The Art of Listening

Written by sharon on . Posted in Blog, Therapy

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the verb lis-ten as “to hear something with thoughtful attention.” As I work with clients, I’m reminded repeatedly of how difficult this is for the trained therapist let alone those who are just going about their lives. Yet,  to quiet the minutiae of data—past, present and future tasks and concerns—constantly swirling in our heads, is what it takes to really listen and be present for another. And in the end, perhaps what we all want and need more than anything, is to be heard.

The truth is that even when we can quiet our chattering minds, usually our brain is busy either preparing a rebuttal to what we are hearing “Yes, but ….” , or busy rehearsing what we’re going to say as soon as the person stops speaking. As parents, spouses and friends the ability to listen with empathy is especially critical for healthy relationships and keeping open a clear and caring line of communication. What do I mean by that? Listening with empathy means immersing yourself in the other’s experience with the purpose of better understanding that individual. There is no other expectation. If you find you’re having difficulty following what the person is saying, ask questions from a place of curiosity, as though you were a detective unraveling a mystery. The beauty of this approach is that answers to our concerns come to us more easily when we feel calmly listened to and understood.

For parents I encourage you to try the following exercise 2-3 times each week. Establish a time when you and your child/adolescent have time together to talk. The goal of this time together is for you to better understand your child. Find a place where you and your child will not be interrupted by other siblings. You can even give your time together a name, for example, your “special time” or your “alone time.” This is very meaningful for children. For spouses, committing to establishing listening times for each of you is excellent for decreasing the level of tension in your relationship and bringing you closer. The three golden rules are: no distractions; neither of you can talk about the relationship, kids, home or work; and neither partner can comment on what the other shared. In your own words, just let your partner know that you’re interested in understanding them better, and you appreciate them “sharing” with you. A walk together may provide the perfect time for this exercise. You’ll be surprised by what you learn about one another!

Remember, listening is an art and like anything else to be a good listener takes practice. When in doubt about whether you’re doing it well, just keep in mind that the word “listen” contains the same letters as the word “silent.”

Dealing with the Holiday Blues?

Written by sharon on . Posted in Blog, Therapy

As we move past Thanksgiving and into the December holiday season, you may be among the many folks who find these celebrations stressful and anxiety provoking. That’s right, despite all the hoop-la and decorations, for many people the emotional intensity of the holidays may seem overwhelming.

Perhaps one of the following sounds familiar:  Reminders of loss? Challenging family reunions? Fears of overeating?  Financial distress? Isolation and loneliness? If you know you’re prone to the holiday blues, take heart in knowing you’re not alone and that there are steps you can take to help you feel more in control and transition through this challenging time.

Check List:

  • Socialize or volunteer through a church or community center where you can be with others. Not only will this help you feel more connected, helping others raises our own sense of purpose.
  • Exercise every day – either outdoors or at the gym. Working out is the best way to increase the natural endorphins that make us feel happier.
  • Teach yourself some meditative belly breathing to center yourself when anxiety arises.
  • Minimize your TV time and choose programs that are uplifting and make you laugh.
  • Enjoy holiday foods but make sure you eat plenty of greens and fruits as well.
  • Maximize self care – do things that make you feel good about yourself.
  • Remember your friendship and kindness are the most important gifts you can give to others.

The good news is that in allowing ourselves to feel and share difficult feelings, we can move through them and live a more authentic and meaningful life. This is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.

What Is Choice Theory?

Written by sharon on . Posted in Blog, Choice Theory, Custom_Home_page, Therapy

Choice Theory, developed by Dr. William Glasser, is the explanation of human behavior based on internal motivation. As Dr. Glasser explains in the most recent of his widely read books, Choice Theory, all of our behavior is chosen as we continually attempt to meet one or more of the five basic needs that are part of our genetic structure.

Choice Theory posits that behavior is central to our existence and is driven by five genetically driven needs, similar to those of Abraham Maslow. They are: Survival; Love and Belonging; Power; Freedom; and Fun.

An understanding of these needs as well as the other major components of Choice Theory (the Basic Needs, the Quality World, the Perceived World, the Comparing Place, and the Total Behavior System) can help us build and maintain better relationships with the important people in our lives and lead happier, more satisfying lives.

Choice Theory has been successfully implemented, internationally, in schools, organizations and treatment programs. In the therapeutic setting, it aligns with a cognitive behavioral approach that many clients who are motivated to change find empowering.

The Ten Axioms of Choice Theory

  1. The only person whose behavior we can control is our own.
  2. All we can give another person is information.
  3. All long-lasting psychological problems are relationship problems.
  4. The problem relationship is always part of our present life.
  5. What happened in the past has everything to do with what we are today, but we can only satisfy our basic needs right now and plan to continue satisfying them in the future.
  6. We can only satisfy our needs by satisfying the pictures in our Quality World.
  7. All we do is behave.
  8. All behavior is Total Behavior and is made up of four components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology
  9. All Total Behavior is chosen, but we only have direct control over the acting and thinking components. We can only control our feeling and physiology indirectly through how we choose to act and think.
  10. All Total Behavior is designated by verbs and named by the part that is the most recognizable.

Dr. William Glasser, an internationally recognized psychiatrist, is the creator of Reality Therapy and the theory that undergirds it, Choice Theory. This therapeutic approach is used world wide in schools, businesses, and the counseling and therapy environments. More information about this approach is available at http://wglasser.com/the-glasser-approach