The Counselor's Bookshelf:
The Counselor's Bookshelf:
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, A therapist, her therapist, and our lives revealed is a guided tour through therapy. Lori Gottlieb invites us into her office to observe the gradual, often subtle, shifts clients make as they spend an hour a week on her couch. But she doesn't stop there. She also invites us to join her at her therapist's office where she shares her own process moving from "presenting problem" (boyfriend dumps her) to becoming a wiser, more forgiving and empowered version of herself.
This book is an easy read. Gottlieb's clear and engaging writing kept me turning the pages even as I neglected my to-do list and stayed up later than I knew I should. Like a master weaver she integrates her clients' stories with her own so that it becomes clear, chapter by chapter, that we are all united in our humanity. She makes it clear that by taking the time to sit with each other in the raw, and often painful place of authenticity, we also have the potential to reap great rewards in the form of greater intimacy, forgiveness and ultimately peace.
Although the book travels through challenging territory, addressing themes of death, traumatic loss, abandonment and abuse, the overall message is hopeful and the book ends with a sense of satisfaction that everyone, thanks to therapy, is a little (sometimes a lot) better off than when they started. While this is not always the case in life or in therapy, and she surely intentionally chose case studies to present that would allow her to end on a positive note, I still finished the book with the overall sense that what we do in the therapy office, whether we are the therapist or the client, has the potential to be deeply transformational for everyone involved.
Here's an excerpt:
This- right here, right now, between you and me- isn't therapy, but a story about therapy: how we heal and where it leads us. Like in those National Geographic Channel shows that capture the embryonic development and birth of rare crocodiles, I want to capture the process in which humans, struggling to evolve, push against their shells until they quietly (but sometimes loudly) and slowly (but sometimes suddenly) crack open...
One day, as I was innocently browsing the internet for something I can't remember now, Jenny Lawson's blog popped up. I knew right away that I had come across something special. She's bold and at times crass. She is completely unafraid of offending you or of grossing you out. She's also incredibly funny and deeply honest about life in this crazy, hard and inspiring world we live in. If you want to read her blog, The Bloggess, click HERE. I ordered her memoir, Furiously Happy, to give her irreverent sense of humor a try, and I loved it. She writes about silly things, and serious things in the same breath. She's honest about her crippling experiences with depression and anxiety, and she is honest about the time she inadvertently crashed a funeral. She merges levity with depth in ways that will make you laugh and cry and feel less alone in your own wild and woolly life.
Here's some advance praise for the book:
Here's an excerpt:
Right now you're holding this book in your hands and wondering if it's worth reading. It's probably not, but there's a $25 bill hidden in the binding so you should just buy it quickly before the clerk notices.
You are welcome.
Furiously Happy is the name of this book. It's also a little something that saved my life.
My grandmother used to say, "Into everyone's life a little rain must fall- rain, assholes, and assorted bullshit." I'm paraphrasing. But she was right. We all get our share of tragedy or insanity or drama, but what we do with that horror is what makes all the difference.
Full disclosure, I haven't finished this book yet. I'm only on page 87 but I read something on page 68 that I thought was awesome and I want to share it now. For those of you who aren't familiar with Brené Brown and her work, I recommend checking her out. Click HERE and HERE and HERE.
Brené writes, "What I've learned from the research and tried to put into practice in my own life sounds way simpler than it is: Give yourself permission to feel emotion, get curious about it, pay attention to it, and practice. This work takes practice. Awkward, uncomfortable practice." She goes on to describe how she actually writes permission slips for emotions and puts them in her pocket to carry into a meeting, or event, or new situation.
So let's think about this for a minute. What if we could give ourselves permission to feel what we're feeling at any given moment? I give myself permission to feel nervous about giving a presentation. I give myself permission to feel angry about a decision a co-worker makes. I feel guilty about saying no to a friend. Permission granted. I feel anxious for no reason at all. Permission granted.
This doesn't mean we act on those feelings. It doesn't mean we are right and someone else is wrong. It doesn't mean those feelings make sense. It just means that in any given moment, the way we are, what we're feeling, is OK. Acceptable. Respectable.
Once the permission slip is granted and we are able to allow what we're feeling to be what we're feeling, then we need to use our skills to figure out what to do about it. This is where some deep breaths, writing it out, going for a walk, or a myriad of other emotion regulation skills come in. But what Brené captures so simply here is that the first step is always to accept first and work through second. By allowing our emotions first we give them the respect and attention they deserve and we are able to learn the important information they impart.
One of the things I have noticed by practicing this myself is that I often ignore or reject emotions that seem to be contradictory and yet are arising at the same time. For example, I can feel happy AND tired after a positive social experience. If I think happy is the "normal" or "acceptable" emotion to be feeling I may ignore the tired feeling which also needs to be attended to. Here are some examples of ways I've given myself permission to feel everything...
Do you ever get a good idea and then watch it quickly mature and flourish in your imagination? You are reading from your newly published book to an enthusiastic crowd! You are being interviewed on Fresh Air! You are invited to give a TED talk or, if you're a therapist, you see your schedule full of beloved clients whose evolution and growth feels deeply rewarding while your bank account fills with well-deserved inflow of money. When the fantasy fades, you are back where you were when you started: full of good ideas, and with the glow of fruition still a long way off.
There's where you are now, there's where you want to be, and there's everything in between. It's in the space between the dreaming phase and the successful outcome phase where we spend most of our time, and where we can struggle to stay motivated, inspired, and focused. Lynn Grodzki's book, Building Your Ideal Private Practice: A guide for therapists and other healing professionals, offers a bridge between vision and final product. She guides us through the nuts and bolts of advertising, handling money, building an online presence, keeping clients, and other aspects of running a private practice. What is so magical about the book is how she integrates these practical tools with meditations, positive affirmations, and intuitive exercises that help to clarify vision, develop an abundance mindset and engage our creative, passionate, playful sides so often left out of the day-to-day realities of running a business. When I feel stuck, bored, discouraged, or unclear, I open this book and am reminded of the possibilities inherent in each moment, and the practical tools that will help make those possibilities a reality. I highly recommend this book.
Here's an excerpt:
Send Love to Your Practice
Years ago I developed a meditation to enhance therapists' feelings of goodwill and love toward their businesses. I teach this same meditation in almost every presentation or workshop I lead because it does so much good so quickly providing therapists with a quick antidote to fear-based thinking. In the space of the five minutes it takes to complete the meditation, I see therapists make a shift. As they contemplate sending love to their businesses, their faces change. Furrowed brows become smooth, tense jaws lift up into soft smiles, hunched shoulders relax. Here's a written transcript of the meditation. Ask someone to read it to you or make your own tape. Then sit back, listen, and send love to your practice...
I love beautiful things, especially beautiful art, so I get excited at calendar buying time (aka, December). It's a chance to purchase 12 prints of images I like and hang them on my wall to enjoy throughout the year. Usually I try to stick to one or two calendars I hang in my home and office... but this year, I found myself buying a third. This one, Nikki McClure's 2018 offering, had to come home with me. I'll tell you why: The art is beautiful and inspiring; but more than that, the words chosen as a theme for each month remind me of what I do, daily, in my therapy practice. (Click on the calendar image to follow a link to Nikki's website).
Here are my thoughts on each month's theme:
January: RECTIFY- We repair our mistakes, apologize, make right what we made wrong. We let other's know where they have harmed us. We heal our relationship with ourselves, halting self criticism and embracing a more loving way of relating to our experiences.
February: RENEW- We let go of what is over, set free what needs releasing, and clear out our closets to make room for the new. We forgive. We shed our skin so our new, bright, shiny coat can be seen. We plant seeds, dream, scheme and find inspiration in life's incessant insistence on creation.
I recently stumbled upon this article by Carolina Gonzáles in the On Being blog. It talks about the decision to have children, or not, and also about the roles we play in our extended families given those decisions. She looks at assumptions we have about what the nuclear family consists of in the United States, and in her native country of the Dominican Republic where family lines extend well beyond the immediate family. We are moving out of a period in history when having children is expected if you have a partner and the biological ability, and into one in which we can choose to be parents, to adopt, foster, or otherwise play supportive roles (or not) in the lives of the next generation. I appreciate this thoughtful, expressive and honest piece about the bittersweet nature of the decisions we face today, and the ways we can and can't be there for each other as we create 21st century families.
Here's an excerpt from Carolina's essay:
In mainstream U.S. culture, aunts and uncles have no special status. The focus is on the sanctity of the nuclear family, with some indulgence granted to grandparents and their doting.
I just finished reading Option B: Facing adversity, building resilience, and finding joy, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. The book tells the story of the sudden death of Dave Goldberg, Sheryl's husband, and her family's process of rebuilding their lives after. It strikes a nice balance between personal narrative and how-to manual for overcoming hardship and building resilience. Adam Grant's contribution, as a psychologist and educator, rounds out the story by providing research and relevant advice for moving through a period of pain and struggle and reclaiming joy.
One of the tools they talk about is the Three P's. The following excerpt explains how this tool can be useful in getting out of the stuck places our mind takes us in stressful circumstances:
We plant the seeds of resilience in the ways we process negative events. After spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, psychologist Martin Seligman found that three P's can stunt recovery:
One of the tools we teach at the outpatient mental health treatment program where I work is G.L.A.D. Here's how it works: When you're feeling sad, depressed, in a rut, discouraged, or find yourself the guest of honor at tonight's Pity Party, give this tool a try.
Come up with at least one example of:
G- Something you're grateful for
L- Something you learned today
A- Something you accomplished today
D- Something that brings you delight
I like this technique because it goes beyond the simple gratitude list, which I can easily scoff at when I'm feeling down. It forces me to reframe my day into experiences and accomplishments that I can take responsibility for (Yes, I DID accomplish something today). It also forces me to move out of focusing on the negative and into a frame of mind where delight is possible.
Here's my GLAD list for today:
The Counselor's Bookshelf:
Sharing the books, articles, podcasts, and other resources I'm drawing from personally, and in my work as a counselor.