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We Need Others

Human beings are social creatures and need connection. Psychologists, anthropologists, and philosophers have suggested many reasons for why we need connection.  These reasons include: providing for physical and emotional needs, creating tribal safety, invoking social and economic efficiency, and offering structure for human development.

As I’ve explored this topic, I find our need for others is multifaceted. In mental health, there are overlapping influences, often termed the biopsychosocial model of health. This phonetic amalgamation promotes the importance of three overarching schools of thought: (1) our biology, (2) our thoughts and emotions, and (3) our social environment. Our social connections are no small matter. We experience social connection with family, friends, church relationships, clubs, and work situations.

One reason I feel we need others, is to create affirmation and validation for our life journey. As children, we look to authority figures for validation. At first, this person is usually a parent or guardian. When we enter our adolescence, we turn to friends. As adults, we may seek approval from peers, or authority figures such as church leaders, a spouse, or a boss at work. Marriage relationships uniquely create opportunities for seeking intimate affirmation and validation. As a therapist, I see couples desiring validation if they are “enough,” or if they are “doing things right.” These bids for validation are expressed in a variety of scenarios in the kitchen to the bedroom.

Eventually, we arrive at a place where self-confidence eclipses the need to seek validation from others.  When this occurs, we help support others, and our self-esteem is self-sufficient.  I don’t think this process is a bad thing. Instead, I feel the understanding we gain is helpful and includes three important concepts.

First, as other people bid for validation from us, we should feel complimented, as we are now a companion in their healing journey. Affirming another is an opportunity to support and honor the path and choices others make in a way that creates self-awareness and growth, confidence, and security while allowing for a space of safety.

Second, we need to know how hurtful rejection can be for those who seek for an affirming voice from us. As children, we are often told “no,” “don’t,” or “you cannot.” Usually, these commands are barked from parents who want to protect their children. However, as a conscience being willing to aid in the healing journey of others, an affirming voice such as “you can,” “you’ve got this,” or “I trust you,” is more effective.

Third, understanding your attachment style, or the attachment style of others can assist in explaining how validation and affirmation are expressed.  An assessment of how you engage with others can aid you and those you love to help establish securely attached relationships.  For example, some people will anxiously seek for attention, and others pull back when things get messy, avoiding receiving the needed help the connection brings.

As humans, we connect with others for a variety of meaningful ways. Seeking affirmation and validation is a human characteristic that moves people toward a place of self-confidence. We start by trusting the voices of others we trust, and then we move to trust our internal voice.  We do these in elaborate dances that deserve our attention and our nonjudgmental observation.

If you or a loved one needs help in understanding or seeking validation, please give me a call at 801.944.4555 to schedule an appointment today.

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On Going Kids Social Skills Group

Wasatch Family Therapy is excited to announce this school year’s social skills group. This group is opened ended allowing kids to come into the group throughout the school year. There is a six session commitment, but children can stay longer, if needed. Groups are $50 per session, due at the time of the group. Please contact us at 801-944-4555 to register for the group.

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4 Easy Ways To Strengthen Your Marriage: Good Things Utah

4 Easy Ways To Strengthen Your Marriage: Good Things Utah

When we think of strengthening our marriage relationship, it’s easy to think of big, dramatic actions, like going to therapy or buying expensive gifts for our spouse, but renowned marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman says that it’s actually the little things that make all the difference. Here are 4 easy ways to improve your marriage:

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Adults Need Friends Too: Julie Hanks on Studio 5

Will you be my friend? It sounds like a line straight off of Sesame Street. But research suggests adults could take a Kindergarten clue, when it comes to making friends.

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How To Stop Competing: Studio 5


Whether it’s physical appearance, parenting skills, possessions, talents, homes, weight, success, money, creativity, marital status, our children’s behavior…it seems that we women view other women’s success as a threat to our own worth. In order to manage our own fears and insecurities, we try to prove that we are “good enough” by one-upping someone else. While this may lead to temporary feelings of validation, it never leads to long-term feelings of self-worth. Why do women compete with one another? Here are a few common reasons that competitive feeling can settle in:

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Ask A Therapist: I’m So Lonely But I Should Be Happy

Simply put, I’m very lonely.
 I should be happy.  I just graduated college and starting my masters’ degree.  I own my own home. I have a job. I’m very fit. I try to do things that are social, but most of the things I do are by myself because I don’t have friends.
I’ve always had a boyfriend, and finally realized that they were a crutch, so I’ve been single for the past 2 years and concentrated on myself and my education. But being alone night after night and not having anyone to do things with is terrible. I’m considerate and friendly, but I just don’t know how to find friends. Seems like I’ve even lost my mojo in dating. I don’t feel like the person I used to be, and maybe I’m not anymore in a good way, but I can’t figure out why I don’t have any friends and am living a solitary life. It’s so lonely. What can I do?

A: I have more questions than I have answers. How long have you struggled with friendships? Has this been a pattern even when you were younger in elementary and junior high or is this recent? No matter where you live you can find friends. Watch the video for some suggestions for overcoming this loneliness and sadness.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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5 Ways to Help a Loved One with an Eating Disorder

Do you suspect that one of your friends or family members is struggling with an eating disorder, but don’t know how to reach out to them? If so, my heart goes out to them and to you, because I understand that it is a heart wrenching experience. It is very difficult to watch someone you care about go through something so difficult, and it is even more frightening when you don’t know how to help them. Here are 5 suggestions that might help you approach the situation:

Recognize the Problem

It is helpful to recognize the signs of an eating disorder. The following are some of the things you may notice if your loved one is truly struggling with this issue:

Anorexia Nervosa
• Dramatic weight loss
• Wearing baggy, bulky clothes to hide weight loss
• Preoccupation with food, dieting, counting calories, etc.
• Refusing to eat, especially certain foods, such as carbs or fats
• Avoiding mealtimes or eating in front of others
• Preparing elaborate meals for others, but refusing to eat them
• Exercising excessively
• Poor self-image/Making comments about being “fat”
• Stopping menstruating
• Complaining about constipation or stomach pain
• Denying that extreme thinness is a problem

Bulimia Nervosa
• Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in a short time, or finding lots of empty food wrappers or containers
• Evidence of purging, including trips to the bathroom after meals, sounds or smells of vomiting, or packages of laxatives or diuretics
• Skipping meals or avoiding eating in front of others, or eating very small portions
• Exercising excessively
• Wearing baggy clothes
• Complaining about being “fat”
• Using gum, mouthwash, or mints excessively
• Constantly dieting
• Scarred knuckles from repeatedly inducing vomiting

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Empathy In Action – How To Be A Reflective Listener

What is empathy? Empathy is the ability to recognize another’s feelings and take their perspective. Empathy in action is the ability to be with someone, listen to what they say, feel it with them, and be able to reflect it back. This is an important skill that can be applied to any and all relationships such as romantic relationships, friendships, or even work relationships. Here are some steps to become a reflective listener:

 Step 1 – Be Present

By this I mean be involved in the conversation and not distracted by something else. At times important conversations at home might take place in front of the television which may not be the best place to really grasp what each other is saying. By being free from distractions it helps you to listen and it helps the other person to feel like you are actively listening to them.

 Step 2 – Listen

Let the sender send their message.

Step 3 – Reflect Back

Reflecting back is essentially restating what they have just said using different words. The word reflect sounds like a mirror which is exactly what you’re supposed to do. Mirror the words back and paraphrase what they said. An example of a reflection is below.

Sender: Work really gets me frustrated sometimes. It’s like they don’t even care about my potential. All I do is listen to everyone else’s orders. I could do well if they just gave me the opportunity!

Receiver: You feel like the little guy at work. You want to be more independent and have more opportunities.

 Step 4 – Listen Again

Let the message sender keep going. They probably have more to say than what they have just said.

 Step 5 – Continue to Reflect

Reflect back again. It lets the person know that you heard what they just said. The way you speak and reflect also lets them know you empathize with them. If you have questions this would be the time for you to ask questions and clarify anything that you need to understand better. Feeling words are also great to add into your reflections. It lets the sender know you are really feeling this with them and fully understand what they have to say. A second example of a reflection with a feeling word is below.

Sender: Exactly! I mean I like my job it’s just I’d like the chance for growth. It gets old doing the same thing day in and day out.

Receiver: It sounds like you’re really frustrated by this.

A lot of times people just need us to listen instead of impart our opinions and thoughts on them. By just using those simple reflection tools you can have much more meaningful conversations with people. It helps us be able to understand better if we can take others perspectives and become less judgmental in our discussions.

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Telling Your Friend Her Child Has Issues: Studio 5


What should you do if you suspect a friend’s child has a problem? Here are my tips for when to step in and when to step back. Ask yourself these 5 questions:

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Are You Sabatoging Your Hubby’s Friendships?: Julie Hanks interview in WomansDay

I recently did a fun marriage interview with WomansDay.com on 10 things your husband’s friends may not be telling you.

“We think you’re judging us”

“Why do you dress like a 21 year old?”

“You call him too much”…

I comment on what might be behind these comments and how to talk to your hubby about his friend’s concerns:

READ 10 Things Your Hubby’s Friends Won’t Tell You

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