While I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this, I have to let you in on a guilty pleasure of mine; I love watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Most reality TV leaves me scoffing, changing the channel or, commenting with ridicule and judgment (I can’t help it), but when it comes to viewing Kim K and the rest of the family I walk away from each episode thinking “huh, amid the chaos there is something going well with this family”. It took me a while to sift through the grandiose- ego driven aspects of the show to find what I consider to be 3 real strengths that they demonstrate that could be applied to family therapy.
Pit and Peak
In one episode, the family sat down to family dinner, something they seemingly do often, and over the course of the meal each member took turn talking about the “Pit and the Peak” of their day. In other words, they were all present to check in with each other and share their experience of the day. There wasn’t much problem solving going on, but that seemed to be okay. The purpose of the exercise was more to hear and be heard.
*How this applies to family therapy: Spending meal times together and disclosing how your day went can be a great way to understand where people are emotionally, as well as offer support and praise. When we check in (and do it often) we are better able to avoid personalizing someone else’s bad day and this reduces conflict.
Be Real (real assertive that is)
For those of you who watch (and I know you’re out there), it is clear to see that this family has no problem putting themselves out there. While it may be a bit narcissistic or over the top in the show, what is also happening is self-validation. The Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, and Kris are willing to be vulnerable and verbalize when they are dissatisfied with one another. Rarely does this family let things get swept under the rug. When they are frustrated they let the other know and this creates the opportunity (for drama) AND for resolution. Yes, there are many times where they do not demonstrate assertive clear communication, but they are willing to put themselves out there and work it out.
*How this applies to family therapy: Passive communication often creates resentment and stress in families. Practicing assertive communication (like letting people know how you really feel) on the other hand, leads to a higher likelihood that those un-met needs that are causing conflict, will be met. Families that can “Be Real” with each other in respectful and validating ways are more likely to resolve and rebound from conflict and build secure attachments to one another.
From creating their own music videos on family vacations, to wrestling, or playing pranks on each other, this family prioritizes play. No doubt that they are not short of drama or chaos, but their efforts to play and have fun with one another help counter balance the pandemonium and strife.
*How this applies to family therapy: When we forget to have fun with our families it limits our opportunity to learn and grow together. Play can be a stress relieving and bonding experience. With children, play can help them learn and develop various skills such as motor skills, cognitive skills, and social skills. Play teaches the parents to be patient towards their children and can have the added value of increasing the child or teens self-esteem knowing they will be attended to. Families who take the time to play together, are often more cooperative, supportive and have better and more frequent communications.
While I am not suggesting that we all start emulating the Kardashians, these few point may be work trying to incorporate into your family dynamics.
Keeping a relationship running smoothly can be difficult and challenging, especially when you and your partner may want different
things or misunderstand each other’s needs. Couples often become frustrated with each other when they can’t seem to find solutions to problems, and a feeling of “being stuck” begins to develop. When a couple can’t seem to move forward from or through their issues, they begin to question their feelings for each other, and whether or not they should even be together. If you and your partner seem to be feeling this way, click on the link below for 3 ideas that may help you begin getting “unstuck”.
If you answered “yes” to that question, you’re not alone. Thoughts may come and go like clouds in the sky, and emotions may change like the weather, but when a thought storm comes rolling in, it can feel overwhelming, stifling, and paralyzing. In those moments, it is helpful to remember the following:
Anxiety is the body’s natural response to fear. It puts your body into “fight or flight” mode and it is completely legitimate to feel a fear response to a real or perceived threat.
Tuning into your body’s fear response is the only thing you can control and it’s the first thing you’ll want to attempt. Your brain can’t function and help you dial back your fear response if your body is readying itself for a fight or a sprint.
When you experience anxiety, check to see if you are in current danger or if you are worried about potential danger. Then adjust your response. If you are in current danger, get to a place of safety. If you are worried about potential danger, begin a calming process to help yourself understand what it is you’re worried about and why.
Pay attention to your breathing. When we are in fight or flight mode, our breathing changes to rapid, shallow breaths to help us move quickly in defense of our safety. Once we reach a place of safety, our breathing changes to slower, deeper breaths to help our system calm itself and return to a baseline of normal functioning. How do you breathe when you are anxious? If you can recognize your breathing and mindfully work to slow it, you will begin to calm yourself in the process.
So what do we do with our thoughts? We treat them like clouds passing in the sky, like pieces of the weather patterns in our lives. We treat them like cars on the freeway. We watch them come and we watch them go. We recognize that some thoughts will make our breathing rate increase and others will help it decrease. We realize that our thoughts are powerful but they are not the only reality we can choose to believe. We see our thoughts for what they are, ongoing experiences and commentary about our lives. Like radio static in the background or elevator music when you’re placed on hold during a phone call. Thoughts are present but they do not have to always be overwhelming or overpowering when we are able to remember that they change as frequently as the clouds in the sky. As we learn to watch the shape that our thoughts form, we can give our thoughts permission to change without taking us along for the ride. In doing this, we give ourselves permission to observe the process without becoming overwhelmed by or hooked into it. It takes practice and it takes awareness to get into the habit of observing your thoughts as thoughts on the stage of your reality. It is one of the most helpful ways to assist you in managing your relationship with anxiety.
I love stories, and I feel connected to many people through the stories they share. One of my favorite things about being a therapist
is the exchange of stories that I’m invited into each day. Story telling is such a rich part of our culture, and in fact culture itself can be passed on through stories.
When I think about local dating culture I picture couples going out for dinner and then going to the movies. Movies are merely big budget stories and sometimes, like in my own life, a date to a movie turns into a story of marriage.
In studying couples we have come to understand that the way in which partners describe their past predicts the future of the marriage. That’s some powerful storytelling! I recall the first time I heard this idea when I was in my undergraduate studies and it boggled my mind to think that the way in which a couple tells “their story” can lead a specialist to predict their stability or divorce with a 94% success rate. In my practice I have seen partners develop such animosity toward their spouse that they get to a point where they only remember the negative aspects of their marriage. In a way they are rewriting their history, and only including the bad parts. This often acts as a catalyst that activates divorce.
Happy couples, in contrast, highlight their good memories. This is significant because they are not hiding the bad, they are simply
emphasizing the positive moments. This method of story telling helps the couple maintain closeness and encourages positive regard for each other. Happy couples have an ability to look back over the years with affection and even when happily married couples experience hardships, they focus on their strength and their “we-ness” rather than focusing on specific struggles.
I enjoy helping couples rewrite their past and embrace a new narrative that empowers their partnership. If you would like help creating a new narrative for your marriage I invite you to start rewriting today.
To schedule a session with Tyler Stark ACMHC please call Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555.
I frequently ask my clients this question, “What is the difference between guilt and shame.” Most clients reply that they aren’t really sure. The reason I ask this question so frequently, is because a lot of people I work with get swallowed up in these emotions from time to time. These are pretty common and even normal emotions to have in certain circumstances, yet most people have a hard time articulating what the difference is, or identifying them in themselves. I thought it would be useful to get to know each of these a little better.
GUILT- “I did bad, so I feel bad.”
One might ask why in the world were we created with this emotion. It is awful to feel! It certainly does not make the top ten lists of people’s favorite emotions to feel. Guilt can actually be a very useful emotion. Somewhere, deep down inside guilt, is a little seed of empathy, or concern for others and how they feel. Guilt helps us distinguish the difference between right and wrong, and works as little bumper lanes on a bowling ally do. Guilt keeps us pointed in the right direction. Now, People feel guilt for different things. What you feel guilt about depends on what you deem right or wrong. This is where I see people get in trouble with guilt. Many times, people who feel overwhelmed by guilt have attached it to things that have no moral implications of wrong, or are completely out of their control. You can see how guilt in these situations, is unnecessary, and frankly really ineffective. Remember, guilt is supposed to motivate me for positive change. So, feeling guilty that my child got an F in math is completely useless. First of all, getting an F in math isn’t morally wrong, and most importantly, I am not in control of my child’s behavior.
SHAME- “I did bad, so I am bad.”
Unlike guilt, shame is not motivating at all. In fact, for most people, shame is paralyzing. The big difference with shame is that you see yourself as the problem, not your behavior. One that is engulfed in shame, typically feels hopeless because you cannot escape yourself, and if you see your inherent nature or character as the problem, that feels pretty powerless. In the basement of shame is the belief that because I’m bad, people won’t love, accept, or value me. Typically, those swallowed up in shame have a hard time forgiving themselves, seeing their good intentions, or focusing on efforts rather than results.
Hopefully, you can now understand the difference between shame and guilt. If you find yourself feeling shame, you may be struggling with depression or anxiety. If you find yourself feeling guilt for many things that don’t have any moral implications, you may also be struggling with depression or anxiety. The good news is, there are proven ways to dispel shame and guilt, and to see the value in yourself again. If you are interested in learning how, schedule an appointment today.
When working with a discouraged child, work to see them as a discouraged individual. Feeling discouraged isn’t just an emotion experienced by children, it is a very relatable feeling that adults often experience as well. Children, while developmentally less mature, are not experiencing something you lack the ability to empathize with. So lets start there! Empathy can soften even the most escalated situations. Now that we are going into this situation with empathy, explore how the four tips below could be implemented when you encounter a situation with your child who may be experiencing a moment of discouragement
1. How would you want someone to react to you if you were discouraged? Think back to a time when you last felt discouraged. How would you have like a loved one to respond to you? What would have felt good, comforting and supportive? Begin to respond to your child in a similar fashion.
2. How can you encourage the child to self-soothe and problem solve independently? Encourage your child to identify the state of discouragement and empower them to problem solve to help themselves to find relief and solutions.
3. Offer yourself as a resource but don’t insist on being one. When a child is discouraged it may be nice to know they are not alone and that you are there as a resource in their life to offer support when they feel they need it. You might say something like. “I can see you are discouraged right now. I know you are a great problem solver but if you need any help problem solving or if you just need a hug, I am here for you”
4. Acknowledge, validate and commend your child for overcoming a challenging emotional experience. When you see your child may be de-escalating, has successfully problem solved, or is just finding their way through feeling discouraged, acknowledge them and their emotional work. That might look something like this. “Wow, I could see that you were really discouraged and I bet that was tough, but you really handled that nicely and found a way to help yourself through it and/or coped with that discouragement really well. I am happy you are starting to feel better”
If you identify that you may have a child struggling beyond your and their ability to cope with everyday emotions it may be a great time to explore the idea of seeking professional support. A licensed therapist can support you and your child in exploring ways to cope with difficult emotions and emotional reactions. Connecting with a therapist during hard times can aid in coping strategies and building family skills!
Melanie works closely with children, teens and parents to develop healthy and positive coping strategies. If you would like to schedule a session with Melanie D. Davis, CMHC, NCC contact Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555
We’ve all faked a smile to get past a rough patch, but there are ways to actually increase our happiness naturally. It’s true that some people may be more prone to having a positive outlook- whether because of their genetics, environment, or upbringing. However, there are still strategies that all people can use in order to train themselves to “look up” a little more. Here are some ways to cultivate optimism in your life:
Allow Yourself To Experience Disappointment
Sometimes optimism can be misunderstood as simply looking on the bright side, but a bigger, perhaps more important side of optimism is going through those painful trials and having hope that things will improve. We need to mentally time travel to the future to see that we’re going to come out okay, and that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
As I have worked with many families and parents, I have noticed that everyone has their own spin on the infamous Time-Out. Many families use this intervention as one of many alternatives to physical punishment. This is great! All of the research indicates that physical punishment is the least effective consequence. As a clinician I can tell you, I do not condone physical punishment, and it tends to be more damaging than educational to children. We would much rather our children make good choices because it makes sense to them, not because they fear a spanking. Fear is not empowering. You want children to develop internal controls.
Many of the Time-Out versions my clients are using when they come see me involve a timer. Some people do a minute for every year old a child is, some have a set 5 minutes every time, and some leave it open-ended and tell their children, “I’ll tell you when you are done.” These methods can turn Time-Outs into a power struggle, which you will lose every time. Children are in charge of themselves, and if you don’t get that, they will keep working to prove it to you.
If you think about your own experience in the world, many times, we can correct our inappropriate behavior as soon as we choose to. Nobody says, “Sorry, you can’t apologize for 20 minutes.” With my clinical background, and as a mother myself, I have developed what I call the Empowered Time-Out. This is a combination between your influence as a parent and a child’s power to choose. This works best for children who understand language, not tiny toddlers. This should be done with a calm voice. Here is how you do it:
Educate the child why the behavior is inappropriate. Warn the child that if they continue the behavior, the consequence is Time-Out.
When the child engages in the behavior again, direct them to your time out spot and remind them that they are going because they chose to keep engaging in the undesired behavior.
Let them know that they can let themselves out of Time-Out as soon as they are willing to engage in the appropriate behavior.
When the child comes out of Time-Out, if they choose the desired behavior thank them and give them praise. If they choose to get out and continue the undesired behavior, continue to direct them back to Time-Out with the same instructions.
Any new system of discipline is going to be hard to implement. Fair warning; your children will likely resist or may even try to take advantage as you begin this. Because this is empowering, you have to be okay if the child chooses not to engage in the desired behavior, and stay in Time-Out in order not to do it. It may be worth it to them in a moment to choose a negative consequence to prove their independence.
The whole point of this tool is to put children in charge of themselves. Our job as parents is to teach healthy behaviors, not make our children do them. So many parents stress more about what their children are doing than their children do. This tool puts you and child on the same page with the understanding that the child is in charge of making choices. You don’t have to hover with a timer and use your entire afternoon managing their choices.
If you are consistent with this, you will be surprised how well it works. With my own child, I am amazed how he has developed an internal control. At first it took more times of going to Time-Out before he would change the behavior. Now, he usually changes the behavior after one Time-Out, or simply at the warning before we ever make it to Time-Out. He simply helps himself out of Time-Out and says, “I’m ready mom.” We both go on with our day with no conflict or hard feelings. Consistently try this and I promise you will love it!
Listening can be difficult. Our world is noisy. So are our minds. Even in our own homes, the constant noise of kids screaming, televisions blaring, podcasts streaming, phones buzzing, and our endless lists of things that need to get done that are running through incessantly in our minds creates constant noise. We try to escape the noise through headphones, but this just leads to nobody communicating with anybody.
I have noticed that we either never learned how, or are forgetting one of the most important and basic parts of successful relationships: actively listening and genuinely caring about what our loved one is telling us. We tend to do this well when we are first meeting people or are trying to make a good impression. But sadly, we forget its value when we come home.
Whether it’s just a distraction, our list of things to do, or simply overlooking the ones closest to us, we can all do a better job of listening. It’s a powerful way to show how much we care. It’s a way to honor the other person as important and valuable.
Julian Treasure’s Ted Talk “5 Ways to Listen Better,” is a short, succinct presentation on ways to improve our listening. Treasure describes listening as a skill (that should be taught in schools). He gives five exercises to practice and improve your ability as a listener:
1. Three minutes a day of silence (or at least quiet).
2. “The Mixer”—how many different streams of sound can you identify?
3. Savoring—enjoy mundane sounds (“the hidden choir”).
4. Identify different “listening positions” for different situations.
5. RASA: Receive, Appreciate, Summarize, Ask
I would add practicing “focused attention” to the list. Practice listening to something. Pay attention to how long you can focus. Notice when you get distracted from what you were originally listening to and then go back to focusing on it again.
Here is the link to the Treasure’s talk, if you have seven and a half minutes to spare.
My favorite quotes from this Ted Talk are:
• “Try to listen to [your spouse] every day as if it were for the first time.”
• “Conscious listening creates understanding.”
• “Listen consciously to live fully.”
I hope the noise doesn’t get in the way of our most meaningful relationships!
There seems to be a dichotomy of feelings surrounding Valentine’s Day among single people. Either you love it or you hate it. I was amazed at how many articles I found online, written by single people, blasting this holiday. May I propose a change of mindset about this day? Valentine’s Day is more than feeling good if you’re in a relationship or horrible if you’re not. It is your choice to “buy into” that frame of thinking. Being single on Valentines Day does not have to make you feel depressed or less than other people who are currently in relationships. Here are three suggestions that may help you find a more meaningful way to celebrate this year.
1) Think about the people that you love and appreciate in your life. Valentine’s Day is the day of love. There is nowhere that says the “day of love” can only be celebrated by those who have a significant other. Reach out to people in your life that you love. It can be a mother, father, sister, brother, neighbor, aunt, uncle, roommate, or co worker. Take the time to send them a text, or call to show that you are thinking of them on this special day. As you take the time to be mindful of those around you, the day will have new meaning.
2) Set yourself up for success. If you wake up in the morning and tell yourself that today is going to be a bad day, chances are your day will end up being bad. Our actions tend to follow our thoughts. Make the decision to wake up on Valentines with a positive attitude that “today will be a good day.” Throughout the day remind yourself that it will be a good day. Make mindful decisions that will reinforce that you are having, and will have, a good day. You will be shocked at how keeping your thoughts positive and happy will change your attitude about the day in general.
3) Do something you enjoy. Valentine’s Day is a holiday, so enjoy it! If you like going out with your friends, plan a dinner. If you like to see movies, go see a movie. If you like to watch Netflix by yourself with popcorn and chocolate, do it. There is no need to buy into the societal norm that you either need to have a date or go out seeking one on Valentines Day. Find an activity you truly enjoy and do it because you want to do it, not because you feel pressure to do so.
Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful holiday. Hopefully you can take the time to attach positive meaning to it so this year, and those afterwards, can be successful.