Urgency Matters When It Comes to Marriage Counseling

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When it comes to marriage counseling or couples counseling, timing is everything if you want to save your relationship. We often hear, “Can my marriage be saved?” or “Can you help us decide if we should stay together?”

While these are always complicated questions, our answers are usually something like: “Marriage counseling is hard work and there are no guarantees. But you are wise to invest the time to find out if your marriage can be improved.”

Truth be told, the effectiveness of marriage counseling is directly related to the motivation level of both partners and timing. For some couples, marriage counseling is really divorce counseling because they’ve already thrown in the towel. For instance, one or both partners may have already decided to end the marriage and he/she uses the counseling as a way to announce this to their partner.

Sometimes, the problems in a marriage can be too ingrained and longstanding for the counseling to be effective. For others, they don’t honestly share their concerns with the therapist.Further, it’s important to choose a therapist who has experience working with couples and who is a good fit for both you and your partner. If both partners don’t feel comfortable with the therapist, this can negatively impact progress; or one person may prematurely drop out.

Timing is an essential element in whether marriage counseling works. Unfortunately, most couples wait much too long to reach out for help repairing their marriage.

According to many relationship and marriage counselors, couples wait an average of six years of being unhappy before getting help. Think about this statistic for a few minutes. Couples have six years to build up resentment before they begin the important work of learning to resolve differences in effective ways.

7 tips to help deal with differences between you and your partner:

  1.  Create a relaxed atmosphere and spend time with your partner on a regular basis so you can communicate about your desires and objectives.
  2.  Don’t give up personal goals and the things you love to do such as hobbies or interests. This will only breed resentment.
  3.  Support one another’s passions. Accept that you won’t always share the same interests. Respect your partner’s need for space if they want to go on a vacation without you, etc.
  4.  Learn to resolve conflicts skillfully. Don’t put aside resentments that can destroy a relationship. Couples who try to avoid conflict are at risk of developing stagnant relationships, which can put them at high risk for divorce.
  5.  Establish an open-ended dialogue. Listen to your partner’s requests and ask for clarification on points that are unclear. Avoid threats and saying things you’ll regret later.
  6.  Avoid the “blame game.”Take responsibility for your part in the problems and accept that all human beings are flawed in some way. The next time you feel upset with your partner, check out what’s going on inside yourself and pause and reflect before you place the blame on them.
  7.  Be realistic about a time-line for change.It takes more than a few sessions to shed light on the dynamics and to begin the process of change.

What are the Benefits of Therapy in a Timely Manner?

Couples come to therapy for any number of reasonsin addition to infidelity, communication, money, and major life changes such as hostility or even starting a family. Couples therapy is also a good idea if one of you is coping with an issue that might be affecting your relationshipsuch as depression, or simply if you’re feeling stuck and stagnant in your relationship.

Therapy can provide a safe space to talk about sensitive topics. Couples can get caught in a negative relational cycle. For example, communication is a big concern for the majority of couples. But simply talking with each other more isn’t the answer. There is communication, and then there’s effective communication.

You might also consider couples therapy to help support you at times of major life change and transition. Getting married, becoming parents for the first time, moving, changing jobs, losing jobs, becoming empty-nesters, coping after extramarital affairs, recovering from addiction, caring for aging parents are all transitions that can destabilize a couple’s equilibrium.

And don’t discount the value of couples’ therapy in helping you and your partner dig yourselves out of a rut. ‘Feeling stuck’ can shift if both parties are willing to compromise in a way so that individual needs are met. Professional counselors can definitely help and typically, the sooner the better is the recommendation.

How can marriage counseling help couples?

  • When toxic relationship patterns can be identified early and agreed upon, the process of real change can begin.
  • A motivated couple can begin to explore their problems from a new perspective and learn new ways to recognize and resolve conflicts as a result of the tools provided by the therapist. 
  • Partners can begin to build trust and improve communication that may have eroded the quality of their interactions.
  • A couples’ counselor can provide “neutral territory” to help couples agree upon and work through tough issues with support.
  • Couples can decide to rebuild their marriage and make a renewed commitment, or clarify the reasons why they need to separate or end the marriage.

To reiterate, we believe that seeking help from a counselor is not unlike seeking help from a mechanic. It makes little sense to take your car into the shop a month after it started making a horrific noise. By that time, too much damage may have been done and your engine may be beyond repair.

By the same token, the effectiveness of marriage counseling is directly related not only to the willingness and motivation of both parties to put in the effort, but also to the timing. The time to consider marriage counseling is not when one (or both) people have already thrown in the towel.

Based on our expert counseling experience, friendship is the glue that can hold a marriage together. Couples who know each other intimately and are well-versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams are couples who make it.

For more information about how one of our Foundations Counselors can help improve your relationships or marriage, please do not hesitate to contact us today!

Warning Signs to Watch for When Substance Abuse Intervention is Needed

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Approaching a loved one about their addictions and substance abuse issues is an incredibly tough thing to do. However, taking the brave step of making a substance abuse intervention can be vital in changing someone’s life. Helping to set them on the right path to a healthier and happier future is paramount. The best approach is working with a licensed counselor prior to the intervention. What’s more, working with a counselor during the actual intervention and post-intervention with the afflicted individual will prove to offer a more successful outcome.

One of the biggest challenges that people face in approaching an addict is that they are very likely to deny that they have a problem in the first place. You may find that you are met with hostility or even a degree of anger, as it is very difficult for a substance abuse intervention to not come across as accusatory. As much as addressing a loved one as an “addict” is difficult to conceive, being called one is even more difficult to accept.

Given this reality, it is rare to be able to just come out and ask someone if they have a problem with alcohol or drugs and get a straight answer. Much more likely is that you will have to do some detective work in order to find out if someone you love needs an intervention and work with a licensed counselor, pre-intervention.

The big question most people will ask our staff is, “When do you know if it’s time for an intervention for alcohol or substance abuse?”

7 Tell-Tale Signs there is a Substance Abuse Problem

1. Deceptive Behavior

They will attempt to hide their behavior. They may do this by hiding bottles of alcohol, or showing up to social occasions already intoxicated. So, they may not actually appear to drink too much in public, or hiding their medications in unmarked bottles so you can’t identify them as addictive substances.

During a substance abuse intervention, you can address the deception and move the addict towards seeking substance abuse treatment.

2. Tolerance

One of the biggest signs that someone needs to see a counselor and have an intervention is if their tolerance is increasing.

If the person you’re worried about needs a lot more alcohol or substance to get the effect they are seeking, they may be addicted. When a body receives something a lot like alcohol, it develops a tolerance and the body requires more to get the feeling that the person is after.

3. Memory Fog

When someone doesn’t remember what they did or said when under the influence, they’re usually abusing substances.

This is called blacking out and during these periods of time, the person struggling with alcohol or drug addiction will not recall anything they do. This is a red flag and a licensed therapist should be called if this happens more than once or twice.

When you’re planning an intervention for abuse, these situations and memories can bring to light the struggle the addict is facing and doesn’t remember.

4.Financial Troubles

Is the person you’re worried about spending all their money on substances whether they be alcohol, drugs, or even prescription drugs? Does their money seem to disappear every week?

Addicts are good at manipulating others to feed their addiction, but in the end, the financial troubles will be noticeable.

Addicts may increasingly ask to borrow money from their family or friends, and offer varying reasons for their request. Increased levels of debt and unpaid bills can be a sign that they are spending more than they should on their habit.

Our counselor team suggests that if you’ve been enabling someone with their addiction and providing them with money or drinks, let them know that is ending. Tell them that if they’re looking for money, the only money you will put towards them is money for an abuse intervention or counseling.

5. Moody

Do they exhibit irrational behavior and mood swings? Are they deceptive and increasingly involved in risky behavior?

People with any substance problem often switch from being angry, depressed, manically happy, miserable, hostile and the list continues. You will never know what type of person they will be when you next see them.

6. Anti-Social

We often see that people struggling with alcohol or drugs end up isolating themselves and prefer to be at home alone. One reason they do this is that they may be aware they’re addicted and don’t want others to see them intoxicated. Another reason they want to be alone is so that others can’t tell them to stop drinking.

An Intervention for abuse may be the first time in awhile that the addict is in the room with their loved ones at the same time. It may be their first-time ever with a counselor. Knowing that they aren’t alone and people are willing to help them break through this addiction is an important step in the abuse intervention process.

7. Mental Health Problems

Some issues that perhaps were once mild and infrequent begin to get much worse. It is normal to feel a little down sometimes, but as the addiction progresses, mental health issues often get magnified and are easier to pick up on.

Dependency on their vices often takes a toll on a person’s self-esteem, causing depression and social anxiety.

Don’t Wait, Take Action

If your loved one is displaying any of these signs in addition to others, then it could be time for you to take action and seek out the right setting for an intervention with a licensed counselor. Of course, it is always a good idea to talk to family members and other friends, in order to gather further information and share each other’s views. You’ll definitely have a clearer indication about whether to intervene if you all share the same concerns. There is no need for you to confront the person alone – whether they are your friend, parent, partner, or child.

Interventions are often thought of as last resorts, and it may be a challenge to present them in a way that is confrontational or accusatory. However, a degree of hostility is often to be expected. Nobody enjoys having someone point out their failings or shortcomings, and this is especially true of an addict who may be in denial about their situation.

Despite the difficulties in approaching this delicate subject, making the simple suggestion of seeking professional help may be the light in the dark that your loved one needs. You really never know how they may react until you try.

For more information about working with our licensed counseling staff at Foundations Counseling related to substance abuse, therapies, and interventions, please contact us as soon as possible.

Seeking Professional Support when Raising Your Grandchildren

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Did you know that 1 in 10 American children (75 million kids) are living in a household with at least one grandparent when it comes to raising grandchildren? 10 percent of all grandparents in the nation are raising their grandkids. Almost 3 million grandparents aren’t just helping. Instead, they are literally stepping in to be surrogate parents, doing the primary job of taking care of their grandchildren.

Today, there are numerous reasons why grandparents take over the responsibility of caring for their own grandchildren. If you are now raising your children’s children, you are not at all alone. In fact, you are now one of the millions of grandparents raising or helping raise grandchildren in the U.S. The situation has become common enough that there is even a name for it: Grandfamilies.

Raising Grandchildren

An important element of self-preservation is the building and maintenance of a strong support system. In addition to being demanding and exhausting, the task of caring for children can have an isolating effect on Grandma and Grandpa. Don’t allow yourself to be cut off from friends, neighbors or family members who understand what you’re up against. Nurture solid friendships. Admit that there are limits to what one person can do, and then seek some outside help.

One way to do this is to join a support group or speak to a professionally licensed counselor. In addition, depending on the situation and how you ended up caring for your grandchildren, it may be helpful for the children also. The situation may be difficult all around and a professional support network such as a therapist is the best route. A therapist will help you talk through the experience, help with the daily ups and downs, and be the best you can be for the children.

You should also make an intentional effort to get the regular relief you need in order to renew your energies. Never feel guilty about getting away for a break – an evening out with friends, dinner for the two of you at a nice restaurant, or a relaxing drive to a different environment. Refresh yourself with hobbies, outings and activities that you enjoy – a symphony, a game of golf, or an exercise class at the gym. Taking some time off for yourself is not a sign of weakness, and it will help you more than you may realize.

In addition to these strategies, we’d strongly recommend that you touch base with a professional counselor on a semi-regular or regular basis. Ideally this should be an individual who understands attachment issues. You didn’t tell us exactly how you ended up taking care of your grandkids. In most cases, it probably had something to do with events of a relatively tragic or traumatic nature such as death, divorce, mental illness, bi physical illness, incarceration, neglect or some type of abuse or addiction.

Children from troubled or unsettled backgroundsgenerally experience difficulty forming new attachments even though you may be there biological grandparents. They also are dealing with a sense of grief or loss. Since attachment and trust go hand in hand, you can expect this issue to have a significant impact on your attempts to forge a new family unit and build a safe and loving environment for the children in your home.

Whatever the reason, grandparents who return to parenting find it isn’t easy. Energy and income may be lower. Health may be more fragile. Adjusting to the schedules and the needs of children and teens can be overwhelming. How do people do it?

5 Ways to Succeed as a Grandfamily

Grandparents who manage the return to parenting are grandparents who don’t just let life happen to them. They actively work on making their Grandfamily work.

1. Embrace your new reality

Parenting again may not have been on the top of your list for how to spend your senior years. But life often has a way of taking unexpected turns. There is usually much joy to be found in raising your grandchildren once you’re able to accept and embrace the situation. Kids can keep us young. Sharing their interests and their current passions can keep us in the know about popular culture. Just when some seniors are wondering “Is this all there is”, Grandfamily adults find new meaning in raising their grandkids.

2. Acknowledge the losses.

Losses are often multiple. Whether providing full or part time care, you are giving up many of your plans and your flexibility to do the things you wanted to do. If you have assumed the parenting role because your adult child has significant problems or has abandoned the children, you are also confronting the loss of your idea of the child you thought you had or hoped they would become.

The children are also grieving. Regardless of their age and no matter how they were treated, children whose parents have dropped out of their lives often long for their parents to come back to take care of them.

Grandfamilies succeed when the adults are compassionate with themselves and the children. They allow space for talking about feelings and know how to gently guide conversations to the love children do have while acknowledging their reality. When kids act up, they see the hurt inside and help the children find more appropriate ways to express their grief.

 

3. Take care of yourself physically.

Even if you are as healthy as someone 10 years younger, you are still older than the average parent. Do what you can to take care of your health. Eat well. Get enough sleep. Get what exercise you can. You will feel better and you will be better able to keep up with the young ones.

4. Take care of your mental health too.

Grandparents raising kids often experience anxiety and depression due to the added stress. 40% of the grandmothers studied in one study had signs of psychological distress. To stay mentally healthy, reach out for information and support. Many social service agencies are now offering Grandparent Support Groups. If you find that you are feeling more anxious or down than you used to, do consider seeing a therapist.

5. Accept that times have changed.

Accepted and acceptable methods of disciplining kids also may have changed since the first time you were parenting. If in doubt, talk to a professional counselor or ask the young parents of your grandkids’ friends for more information and support.

For more information or to speak with someone at Foundations Counseling to help with a very complex situation such as raising your own grandchildren, please schedule an appointment with one of our licensed counselors today.

Coping with Grief, Loss, and Anxiety During the Holidays

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For anyone dealing with an illness, grief, loss, and subsequent anxiety it causes or the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be a time of sadness, pain, anger, or dread. It can be difficult to cope, especially when you see the sights and sounds of holiday happiness all around you.

The ebb and flow of grief can become overwhelming with waves of memories, particularly during Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Grief can also magnify the stress and anxiety that is often already a part of the holidays.

How can you begin to fill the emptiness you feel when it seems that everyone else is overflowing with joy? There are a few strategies that you can employ to help you get through this time.

Offer Yourself Some Grace 

One of the best things you can do is give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. Try not to fall prey to the belief that you have to feel a certain way or do certain things in order to make the holiday “normal.” If you feel sad, allow the tears to come; if you feel angry, allow yourself to vent some steam.

Be Kind to Yourself 

It’s important that you get the rest and nourishment you need and try not to take on more than you can handle. If you need to be alone, then honor that. If you crave the company and affection of others, seek it out. Do whatever feels right to you during this difficult time.

Ask For and Accept Help 

The holiday season is no time to feign strength and independence when you’re grieving a death. You will need the help and support of others to get through, so don’t feel as if you are a burden. People generally receive satisfaction and even joy from helping those they care about.

After a death, people often desire to help but simply don’t know how. If you need someone to help you prepare meals, shop, or decorate, this is the time to speak up and make your needs known. Quite often, they will be delighted to feel like they are helping you in some way.

The same holds true for your emotional needs. Friends and family members might feel uncomfortable talking about your grief. They might think that you don’t want to talk about it and don’t want to be reminded of your pain.

The American Psychological Association (APA) notes that not talking about someone’s death lead to isolation and discourage those who are there to support you. Again, you will have to tell your loved ones the best way that they can help you. If you want to talk about what you’re going through, or you just need a shoulder to cry on, let them know.

Find Support

Sharing your feelings is often the best way to get through them and finding people you can talk to will help. Friendsand relativescan be a great support during times of grief. However, they might be coping with their own feelings or so immersed in the holidays that they cannot offer the support you need.

Another good option is to look for a licensed therapist for individual or group therapies. Support group members often make friends that end up being a source of comfort and care for many years to come.

A loss, whether it be a parent, sibling, child, or friend is a very personal matter. Your loss seems like the worst possible thing that could have happened to youand it can be exponential during the holiday season.

When you lose a significant person from your life, whatever the relationship, it hurts and nothing takes away from your right to feel the loss and grieve the absence of that person from your life.

Make a Difference

Many people like to help others in large or small ways during the holiday season. We may drop our change in a charity basket, purchase a gift for a needy child, or donate to a favorite organization. This can help us feel like we are contributing to the greater good.

Likewise, helping improve the lives of others can help take the focus off your loss.Many studies demonstratethat volunteering can be beneficial to our mental health, particularly as we ageand also during the holidays.

Consider volunteering at a nursing home, hospital, hospice, children’s shelter, or soup kitchen. You can also find a way to help another family member or friend who may need it. Any of these things can prove cathartic and help in the healing process.

Don’t Make Comparisons

It’s easy to see other people or families enjoying holiday festivities and compare their experience to what you feel during this difficult time. This may make you feel worse or that you’re lacking in some fashion.

Keep in mind that the holidays are stressful for most people and they are rarely the “magical” gatherings depicted in greeting cards, movies, or on television. Try to embrace what you have rather than compare it to what you think others have.

A Word From Foundations Counseling

As difficult as it seems, you will survive the holidays in one piece. Because of your grief, this holiday might prove to be a very difficult experience. However, you will get through it and come out on the other side stronger than before. You don’t necessarily have to enjoy the holidays or even go through the motions of pretending to enjoy the festivities.

That said, it’s also fine to have a good time in spite of your grief. If happiness slips through your window of grief, allow it to happen and enjoy it. You won’t be doing your loved one an injustice by feeling joyous. The best gift you can give anyone you love is that of being true to yourself and living your life to the fullest, even as you adjust to the loss and remember your loved one.

If you may be experiencing symptoms caused by grief and loss during the holiday season or for more information about the positive effects of counseling for grief and loss, please contact Foundations Counseling today.