When to Seek Couples Therapy

By Holly Brown, LMFT

coupleMost people treat couples therapy as a measure of last resort: Your relationship is completely on the rocks, one or both of you is considering calling it quits.   It’s like dialing 911.

But as I’ve said before, that’s the worst time to start therapy–when you’re feeling hopeless, when one or both of you has little investment in the relationship.  Seeking professional help sooner can make all the difference.

So what is the best time?

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How Well Do You Really Know Your Teenager?

By Holly Brown, LMFT

teenIn my novel, “Don’t Try to Find Me” (due out July 8), 14-year-old Marley runs away, leaving her mother Rachel wondering how she missed all the clues.  Did she really know Marley at all? And has Rachel’s oblivion put Marley in harm’s way?

For those answers,  you’ll have the read the book!  But if you have a teenager of your own, here are some ideas of how to assess where you are in your relationship.

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Are You A Doormat?

By Holly Brown, LMFT

sarcasmYes, I went for a provocative title.   I know people are not doormats, but let’s face it, sometimes we all have occasions where we act like it.  But if you find that you’re habitually getting walked on, it might be time to make some changes.

This is actually a companion piece to my last blog, “Do You Hold Grudges?”  An astute reader commented that sometimes he tries to be so open-minded and tolerant (as in, not holding grudges) that he ends up being taken advantage of.  So how do you know when it’s time to be self-protective and assertive in your relationships?

Here are five signs that you’re engaging in doormat-like behavior and some suggestions of what to do about it.

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Do You Hold Grudges?

By Holly Brown, LMFT

grudgeIf you find that resentments fester, forgiveness comes hard, and letting go of past grievances is even harder, then this blog’s for you.

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What’s Your Toddler Thinking?

By Holly Brown, LMFT

Toddlers can be mystifying beings.  You’re cruising through a good morning, and then suddenly, they melt down at what seems like an entirely insignificant event (the loss of a sock would not be unheard of.)  What’s happening in that toddler brain?

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Blaming Others: Hurts You More Than It Hurts Them

By Holly Brown, LMFT

stubbornDon’t get me wrong.  Sometimes other people are to blame.  Sometimes you are completely and totally and utterly correct in thinking that it’s someone else’s fault.

But once you’ve tried to get them to see that and failed, once they refuse to take responsibility, or if you are habitually blaming others rather than formulating a solution–then what?

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How to Handle Overwhelming Emotions

By Holly Brown, LMFT

emoteI was just reliving my younger years as I worked on the Teen Angst playlist for Spotify, as inspired by my novel “Don’t Try to Find Me.”  Adolescence, for many, involves overwhelming emotion, in part because so many of the emotions feel new as well as intense.  What’s the best way to understand and cope with all these emergent feelings? In some ways, that’s the key developmental task of adolescence.

But for some people, the struggle continues on into adulthood.  They might hear themselves called “oversensitive”‘; they might often feel misunderstood or invalidated as a result.  This can lead to a difficult spiral that actually intensifies emotions that already feel like too much to handle.

So where to start?

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Reconnecting With A Distant Partner

By Holly Brown, LMFT

coupleI practice emotionally-focused couples therapy, which is about trust and security being the bedrock of a relationship.  The core question we’re all asking, on an emotional level, is: When I need you, will you be there for me?  Can I count on you?

If we sense–again, on a subterranean emotional level, possibly beneath our conscious awareness–that our partner is unreliable, or unreachable, all sorts of issues can ensue.  We might find ourselves more prone to stress, irritability, mood swings, sadness, anger, defensive detachment and emotional shut-down…If this sounds familiar, read on.

In every relationship, there are times when you’re closer and times when you’re further away.  Often, the distance resolves itself.  It was just a busy and/or stressful week (or month), and there’s no underlying relationship issue.

But if you’re finding that the distance has persisted longer, and/or you find you’re experiencing some of the symptoms I listed above, then it’s time to address the problem.  Start by  asking yourself what’s causing the distance.  Is it logistical?  About scheduling, or the overall architecture of your lives?  Or is it that one or both of you are in avoidance mode?

Sometimes there might be unexpressed hurt, frustration or anger.  Sometimes rather than speak up, people just pull away. This could be a lack of assertiveness skills, or it could be that in the past, efforts to resolve things have ended badly.  Maybe one partner is feeling like there’s no point in trying.

If you’re that partner, examine this more deeply.  Think about what it would mean to your relationship to never deal with what’s bothering you.  How far would it go?  To separate bedrooms, separate lives?  If you’re assuming the feelings will just dissipate (if that’s what you’re hoping for), but it’s not happening, you might need to go to Plan B.  That could be forcing yourself to have some hard conversations.

If you’re the other partner–as in, noticing the pull-away–it might be time to ask some questions.  Consider how to do this in a supportive, rather than a demanding or attacking, way.  Remember that what we all want, deep down, is to feel loved and supportive.  If you miss your partner, tell him/her.  If you want more intimacy, say it in a way that highlights just how important the relationship is and what you’re prepared to do to get it back on track.

Maybe you’ve been hurt; maybe you’ve done the hurting.  The key thing is to start repairing instead of just assuming time heals all.  When it comes to relationships that are drifting, often the reverse is true.  More time equals greater distance that you’d have to travel in order to reconnect.

Couple image available from Shutterstock.



When You Didn’t Get the Mother You Deserved

By Holly Brown, LMFT

roseFor some of my adult clients, Mother’s Day is painful.  That’s because they are surrounded by exhortations to tell their mothers how much they love her.  But what if they don’t feel that?  What if they missed out on the kind of mother they deserved?

I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’ve had similar feelings.  Perhaps your mother was absent, or neglectful, or abusive, or narcissistic.  Maybe she’s in your life, maybe you’ve had to cut her out in order to thrive.

Here are some suggestions for handling those painful feelings.

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Should A Cheater Be Forgiven?

By Holly Brown, LMFT

officeI’ve been watching “True Tori”, the reality show following Tori Spelling and her husband Dean McDermott, who confessed to a two-day affair (after Tori got the heads-up that the tabloids were about to run the story.)  A recent study says that the key element in whether a relationship can recover from infidelity is if the cheating party confessed.  (Unsurprisingly, no studies have been done to show whether confessing under threat of tabloid exposure meets the criteria.)

There’s the old adage: Once a cheater, always a cheater.   I haven’t found that in my professional experience.  I do, however, find that some cheaters are a whole lot more deserving of second chances than others.

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