the things we don’t have or the problems we are experiencing in our relationships. So let’s stop and ask ourselves, “Why are we here today? What is really important in our lives?” I am just as guilty as most of you for not taking the time to really stop and be grateful, so I thought that maybe if we all made an effort to make gratitude a priority the week after Thanksgiving, we could start a habit that would stick around for longer than just a day or a weekend.

 

There is much evidence to support the theory that it takes 21 days for an action to become ingrained in us and actually transform into a habit (you can read more about the power of the 21 day transformation here). So I’m challenging you to write down something you are grateful for every day for the next three weeks. Feel free to share. I want this project to #inspiregratitude.

 

Obviously, my list of gratitude is longer than just five, but I think beginning with an overall top five list is a good place to start. Go ahead and pause for a few moments and write down your list. Your items can be general or specific — the important thing is not to judge your own list or compare it to others.

 

Family is number one on my list. However, after writing it down I started thinking more about it. I thought about the fact that despite having three miscarriages I have three healthy, beautiful girls, but I don’t always make it a point to let my girls know how thankful I am to have them in my life. So, prior to writing this blog I went to each of them and looked at them with love and admiration and told them how much I love them and how thankful I am that they are my girls. (My oldest one who is 13 of course had to say, “Ok mom I know. Don’t get all emotional.” But my 10-year-old and 8-year-old responded that they love me too.)

 

Sometimes we expect others to just assume that we are thankful even for things that are seemingly unimportant. Saying thank you and expressing gratitude can be a very rewarding experience for both sides. So after writing down what you are grateful for I encourage you to find one person to share that sentiment with. Creating a culture of gratitude can start with you, and it can start today.

 

I hope you all have a wonderful week. I’m thankful to each and every one of you who reads my blogs and the entire community we have created at LW Wellness.

A Note To Those Recovering From An Eating Disorder

,

As a therapist, I help many people overcome challenges in their lives. There’s a common misconception among many clients I’ve treated that mental health professionals all come from a strong foundation and haven’t dealt with the thoughts and feelings they are experiencing. The truth is, though, I became a therapist because of the struggles I went through and because I know firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate life when you are dealing with challenges that seem outside your control.

One of the biggest challenges I ever faced was recovering from a severe eating disorder that plagued most of my adolescence. Overcoming my demons and eventually learning healthy coping mechanisms made me the person, the mom and the therapist I am today, but it wasn’t an easy process. I used to struggle with sharing my recovery story because it involves remembering such a dark period in my life, but then I realized opening up about my story of hitting rock bottom could help others going through something similar or simply inspire others to work through their past, which inevitably includes dark moments.

My “rock bottom” moment happened when I was working as a nanny in San Francisco and was living with my sister. I had a nervous breakdown after binging and purging for over five years. I was 21 years old, single, poor and depressed after deciding to leave my abusive and controlling boyfriend. I was working as a nanny and a tutor so that I could pay for my education.

That week I had worked for about 50 hours, in addition to being a part-time student at Golden Gate University where I studied international business. I came home on a Friday evening after I stopped at a local grocery store to stock up on food that I was going to binge on as soon as I got home. My sister was at work and I had the opportunity to eat as much as I could. I thought about the number of times that I binged and purged that day and when I counted I scared myself. It had been 15 times… my record was 30 times a day but while serving in the army I was able to reduce the binging and purging to three times a day so I was hopeful.

When I got home I knew that something was wrong but I couldn’t identify what it was. My thoughts were racing and all I could focus on was eating as much as I could and then purging. I couldn’t wait for the moment when I felt the sign of relief — which for me was lying on the bathroom floor like a drug addict and enjoying feeling high after purging everything I had eaten. All the excess noise in my head would clear for about half an hour. This relief came with a ridiculous delusion that I was somehow lighter and more powerful afterward.

I don’t want to bore you with all the details of that evening, but that night after lying on the bathroom floor for about an hour, I knew that something wasn’t right. I tried to get myself up and I wasn’t able to. My heart was racing fast and I felt like the ground was pulling me down and gravity was winning. Was this how I was going to end my life? That thought had crossed my mind many times before, but this time it felt real. I was 21 years old. I felt stupid, ugly and fat, and at that moment, I knew I had to pull myself together and write something so that I could share it with other girls who felt like me.

This moment from 21 years ago feels like it was just yesterday. I am 42 now, married to the man who I met at age 21 and I have three girls. But that moment will forever be ingrained in my mind. Somehow I pulled myself up that night and I started writing what I wanted to be my memoir. No name. Just words on a page.

I ended up writing over 100 pages that night of what I thought would be my story that would be published after I died. The beginning of my imaginary book was, “As I am writing these pages, I am dying from this horrible disease that has taken over my life for the past seven years…”

Many words followed, disclosing personal information about my family and life and horrible things that happened to me in my childhood that I had never shared with anyone. When my sister got home that night, she confronted me.

Everyone around me knew that something was terribly wrong with me. While they knew I had broken up with my boyfriend and it was a very messy breakup, no one could have imagined I was as sick as I was with bulimia and depression. I had hidden it very well.

Looking back at that time is painful, but it’s also eye-opening. This was simply the beginning of a very long process to recovery. Looking back now, I obviously see so many problems with my thoughts and behavior, but I think one of the biggest ways people can help themselves when they are nearing rock bottom is by sharing with someone you can trust. I lived with my sister and we were very close. Had I opened up to her sooner I think the recovery process would have started much sooner.

The point of me writing this note is to express to those on a similar journey that you are not alone. Everyone has a different “breaking point” so to speak, but what really helped begin to pull me out of that dark place was writing. It was the first time I was acknowledging my demons, which is the first step in any recovery efforts.

I encourage you if you are reading this and it sparks something inside you — maybe you are on a similar journey or know someone who is — to reach out and share your questions and comments.

If you would like me to connect you with one of our eating disorder specialist or dietitians, contact us or book an appointment with me. I look forward to hearing from you!

How To Tap Into Your Mommy Intuition And Why It’s So Important

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Happy Mother’s Day!

In honor of this special holiday honoring moms, I wanted to blog about something that is often uniquely associated with mothers: intuition.

As moms, we often talk about intuition and wonder what specifically that means. We know intuition is something that’s important for us to be in touch with, but when it comes to dealing with that in actuality it seems to be a very challenging task.

How can we become more aware of our intuition? How can we teach our children that when they feel something they shouldn’t ignore it?

I have a great example. I was standing in the elevator with my 7-year-old daughter. On the sixth floor, an older man walked on and my daughter looked at the guy, made a strange face and whispered to me, “He is strange…”

My first response was to scold her for being disrespectful and tell her that she needs to be nice to everyone, but then I looked at her kind, innocent face and I realized…. She felt something that wasn’t right about this strange man. Weather it was right wasn’t the point. The point is that when your child or anyone you know for that matter tells you about how he or she feels about someone else it is important to be aware of those feelings and to take them into consideration.

Especially when it comes to our children, we want to teach them to be aware of their feelings because intuition can help get them out of dangerous situations. Children are often better than adults at listening to their intuition. They tend to make decisions off how they feel and don’t worry as much about how they will be perceived.

Intuition is the ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning. Mother’s intuition has actually been well-documented by research. It makes sense. You are the expert when it comes to your child so your “gut feelings” are going to be more accurate than someone who has only known your child for a brief time. Children, in particular, often aren’t good at expressing how they are feeling, but as a mom, you learn to read their cues. You know their faces, their moods, and their body language. Therefore, you can probably sense when your child isn’t feeling well before he or she is even showing physical symptoms of being sick.

It’s productive for mothers, and really all people, to learn to become more connected to their intuition. Of course, we have to be careful to not let fear guide our actions. There are several things you can do to become more connected with your intuition – and a big one is meditation. Taking time to sit still, breathe, and be in the moment allows all the clutter to leave our minds. The more present and focused you are, the more you will be able to listen to your heart so to speak.

Another suggestion is to pay attention to your dreams. This doesn’t mean you need to analyze every dream you have, but if you are having recurrent nightmares about something there’s a good change your subconscious is uneasy about something. Also, pay attention to your body. What is it telling you? Like my daughter in the elevator, if someone or something makes you feel uneasy you should be responsive to that feeling and take the time to identify why you are feeling that way. Most adults have learned to shut down a lot of their anxiety because they believe it’s a hindrance to their daily life. It’s important to remember that we shouldn’t ignore our feelings because they can be helpful.

For more ways to tap into your intuition, check out this list.

Sinking Into Sadness — How To Let Yourself Feel Sad So You Can Pull Yourself Out

Last week, I went to a funeral for a woman I had known for a very long time and who meant so much to so many people. About 500 people attended the service for this beloved woman, including countless friends, her kids, and her grandkids.

During the funeral, I found myself crying out of sadness for her loved ones, and for myself since I knew her and her family. After the funeral, I got caught up in a very sad state and I couldn’t get myself out of it. I was finding it hard to focus on anything else, so I asked myself what it was that was keeping me from pulling myself out of this engulfing sadness.

I’ve experienced loss and been sad many times before and somehow always managed to get myself to a happier place, but this time felt different. I tried to figure out why this time was different – why the sadness felt deeper. So, I did what I tell my clients to do: I allowed myself to just ask a question without judging myself and without feeling sorry for myself. And I realized two things.

For one thing, this was different because it hit so close to home. The woman was a mom of someone who I knew and it made me think about my mom and what would happen to me if I had lost her. Of course, this is something that had crossed my mind previously, but this time somehow felt different. Second, I realized the fact that my mom lived so far away filled me with guilt. I’ve lived far away from my mom for the past 20 years and this funeral brought up questions, such as how would my relationship be different with my mom if I could live in Israel? What kind of relationship would my mom have with my kids if I lived closer to her? And, the hardest question to ask was, How would I feel if my mom was gone?

As the weekend approached, these feelings of sadness had gotten worse and worse. I went out and surrounded myself with friends and loved ones, but I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about my family in Israel and how much I have missed them. And the more I thought about it, the lonelier I felt. Tears kept coming down and I couldn’t stop myself.

I tried focusing on my breathing, I tried listening to meditation affirmations, I tried self talk, and even against every bone in my body, I dragged myself to the gym. Basically, I tried everything that I’ve been teaching my clients to do when they feel sad, but nothing worked.

I then realized that what I hadn’t practiced on myself but I preach to my clients and friends and love ones was that just like anything, I needed to allow myself to be sad for a little longer this time – and that was OK.

Sadness and grief are strong emotions and they are a part of life. Sometimes, feeling sad is inevitable and sometimes the only way to get back to a happy place is to let yourself feel that sadness for a bit.

The normal things we do to bring ourselves joy don’t always work when we are experiencing a loss or new feelings of loneliness, but as long as you maintain perspective and practice healthy coping mechanisms the sadness won’t win out in the long run.

Here are three things you can do when you find yourself sad and don’t know what to do about it.

  1.  Allow yourself to just be without judging yourself. Don’t beat yourself up about being sad. There is no “rule” for how long it’s OK to feel sad about something. Don’t judge your own emotions – they are real.
  2.  Think about what you love to do but can never find the time for. Go do it!
  3.   Spend time with people who are important to you. While it’s not always possible to get to the people you want to see most, you should try to always find people you like to be around who make you happy. Let those people be your comfort while you are feeling sad. As for me, I am leaving for Israel today. I need to be around those people who mean the world to me!

What can you do today to make yourself happy?

3 Easy Things You Can Do To Be Present This Week

Cup on a wooden table set against the backdrop of hills covered in fog

I woke up this morning in a quiet house somewhere in the Poconos, and it was silent. My husband took the girls skiing and while I wanted to have quality time with my family, I needed to spend quality time with myself – by myself.

At first I felt guilty for not going and was about to judge myself for being “selfish” and wanting quality time with myself. And then I paused…

I took a deep breath and decided to be kind (to myself) instead.

I made coffee and stepped outside in disbelief. Is it sunny outside and warm? After all, it is still February in the Northeast. It’s kind of crazy, but I’m definitely not complaining.

Looking out into nature, I saw trees, grass, and space – all things that we rarely take the time to appreciate. I was able to listen to the sound of the wind and smell the fresh air and appreciate a few moments of quiet, or may I say few moments of sanity.

I took my cup of coffee and I walked barefoot into the grass. I felt the cool, moist feeling from the grass and thought to myself, “When was the last time I allowed myself to just walk into nature without thinking about all the things that I have to do?”

And then I wondered why it is so challenging to find those moments during the week when kids are around and work is very demanding.

We all find ourselves busy with kids, work, household chores, and many, many other things that are important, but what we forget is that those few moments where we allow ourselves to just lie back, relax, and appreciate whatever it is there is to appreciate right in front of us are so rewarding. Why can’t we take more deep breaths and instead of thinking about the future, focus on the present moment?

I’d like to propose this goal for everyone this week: Enjoy the present moment.

Here are three things that you can do to enjoy the present moment…

  1. Listen to affirmations on a regular basis. I highly recommend “Soul of Healing Affirmations” by Deepak Chopra (you can order on iTunes – best $10 you will ever spend!!). In one of my favorite affirmations by Deepak Chopra, he talks about the idea of presence and what it means to be in the present moment. He starts the affirmation with the following: “Today I will find my soul here and now. This information is about the present moment. Make this your promise for today, and when you find that you have wandered from the present moment, ask to be brought back….”
  2. Slow down. Whatever you are doing, make an effort to do it in a slower way. Take your time and work on thinking and doing one thing at a time. Are you reading to your kids? Just read to your kids. Don’t think about the emails or texts you have not answered. Are you having a conversation with a friend? Just talk to that friend, don’t worry about the dishes that aren’t being done or the laundry you have waiting for you.
  3. Observe the feelings in your mind and body without labeling and judging them. For me, I often notice that these feeling are located in my upper chest. I find myself not breathing properly – to the point where I’m almost having shortness of breath. I found that if instead of avoiding the feelings and trying to get rid of them/push them away, I just welcome them without allowing my brain to spin out of control, they will often go subside.

So, what is that one thing that you can do today to help yourself be in the present moment? Well, you have already accomplished one thing by reading this!

So what is the second thing you can do?

#Happy everything

#mindfulness

#LWWellnessNetwork

The Beginning Of A Long Journey

Today’s blog is written by our incredible yoga instructor, Amanda Brown.

I delivered a healthy baby girl on October 15, 2011. Little did I realize how many ways it would change my life. Not only in the normal ways that motherhood does, but it also brought me closer to knowing my own self through what is now a passion for yoga. My yoga experience started in my teen years, but was just a passing fancy. Studies and meeting my future husband took precedence for quite some time, but I dabbled here and there. When I found out I was pregnant, life got upended as every parent comes to know. A friend suggested prenatal yoga and that is where my real journey began.

I joined a yoga studio when I was ready to re-enter the fitness world. This particular yoga studio had a spa-like feel to it and that alone had me hooked. I started with beginner classes, which naturally were packed, and I would always choose a mat in the back row hoping no one would see me (little did I know then the teacher can see the entire class and it doesn’t matter where you sit). I would attend the same two or three teachers’ classes. Their classes always had the perfect combination of breath work, a nice flow that was challenging, fun music, and most importantly, I always left feeling really positive about myself and couldn’t wait to step back on my mat. At the time I was dealing with some body image issues, but yoga seemed to be healing those issues not only on the outside, but on the inside as well.

I gradually started going to the more difficult classes. As my practice began to advance and my mindfulness became more aware, I started to think about becoming a yoga instructor. Yoga had really begun to make an impact on my life. I was becoming more mindful of pretty much everything: my relationships, how I treated those around me, what I was eating, the environment and letting little things go. All of these things had become so much easier since yoga had been in my life. I wanted to teach yoga to make an impact on people’s lives the way it was improving mine. I signed up for a 200-hour, 3-day intensive teacher training in August 2012.

Every day for 30 days from 8 am-6 pm we were at the studio learning everything yoga: history, philosophy, literature, proper alignment, adjustments for postures, meditation techniques, practicing teaching and so on. Normally a teacher training is done over the span of 3-6 months and is done on the weekends. We were in full yoga boot camp. At times teacher training was exhausting — my body ached, my mind would spin from information overload — but I was loving every minute. I learned from the co-teacher, whom I’ve continued studying with to this day, how strong our mind is and how are bodies can do anything, but without our minds, our body is nothing. This lesson was so valuable to me throughout our training. When my body felt like it couldn’t do one more chaturanga or one more downward dog, it was my mind that kept pushing me through the tough moments. Thirty days later we were handed our shiny certificates and I was determined to teach!

I am very blessed to be where I am today in my teaching career. I now have over 600 hours of training in Vinyassa, Ashtanga, Hatha and both Pre- and Post-Natal techniques! And I’m now a teacher in that very same spa-like studio where I was once a very timid member.

My most recent training took place in the motherland of Yoga: India. What an amazing experience it was. More on my India trip in my next blog….

To find out more about Amanda’s services and the classes she teaches, contact us through the website by clicking here.

There Is A Genetic Component To ADHD And There Are Things You Can Do About It

With so many children (and adults) affected by ADHD today, I’ve done a lot of research on the subject. As parents, we always want to know if there’s something we could be doing to help with both the symptoms and the causes. This leads to the basic question of whether ADHD is genetic?

The short answer is yes. Something called the human genome project actually mapped out people’s genetic makeups and found a connection between mutations of the MTHFR gene and ADHD. This has led me to do a lot more research on the MTHFR gene and see what can be done once we are aware of this condition – whether it’s in ourselves or in our kids.

First of all, MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. It’s basically an enzyme that helps break down the folate in our diets into a more useable form. Once in its usable form (5-MTHF), this enzyme is responsible for doing a lot of the basic things that keep our bodies going: cellular functions, synthesis of DNA, production of platelets and red and white blood cells, etc.

Basically, if the MTHFR gene is functioning properly, your body is eliminating toxins and heavy metals from the body. But, if you have a mutation on the gene – some defect – it can lead to everything from headaches and acne to depression and addiction. I found a great blog that breaks down the process in more detail if you are interested in all of the science behind it.

If you think you might have this mutation or want to check for it in your kids, you can order a simple blood test. Now, some will say what’s the point of knowing? Well, there are actually some things you can do about it. While you can’t repair the gene itself, there are ways to treat some of the symptoms.

Diet – and we often hear about this in conjunction with kids’ behavior and ADHD – can play a very important role. Foods containing folate (think leafy greens) become even more important for people with this mutation. Avoiding supplements and processed foods that contain folic acid is also very important.

A lot of this can seem overwhelming at first, but in truth, much of the population suffers from this genetic mutation to some degree. Some research suggests up to 40% of humans have MTHFR gene variations of some kind. The level to which the gene is mutated can vary greatly. Also, if you know you have this mutation, speaking to your doctor while you are pregnant can decrease the risk for your baby.

Overall, I think awareness is key. Talking to your doctor about things like diet and supplements and understanding that there is in fact a genetic component to some of the health and mental issues we face as both kids and adults can go a long way in helping us to avoid self-blame and get the help we need.

Check out our website to view our many professional specialists, or email or call us to chat about connecting you to someone who can help change your and your child’s life for the better.