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Asking for Help is a Skill

There is a grocery item that I buy on a regular basis. It’s in a glass jar and it’s on the top shelf. Now if it were a box of cereal, I could easily give it a little poke and it would likely sway and bounce off the shelf and into my hands. I’m less than eager to try with a glass jar. My strategy instead is to wait for either a taller patron or staff person to come by. I ask politely for their help, thank them kindly, and go about my shopping. Pop quiz: What does this choice mean about me? Am I a failure because I’ve only grown to be 5’1″? Am I dependent on others? Is my lack of height shameful? Or am a resourceful thinker using the attributes of another to help me solve a     . . . read more

Stepping Back

One of the things I love about summer is that the pace of life slows down. There are more opportunities for recreation and leisure. It just feels right to sit on the porch in the evening, as if that counts as an activity. There is a little more room to breathe. I think summer is a good time for therapy. There is room in this season to sit back and reflect. Therapy is an opportunity to get a small time-out from regular life. It can be the pause button in an otherwise hectic schedule. Maybe it is not as fun as a relaxed summer vacation, but it can function as a little oasis for the self. We all need some time and emotional distance to survey our life. We benefit from having some time to see ourselves as reflected by     . . . read more

Letting Go of Outcomes

I’ve learned, mostly the hard way, that I don’t know what the best outcome is for another person. That probably sounds weird for a therapist to say. There is a general sense that you go to therapy for someone to tell or “guide” you to a particular outcome. But that’s not really the best use of therapy. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it is not what the outcome is that matters, it’s how people get there and how they ultimately feel about it. Does it fit into some unhelpful old framework or does it represent a new and stronger narrative? I don’t know if you should stay married or get divorced. I don’t know if you should major in neuroscience or engineering. But I do know that what you tell yourself about this decision and what it means     . . . read more

Very Curious

I know the saying about the cat, but really I’m interested in who killed curiosity. I could probably blame standardized testing or the ability to know all instantly with the internet. Regardless of the suspect(s), I would like to advocate for regaining some respect for this concept. For me, curiosity is a way of approaching the world. I believe it in our nature. We spend the first many years of life constantly wondering about the world, testing our theories, making careful observations. We drop food off of the high chair and observe the splatter. We figure out just the right ways to get our parents to react to us. Play is the primary way in which we find out about the world. Experimenting with everything and anything, we learn very quickly. Also noteworthy: play and curiosity are FUN. I regained     . . . read more

I Do What I Say, And I Say What I Mean…As Much As Possible

In a memorable moment in graduate school, my professor said, “A good social worker needs to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.” I knew instantly that it was true. It is helpful and necessary in my job to say things, make suggestions, offer observations, provide encouragement, and form recommendations. However, it’s not enough. I believe that a really great therapist needs to be willing to do the very things he or she endorses. It’s a worthwhile endeavor that I’m trying for, and maybe sometimes achieving. While I certainly do not want to dominate therapy with talking about myself, I do want to at least acknowledge that I’m a human too. I have things I work on in life. I’m a fellow traveler in this journey through a complicated human existence. As much as possible, I’m trying to do     . . . read more

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