Archive for Communication

Therapeutic Talk

When I ask people what they found helpful in therapy, they often say that just talking about things made a big difference for them.  Talking about the substantial things in life can help you to gain insight, learn about your difficulties, identify needed changes, have a sense of direction, and feel supported in your efforts.

Social Support

However, therapy is not the only place where you could talk about topics of substance.  I recommend that people think of their social support system as a foundation of a structure.  The smallest number of supports needed to have a stable structure is three, like a tripod.  Who can you talk to about your concerns, dreams, struggles and achievements?  Do you have at least three points of support?  Points of support could include friends, family, a spiritual community or pastor, a support group or therapy group, and/or a counselor.  You could also consider sources of information as points of support, if they help you to reflect on important topics.  So books and certain websites, especially interactive ones, could count too.

Happy People Talk More, and With More Substance

Of course talking about issues of substance need not be limited to your personal joys and challenges.  There are many philosophical, spiritual, social, political, scientific, and technological topics that are very meaningful.  Interestingly, recent research has found that happy people tend to spend more time talking about topics of substance.

Happy people tend to talk more than unhappy people, but when they do, it tends to be less small talk and more substance, a new study finds.

A group of psychologists from the University of Arizona and Washington University in St. Louis set out to find whether happy and unhappy people differ in the types of conversations they tend to have.

(Click to continue reading Happy People Talk More, and With More Substance)  By the way, if you follow this link, you will find several additional interesting links to more information about the science of happiness.

So next time you talk to someone, don’t limit yourself to just small talk.  Let them know what you’ve really been thinking about and why its meaningful to you.  And find out what’s really going on for them too.  Or, why not investigate a meaningful topic and share what you’ve learned?  Taking your conversations to a deeper level can help you not just to reflect on topics of substance, but also to connect with others in more meaningful ways.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477);  near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort.  Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

Categories : Relationships
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Preferences and Concerns in Therapy

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Most therapists leave it up to the client to express any preferences or concerns they might have about therapy.  Usually these come out during the course of the intake evaluation.

Therapy is a Collaborative Process

I have decided to be more direct and proactive in asking about this.  I want clients to know that its okay to express their preferences, and that its normal to have some concerns about therapy.  I want my clients to know that therapy is a collaborative process, and that they should play an active role in the decisions we make about where to focus and how to work on things.

I would encourage any of my clients who didn’t receive the following questionnaire at the beginning of their services to look it over, and to bring up any preferences or concerns they feel are worth mentioning next time they see their therapist.

Preferences and Concerns Questionnaire

Your answers to the following questionnaire can help your therapist to be aware of your preferences in, and concerns about therapy, so that they may provide the most helpful services and address your concerns.

Current Preferences and Priorities

Please indicate how important each of the following preferences is to you by rating each statement according to this scale:

1 = I Don’t Want This
2 = Not Important
3 = Slightly Important
4 = Somewhat Important
5 = Very Important

1. What I want from therapy is for someone to listen to me, understand me, and be emotionally supportive.

2. What I want from therapy is for someone to give me specific advice and concrete ideas for how to deal with my situation.

3. What I want from therapy is to receive information about the problem I am dealing with, so that I can learn to understand and manage it better.

4. What I want from therapy is to focus on solving my problem and making things better for me in the present and future.

5. What I want from therapy is to focus on where my problems came from by exploring my childhood and/or other past experiences.

Concerns or Worries about Therapy

Please indicate how much of a concern each of the following is to you by rating each statement according to this scale:

1 = Not Concerning
2 = Slightly Concerning
3 = Somewhat Concerning
4 = Very Concerning

1. I’m concerned about my therapist’s competence, level of experience, age, and/or expertise.

2. I’m concerned about therapy stirring up painful feelings, memories, issues or conflicts.

3. I’m concerned about possible differences in culture, personality, politics or beliefs between myself and my therapist.

4. I’m concerned about whether therapy is really a helpful, legitimate, and/or useful thing to do.

5. I’m concerned that my therapist could have me hospitalized against my will (if I say I’m at risk of harming myself or others).

6. I’m concerned about logistical barriers to being able to attend therapy (affordability, time, transportation, mobility, technology, etc.)

7. I’m concerned about my privacy and what others might think if they knew I was in therapy.

8. I’m concerned about whether my therapist will be judgmental of me or reject me.

9. I’m concerned about possible consequences of being in therapy (impact on employment, ability to own a firearm, etc.)

Expressing Preferences, Concerns and Feedback to Your Therapist

When you share your thoughts about the above items with your therapist, they can be more effective in respecting your preferences, and in addressing your concerns.  The above items are just a starting point.  If you feel strongly about any of the above items, then you need to talk with your therapist about it, explore what it means to you, and what it means in the context of your therapy.  If your therapist doesn’t have your input about these preferences or concerns, then they can’t know to be specifically considerate of them.

One way that therapy is helpful, is as a microcosm of your relationships in general.  If you have difficulty with giving people feedback or expressing concerns in general, then it will probably be difficult for you to do so in therapy as well.  However, this creates the perfect opportunity for you to practice doing so effectively, in a safe environment, with a supportive and understanding professional.

If you’re afraid how your therapist might react, then start by saying so, and then express your thoughts.  This will give your therapist a chance to prepare themselves for whatever you might say next.  Chances are that talking about your preferences or concerns will improve your therapy experience in the long run.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477);  near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort.  Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

Categories : About Counseling
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Are You Socially Intelligent? – Video

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Social Intelligence

Daniel Goleman is a well known author and researcher who previously taught us about emotional intelligence.   More recently he has written a book on social intelligence, which is based on recent groundbreaking research in social neuroscience.

This video is a quick introduction to a very important concept and why it matters.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477);  near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort.  Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

Categories : Relationships
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Playful Communication in Relationships

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The Importance of Small Day-To-Day Connections

One of the key principles I learned from Dr. John Gottman (a renowned marriage specialist), is the importance of connecting with one’s spouse in small ways but consistently.

A common mistake that couples make is thinking that it’s the special events that will bring them closer… the big vacation, the special date, or the celebrated holiday.  Although such events can meaningfully add to the couple’s shared memories, they are usually not the key to feeling close.

Staying Tuned In

The key to feeling close is much simpler (and perhaps harder).  It is staying tuned in.

  • Do you pay attention and respond when your spouse points out something interesting or funny?
  • Do you take some time to check in after a day apart?
  • Do you know what is going on in your spouses work life, their friendships, and their home life?
  • Are you aware of their current joys and stressors?
  • Do you respond to affection?
  • Do you express appreciation?
  • Can you enjoy their corny jokes?
  • Can you be playful with each other?
  • Are you aware of your partner’s dreams, and do you encourage them?

These are all things that happen in spontaneous day-to-day interactions… interactions that might sometimes only take a few seconds.  These are ways of staying tuned in, so that you feel you are making life’s journey together.

Playfulness in Day-To-Day Interactions

Life can be stressful.  Humor and playfulness can make things more manageable for individuals, so why not for couples?  Here is a very thorough article about playfulness, and how it can be helpful in communication and relationships.  It gives several good tips, and discusses the connection between playful communication and emotional intelligence:

The Power of Laughter, Humor, and Play

Laughter has a powerful effect on your health and well-being. A good laugh relieves tension and stress, elevates mood, enhances creativity and problem-solving ability, and provides a quick energy boost. But even more importantly, laughter brings people together. Mutual laughter and play are an essential component of strong, healthy relationships. By making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and play into your daily interactions, you can improve the quality of your love relationships— as well as your connections with co-workers, family members, and friends.

Using laughter and play to improve your relationships

Shared laughter is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships exciting, fresh, and vital. Humor and playful communication strengthens our relationships by… (click here to read entire article)

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort.

Categories : Relationships
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Giving and Receiving Feedback

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It can be difficult to give and receive feedback, whether with loved ones, or with people at work.  Here are some guidelines that may help.  You’ve probably heard some of these things before, but we could all use a reminder now and then.

Giving Feedback

  1. Pick your battles, make sure it’s relevant, and stay focused on one issue at a time.
  2. Timing is key.  Feedback does not necessarily have to be given on the spot – but as soon as possible.  You may want to wait until the person is not busy or in a receptive mood.
  3. Feedback should be given directly, not hinted at or filtered through a third party.
  4. Give the feedback caringly, and share positive feedback (not just negative).
  5. Explain how you feel as a result of the other person’s behavior.  Try starting with the word, “I.”  For example, “I feel like ______ when you _____.”  This allows you to own your emotions, and allows for the possibility that your reaction is the issue, rather than the other person’s behavior.
  6. Avoid giving advice.  Try to stay away from, “you should…,” or, “you need to…”  Instead you can share what has worked for you in similar situations, or help the person explore their options.
  7. Give the other person a chance to explain, and validate what you can in their explanation.
  8. Feedback is not feedback when it’s meant to hurt – then it’s just an attack.  Avoid sarcasm or condescending manner when giving feedback.
  9. Avoid being judgmental.  Don’t label the person with derogatory terms like “stupid” or use curse words.  Talk about a specific behavior you can see, rather than judging the whole person.
  10. Don’t nag or hound a person about their behavior unless they have told you that they want your help.  If you’ve talked about it clearly several times and they aren’t changing, then try to accept.

Receiving Feedback

  1. Ask for feedback and receive it openly.  If you feel yourself getting defensive, give yourself some time to calm down and think things through before responding.  “Let me think about it.”
  2. Do not make excuses, try to avoid getting mad, don’t seek revenge, and don’t ignore what’s being said or the person who’s saying it.  If you need time before responding, ask for it.
  3. Acknowledge whatever you can agree with in the feedback, and how it can be valuable to you.
  4. Express appreciation that they cared enough to give you feedback.
  5. Discuss it.  Don’t just say “thank you,” and let it drop.  (If you’re feeling too defensive, then you can plan to discuss it later, after having a chance to think about it.)
  6. View feedback as a continuing exploration.  Think about it and try to build upon it.  Let the other person know how you plan to work on yourself in light of what they said.
  7. Don’t look for motives or hidden meanings.
  8. Seek clarification if you’re not sure what the other person is telling you.
  9. Resist the temptation to point out how they have the same problem, or the temptation to fire back “tit for tat.”  When receiving feedback it’s time to focus on your own issues and how you could work on them.
  10. Negotiate or compromise to the degree that you feel comfortable.  But don’t forget, you grow most when you step slightly outside your comfort zone.
  11. Keep your core values in mind, and think about the feedback you got in that context.  If you find that after careful consideration, the feedback contradicts your core values, then be clear about your boundaries.   But if it fits, then this is an opportunity to work on yourself!
Categories : Relationships
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