Posts Tagged ‘sadness’

This Thing Called Therapy

Written by Sharon Coulter, MA, PPS, MA LMFT on . Posted in Blog

Counselor Advising Couple On Relationship Difficulties

Perhaps you’ve been thinking about therapy for a while but continue to find a reason not to take action:

– your husband, wife, partner won’t like it
– finances are tight
– what will you do with the kids?
– your job is taking everything out of you
– if you just wait, things will probably get better
– it’s too difficult to find a “good” therapist
– you can figure the problem out yourself
– you just don’t have the time–maybe next month, next year, when you finish …..

Sound familiar?

If you have little experience with therapy–or to be exact, psychotherapy–the idea can be scary, even overwhelming, so much so that rather than reach out for help, we can spend years living a life that is far from filled with the happiness and fulfillment we deserve. If our lives are chaotic, the evidence of something wrong is staring us in the face. However, often we have no idea of the cause of our sense of being stuck, sad, anxious or depressed; life may look fine on the outside; but inside we know something is wrong. Poor or absent parenting, trauma, and losses can undermine our ability to establish healthy boundaries for ourselves, set goals for our wellbeing and growth, and enter relationships that nurture us. Instead, we may develop self defeating behaviors that trap us in a never ending cycle that damages our sense of self and inhibits our confidence and ability to attract healthy partners, maintain loving relationships, and parent well.

The truth is that a ‘good” therapist is one that makes you feel comfortable, welcome, and safe to open up to. There are dozens of theories that therapists will draw on and perhaps one or more that they will specialize in, but the truth of the matter is that we sense when we have found the right therapist for that moment in time.  It may take several sessions for us to be able to share very vulnerable parts of ourselves, but usually if we follow our intuition in the first meeting, we know if we’ve found a good fit.

Therapists come in all shapes and sizes. Some are more formal, some more relaxed, more serious or less serious, listening oriented or action oriented, more directive or less directive, give assignments, don’t give assignments. Some therapists will have a fixed approach or style and others will have an eclectic style and adapt their expertise to best fit the client needs or wants. If you talk or meet with a therapist for the first time, you should get a really good feeling and want to go back. If this isn’t the case, don’t worry; call the next one on your list.

Helpful tips when looking for a therapist ….

1.  If you have insurance, call your plan to find out what your mental health benefits cover. Every insurance is different. Establish if you have an HMO or a PPO. Some have deductibles before the insurance will start paying for therapy.

2.  Ask your doctor, other health professionals, or consult community resources (your church or local associations) for referrals to therapists.

3.  On the Web search for therapists in your area or cross-reference referrals you receive to see if there is information about therapists in your area. Many post bios and may have websites.

4.  See how quickly the therapist calls you back. Ideally, you should receive a return call within 24 hours; if it’s longer than that, this may be an indication that the therapist has a heavy client load and may not be the optimal choice.

5.  Does he or she sound warm, friendly, and compassionate?

6.   If utilizing insurance, availability or financial considerations are a deal breaker for you, be up front about your needs or limitations. Better to find out at the start that something will or won’t work. If a therapist does not take your insurance, they may be open to a reduced fee that aligns with your budget.

7.  Keep in mind that good therapists will have your best interests at heart. If they don’t feel they are a fit for your situation or can’t work within your limitations, they will be honest and try to direct you elsewhere.

8.  Keep in mind that therapists have specialty areas such as individual therapy, family therapy, child therapy, working with adolescents, etc.  Don’t’ be shy about asking the therapist to talk about themselves, their experience, strengths and preferences. You are the consumer of their services and this is an investment of your time, energy and money.

Progress not Perfection

Written by Sharon Coulter, MA, PPS, MA LMFT on . Posted in Blog


PERFECTIONISM : a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable (Merriam-Webster)

Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, notions of perfect or imperfect are simply constructs of the mind created by our thoughts. Even so, striving to be perfect is a dangerous dance that can render our lives constricted and lonely, and rob us of all kinds of opportunities.

As I work with clients, I’m repeatedly struck by how harshly we can treat ourselves, and how expectations of perfectionism impose tremendous limitations on our ability to live healthy and happy lives. This is because shame is almost always the sister of perfection. Anxiety, fear of loss of control, procrastination, and depression are close cousins waiting in the wings.  Often the self-imposed demand to “be the best I can be” is a way to compensate for traumatic early life experiences that damaged our self esteem and left us with a sense of being unacceptable for who we are. Thus, pursuit of perfection is most often rooted in feelings of inadequacy that may be coupled with denial of anger, sadness, fear and a desperate need to avoid rejection at all costs. Striving to be perfect can threaten our mental and physical health and even take our life if we become consumed with having the perfect body, being the perfect student, the perfect wife/husband, son/daughter …

Our culture fuels a paradigm of achievement, productivity, and goal attainment and the upshot is that we can easily lose perspective on what it means to live well. We become more absorbed with our children’s grades than by their enthusiasm for learning and immerse ourselves in measuring our looks, our waists, our pocketbooks, our paychecks, our academic and professional accomplishments. Ironically, in the excessive amount of time spent judging ourselves for our perceived shortcomings, we miss the splendor and magic of the moment. We disconnect from living—humans doing as opposed to humans being. And when we’re not present centered, we can’t authentically connect with others.

My mother used to tell me, “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.” While I know she intended well  and was urging me to adopt high standards, I had the good sense to replace that phrase a long time ago and adopt a kinder mantra. “Progress not Perfection” is a saying I learned from working in the recovery community. There’s freedom and encouragement in this approach to living that spurs me on to try new things, set realistic goals, strive with balance, and focus on the experience, not the outcome.

Life is messy and relationships are messy, and that’s okay. The truth is we’re on a fantastic journey that is about exploring, unfolding, and expanding our minds. Our spiritual and psychological growth depends on making mistakes. Frustration and failure are really our friends, not our enemies. They stimulate perseverance, patience, compassion for others, and creativity. To be the best we can be, paradoxically, requires that we choose to relinquish the limitations of self- imposed demands, surrender to the process of life, and fly free.

“What I am is good enough, if I would only be it openly.” ~ Carl Rogers

Recommended reading on perfectionism: When Perfect isn’t Good Enough: Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism. Martin Antony, PhD