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5 Common Marriage Questions Answered: Good Things Utah

Every married couple has problems, so why is it that when we’re struggling in our marriages we can feel so alone? I recently sat down with the ladies of “Good Things Utah” to answer some marriage questions that viewers had written in. Perhaps some of them will mirror your own experiences.

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Feeling out of bounds? Running out of time? Feeling overwhelmed? Feeling out of line?

canstockphoto1624254If any of that applies to you then welcome to the club. You’re not alone. During times of intense stress and anxiety, things can get bleak, dark, dreary, and grey very quick. You need something to shake things up in order to maintain your sense of purpose and also your sense of sanity. Well I have just the thing (or three things rather) to help you out because like Andre 3000 you know I got your back like chiroprac…tic!

1) Plan something to look forward to. Life wouldn’t be very awesome if there wasn’t anything to strive toward so plan the prize to keep your eye on while you battle the imminent forces life presents you. This way when you feel defeated or spread like butter across too much bread like my boy Bilbo, you have that motivation to carry on solider!

2) Give yourself permission to be good enough. We put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves to be perfect all the time in our society and that is overwhelming in and of itself. Do not fall victim to this popular mindset as it is a one way ticket to the Hotel California where you can check-out any time you like but you can never leave! Instead, give yourself permission to be good enough as is because you know what? YOU ARE! Now come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!

3) Treat yourself. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this in a previous blog and for good reason! Tom and Donna were really onto something in Parks and Recreation and you should tap into this goldmine of validation and confidence boosting! Rewarding yourself for all your hard work in persevering through the ebb and flow of life is what it’s all about! So TREAT YO SELF 2016 baby!

Now for those of you who were paying attention…name all the song lyrics and movie references laced throughout this blog and reward yourself for being awesome and observant!

Until next time reader…live long and prosper!

Cheers!

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Challenging Thoughts and Changing Behavior

 

Man in Car

While listening to the news on my drive home from work awhile back, I heard a story about a road rage incident. A driving student hesitated at a stop sign, and when she turned into a parking lot, the driver behind her followed her, got out of his car, and started behaving aggressively.
I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, so I’ll imagine this man was having a really bad day. Maybe he had just had some bad news about the health of a loved one. Maybe he just lost his job. Whatever the reason, being delayed behind a slow driver pushed him over the edge. Thankfully, that incident resolved without major injury to anyone, but that isn’t always the outcome.  

We have all likely experienced frustration while driving. Just this morning, someone suddenly turned left in front of me when I had the green light. We don’t always take time to think about our response to these kinds of frustrating situations. Most of the time, they pass without causing us any major difficulties, but sometimes our response isn’t something we feel good about, and we wish we could have handled things differently.
Cognitive Triangle
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, there is the idea of the “cognitive triangle,” which is the triangle that links our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. This is at the heart of recognizing and changing our behaviors.  

I imagine the driver from the news story pulled up behind the driving student, and when she missed her turn to go, he began to imagine why this driver was holding him up. He may have thought she was a terrible driver, he may have thought she was purposely making him late.  Then, he likely started to feel angry that she was making him late. His anger and frustration built up, leading him to act out.  

This cycle of thoughts, feeling, and behaviors can feed on each other, leading us to behave in ways we may not have intended. If we can find a way to stop the cycle, we can change our behavior and how we feel about difficult situations we may be facing.  

Imagine if this driver had pulled up behind the student, she hesitated and missed opportunities to turn, and he started to think about what a terrible driver she was. What if at that point he had asked himself, “What could another explanation be for this situation?”

Maybe he would have come up with the idea that she was a new driver (which was true), maybe he would have thought she was having a bad day.  There are several possible explanations for hesitating at a stop sign.  If he had taken a few minutes to consider other possibilities, it might have changed how he felt about the situation.  He may have still been frustrated, but he may have also felt some compassion or understanding.  Without feeding his frustration or anger, his behavior certainly would have changed.  He likely would have continued on his way, and would have missed out entirely on the altercation.  

Not all of us have problems with road rage, but most of us have thoughts or behaviors that cause us problems in some way or another. Learning to recognize the cycle of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can help us change our trajectory. At any point in that cycle, we can stop and ask ourselves questions such as:

*What evidence do I have that this is an accurate thought?

*What could be another explanation for this situation?

*What are the advantages or disadvantages of how I am reacting to this experience?

*Am I blaming myself for something that isn’t my fault?

*Am I taking something personally, that actually has nothing to do with me?
Going through questions like these can help us take a step back to reevaluate a situation and to help us change how we think and feel about it, which helps us change our behavior. We don’t have to stick with behaviors we don’t feel good about.  

Every new experience is a new change for learning to do things differently. It’s okay to not be perfect right away, but with practice, we can change to be the kind of person we really want to be!
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3 MYTHS of Self Compassion

canstockphoto7797192To most, compassion is a commendable quality. But for some reason, this quality is limited to “others” in our culture, not often for “oneself.” Lets explore 3 possible false assumptions that may prevent us from applying compassion to oneself.
1-Self Compassion means weakness.
Susan didn’t express any painful feelings while going through her divorce. She believed she had to be “strong for the kids” and power on no matter what. This meant putting herself last and ignoring any emotional or physical needs.  When Susan fell apart 3 months after the divorce was final, she wondered why she was able to be “strong” in the beginning, but then suddenly became “weak and unable to handle even the smallest tasks”. What Susan didn’t realize is that instead of being a “weakness”,
researchers are now discovering that self-compassion is one of the most powerful influences of coping and resilience, that we have available to us.  How one relates to themselves when the going gets tough- as an enemy or ally-is often what determines ones ability to cope successfully.
2- Self compassion is narcissistic.
High self esteem requires standing out in a crowd-or being “above average” in the American culture. The problem of course is that it is impossible for us to be outstanding, all of the time. When we compare ourselves to those “better” than us, we will always feel like failures. An example of
this is teen bullying.  One teen told me “picking on wimpy nerds boosts my self esteem and makes me feel cool”. After many sessions he finally discovered he needed to focus on himself, and ways to feel more secure, rather than his demeaning behavior towards others. Narcissism usually results in exercising power over others; self compassion is the opposite-empowering oneself so there is no need to compare or put others down.
3- Self compassion is selfish.
Some confuse self care with selfishness and assume caring of oneself automatically means neglecting everyone else.  As a therapist, I am always amazed when I meet people who consider themselves to be good, generous, altruistic souls, who are perfectly awful to themselves.  Caring for oneself is actually the opposite: it’s one of the most important things you can do to have healthier relationships, and it does not mean you neglect loved ones! In reality, beating yourself up can be a paradoxical
form of self centeredness.  When we can be kind and nurturing to ourselves, however, many of our emotional needs are met, leaving us in a better position to focus on others. Therefore, having self compassion equals the ability to have more to give others, not less to give others.
These 3 myths often stand in the way of caring for ourselves. More information and even classes on ways to improve self care can be found at www.mindfulnessprograms.com or web search (name of State) i.e.. “Utah msar”.
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4 Things Every Parent Should Say

canstockphoto22308764

Click the link below to watch Clair Mellenthin’s recent interview on KUTV with Fresh Living on the 4 things that every parent should say to their child!

http://kutv.com/features/fresh-living/clair-mellenthin-llc-4-things-every-parent-should-say

 

 

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Counseling Doesn’t Mean You’re Crazy: 3 Subtle Signs it’s Time to See a Therapist (PART 1)

Talk-Therapy-Touted-as-First-Line-Treatment-for-Youth-with-Psychosis-Risk
Ever think that you might want to see a therapist, but not sure if it’s for you?  Sometimes people need or want help with their emotional and mental well-being, but they are afraid that if they seek therapy they might come across as “crazy” or be judged in some way.
Click on the link below to read what Ashley Thorn, LMFT has to say about some of the signs you can look for to see if therapy might be a good fit for you, and get a different perspective on who is a “candidate” for counseling.
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/05/30/3-subtle-signs-its-time-to-see-a-therapist/
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5 Steps to a Powerful Apology: LCSW Julie Hanks on KSL’s Studio 5


Human beings are prone to mistakes, and we all have the experience of doing or saying something that has hurt another person (even someone we value and love). In order to repair those precious relationships, it is often necessary to apologize. But simply saying, “I’m sorry” is rarely enough. Here are 5 steps to giving a powerful, sincere apology:

1) Own Your Part
5 steps to a powerful apology
To truly mean that you are sorry, you need to own up to the specific thing you said or did that contributed to the other person’s pain. Take full responsibility for the part you played. Avoid general statements (“I’m sorry for whatever I did to hurt you”) or making reservations about the mistake you made. Have the courage to own up to your fault.

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Mormons and Mental Health Therapy: KSL Radio Interview

Mormons & Mental Health KSL RadioWasatch Family Therapy’s Julie Hanks, LCSW, Clair Mellenthin, LCSW, and colleague Sue Beuhner, LCSW talk with KSL Newsradio’s Amanda Dickson on a special LDS Conference edition of “A Woman’s View” program.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast.

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Affirmation: A Conference Dedicated to Fostering Loving Dialogue about LGBT Mormons

Affirmation LGBT Conference

 Next month, Julie Hanks will be presenting at Affirmation, a conference dedicated to fostering a loving discussion among LGBT Mormons, their friends and family, and the LDS community.  The conference is non-political, but is instead focused on providing healing, love, and support for our LGBT brothers and sisters.

The Deseret News asked Julie a few questions about Affirmation.  Here is a bit of the interview:

Q:  How did you get involved with Affirmation? How long have you been associated with the group?

A: While I am not officially affiliated with the group, I am a huge supporter of Affirmation’s mission of inclusiveness, love, and support for Mormon LGBT individuals.

Q:  What do you hope to communicate with those attending?

A:  I hope to communicate a message that every life is valuable and important. No matter where we are on our life’s journey, God’s love for us is infinite, and Jesus Christ’s Atonement is always available as a source of strength and healing. Too often, we think that we have to do something different or be someone different to be worthy of God’s love, but nothing can separate us from the love of God.  

As an LDS performing songwriter and a licensed therapist, I plan to share some of my best-loved songs and words of encouragement based on my experiences working with LGBT individuals and their families.

Q:  What misconceptions do you think people have about LGBT Mormons and Affirmation?

A:  There are so many misconceptions about LGBT Mormons that it’s difficult to know where to start. Here are a few: that being LGBT is a choice, that you can’t be LGBT and participate in the church, that LGBT Mormons want to leave the church, that many LGBT Mormon who have left the church are bitter and want nothing to do with it.  None of those things are necessarily true, and we want to help eradicate these myths. 

Many people assume that Affirmation is an activist group that is in opposition to the LDS church’s teaching.  Affirmation is about creating and maintaining a respectful and healthy dialogue between LGBT Mormons and the broader LDS community that encourages inclusive attitudes and practices. 

 

The Affirmation conference is on September 12-14.  Click here for more details and to buy tickets.

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Ask a Therapist: How Do I Hold My Abuser Accountable?

From the time I was 8-12 I was sexually abused as well as my brother who is 4 years younger than I am . As I am getting older I am learning the thread of lies that I was told from my family regarding the situation. Growing up I believed my grandmother adopted a child from Haiti, he was 8 years older than I am. Through the time he was 19 he sexually abused myself and my younger brother. I repressed much of my memories from childhood due to this but I vividly remember the abuse. My mother took me to the University of Massachusetts sexual abuse center where I was tested for rape and attended counseling. My parents moved us to Florida away from this. I assumed he had been in trouble until recently when I found out that his high school counselor told my parents he would be deported if they reported it and it was never reported to police. After we moved for years he continued to call to talk to my brother and myself but we refused to talk to him. My grandmother and father hid most of what happened. Now that I am 29 I want him to be held accountable for his actions. To make sure he isn’t hurting any other children. I am not sure what to do or how to handle it. I wanted to contact him and after much research learned he changed his name and still was not legally in this country. Because of this abuse I have sexual issues , depression and still cannot trust people. I have seen three therapists and it never helps, just knowing he is married with a child makes me sick and scared.

A: I’m so incredibly sorry about the abuse you and your brother suffered. I suggest gathering as much information as you can about him today. Then contact Child Protective Services in your state and just ask how they would handle it. It is often empowering for a victim to report and take action against the perpetrator, even years later. Watch the video for the rest of the answer.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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