5 Reasons to Get a Marriage Check Up – Couples Counseling

1. Your spouse/partner/boyfriend is perfect…except for this one thing he does when he's eating soup which makes you insane!

2. You are facing a transition. A move, career change, retirement, and other such life events can mess up your relationship's balance.

3. You are in love and looking forward to your life
together.  A couples counselor will help you set up good relationship habits
before bad ones have a chance to creep in.

4. There is a problem outside the relationship that is causing stress. It's not the relationship, it's – a bad boss, an ex-spouse, step-kids, demanding in-laws, caring for a chronically ill loved one – you name it.

5. There is tension in the air but you are thinking, "It's not that bad yet."

By working with couples before they are unhappy, the checkup identifies
potentially “corrosive” behaviors and helps couples make small changes
in communication style before their problems spiral out of control.

So says a recent New York Times article, Seeking to Pre-empt Marital Strife. And I say Amen to that!

I'm a couples counselor and I love this work when the relationship is basically sound but has gone off track for some reason. The challenge is monumental when the troubles have gone on unchecked for months, even years, and the couple have finally agreed to see a counselor, clearly as a last resort. Please don't wait until you are just this side of breaking up before you seek help.

“Couples won’t go to marital therapy with just the one thing that they
are struggling with,” Dr. Córdova said. “So they end up struggling in
places where the fix might be simple, it’s just that they themselves
are blind to it.”

Couples who come in before it gets 'too bad' don't need a ton of therapy. It is still true that an ounce of prevention is way worth a pound of cure! 

Contact me for your marriage/relationship check up today!

From the Archives: 7 Ways to Give An Apology & 4 Ways to Accept One

2735748231_07d554ce89 When
I was seven years old, preparing for my First Communion, I had to go to Confession first. Back in the day, that was a scary
prospect, involving a dark booth, hell’s fire and spilling your guts to
a shadow behind a screen. What does a seven-year-old self have to

knew exactly, because I was a convicted thief. I stole a fancy little
brush from Joyce Weber, my friend from down the street. I coveted that
pink and blue plastic brush and I took it! When she discovered my sin,
Mom marched me over to Joyce’s house to hand the brush back and
apologize, face to face. It was agonizing. What more penance could
there possibly be?

a dear friend said, "Apologizing sucks." Apologizing is uncomfortable,
at least if you are doing it right, but it is the pain of cleansing a
deep wound so that it can heal properly. Here are a few suggestions on
how to make a good apology:

Seven ways to apologize:

  1. Avoid defensiveness. "I don't have anything to apologize for!" Really? Think about it.
  2. Be humble. You may even consider groveling if your transgression was extreme, like an affair. In that case, expect to grovel for a long time, but not forever.
  3. Make it from the heart. When my son was three years old he banged his little sister on the head with Buzz Lightyear. My mother witnessed his apology. With my coaxing, he mumbled an "I'm sorry," to his sister. “That’s
    not a sincere apology,” my mother said.  “He should mean it!”  Well, he was
    three. “Form first,” I said. “We’ll work on sincerity later.”  By the
    time he was five or so I figured he should be able to understand the
    concept of meaning it. Unfortunately, there are many adults out there who don't.
  4. With candy and flowers.
    Gifts may be used only to open the door or after the apology has been
    accepted, as a thank you. Do not expect treats to substitute for
    sincerity. No, not even a diamond tennis bracelet.
  5. Face to face is best,
    maybe because it's the hardest. A phone call comes in second.  A hand written letter
    might work. Any form of writing needs to be carefully thought out when the
    advantage of voice and body language is absent.
    Email or direct message works for an apology, but only if there is seriously no other way. Be aware that
    privacy cannot be guaranteed.
    Texting an apology?
    You’ve got me there. Maybe for a fourteen year old? I don’t know, it
    may be a generational thing. I wouldn’t recommend it.

  6. Stick to the issue at hand.
    Don’t apologize for all the sins of the past. That can smack of
    insincerity. If all the sins of the past is the issue, one apology
    won’t cover it. You probably need a mediator, like a pastor or a
  7. Say you’re sorry once,
    genuinely said, with all the sincerity you can muster. Then let it go.
    Like a message in a bottle, send it off, be patient and hope it lands
    in receptive hands.

Receiving an apology isn't easy either.


7 Dysfunctonal Therapist Beliefs & What to Do About Them: CBT for the Therapist

Even therapists could use a little cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

As promised in “Before You Burn Out – CBT for the Therapist: An Interview With Dr. John Ludgate” here are a few examples Dr. Ludgate shares of how therapists’ thinking can get twisted, starting with unhelpful core beliefs:

Dysfunctional Therapist Beliefs

    1. I have to be successful with all my clients practically all the time.
    2. I must always have good judgment as a professional.
    3. I must be an outstanding therapist, better than other therapists I know
    4. I can’t feel good about myself unless I am very successful in alleviating clients’ problems.
    5. I must have all good sessions with my clients.
    6. I should not dislike any of my clients.
    7. As a therapist, I should have no emotional problems myself and should feel guilty and ashamed if I do. I should not have to ask for advice or support either professionally or personally.

If we are honest with ourselves, these rigid core beliefs can get to us when we are stressed, leading to negative automatic thoughts such as:

    1. There is no progress. I am not helping this client.
    2. I am not skilled enough to help him/her. It’s not working because I’m incompetent.
    3. Other therapists would be more successful or move faster.
    4. If my client is angry or critical, I must not be handling things properly.
    5. He/she is resisting me and doesn’t want to change or improve.
    6. I’ll never get all this paperwork done.
    7. I never get a break. I have too much to do and everybody is dumping on me.

Just as with our clients, self-awareness is the beginning of change. Once we’ve identified that our thoughts are distorted, we can start to get back on track. The exercise that Dr. Ludgate provides below (of a purely fictional client) is an example of how we can use CBT on ourselves to return to a more reasonable state of mind. I also recommend inviting a trusted colleague/friend, someone who understands exactly how you are feeling, out for lunch or a glass of wine!

Download CBT for the Therapist Exercise

In Celebration of Fathers, 2010 | World of Psychology


Being a parent in this day and age isn't easy. A Dad trying to take responsibility and do what's right for his kids is under a new kind of pressure these days. Long gone are the days he could just go to the office in the morning and not be bothered with childcare until discipline is called for at the end of the day.

And Thank God for that!

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, a contributor to Psych Central, had this to day about good fathering. She wrote:

Over the years, I’ve asked both fathers and mothers what they think are the essential qualities of such men. They tell me that fathers who are real men:

Love the mothers. They show their children what mature and reciprocal love, tenderness, and caring is about. They are affectionate and supportive of their wives and are their greatest fans. Neither partner would dream of cheating so both are secure in their love and their partnership.

While I agree completely, I also know that when the father is the survivor of a tough divorce this isn't always possible. For the kids' sake, I hope that such parents can at least learn to forgive each other enough to allow genuine respect to live where true love cannot. That is my Father's Day wish.

Happy Father’s Day!

via psychcentral.com

5 Tips to Attain Therapy on the Run

By Dylan Broggio, LCSW-R

There is a healing power to running.
In high school I would take off for long
runs down gravel roads covered by lush towering trees. In college I would run
the 9 mile perimeter of campus, to clear writers block, or de-stress during
exams. Whatever the stress, a good hard run made my problems shrink to a
manageable size.

Numerous studies have shown that exercise stimulates the
neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and beta-endorphin, all of
which elevate mood and reduce depression
and anxiety
Keith Johnsgard,
Ph.D, author of “Conquering Depression and Anxiety Through Exercise”, highlights
a few ways
to get the most mental health benefit out of
your running or other aerobic exercise:

1.    Run at least 20-30 minutes to get 5-6 hours of reduction in negative emotions such as anxiety,
anger, or depression.

2.    Take a few deep breaths at the start and imagine breathing in positive energy, and exhaling the
stressful or anxious emotions.

Run outside. Being in nature helps us realize
life is a lot bigger than our problems.


Why Making Mistakes Can Be Good For You

Thank God my parents supported the idea that with mistakes comes opportunity. The messier and more public the gaff the more profound and significant the lesson learned. You can imagine how much grief this philosophy saved me as a kid.

Last week, not just one, but two books came out that focus on what it means to make mistakes, “Being Wrong,” by Kathryn Schulz, and “Wrong,” by David H. Freedman. Dwight Garner, of the New York Times, wrote a review of both in To Err is Human – And How! And Why. Garner clearly liked Ms. Schulz's book better. He says:

“Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition…

Thinkers have toyed with theories of error since Plato’s time, many of them generally agreeing with Albert Einstein, who said, “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research, would it?”

'Being Wrong' is optimistic. “Error, even though it sometimes feels like despair, is actually much closer in spirit to hope,” Ms. Schulz writes. “We get things wrong because we have an enduring confidence in our own minds; and we face up to that wrongness in the faith that, having learned something, we will get it right next time.”

With compassion and forgiveness we may allow ourselves to be human, make mistakes and learn from them. Then, as the old song advises you can, "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again."


7 Reasons Alcoholism is Different for Women


Don’t you just love those Mad Men episodes where the men have fully stocked bars in their offices and the women drink coffee with their neighbors?

Times have changed. Womens’ liberation has given us the right to drink just as hard as the men do.

Cosmopolitans, apple-tinis, white wine, mojitos, could be considered girly-girl drinks. But when it comes right down to it, they hold just as big a punch as a shot of single-malt scotch, neat.

It is a fact that alcoholism is a disease with a known course and outcome no matter what sex you are. But statistics show that women are drinking more than ever and we are being
stopped for drunk driving more than in previous years.

Stress in our society is different for women than it is for men and there is no denying that physically we are not the same.

Problem drinking, and resulting alcoholism, is just not the same for women and research upholds that premise. Here are some ways alcohol can cause unique problems for women:

1. Progression from problem drinking to alcoholism is faster. For women drinking becomes a problem later in life than in men but the progression of the disease is faster. This means that the consequences of alcoholism – black outs, destruction of the liver, kidneys, pancreas, neglect of self-care and care of children, driving while intoxicated – and more, all happens more quickly for women than for men.

2. Women do not metabolize alcohol as quickly as men. More than one drink puts women in the danger zone for illegally high blood alcohol levels, only ONE, compared to over two drinks for men.  Women are are at high risk because they will try to match how guys drink, drink for drink.

Women tend to think that if they stick to wine their drinking is above reproach. Red wine is ‘healthy’ and white wine is so light, what could it hurt? One lady-like glass (3 ounces) of wine, red or white, is equal in alcohol content to a shot (1 ounce) of vodka, tequila or scotch.

3. Self-medication. More women suffer from depression and anxiety than men. Many reach to alcohol as a form of medication to soften the sharp pain of these conditions.


14 Good Reasons to Smile Today


Photo courtesy of Nanagyei-off on Holiday

Janice Taylor, reminds us why smiling is so beneficial:

The health benefits of smiling are plentiful.


  1. increases the production of endorphins, natural pain killers and serotonin, a hormone that regulates your mood;
  2. boosts your immune system and increases the number and activity of antibodies that fight infection;
  3. lowers your blood pressure;
  4. helps you to relax;
  5. relieves stress;
  6. enhances respiratory function;
  7. exercises 15-26 facial muscles;
  8. makes you look younger as it lifts the face; and
  9. fires up various parts of the brain!

More fabulous facts about smiling that are sure to make you smile.

10.  72% of people think that those who smile frequently are confident and successful.

11.  86% of people are more likely to talk to strangers if they are smiling.

12.  Bosses are 12% more likely to promote people who smile a lot.

13.  Research shows that 65% of communication is non-verbal (some say even higher).

14.  Studies show that happiness is a by-product of smiling, not that those who are happy smile as most people assume.

My kids and I used to do this
trick when they were little and got whiny and cranky.  "I'm bored!" they'd say. "Are you whining? What a wimpy excuse for a whine. THIS is a whine! 'OH NO I HAVE TO THE LAUNDRY NOW! YUCK!'" We'd compete to out-whine
each other. It never failed to end in giggles. The whining? Gone, like magic. All that was left were smiles.

"In ancient China, the Taoists taught that a
constant inner smile, a smile to oneself, insured health, happiness and
longevity. Why? Smiling to yourself is like basking in love: you become
your own best friend. Living with an inner smile is to live in harmony
with yourself." -Mantak Chia via Janice Taylor, Our Lady of Weight Loss

Explore What’s Next Is Growing! More Services, More Hours.

Ever since Explore What's Next was a twinkle in my eye, I envisioned a comprehensive practice to help people of all ages strengthen their self-esteem and restore control and balance in their lives. Today we made a big step to fulfill that vision.

EWN now offers assessment and treatment services for adolescents and families!

We added evening and weekend
hours, too!

This is possible because Dylan Broggio, LCSW, has joined the EWN team. Dylan specializes in counseling teens and their families. In addition, she enjoys working with adult individuals who are struggling with anxiety, depression or are overwhelmed by life's stresses. Dylan is smart, enthusiastic and professional. She lives up to the requisites of an EWN therapist: Qualified, kind and easy to talk to.

With Dylan coming on board, EWN will be able to offer expanded hours, including Saturdays. This will be especially helpful for high school students during the school year or individuals and families in need of greater scheduling flexibility.

And because we are all about sharing useful and pertinent mental health information through the EWN blog, Dylan will be blogging here as well. She has a great sense of humor, so you can expect to read particle blog posts that give you something to smile about, too.

I am very happy to welcome Dylan to Explore What's Next. Learn more about her in the interview coming up soon.

Another Way to Stop (or Slow Down) Cognitive Distortions

Earlier today I was thinking more about those pesky cognitive distortions and I remembered another CBT technique to use to help slow those suckers down.

What is the evidence?

Earlier I suggested you challenge the distorted thought by asking if it was reasonable or unreasonable.

You can also look for the evidence to either support or disprove the cognition. Take the risk to investigate, like a detective, before you make the final arrest.

Maybe you can relate to this…

I’m was in my kitchen messing around with dinner preparation. In comes my husband, home from work. I greeted him. He growled at me, marches past, frown on, brow wrinkled, head down.

Rats, I think. What did I do? Why is he mad at me? First I was anxious, then angry. But before I get all defensive, a more reasonable voice in my head whispers, “What makes you think his behavior has anything to do with you? Before you jump to conclusions (a type of cognitive distortion, don’t cha know), gather the evidence… Ask him!”

You know the rest. Somehow I found the guts to ask him if he was mad at me and he said no, of course not. His mood had nothing to do with me. He was mad about something at work. My anxiety went from 8 on the distress meter to a sensible 2.

Look for the evidence next time you are thinking nasty, distorted thoughts. What you discover might just spare you a lot of unnecessary emotional pain.

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