by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 12, 2021 best counselor for me, counseling pittsburgh, pittsburgh, relationship0 comments
“Listening is an art that requires attention over talents, spirit over ego, others over self.”
– Dean Jackson
The Attitude of Great Listeners
Developing effective and compassionate listening skills is absolutely essential in order to maintain a strong and healthy relationship. Becoming a great listener is not only vital for flourishing romantic relationships, but it is also a skill that is relevant in all aspects of life. Effective listeners are effective people. Unfortunately, these skills are not often taught, and the result is that listening skills don’t get much emphasis or development in our society.
This two-part series will focus on helping you to understand the basics of effective and compassionate listening and also teach you how to put those basics into practice. Following these simple guidelines can have a tremendous effect on both your romantic relationships, and your ability to reach your goals. In this month’s Part I blog post of “How to be a Great Listener,” we will cover the attitude of compassion that is necessary to be a compassionate and effective listener. In our next blog post, we will address the technical skills of listening that will build on this compassionate attitude!
Learning to Listen is like Learning to Ride a Bike
Learning to be a great listener can be a difficult process, often times in the beginning it feels awkward, clumsy and a bit uncomfortable. Many times, when working on listening skills in couples therapy, people tell me that this type of communication is not “them.” They may say that it does not feel right, that it is not natural, or that these listening skills do not feel authentic. My response typically sounds something like this, “I appreciate that you are letting me know that this feels unnatural, and that is okay. When I was first learning to be a counselor, this type of listening felt unnatural to me too! Thankfully, listening is a skill, it is not a personality trait, and just like any other skill it can be developed!” I tell my clients that at first it might feel unnatural, but as they develop these listening skills, they will become more personal, and will feel more natural. It is just like learning to ride a bike, or to type on a keyboard! At first, the movements may feel forced and uncoordinated, but with practice and attention, soon these skills become more familiar, they open up new and exciting avenues of exploration and expression! The same goes for listening, however when you listen, you get to explore one of the most beautiful sceneries to ever exist, the intimate world of another human being. Although becoming a great listener can be challenging at first, it is a skill that can truly transform our lives!
Great Listeners are Compassionate & Effective
Becoming a great listener can be broken down into two major aspects which come together seamlessly to allow the listener to be both compassionate and effective. The first major aspect of listening is adopting and expressing an attitude of compassion. The second major aspect of listening is developing specific listening skills and techniques to listen effectively. This post is going to focus on the compassionate listeners attitude. Most of the time we are so consumed in our own world, that we do not take the time to intentionally step into the world of another and to see the word through their eyes. In order to be great listeners, we have to possess a willingness to humbly (& momentarily) put aside our own perspective and opinion and be willing to truly witness the person in front of us. The attitude of humility and genuine interest equips us to post-pone our own agenda and to tune in to what the speaker is saying. Your goal is simply to understand.
The Golden Rule of Effective & Compassionate Listening: Don’t Problem Solve
“Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart.” Tich Nhat Hanh
Listening is more than just hearing; it is a willing and active participation in the life of another person. The attitude of compassionate listening is embodied in this one rule: don’t try to problem solve. One of the most common pitfalls that hinders the compassionate listening beautifully described by Tech Nhat Hanh (a global spiritual leader, peace activist, and poet) in the quote above, is the urge to jump into problem solving. When someone tells us about a difficult situation they are encountering, it can easily bring out our insecurities and trigger the experience of anxiety. It is intimidating to think that we might not be able to help our loved ones in a satisfactory way, in the way we think they need to be helped. Not only is it intimidating, but it can also be embarrassing. Whether it is a major life dilemma, or a small frustration, we might think to ourselves, “Oh no, this person needs help, what can I possibly say to help this person?!” We can feel overwhelmed by a sense of insufficiency and experience a sense that we must do something.
Problem-solving capabilities are the primary reason that humans have survived throughout history, so it is understandable that our first instinct is to try to fix the issue, but most of the time following the impulse to offer a solution can be damaging. More than a solution, the person experiencing a dilemma or difficulty needs the presence of another person willing to simply be with them.
Instead of problem solving or advice giving, try to tune in to what the person is experiencing. Seek to really understand what they are going through, and what emotions they are feeling. Exhibiting the willingness to sit with someone in their difficulty, conveys a sense of unconditional acceptance to that person. When we listen to someone’s difficulty and seek to truly understand their experience, we say “I accept you as you are, even when you are stressed, depressed, or anxious, and I see you as you are, completely acceptable, no matter how you are feeling.” It is essential that before jumping into problem solving, or trying to make your partner feel better, you show your partner that you really hear what they are saying. This is an opportunity to demonstrate our unconditional acceptance of the ones we love.
We are social and emotional beings that thrive on human connection. When our partner is telling us about their experience, often times, they are seeking to connect with us. They aren’t just telling us a bout a difficult situation, they are also building an emotional bridge of connection. If we miss the emotions, then we will miss the bridge, and our partner will end up feeling isolated, unimportant and invalidated. Human emotions are not problems, and they cannot be solved. Emotions are processed through expression and when you ask about those emotions you create an opportunity for processing, as well as validation. Although it might feel right for us to immediately jump into problem solving or advice giving, it is a sure way to invalidate your partner and crush the connection. Deeply listening to your partner’s difficulties is an opportunity for you to show your partner, how important they are through your presence, your patience, and your attention! If your partner wants your advice, they will likely ask for it, but unless you first show your partner that you truly understand their experience and care about their feelings, problem solving is likely to be a burnt bridge of connection. Problem solving in itself is not bad, but it is essential to listen and reflect your understanding back to your partner first, and problem solve later (like, way later). Implementing this golden rule of listening becomes much easier when we have a humble attitude complimented by some practical skills and techniques!
Your Presence is a Precious Gift
Your attitude is a tremendous tool that can set you up for success or put you on the fast track to failure. In order to be a great listener, you must embrace an attitude of humility and generosity! Effective and compassionate listening requires a strong focus on the person speaking, rather than yourself. Sometimes, the most difficult aspect of embracing this attitude is that you have let go of your own insecurities. If you hold on to the belief that you “aren’t good enough,” you will never be able to give your partner what they need most in their times of difficulty and dilemma. Whether it is an everyday frustration, or a major life transition, as humans we all long for companionship. All of us want deeply to be seen, and to be known, and at the same time, all of us are terrified of what might happen if we allow ourselves to be seen and to be known. There is nothing greater you can give someone than the gift of your human presence, of your human heart full of compassion, of being someone that is willing to sit in solidarity with the discomfort of the one you love. This is truly the gift of listening. It is not simply being silent and allowing your ears to hear. It is participating in the life of another through actively showing them, “you matter to me, your experience matters to me, your emotions matter to me, and I am willing to listen.” Through communicating in this way, you invite them to truly be themselves in an authentic and organic manner. It has often been said that the greatest gift one can give a friend is their life, and there are countless stories of people who have given their lives so that their loved ones could survive. To build on this belief of sacrifice, we should take into account the fact that one’s life can only be lived in the present moment. When you give another human your full and undivided attention, even if just for a moment, you give them your life, for life can only be lived in the now. Through letting go of your insecurities and humbly believing in the power of your human presence, you allow yourself to become a source of healing through solidarity. This is the essence of compassion, “to suffer with.” It is through embracing your own human value that you allow yourself to give another the gift which all of us long for, to be known, to be seen and to be accepted. This type of presence and belief in the power of the human spirit opens up the opportunity to extend profound empathy.
In this first part of learning how to become a great listener we have covered the basic attitude of compassionate listening. Your attitude is everything! Remember, listen first and problem solve later, way later! Jumping right into problem solving before you truly understand your partner is a sure way to crush an opportunity for compassionate connection. Have confidence in the fact that your presence is enough! Simply sitting with someone and seeking to understand their difficulty can have a profoundly healing impact on someone who is experiencing difficulty. But how do you do that?! Tune in to our next blog post where we cover how-to’s of expressing empathy and the do’s and don’ts of putting this attitude into practice!
Culture of EMPATHY Builder: Carl Rogers – page 1. (n.d.). Retrieved April 03, 2021, from http://cultureofempathy.com/References/Experts/Carl-Rogers.htm
Gottman, J. M., & Gottman, J. S. (2016). The Gottman relationship guides. Seattle: Gottman Institute.
Rogers, C. R., & Kramer, P. D. (1995). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view on psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 29, 2021 healthy relationships, parenting, Parenting and Families0 comments
Nothing can fill a parent with trepidation quite like watching their teenager enter the world of dating.
While you may feel some “mama bear” instincts to shut it down, your teen needs you to be there for them. And they’re probably craving to know (without telling you): what does a healthy relationship actually look like?
Instill these five teachable habits to help your teen build healthy relationships.
Relationships rest on emotions, words, and actions. Teach your teen that emotions can’t be controlled, but words and actions can – and they form the basis of a communication.
Actions communicate broad messages like “I want to be here” or “I like you”. But words are the real powerhouse of healthy communication.
Especially when swept away in the beginning, your teen may feel like they can read their partner’s mind. But at some point, this illusion will end. Hurt feelings often result.
Save your teen trouble by teaching them to air out issues before they happen. Remind them to speak gently when opening a conversation. It helps all parties feel like they can say what’s really on their mind.
If your teen and their girlfriend/boyfriend know where they stand on relationship status, sex, and expectations, to name some heavy-hitters, they can navigate from a thoughtful place.
Clear boundaries set a relationship free. They remove the guesswork. Teach your teen the nuts and bolts of boundary setting in a relationship.
Your sounding board can help them get in touch with their inner voice. Inquire in a helpful way. “Do you want him to text you that much?” “Do you feel ready to take your relationship with her to that level of commitment?” Encourage them to answer from their gut instinct.
Then let them know they can request a boundary directly, i.e. “I only want text a few times a day”. Make it clear that if the person involved with doesn’t respect that boundary, it’s a red flag.
Help your teen understand what constitutes physical and emotional safety in a relationship. Encourage them to take time away from the partner to reflect on how things are going. Remind them that any relationship worth keeping will be there when they return.
Highlight the difference between safe and unsafe. Safe should feel comfortable, open, trusting, unpressured, and generally easy. Unsafe situations will evoke feelings of pressure, hiding, secrets, shame, and general ickiness.
Vulnerability and Intimacy
Your teen may feel nervous about getting to know somebody they like. It can be scary to put yourself out there! Give them foundational talk skills to help get over that knot in the throat.
A powerful but underrated conversation skill is asking open-ended questions. Coach your teen to say “How do you feel about your biology class?” instead of “Do you like biology?” Questions like this can really get the conversation flowing. Your teen’s crush will feel their care and interest, and your teen will feel empowered to listen and share.
Enjoy the Fun
Provide gentle but realistic perspective for teenage relationships. The person they date in middle school and high school, in all likelihood, will not be who they marry. It might not even last a few weeks or months. And that’s okay.
Emphasize that relationships are about learning at this point – and fun! If they’re not having fun, encourage your teen to set a boundary to change or end the relationship. Support their discovery of what’s fun or not fun for them.
These building blocks will help them down the road. In the meantime, they’re building happy memories and growth-oriented relationships that uplift them in an often tumultuous season of life.
For more relationship support for you and your teen, consult the following resources:Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghFebruary 12, 2021 healthy relationships, marriage counseling, marriage counseling monroeville, marriage counseling near me, marriage counseling pittsburgh, marriage counseling south hills, marriage counseling wexford0 comments
Many predict that divorce will be at an all-time high during the time of COVID-19 quarantine.
One relationship therapist emailed a survey to over 700 clients and found that thirty-one percent of respondents claimed the quarantine had hurt their relationship. With record amounts of time spent together in close quarters, it may feel like there’s no escape for a married couple, especially with none of the usual “me time” activities like gyms, spas, and dinners with friends.
For that reason, marriage counseling is more important than ever. Having a dedicated safe space to process issues, especially during a stressful situation like an ongoing pandemic, can help strengthen the bonds of a couple immensely. Below are just a few of the many reasons couples may want to seek marriage counseling.
1. Support Navigating Shared Relationships
A married couple has many important relationships outside of their marriage itself. The dynamics of these relationships can also affect a marriage. Couples may need outside advice on how to properly set boundaries and interact with children, parents, in-laws, friends, and members of blended families. A third-party who is impartial can be especially helpful in these scenarios because problems often arise when both members of a couple have a different relationship with one of these outside people.
2. Help with Sexual Issues
Many times, underlying relationship issues play out in the bedroom. Sexual issues can come up again and again, shaping a large part of a couple’s intimacy issues. Luckily, studies show that improvement is largely possible, especially when a sex therapist gives both partners coping strategies to employ when they encounter sexual difficulties. A study that followed 140 couples over the course of one to six years of sex therapy found that the long-term outcome for those seeking sex therapy was excellent, and the results carried over into the couples’ attitudes about their relationship in general.
3. Gaining an Impartial Ear
When weathering marital troubles, many people seek advice from friends and family who bring their own biases to the table. For example, someone’s mother is likely to want to see them as innocent and their partner as the villain. Marriage counselors don’t have previous associations with either party. They are more likely to hear both partners’ concerns fairly.
4. Rebuilding Trust After Infidelity
Studies show that between 20 and 40 percent of married people end up seeking an extramarital affair. These statistics are especially troubling when 42 percent of divorces cite infidelity as one of the causes. That said, when the right steps are taken, infidelity does not have to end in divorce, and a couple can ultimately rebuild broken trust and become even stronger.
According to Psychology Today, part of the process involves an opportunity for both parties to discuss the whole truth. It’s natural for the person who has been cheated on to have many questions they feel need to be answered to regain trust. To reach a place of forgiveness, the transgressor needs to be emotionally honest and take responsibility for what they have done. Without taking this step forward, forgiveness may not be found and an intimate connection may not be restored. A relationship expert can help couples navigate this tricky process together.
5. Avoiding the “Four Horsemen” of Conflict
Relationship expert John Gottman has defined the four horsemen of the “apocalypse” of a relationship: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. None of these are productive ways to respond to a partner, and employing these tactics will only heighten tensions and drive a couple further apart. A marriage counselor can help a couple identify when they are responding to each other in these unproductive ways and help suggest healthy alternatives that promote a healthier conversation.
6. Creating a Safe Space
Rather than bringing negative energy into the home, it can be helpful to have a neutral territory to discuss conflicts. Furthermore, a therapist’s office provides a space for a couple to discuss their issues away from those who may overhear them, such as children or other family members. A couples therapy session is a place where each party can feel safe being honest without fear of judgment.
7. Fostering an Attachment Bond
While attachment science is often discussed regarding child development, it is equally important for adults. Emotionally Focused Therapy is an emerging field that focuses on a couple’s attachment to one another. A secure attachment bond has shown to provide resilience to the couple and improved self-esteem to each individual. Therapy provides a time and place for a married couple to get to know each other better and become more secure in their bond.
When things may look grim for a person’s marriage, there is always help. Like all things, when a couple is willing to put in the time and effort, they can look forward to the reward of a healthier, happier relationship. Marriage counseling can help married couples find common ground and feel bonded once again.Learn More
Every romantic relationship needs a strong friendship at its center. Friendship is essential to long-lasting, passionate connection. It is like the coals of a bonfire that maintain the heat through the night and remain even after all the wood has burned up. Even in the morning with a little stoking and more wood, the coals quickly blaze again into a warm fire. Friendship is the foundation of long-lasting romance.
The friendship we share with our partner is not second rate to the romance and passion of love. Without a strong friendship, there is no foundation for romance. If you tell me that romance and intimacy is dead in your relationship the first thing to start working on is your friendship! When friendship with your partner dies out, the whole relationship loses its foundation and its spark.
The great philosopher Aristotle once said in his writing, “A friend is a second self.” This is one of my favorite phrases to think about when considering friendship, especially in the context of romantic relationships. True friendship brings forth the desire to know your partner as intimately as you know yourself. Of course, you will never be able to know your partner completely, but you can get pretty close! Desiring to grow in intimacy with your partner in such a deep way creates a continued journey to know our partners and be known by our partners. If you don’t know what your partners hopes, desires, and aspirations are, then how can you support them in those? If you don’t know what their stressors, sensitivities, and hurts are, then how can you be present to their pain and difficulty? Friendship is the foundation of love that lasts.
Drs. John & Julie Gottman are world renowned relationship experts. They have dedicated their lives to learning what separates the “relationship masters” from the “relationship disasters.” The Gottman’s call their blueprint for healthy relationships The Sound Relationship House. Each level of the Sound Relationship House contains an essential ingredient for making love last, and at the very foundation of the Sound Relationship House is friendship. The Gottman’s refer to Love Maps as the center of friendship, and the foundation of love that lasts. Love Maps refer to the amount of mental space you have in your brain for your partner. A Love map is your knowledge of your partner’s inner world. Research conducted by the Gottman’s has revealed that the amount of mental room a partner has for their relationship and for the world of their partner predicts how stable the relationship will be.
Masters of relationships develop a map of their partner’s history, likes, dislikes, concerns, preferences and the current world of their partner. The Masters of relationships create Love Maps of their partner’s world by asking open-ended questions. An open-ended question is a question that can’t be answered by a simple “yes” or “no.” An example of an open-ended question is, “How was your day today?” This question leaves room for your partner to respond in the way they would like and lets them really tell you about their day. It shows that you are really interested in their life and their experience. In comparison, “Did you have a good day today?” is a closed ended question, and while it shows you are interested and care about their day, it limits the response of your partner to being “yes” or “no.”
Just like the operating system on your phone, the Love Maps of your relationship need to be routinely updated. We are always changing and evolving. Our perspectives, stressors, hopes and dreams can change with time, so it is important to take time to update the Love Maps in your relationship. This exercise below is a simple way to update your love maps and to develop the skill of asking open-ended questions about your partners answers. Enhancing your love maps is really about building friendship on an intimate level. True friendship is the bedrock of love that lasts. Try this activity to test & build Love Maps with your partner!
THE LOVE MAPS QUESTIONS GAME
Now that you understand the importance of building Love Maps, play a fun, light-hearted game with your partner. The more you play, the more you’ll learn about the Love Maps concept and how to apply it to your relationship.
Step 1: Both you and your partner take a piece of paper, and with a pen, write down twenty numbers between 1 and 60.
Step 2: Below is a list of numbered questions. Beginning with the top of your column, match the numbers you chose with the corresponding question. Each of you should ask your partner this question. If your partner answers correctly (you be the judge), he or she receives a point. If your partner responds incorrectly, neither of you receives any points. The same rules apply when you answer. The winner is the person with the higher score after you’ve both answer all twenty questions.
- Name two of my closest friends (2 points)
- What is my favorite musical group, composer, or instrument? (2 points)
- What was I wearing when we first met? (2 points)
- Name one of my hobbies. (3 points)
- Where was I born? (1 point)
- What stresses am I facing right now? (4 points)
- Describe in detail what I did today, or yesterday. (4 points)
- When is my birthday? (1 point)
- What is the date of our anniversary? (1 point)
- Who is my favorite relative? (2 points)
- What is my fondest unrealized dream? (5 points)
- What is my favorite website? (2 points)
- What is one of my greatest fears or disaster scenarios? (3 points)
- What is my favorite time of day for lovemaking? (3 points)
- What makes me feel most competent? (4 points)
- What turns me on sexually? (3 points)
- What is my favorite meal? (2 points)
- What is my favorite way to spend an evening? (2 points)
- What is my favorite color? (1 point)
- What personal improvements do I want to make in my life? (4 points)
- What kind of present would I like best? (2 points)
- What was one of my best childhood experiences? (2 points)
- What was my favorite vacation? (2 points)
- What is one of my favorite ways to relax? (4 points)
- Who is my greatest source of support (other than you)? (3 points)
- What is my favorite sport? (2 points)
- What do I most like to do with time off? (2 points)
- What is one of my favorite weekend activities? (2 points)
- What is my dream getaway place? (3 points)
- What is my favorite movie? (2 points)
- What are some of the important events coming up in my life? How do I feel about them? (4 points)
- What are some of my favorite ways to work out? (2 points)
- Who was my best friend in childhood? (3 points)
- What is one of my favorite magazines? (2 points)
- Name one of my major rivals or “enemies.” (3 points)
- What would I consider my dream job? (4 points)
- What do I fear the most? (4 points)
- Who is my least favorite relative? (3 points)
- What is my favorite holiday? (2 points points)
- What kinds of books do I most like to read? (3 points)
- What is my favorite TV show? (2 points)
- Which side of the bed do I prefer? (2 points)
- What am I most sad about? (4 points)
- Name one of my concerns or worries. (4 points)
- What medical problems do I worry about? (2 points)
- What was my most embarrassing moment? (3 points)
- What was my worst childhood experience? (3 points)
- Name two people I most admire. (4 points)
- Name my favorite ice cream flavor. (2 points)
- Of all the people we both know, who do I like the least? (3 points)
- What is one of my favorite desserts? (2 points)
- What is my social security number?
- Name one of my novels. (2 points)
- What is my favorite restaurant? (2 points)
- What are two of my aspirations, hopes, wishes? (4 points)
- Do I have a secret ambition? What is it? (4 points)
- What foods do I hate? (2 points)
- What is my favorite animal? (2 points)
- What is my favorite song? (2 points)
- Which sports teams is my favorite? (2 points)
*Adapted from John Gottman, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
PhD, G. J., & Silver, N. (2015). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert (Revised ed.). Harmony.
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
By John Paul Dombrowski – Therapist Intern
No Sexual Chemistry in Your Relationship? Here are some ways that you can talk about it without them taking it personally.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 20, 2019 sexual chemistry, talking to your partner about sex0 comments
What can you do if you and your partner just don’t seem to have good sexual chemistry? Wondering it there are there ways to overcome it? How can you talk to them about it without them taking it personally? If you have ever wondered about the answers to these questions, we have you covered, read on!
Having a great sex life with a partner, assuming you both have already established an interest in each other takes awareness and intention if we are talking about a long term relationship. To enjoy ‘off the charts sexual chemistry’ really means that both you and your partner have compatible needs for sexual frequency, sexual style, that your anatomy is compatible and for many people having some degree of emotional connection also factors in to sexual chemistry. Having a great sex life doesn’t actually start in ‘the bedroom’, at least not when sex is coupled with a long-term relationship. Even if your relationship started with a lot of sexual energy, there is no promising that this will continue in years to come. ‘Habituation’, the tendency for our responses to any stimuli to become dulled or muted with greater frequency of exposure dictates that the same sexual positions and responses which were once wildly arousing will eventually become less arousing.
Good news, There are things that can be done to bring some of the arousal back! If on the other hand the relationship has always lacked sexual passion or chemistry, then think thoroughly by taking an internal assessment of whether the sexual component of the relationship is actually important to you. According to the Kinsey institute, we all have different sexual needs. There are many components to a healthy relationship, sexual intimacy is just one of them. If you are an extremely sexual person and can’t imagine life with less than 5 steamy sex sessions in a week, a relationship with poor sexual chemistry might not be a good fit for you. If you enjoy sex but are happy with ones a week or a few times per month, maybe it will be satisfying to maintain a long term relationship with less sexual chemistry as long as you have an intimate conversation with your partner about what is happening between the two of you. Without any sort of mutual understanding about the sexual relationship, it becomes likely that resentment will build over time and start to erode at the other parts the relationship which might otherwise be very nurturing and meaningful.
A great way to start a conversation about the sexual relationship is to; Ask your partner what they think of the sex you have been having! You could be surprised to learn that they too have been struggling with it, or perhaps they have a history or sexual aversion, sexual shame, or a sexual arousal disorder that prevents them from enjoying their full sexual potential. Ask them what turns them on the most and what you can do to make them sexually comfortable. You also might ask if they talked about sex in their family growing up or did they receive a lot of sexually shaming information about how taboo and bad it is to be sexually intimate. You will likely be able to tell if they suffer from sexual shame as the conversation about sex will be palpably difficult for them with stammering, blushing, and bouts of silence. After understanding more about their perceptions of sex and needs for sexual frequency and style of sexual intimacy, share a bit about your own thoughts, feelings, and needs. When we talk about our own needs, we always use constructive language that presents opportunities for understanding and if your partner takes that personally or becomes defensive, there might be something to further explore with a sex therapist or marriage counselor.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 28, 2016 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, educational, meditation, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, therapist, wellness0 comments
Wellness Hacks; 17 for 2017
Our Therapists Have Compiled 17 Wellness Hacks for your Holistic Optimization. We fancy this list diverse and have included something for individuals, couples, and lovers, we think that this list is so good that it may even have the wellness power to turn a hater to a lover or at least a frown to a smile! Why 17 you may ask? Well, because its year 2017 silly and we want to stick with the theme on this one! If you are much like the rest of the world, you may be wondering how you will fulfill your weight loss goals, how to improve your BMI and drop those pounds on the scale. Well in that case, this is not the article for you but you should continue to read anyway because our professional counselors and wellness gurus are offering you our best wellness hacks for your physical, emotional, spiritual and relational health, this stuff goes so much deeper than the numbers on a scale, when it comes to wellness, we have you covered! If you’re ever in a pinch, like on Wheel of Fortune or something, just remember this, “You can’t spell wellness without “WE”!”
Smiling when in a bad mood is scientifically proven to alter the mood- Yes that’s right, fake it till you make it has a purpose in psychology, smiling alone can be enough to lift your bad morning grumble back into your best internally smiling face and have your ready to sing a happy tune. Learn more here. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/smile-it-could-make-you-happier/
Curate a Healthy SEXXX Life- Do it and do it well, meaning feel good about it, find your orgasm, let go of the mindset that sex is chore or will put you on the naughty list. Healthy, safe, mindful, consensual sex is a stress reliever, a mood enhancer, it has predictive power into the longevity of bonds when its studied within the context of long term relationships. Don’t miss a beat, cuddle up to your partner and enjoy those sheets!
Your ego is not your amigo- Ego crusaders, the Buddhists, they know a thing or two about the ego, we don’t want to get all philosophical on you, or um maybe we do?! Ok, you caught us but how can we help but to share our enthusiasm, some magical things start to happen when we shift away from ego consciousness. According to the Yogis and Buddhists, when we let go of ego attachment and “I” we just may end up basking in the golden light of nirvana, ascending enlightenment and finding oneness with the universe, who could argue with that?!
Coconut Oil- Buy it, use it, eat it, rub it, mix it in smoothies, as an eco-friendly non-toxic furniture polish, as a conditioner, as an oil treatment, as an antimicrobial agent, as a source of fat that insulates the fibers which sustain neurofunction!!!!! Holy wow! Coconut oil is all that and some, follow this link for 107 of our favorite coconut oil uses here. http://everydayroots.com/coconut-oil-uses
Brush and Floss With Baking Soda and Peroxide- There is a reason that many of our leading tooth pastes and products use baking soda and peroxide, it’s because they work brilliantly. Give it a try!
Deep breathing meditation- Meditation and deep breathing can calm, energize, fuel the body, stop addiction, we can go on and on and on and we plan to!
Chew Slowly- One of the reasons smoothies and juices have such excellent nutritional power is because they are easy to digest once macerated. Chewing slowly helps our body produce chemicals necessary to digest and nourish. It’s no coincidence that we are hosting a mind body workshop and offering a chewing meditation in January, it’s because these things work! http://www.counselingwellnesspgh.com/wellness-classes-and-workshops/
Boundaries- This is key in all relationships, at other times such as in flings, marriages, or partnerships with psychopathic, narcissistic, antisocial, and borderline types clinging tight to boundaries is imperative. Step one-Create emotional, physical, and interpersonal boundaries which are minimum standard levels for treatment. Step two- if those boundaries are violated accept your hurt and anger as healthy and rational. Step 3- Assess for how to respond. Has this person overstepped boundaries before? Is it likely to happen again? Is it a threat to physical safety or emotional health? Looking at these questions will guide you to make constructive decisions moving forward.
Sleep Hygiene- Our therapists love sleep hygiene and creating wellness routines which examine how we sleep. Our nighttime rituals and how those bedtime pastimes are effecting restfulness is a great way to get those repairative, restorative, and vital Zzzzz’s on track, who could forget that sleep is one of the most fundamental building blocks for emotional and physical health.
Exercise, we can’t say enough about it for emotional wellness and longevity- Per the American heart association, as little as 30 minutes 4x a week has some benefits. We know that most Americans are missing the mark when it comes to physical activity. Yet here it is as an effective tool to boost mood, reduce anxiety, promote calm, enhance body image, yes, it is that good! Get moving whether it’s down dog or a quick jog, and for good measure, talk to your doctor to be sure exercise isn’t contraindicated for you!
Communicate and do it well- Study the language that you use to frame your thinking and your speech, it has much to do with the outcomes you experience and the way people interact with you. Whether in our family, romantic or work relationships, we should use direct, meaningful, purpose driven communication and then sit back and enjoy the results that you can create.
Listen and do it well- As an addendum to ^^^^^ it’s not only speaking that we must master but a large part of speaking is listening, as therapists, listening is our super power but this is a practice which helps all conversation. When we are at our best it’s a 50/50 deal, knowing what we need to say often begins with listening to others, and if we are being real, listening and really hearing is sometimes hard as heck because its often easy to hear what we want to hear instead of what is being said.
Dream Journal- Study those dreams, record them, start to notice the unconscious patterns and communications, it can be a huge opportunity for life transformation. Typically, the help of a psychotherapist who offers dream interpretation is necessary for this. It is often very hard to understand the meaning of our dreams but working with someone who speaks dream language and metaphor will help you to muddle through your unconscious code with ease! Let the synchronicity unfold!
Try a laughing meditation- Think that meditation is just for the strong, stoic serious types? Well think again, there are lots of forms of meditation and this one is one of our favorites. What could be more contagious than laughter? We cant think of much and this is a contagion we would like to catch!
Volunteer- We know, you barely have time to wash your socks and you’re reading these wellness hacks to get better with yourself so why are we getting all humanitarian on you? Take a cleansing breath wellness warrior. Volunteering is great for everyone and if you have never tried it, you might find that most of us are socially wired to feel good about helping. Social Exchange Theory says so if you don’t believe us! This is a two for the price of one deal!
Take time for yourself every week, make it a priority- Alright, now back to you! This one we insist upon, its necessary, its vital, its “ME TIME.” Sadly, the people who need it the most likely don’t take it much but if we are filling up the emotional cups of those who are around us we really need to serve ourselves first. Before you count yourself as selfish, it’s not just for us, it’s for our friends, spouse, and ability to achieve too…
Love and trust yourself first– This self-loving thing is our final point, this is us saving the best for a last. Be watchful of anyone who threatens, mocks, or tries to diminish your love, trust in yourself, and your precious instincts. When we lead our lives with self-love, every action becomes more natural, our behavior more nourishing, this is the final step, with brimming half-full cups we salute, we connect, we tend ourselves, each other, and the planet here! All we really need is a little self-love, la, la, laaaoove!
Peace, love, and good health,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh Therapy Team
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 3, 2016 couples counseling, couples therapy, divorce, marriage counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, therapist, therapists, therapy, wellness, wisdom0 comments
Love, Aspires, Inspires, A Verb from the Muses
There are relationships, there are couples, marriages in fact which succeed in months, years, decades even in commitment and in monogamy without living in love. Let us not confuse the fact that because we have created a relationship that we are loving another person. Just as we know sex can exist without love, long and short term relationships exist, co-habitation, partnerships, they are aplenty without love. Often as therapists, we see couples in crisis, they bring in the scathing shards of their shattered romance and wonder how they can rebuild the faith in their affection. Across America the typical couples make a beeline for argumentative conversation which meanders around topics of how can we get our partner to hear, to see, to acknowledge our needs and to change their behavior. Certainly, these lines of inquiry have their place in the creation of meaningful bonds, we expect and validate that there must be a mutual and respectful collaboration and a relationship is a place where both member’s voices are heard, understood, and at the minimum respectfully entertained. For this essay, let us examine the relationship from a separate space, in recognition that true love isn’t about what we can get, how we get our partner to put down the toilet seat or offer more physical intimacy, it is within what we can give, as at its root, love is not about us as individuals it is about the other, the beloved other.
Love is Patient
Love is patient, love does not make unnecessary demands upon time or attention as love remains present when hearing “no”, “not right now”, “maybe tomorrow” or another day. Love excites to hear no because it is within “no” that an opportunity to understand a boundary exists. Love listens and can hear the fears and anxieties beneath the shaking words of long and difficult days, and with best intention, love seeks to sooth anxiousness and fear. Love is the gentle nuzzle which brings the sharp wail of the crying baby closer into bosom. Love is the gracious wind which billows atop positive intentions, the sweet breezes which pollinate The Delicate Cherry Blossom and The Mighty Japanese Maple, alike.
Love is Kindness
Love is kindness and the assumption that our beloved is offering to us goodness. Love is so infinitely gentle in its delivery of words and connection; it is lovingness which exudes its feather tipped delivery, not sharp needling. Love is inquisitive and present; she is the instillation of hope. Love connects and harmonizes towards natures bountiful flow. Love is abundant and shares in the quest for greater understanding and timely compassion.
Love is Sacrifice
Love is sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice indeed because love makes no room for the egos demands and rigid preconceived notions of personal expectations. To love is to receive and respond to another person’s needs. Love is a beacon and a refuge, the replenishment of optimism, as indeed there are many who would proffer that love is a delusion and perhaps it is true. Perhaps there could be no love in the universe if it weren’t for the proverbial rose colored glasses that tinge our earthen bonds with eternal delight. We can see it in those who share in it, as there are indeed relationships, there are passionate romances and sexually fueled emissions of pleasure but many or most of those are not in fact love. Love is connection, love chooses us and then we choose to make the leap of faith offering our brittle bones in their vulnerable frailty to the source of human faith.
For many lofty philosophical types and religious leaders, love is indeed The Source, it is the meaning for human existence, love, the elixir of the gods is all plentiful but sometimes too the well runs dry. Yet I can promise any reader this; that if we have come to a place where we question the integrity, the meaning, the strength of our connection in our relationship, that we have in fact moved away from these necessary components, these loving heart swelling calliopes. Sometimes too, that is for the best, not every person, place or moment is deserving of love and this thing which is so pure and grand, this glimmering star dust may not be within the reach of capacity for each of us or in each moment, dear mortals, this too is much more than ok. Let us all be cautiously aware of loves impostors dressed as the fool, searching for easy answers, demanding knowingness, the ego, suspicions and cruelty, violating boundaries, dismissal, withdrawing, manipulation, these, none of these deserve the association to loves eternal expansiveness. When we speak of boredom and unmet needs we are no longer singing the praises of love, these are only ego.
We always know most immediately those who are vibrating near the pulse of loves harpsichord, their eyes shone a bit more brightly, they are willing to look beyond the shadowy valleys to take in the vistas of the cloudless sky, yes, yes, just perhaps that is it, the source of it all, love a gift pluming and cascading like the most precious gift, the rays of sun dancing down from way, way, up there.
Your friends The Troubadours of The Millennium
In love and light,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenMarch 31, 2015 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, dating, marriage counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, popular culture, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
The Fish and The Bird, A thoughts on Compliments
To those birds flying high, swooping down to proffer complements to external beauty, words like “she’s so pretty”, to the “did you see the way she looks with no makeup on”, to the world of no filter selfies, oh my goodness that girl looks like a hobbit, and look at the photo shop on Justin- he’s really so spindly. Did you see how much weight Kim has gained after her baby? To the land of tinder where we read little and swipe left, swipe right back and forth in an endless procession of objects for our egos and libido. How truly healthy are our minds eyes in whirl of impulsively uttered, “she’s so pretty and you’re so gorgeous” Maybe we are not too late to climb aboard the ship we are missing. It’s not about the way we look so much as the way that we feel. Mature love and even primal lust take much more than a craftily stated tagline and a first date where we are picked up in a shiny new Italian automobile by a man with bulging neck circumference, the male form of silicone breasts.
In a recent conversation with a good friend she mentioned her frustration that her ex-boyfriend would tell her that “she was the most beautiful woman in the world”, she would always feel diminished by this trite and billowy compliment and a few times she would muster the strength to look at him and state “but no, I am not.” Before anyone offers a preliminary diagnosis, she is not a woman with low self-esteem, my friend indeed is a prideful creature but hadn’t ever aspired to compete in the beauty pageant circuit. Yet, every time she would protest the compliment he would change the subject, invariably “you’re the most beautiful woman in the world” was the bloke’s idea of a high compliment. Perhaps some woman or men would swoon over those words, (see definition of bird) however this lady felt injustice upon that remark, this friend is a very lovely woman but she would wonder; “if the best in me is on the outside then what will I be when my skin sags and my locks have faded to silver?” In mindful dating and loving we can call upon the number one rule of persuasion is “know your audience.” It is important to know who it is that you’re talking to when lavishing charming praise upon a lady or gent. The world which compliments a woman or man’s façade without mentioning their inner world is a place where people become invisible or worthless as the years pass by. My friend’s relationship with her well-meaning boyfriend ended many years ago, perhaps in many ways because he never was able to know her inside, she was more mindful of the inner world and he dwelled above, he the bird and she the fish if you will.
If you really have your gaze locked on a lovely man or women and you have struck up conversation and now want to put the lady or gent under loves spell then pay close attention, not to how much his or her teeth sparkle when they smile, instead pay attention to the “what”. Disclaimer*** this may not work for everyone, notice fish and bird above if when dealing with woman who is more fish or mermaid and you use bird praise it may be less effective. On a more serious note our most valuable attributes are those things which vanquish mortality and link us to the wellspring of the eternal. Notice in her the conviction in her tone when she speaks. Observe in your beloved the way that they can put others at ease. Cast attention to his or her work ethic, keeping late hours and waking up in the early hours to start it all over again. Tell her that the attention and skill she puts into maintaining her health are inspirational. You see she just may be more flattered by these compliments, as they speak to something timeless, to values like strength, intention and honor, the things that will hold his or her posture erect even as geriatric skin sages into the most lovely gray pallor. When we feel understood and valued for the core components of our character then we feel connected, for many of us this notion of understanding facilitates the foundation of intimacy and attraction, yet it is not for the faint of heart or those who aren’t willing to put forth the bountiful effort required to nurture love.
In love and kindness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone MA, LPC, NCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenDecember 31, 2014 counseling, mindfulness, new year 2015, personal growth, psychotherapy, resolutions, Uncategorized, wisdom0 comments
A New Year and A Blank Canvas
The infamous ball is approaching its apex, soon the confetti shall spill to the ground, the party music will envelops the night air, albeit briefly as the quiet is coming. Soon, our little nor’easter earth will become silent and still as the snow falls steadfastly ensuring the depths of our winter’s hibernation. Beneath all of this obligatory stillness our mind churns even if just dimly, yes, the mind does indeed churn, the powerhouse creating the thoughts convections which form and sustain our deliberate and unconscious motions in life. One of the greatest quests upon which we can embark is to live more deliberately, with greater awareness, to make conscious all of our human and unacknowledged motivations. How then can we honor our assumed attempts towards personal growth, these questions which are beckoned by the transition into yet another year? In exaltation of the grand pillar of knowingness which indicates another hallmark, we welcome you mindfully 2015.
Alas it is a 2015 and another succession of 365 tomorrows slumped forward and splayed out before us like a pristine canvas, acrylics atop the easel, how will we render our reality? Choose mindfully my friend, as you shift through the boxes of so many colors, which do you want to set the tone of your work? Our life is indeed the greatest act of deliberate creation which we can make and despite some utterances of powerlessness; we all preserve the power to choose how it is that we will respond to life’s grievances and successes, this is my solemn promise to you. So allow us to attune to the process of creation and examine the “how” it is that we paint our picture? This may be referred to as our personal style. What is the feeling which courses through your limbs as you reach for the brush and walk nearer the canvas? Is your heart beating in rapid succession, is your breathing sharp? Is there a sense of nervousness that you will make a blunder? If so that’s ok, there is still a choice in that, how do you respond to anxiety, do you allow fear to limit action? Perhaps you isolate from terror or embarrassment of your own emotional state, you sulk away or head back to the couch and put the blanket over your head, oh my friend, come on, come on back! While we have only one canvas, one year, time is our merciless provocateur, lest not we waste it all in perpetual forced solitude. Perhaps with some semblance of bravery you persevere, you fretfully and shakily reach for the paint, place a dollop upon the tray and allow your vision to take hold? Perhaps you grip the brush stiffly, pressing so forcefully into the canvas that miserly scrapings of paint are all that remains from your terrified attempt, yet when looking back you see that simply by loosening up just a bit, you could have rendered a fairly realistic still life of a sole granny smith apple, waxen gleam, atop your chosen ensemble of a purposefully barren cornucopia. Perhaps that is not like you at all, maybe you are characteristically bold, often finding yourself leaping first and thinking later. Perhaps you reach for the brush and feel brazen in your novice maneuvers, you haplessly secure the broad stroke brush and feverishly create only realizing when looking back that the form is sloppy and the colors have all bled together? Perhaps you are best maneuvering for more of an impressionistic feat, you can still make out the form of all of the people passing down the street that you relentlessly studied, in critiquing your work you imagine that you would like to render them with greater depth. Oh, our dear canvases abounded with stylistic features, the plentitude of variability towards the characteristics which allow us to create our world. What is your style, upon what could you hope to improve? What are your greatest regrets through the year? Perhaps you are like some of us and you wield your abundant energy to paint gloriously, for you it is an act of love and you would like all of the world to be an act of esteemed and exalted love,
fervor will thrust one far yet it is also easy to be burst into a perilous direction when making rapid and frenetic motions with ones paint brush. Yet this is the way you have always created your life’s work, still change can come when we concentrate our efforts and maybe this year something different is in order. When recalling the masterpieces and artistic disasters which your brush has bequeathed, on some days a dribble here and imperfection there, in which frame do you store your most treasured accolades. Perhaps it is the era of sketching out a design and landscape before putting brush to canvas, or perhaps for you it is moving beyond the sketch and working through the fears of actually committing to wielding motion to propel the brush. Some small motion towards growth, always it is intention and mindfulness that hold the key to most every great work, these are the skills which compel talent and desire. Happy New Year! Cheers to creating in the dazzling array of hues, in natural and free flowing form while still making space for artistic imperfections.
Happy New Year!
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
by Stephanie McCrackenJuly 10, 2014 couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, psychotherapy0 comments
Consciousness what? Scratching your head in preponderance of this striking terminology or perhaps you are yourself a woman considering the appropriateness of such a label for your very self? Has the world sometimes labeled you a tough cookie, or suggested that your exultant expectations are otherworldly? If you are a man who has known her you certainly will be ebullient or panic stricken, perhaps melodic blending of the two, this lady is neither for the faint of heart nor lackadaisical. For you dear reader, please allow me to continue describing this wildly dynamic and soul provoking feminine specimen.
To begin, she is seldom satisfied by the superficial illustriously tempting facade, perhaps she appreciates exterior beauty but the consciousness demanding woman craves the deep thrumming of a soul submerging connection from her male counterpart. She’s the kind of woman who doesn’t spend much time watching hours of mind numbing popular television shows either alone or with her lover; she instead wants to share a conversation considering some theory, thought, maybe even a period of history. If you are still reading on, there is a part of you which is intrigued by the notion of giving and receiving more of yourself and other, the richness to access these seldom accessed parts of you, not because she will force you but instead because you are inspired.
The opposite of the consciousness demanding woman is the maiden, the maiden is passive and demure and unaware of her feminine power so inside it remains, resting, placating, dormant. By contrast the consciousness demanding woman knows of her strengths as well as her weakness and in her effort to ever heighten her own vibratory and intellectual capacity she never courts the minimum as she understands that you receive what you give. If you are a lover contented to dance about life in the comforts of mediocrity then you are best to remain where you are. The consciousness demanding woman is hallmarked by passionate intensity and heightened awareness with which she loves you, as well as herself. Most importantly she maintains that love must be exhibited in action, not simply and auditory utterance. In ways both magnificent and meek she acts upon her love. You may notice a congruity in the consciousness demanding woman as she lives and loves in much the same manner, it is in the way which she respects and expects others to be.
If you want to buy your way into enlightenment or seeking out indulgences then find a fellow capitalist and head to Wall Street because the consciousness demanding woman is beckoned by the possibility of enthrallment with your mental constitution and emotional climate. Her not so little secret is that she strives to intimate the essence of your being and not in a covert manner much like the maiden who may seek to understand you in order to please you, or trick you into seduction. A consciousness demanding woman will be forthright in her desires as she will want to take only that which her partner is inwardly compelled to give. As a fact she places much of her self-esteem and dignity upon her ability to share even difficult truths. The resultant is that she will often tell you things that you don’t want to hear but probably need to know. In the unceasing quest for absolute verity she makes a wonderful friend and so you will often find her among an ever expanding circle of mutually respectful comrades. So without and within so she is equally contentedly alone with a book or a thought. Just as well as her ability to move beyond discomfort to deliver truth she is sumptuous in her sharing of joy and gratitude. The maiden may hold back this lavish and overt praise for fear of overwhelming her lover with the magnitude of her feeling. The consciousness demanding woman will gaze directly into your eyes and crisply annunciate to you all of the things within your essence and the world that seduce her glee, beckon her respect, and drape her in comfort. She remains ceaseless in her journey of self-discovery and recognizes the subtle and grand metamorphosis of the very universe and elemental laws, accepting that convergent truth unites all and that we are each blossoming or dormant in a state of becoming yet she is quite comfortable in those unknowns. If you are in love with a consciousness demanding woman, you just may know but will never forget because the unfolding of the relationship will take you one step closer to you or something magnificent which proffers union to all…
In loving consideration,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Psychotherapist offering Marriage and Couples Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100