Three Indicators You Are Getting Better Through Therapy

Source: Google images

One of the challenges clients face when entering therapy is knowing whether they are improving. Unlike coaching, where clients enter the process with clearly stipulated goals (not dissimilar to hiring a golf coach to improve your swing), therapy is much deeper, and clients often come in with great distress. They only knew one thing in starting therapy: they want the pain to end, all of it!

But pain will always be with us. In fact, to hurt is human.

Due to their great distress, clients can hold on to the notion that therapy should get rid of all their pain. It doesn’t and it is not meant to. What therapy does is to help individuals, couples, and families learn how to manage pain and conflict more effectively.

Perfection is not the goal of therapy. Therapy is to help you improve in your process to the point where you can continue to improve on your own, ready to terminate your work with your therapist. The pain is still there, but you can move on.

A client once asked me, “if the pain is still there, how can you know if you are improving?” Here are three helpful indicators.

(1) Shorter duration of the negative occurrence.

If you are struggling with deep sadness over a loss, there may still be moments of pain, but it does not last as long. For example, rather than feeling the sadness the entire night, it only last half the night. That’s an improvement!

For a couple, if an argument typically lasted 30 minutes, being able to end it after 20 minutes is an improvement! Or if the argument used to result in a silent treatment that lasted a week, finding yourselves returning back into normal conversation within 3 days, although still not ideal, is an improvement as well!

(2) Lesser intensity of the negative occurrence.

There is a difference between feeling so sad that you want to end your life and feeling so sad that you don’t want to go out and hang out with friends. Even though the sadness that causes you to stay at home is still quite intense, it is lesser in intensity than the sadness that leads to wanting to commit suicide. It is an indictor that things are getting better, even if just a bit. Give yourself a hug even for that tiny bit of improvement!

For a couple, the argument that used to result in slamming doors may now only result in raised voices. Or instead of using profanity and blaming, the words are now more consciously chosen to lessen the impact on the partner — for example, instead of “you are a f**king idiot!” the words become “I am feeling really angry at you!” These are small indicators that help us to realise that the intensity is lessening. Build on them, continue to stay in a state where you can be engaged in productive conversation and remain more reasonable.

(3) Longer duration between negative occurrences.

Lastly, you know you are improving when the bad spells happen less frequently. The length of time between bouts of sadness is longer. Instead of feeling sad every night, you notice that there are times when sadness is not experienced for two nights in a row. That’s a great sign!

For a couple, instead of finding yourselves arguing once every two to three days, the arguments now happen once every two weeks. Yes, there are still conflicts, but they are lessening, which is a cause for celebration!

 

Focusing on the improvements–even small improvements–is much better than focusing on the negative occurrences and feeling frustration that they are still there. In therapy, the tendency is to want to get rid of all negativity because of how distressing it has been. But that does not help. Choose to focus on the small positives instead — it will help to improve the recovery process!


© Johnben Loy, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Johnben Loy and www.johnbenloy.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Handling Disagreements — Remaining True While Staying Connected

 

When disagreements arise, it can be difficult to stay connected with the disagreeing person and yet remain true to yourself at the same time. If feels more natural to either blame the other person or to walk away. But if we are to grow into emotional and relational maturity and wellness, we must learn to be able to ask and manage this question in times of conflict:

How can I be fully me and fully us at the same time?

Put it slightly differently: “I want to be true to myself (to be fully me) while I stay connected to you (to remain us), even when we disagree. How can I do that with you?”

I learned this idea from one of my family therapy supervisors many years ago:  move from “either/or” thinking to “both/and” thinking.

We often think in “either/or” terms especially when we are caught up in a fight-or-flight mode during a conflict. Being able to engage in  “both/and” thinking instead gives us new power for creative collaboration.

How does it work?

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A Willingness to Part Well Might Save Your High-Conflict Marriage

Source: Google images.

Preface: I work with high-conflict couples stuck in dysfunctional relationship patterns for many years. This post is for such couples. It does not apply to the average  couple who might have short-term disagreements here and there.

The first time I see a couple for an intake session, I take time to explain to them how therapy works. For individuals, I emphasise the importance of the client’s willingness to take up the ownership of his or her own change. For couples, the story is a bit more complex.

I will say to the couple: “Many couples come in to see me hoping that therapy will cause their spouse to change. But if you have been in any longterm relationship, you will know the answer to this question: Is it possible change your spouse if he or she does not see eye-to-eye with you on that change?”

Most will answer, “No.”

I will continue, “So if you cannot change your spouse, what can you do?”

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New Blog Focus: Living & Leading Well

Starting in 2018, my blog will have a distinct focus. I will be writing practical, readable articles to help busy executives and discerning homemakers with helpful advice for “living and leading well.”

What do I mean by “living and leading well?” Basically, how to be happy in life and family, and how to achieve success as managers and leaders in the workplace.

The fundamentals for positive living in both family and work are actually the same. First, manage yourself. Second, manage your relationships.

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Expat Support Group in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur)

[UPDATE: Rekindle’s Expat Support Group’s first meeting was a success, and from participant feedback, we will be running meetings twice a month. Click here for the latest brochure information.]

Most people think of the expat life as easy and filled with perks and benefits. What is not seen are the INVISIBLE STRESSORS of expat living:

– Difficulty adjusting to cultures and languages
– Inability to get the right foods for your family’s diet
– Concerns about physical safety
– Changes in lifestyle (e.g. “my husband is hardly ever home now”)
– Grief and loss of relationships with family and friends

…and the list goes on.

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Rethinking Work-Life Balance: 3 Helpful Reframes

As I was leaving for work, my son came running to hug me. I had stayed out late working the last few days and did not see much of him. His eyes misted over while we hugged and a pang of guilt hit me. “I really suck at this work-life balance thing,” I thought myself. For the rest of the day, I mulled over why achieving balance can be so difficult.

Source: Google images

When we think of the word “balance,” the picture that comes to mind most often is that of a weighing scale. A weighing scale implies fairness — a static fairness. When one side dips down, it is necessarily unfair to the other side. Balance is a static state that is only achieved when both sides are equal.

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Date Your Spouse Online!

online-dating
Source: Google images.

Want to give your marital blahs a little lift? Try this online dating profile activity for married couples.

My wife and I have been married for more than 15 years. In fact, next month will mark our 16th anniversary together. We have gone through our fair share of ups and downs, and like many couples, after a while of doing regular life, things can get dull.

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