I am happy to share what I have learned while working with families. Family therapy is full of emotions. It’s a crazy ride but nonetheless exhilarating. I warn families, especially couples, when they first come in to my office that therapy is much like a roller coaster ride, with each person on an individual car. Some may be eager to begin while others need a little push to get on. Each will experience twists, turns, ups and downs. They will sometimes be on the same turns and sometimes not. One may be up while the other is down. There is fear and fun and laughter and silence and tears and so much more. It’s incredibly rewarding to watch a family who is engulfed in pain, to make a decision to be happy, then to work to make that happen. I feel honored to be invited to be such an intimate part of a family’s story. While many days it’s humbling and heavy, it’s also a gift.
My daily work is to “Comfort the Weary and Strengthen the Weak.” As a Marriage and Family Therapist I am in a unique position to witness the healing that can happen within relationships. I am grateful for my own strengths and talents (many of which have been born of my own challenges) that I now use to help others.
As I’ve been working with families, one thing has become clear. Many people know WHAT to do to feel close and safe to loved ones, but they don’t know HOW to do it. I have often had the experience of sitting across from a couple during a first session and hearing an individual say, “Yes, of course I love my spouse,” while his/her spouse sits in an opposite chair looking dumbfounded because he/she has spent the last years of marriage enduring emotional abuse. I have worked with many people who struggle with addiction. The addiction has taken control of their lives and has made it difficult to love as they should. Hence, there is a profound difference between KNOWING that love is important in a relationship or even FEELING love in a relationship, and knowing HOW to love. Knowing communication is important won’t help if you don’t know how to communicate.
Wisdom is the application of knowledge. The purpose of this blog is to help families to learn skills that matter – matter to life and matter to family. Thoughts and skills shared here are in an effort to help individuals to be wise in their relationships.
I have wanted to write since I was a little girl. Reading and writing have been a source of joy and even escape in my life. I have also always enjoyed people; their different personalities, unique abilities, family dynamics, culture, lives and stories. I’m surely a lover of people. So it would make sense, that one day, I would write about people. I had not yet decided what route I wanted to take in my writing; fiction, memoirs, research on small town dynamics was a thought, research on old church cemeteries and their inhabitants, children’s picture books, children’s therapy books, or even How To books. There was and still is so much to be written. But one common day, as I was working in the midst of a difficult moment, the choice was made for me.
Here is how this blog’s purpose came to be.
I was sitting in a termination session with a couple I had worked with for approximately 18 sessions, over the course of 8 months. I will call them Mary and John. Both Mary and John had worked very hard, coming to sessions consistently, opening their hearts, humbling themselves, and changing negative thoughts and behaviors. They had taken skills home each week, practiced, and learned how to work together. Each week they both reported success, and week after week they were eager to come and learn more. It was finally time to end therapy. (Yes, this can happen!) The termination session was scheduled and here we sat. Mary and John were both fidgety, seemingly anxious, sitting further apart than usual, and the ever important eye contact skill they had learned was not happening. (I have observed this is the first skill to go when angry at each other. As if we are so disgruntled by our spouse we can’t even LOOK at them. IF we look at them, we surely will be infected by whatever it is they have, or whatever it is they lack.) I asked if all was well, and I received head nods and a couple grunts of yes. I began the session as planned, which was a summarizing of all learned and applied. As the session went on, the tension in the room thickened. Finally, I stopped mid session and asked, “Okay, what is going on? It’s not as if I don’t feel you. We’ve been together too long. Speak up.” Mary began, “We’ve had a huge blowup. We didn’t use a single skill. We’re scared to end therapy and we think we need to continue.” “Ahhhhhhh,” I thought. They didn’t need to continue. What they needed was confidence they could do this on their own. They needed to know their work was theirs, not mine. They feared ending something that proved useful. But again, it was their work that was the success story, and their work could and would continue at home, without me. I had given them all I had and now it was time to take it home and continue the application. As they were expressing their fears I glanced down on my summary notes. I picked them up. I said, “Mary, John, you know this stuff. You’ve learned it. You’ve adopted it. You believe it. You’ve seen it work and you now have a conviction. It’s all right here. All the skills and the principles they fall under. Faith. You’have had the faith to try to put God’s principles to work. Prayer. You have learned the meaning of prayer and that God will never turn from you if you ask, you’ve heard his answers. Repentance. You’ve repented of damaging interactions in your marriage, learned new skills and applied them. You’ve changed. Forgiveness. Both of you have forgiven the other and yourselves and have been willing to move forward, to build a future rather than hang on to a hurtful past. Respect, you have learned how to communicate, you’ve learned what the other needs and desires and you give freely. You have learned to treasure each other. Love. You have learned in here that love is also a verb, that each person needs a tailored type of love. Compassion. You’ve been able to see and accept the weaknesses in each other and love anyway. Work, you have learned that building an eternal marriage is work, that it’s more than a thought or a desire, and that work brings peace and happiness. You are now walking together and visiting parks. You’ve both lost many pounds and you’ve reported feeling more energy and motivation. You’ve said how you both feel more appreciative of God’s beauty. You’ve done it! It’s all right here! This is living healthy principles in marriage!”
Silence followed. We all sat for maybe one minute without movement or sound. The spirit was incredible. Tears rolled down the faces of all three of us. Finally, John spoke up.
“You need to write that down.”
“Yeah… I should write that down.”
Mary whispered, “Will you write that down?”
And the Spirit said to me, “Write that down.”
So here it is, written down for all to read. I began writing this in book format several years ago. Circumstances prevented me from giving the time to writing that I had planned, including the death of my beloved parents in the fall of 2012. I’ll share more about that in another post I’m sure. I’m going to write about one thought a week. This seems reasonable. Some weeks skills will be the focus. Some weeks a conversation starter for processing purposes. Whatever I’m particularly moved by that week is what I’ll write about. I’m hoping many benefit from my experiences and the knowledge I’ve gained. This blog is my way of giving to those who aren’t able to be with me. Its my gift to you. If you’re willing to take time out of your life to read, I’ll honor you by giving you my best.
So read, ponder, apply what you like, share, but most of all enjoy.