Having spent many years working in customer service before starting my career as a therapist, I have long been aware of the idea of turning complaints into requests, or as it was usually put, into opportunities to build relationships. Essentially, by responding to a customer’s complaint with understanding and actively seeking out a solution you turn that interaction around. They go from having a negative experience to having one that they will be glad to report to their friends and family while singing your praises.
What does this have to do with relationships? I would argue that just as a complaint from a customer is actually a request in disguise, the same holds true for relationships. Whether the parties involved are friends, relatives, or lovers when someone is complaining about YOU what they are really doing is making a request. Of course, when someone is complaining about you the likelihood that you will hear their complaint as a request is pretty minimal. Instead, you’re more likely to feel attacked and either counterattack that person or retreat (physically or emotionally) to avoid their “attack”.
But, I hear you saying, she ALWAYS leaves her toenail clippings on the bathroom counter and she knows I hate that. Don’t I have the right to complain?! Well, sure. It’s perfectly understandable that we become irritated with others from time to time because of things they do that annoy us. But ask yourself this, do you want the person to know that you’re annoyed or do you want them to behave differently? If you want them to become recalcitrant and you want them to remind you about the things that you do which annoy them, then by all means complain away. If you want them to listen to what you’re saying and entertain your point of view, then you will fare much better making a request.
Does that mean I can never complain about anything, you might wonder? There’s a song from the 1960’s by The Byrds called “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and it says that there is a time for everything. If your boss really got under your skin today and you would like to complain about it to your partner I think that is a wonderful idea. Relationships are supposed to be buffers from stress and one of the ways it works is your partner provides a safe place to share your frustration. However, if your partner does something that bothers you, instead of complaining, take a moment and rephrase the complaint in your mind as a request and then present the request to your partner. I think that you will find they are much more receptive to your request than they will be to a complaint. This doesn’t just apply to your partner however; this applies to anyone in your life that you have a relationship with.
What about on the other end of things? If your partner is complaining about something that you have done, can you pause and try to figure out what the request is behind their complaint? This can be a difficult task but doing so might stave off conflict and help build your relationship. First, you’ll need to ignore that gut reaction which tells you to point out what they have done that you don’t like, thereby launching your own complaint right back at them. Or maybe for you in that moment you just want to tune them out and get away from the situation. Either response does not address the underlying issue and leads your partner to feel that they have gone unheard. Instead, acknowledge what your partner has said by rephrasing and checking that you understand what they meant. Notice, you are not necessarily saying that you agree at this point, you are simply checking that you have understood. Next, ask your partner what they would like you to do differently. Again, repeat back to them what they have said and make sure that your understanding matches their intention. From here you can either agree to try and fill your partners request, or you can discuss your thoughts and feelings about the request if you do not fully agree. Whatever the outcome, I’m sure you can see how this will leave both people feeling much better than doing things the old way of complaining, having an argument, then not speaking about it until it comes up again as a complaint.
For more information about turning complaints into requests click here.
If you would like to work on improving your relationships give me a call at (706) 534-8558 or e-mail me at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com to discuss setting up an initial appointment.
We’ve all seen those “click bait” links on the side of an article, or as we’re scrolling through social media. There really is a “weird trick” that you can try if you want to improve the frequency of love making. This applies if you’re married or in a long-term relationship, if you’re a heterosexual couple or a same-sex couple. I will say, because of social scripts that tell us how a man and woman are to behave in a heterosexual marriage, this may be more of an issue for those types of relationships. Hopefully you’ll understand once I reveal the “weird trick”.
So, what turns men and women in long term relationships off in the United States? Per a 2013 study “Both women (49 percent) and men (37 percent) say stress causes them to lose their desire for sex more than anything else. Other top distractors include exhaustion for women (46 percent) and having an argument with their spouse for men (29 percent). A third of women and a fifth of men say lack of romance is a factor, too.” Put a pin in that because we’re going to come back to it.
I have some GREAT news for you. Guys, do I have your attention? Ladies, you listen up too. Throw away that bottle of cologne with pheromones, you don’t need to buy two dozen roses, and don’t even think about that “aphrodisiac” you saw in the bathroom vending machine of the service station. You likely already have all the ingredients you need to brew up a homemade aphrodisiac. It can be sort of messy so guys you should probably put on some gloves, safety goggles could come in handy, and an apron wouldn’t hurt. Ladies, change into your most comfortable around the house clothes, maybe pour a glass of wine.
Now listen up because here’s the “one weird trick”. Guys, I want you to go into the kitchen and run a sinkful of HOT, soapy water. Pay attention because this next step is key! You have a sinkful of hot, soapy water? Grab a sponge, a brush, or some similar cleaning implement and I want you to wash the dishes. Bonus points for drying them and putting them away. See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? The next step is important too. I want you to grab a broom or a vacuum cleaner and clean the floor. If you’re up for a challenge and you really want to seal the deal throw some laundry on before you start the dishes. Are you getting turned on yet guys? No? That’s okay, you’re not supposed to be aroused by cleaning the house. But your partner? Well she might want to rip that apron right off you.
According to numerous studies cited by AARP.ORG, the more housework men do the more sex they have. And that’s the “one weird trick”. Remember earlier we learned that stress and exhaustion are major turn offs for women. By pitching in and taking on some of those household chores you are allowing your partner to relax. If you have children and you help with the kids she may have time to switch from mom mode to sexy wife mode (as opposed to bathing the kids, putting them to bed, and then being expected to immediately feel like having sex). Further, it shows her that you respect her and appreciate her.
We’re asking men to pitch in and do some of the household chores. What about women, what role can you play in this? Speak up and let your partner know what you need help with. There is a video on social media about the “magic table” that takes care of things whenever this husband leaves his things there. He leaves dirty dishes and they “magically” take themselves into the kitchen and get washed. The basket of laundry he left on the table? It “magically” folded itself and puts itself away. The video is jesting about it but I suspect many men take for granted what the women in their lives do for them and the whole household. Women, don’t let them take you for granted.
Of course, all of this centers around good communication, whether that means letting your spouse know that you would like to have sex more often, or you would like to come home and prop your feet up while someone else cooks dinner. Then, if your request is met, show appreciation and gratitude so that your partner is encouraged to keep doing it.
Want to know how your sex life is going? Fill out this quiz and ask your partner to fill it out separately. Then call me to set up an appointment if you have some issues you’d like to work on.
Aaron Kirkwood, LAMFT
(706) 534 – 8558
We at Counseling Associates for Well-being value our ability to provide a much needed service to the individuals in our community. Part of that commitment includes offering reduced fee services. I wanted to take some time to let people know that this is an option and what it means.
- Who qualifies for reduced fee services? There is not strict requirement for reduced fee services. We offer a reduced fee to those that have a financial need, and cannot pay the regular full fee. We do not ask for proof of income or some similar qualifier. This is a confidential determination made between client and therapist.
- What is the reduced fee? There is not one set reduced fee. Rather, an agreement is reached between client and therapist about what is affordable to the client but fair to the therapist.
- Do I get the same services as everyone else? Absolutely! You will see your therapist for a full 1-hour session just like anyone else. Your level of care will be on par with clients who pay using private insurance or who pay the full fee.
- If I have insurance can I still see a therapist for a reduced fee? There are various reasons that people with health insurance choose not to use it to pay for services. Some people have a very high deductible and would have to pay full fee until that deductible is met. If your deductible is $10,000 you’re unlikely to meet that deductible until the 6th Tuesday in Neveruary. Health insurance providers require a diagnosis in order to pay for services and some people prefer not to have a diagnosis on their permanent health record. If, for any reason, you choose not to use your health insurance and cannot afford to pay full fee for services you are welcome to make use of our reduced fee services. Health insurance may not cover your issue if you’re looking for couples or family counseling anyway. We are happy to offer those services, in addition to individual therapy, at a reduced fee as well.
- Who would I see in your practice? Currently I have spaces available for clients who need a reduced fee. Please view my information on our website or at Psychology Today to see if you feel that my services would be a good match for you.
If you’ve been feeling that therapy would be beneficial for you but weren’t sure you could afford it, please give me a call today. If you know someone who might benefit from seeing a therapist but may not be able to pay a full fee for services, please pass along my information. You can reach me by phone at (706) 534 – 8558 or e-mail me at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com
Election anxiety is not unheard of in the United States as we carry out the process of electing a President every four years. Political scientists will no doubt study the election of 2016 for many years to come. Americans in general were hoping that November 8th would end the fractious campaigns and alleviate much of the anxiety that the majority of Americans were experiencing during the election season. According to the American Psychological Association, 52% of Americans reported that the election was a significant source of anxiety and stress ( Unfortunately, for many Americans the aftermath of the election has only increased their feelings of anxiety.)
Some people have been left feeling depressed or afraid, others angry because they don’t feel that the democratic process is being respected. Many people are having adverse reactions not to the election itself but to the conflict they are witnessing between others over the election. It seems election anxiety has taken on many forms in the days following election day. One of the major sources of stress affecting people post-election is social media. The anonymity of the internet means that people allow their anger and their fear to override their better nature and their social graces. These fractures reverberate through friendships and families. I have personally seen more than one person threaten to “skip Thanksgiving!” All the while there are those individuals who just want everyone to get along. Friends and family member’s social media feeds become battlegrounds putting them in the uncomfortable position of feeling like they are stuck in the middle of a fight not of their choosing. Some individuals who grew up in divided, fractious homes may be triggered by all the fighting and negativity.
It may feel like the conflict is everywhere, at home, at work, and definitely on social media. How do Americans who feel particularly anxious, angry, or fearful cope in this time of continued political tension? These tips might help:
- Turn off the news. Continued exposure to the aftermath of the election on the news is likely to only increase your anxiety.
- Take a timeout from social media. We all know that social media is a sea of memes and misinformation. The compulsion to respond leads to conflict which generally results in everyone involved getting worked up, feeling more stressed, and ruminating on the “battle”.
- Understand that people have the right to their feelings. Yes, even when those feelings directly contradict your own. Every person has a unique lived experience which gives us all a unique perspective. The important thing to remember is that these unique perspectives are all valid.
- Check out these mindful strategies designed to reduce anxiety.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by election anxiety and find yourself without social support at this time you might consider speaking with a professional in order to process your feelings and find a safe place where you can feel supported and listened to.
Contact me today and let’s work together to find coping strategies for yourself and deal with possible conflicts during the coming holidays. Call me at (706) 534-8558 or e-mail at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com to setup an appointment.
The Magic Five Hours is not a brand new concept from Dr. John Gottman. After reading about it, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about it sooner. Just like so much else that has been developed by the Gottman Institute over the years the idea behind the Magic Five Hours is quite simple. Yet it is immediately impactful to almost any relationship. This was not surprising as I have come to expect nothing less from the Gottman Institute and their research-informed strategies for improving relationships. At its core, the Magic Five Hours is about enhancing, or re-establishing, the emotional connection in our most intimate relationships.
How many of us have felt time slipping past while our best intentions for ourselves and our relationships seem to be neglected and put off until tomorrow? Guilty as charged. The Magic Five Hours is a way to illustrate that you don’t need to spend a lot of time to make a big impact on your relationship. Just five hours a week can help you feel more connected to your partner. The Magic Five Hours are actually broken up into blocks of minutes so that it becomes much easier for even the busiest couple to understand how they can incorporate these connection enhancing techniques.
|The five magic hours||Small investments in time, big relationship return|
|1.) Partings||2 mins/work day X 5 days/week = 10 mins- Find out one thing about your partner’s plans for the day|
|2.) Reunioins||20 mins/work day X 5 days/week = 1 hour 40 mins- Find out how your partner’s day went|
|3.) Admiration/appreciation||5 mins/day X 7 days/week = 35 mins-Find one thing to admire/appreciate about your partner|
|4.) Affection||5 mins/day X 7 days/week = 35 mins- Find time to kiss, hug, touch, laugh with your partner|
|5.) Date||2 hours/week = 2 hours- Find time to spend alone with your partner|
|Small daily investments||Add up to Five Magic Hours!|
Check out this video for a discussion of The Five Magic Hours.
If you follow this simple formula you should feel more connected with your spouse. You will each be more aware of what the other is experiencing on a daily basis. The Five Magic Hours can also be a great stress reducer because it makes time in your schedule to share with your partner what might have bothered you about work. The reunions act as a buffer between work stress and time at home with your partner allowing you each an equal opportunity to get things off your chest as you transition out of “work mode” and into “home mode”. The 2 hours of alone time can be particularly important for couples with children. It’s not always easy to make arrangements to have that alone time but it is a clear signal, a way of saying to your partner and yourself, that I value our relationship and I am willing to invest time into “us”.
I prefer to think of the Five Magic Hours as a general outline that can be tweaked to suit your relationship needs so long as the spirit of enhancing your connection is maintained. As an example, if you are a couple who does not have children it may be less necessary to find two hours a week to spend alone. If you feel that your “love life” is suffering, you might put more emphasis on the affection component. One of the suggestions from Gottman is to try a six second kiss. Six seconds does not sound like a lot of time but if you close your eyes and count out six seconds while imaging that you’re kissing your partner you will see that six seconds is pretty substantial for a kiss.
Do you feel your relationship could use a tune up? Please call me at (706) 534-8558 or e-mail me at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com and let’s set up an appointment to help improve your connection using the Five Magic Hours.
Anxiety is a significant issue in our society today. Fear and anxiety can be difficult emotions to manage. Rushing from one event to the next, meeting deadlines, and juggling constant interruptions throughout our day can lead to an overwhelming sense of stress, fear and worry. You may be one of the many who has suffered from anxiety since childhood. You may be anxious about life in general with no particular reason. Or, you may find yourself avoiding social situations or social interactions to avoid feeling tense, shaky, or fatigued.
Some anxiety is actually quite normal and healthy. For instance, mild anxiety about an upcoming test may motivate us to study. However, extreme anxiety after becoming very familiar with the test material to the extent of losing sleep, may indicate a problem. Some elevated apprehension or fear of entering a dark alley alone may keep you safe by changing your mind about entering the dark alley. However, extreme fear of leaving one’s home may indicate something more drastic. Trauma from childhood or recent events may certainly cause present day symptoms of irrational fears and worries.
Some of the symptoms of general anxiety include,
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty sleeping
- fatigue and/or exhaustion
- muscle tension
- repeated stomachaches or diarrhea
- sweating palms
Symptoms of panic disorder may include,
- shaking and/or sweating
- rapid heartbeat
- numbness/tingling of different parts of the body
- sudden, repeated attacks of intense fear
- feeling like you are out of control
- intense worry about when the next attack will happen
Symptoms of social anxiety may include
- feeling highly anxious in the company of others and difficulty expressing yourself with them.
- self-consciousness in the presence of others
- significant concern about feeling humiliated, embarrassed, or rejected
- fear of being judged by others
- worrying for days or weeks before an event where others will be in attendance
- avoiding places where there are other people
- having a hard time making and keeping friends
- blushing, sweating, trembling, feeling nauseous or sick around others
Treatments for all types of anxiety disorders have progressed over the past 10-15 years and are very effective in reducing anxiety symptoms. Evidenced-based treatment strategies include mindfulness practice and other strategies found in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, relaxation and meditation techniques, response-prevention strategies, and Brief/Solution-based Therapy. A skilled therapist can help you to decide which techniques would work best to manage your anxiety. If you are seeking to reduce your anxiety, stress, worry, or fears, contact me for an appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-425-8900 ext. 717.
Test anxiety can make an already difficult time in your life seem unbearable. You studied really hard but then your mind goes blank when the test paper is in front of you. You start to sweat, you feel short of breath, and you keep telling yourself “I’m going to run out of time before I finish. I just know it!”
Overcoming, or at least diminishing text anxiety, starts long before exam day. It starts with smart, efficient study habits, healthy eating and sleeping habits, practicing deep breathing techniques. and changing your attitude from one of inevitable failure to feeling positive that you CAN do well on tests. Easy to say right? It can be more difficult in practice because test anxiety, like most other forms of anxiety, stems from our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts.
What is happening inside your body and inside your brain when you experience test anxiety? Fear, in this case fear of failing a test, getting kicked out of school, feeling ashamed to tell your parents, etc. causes your brain to kick into survival mode. When this happens your cortex (the rational, reasonable part of your brain) is essentially bypassed. Your brain says, “Hey we don’t have time to think, we have to act now!” Of course, if you’re being chased by a tiger that is a good thing! However, when you’re preparing to take a chemistry final that is a very bad thing. Here is an interesting video about what happens to your brain when you experience anxiety.
Your brain also sends signals to your body, readying it for fleeing or fighting to survive. This restricts blood flow to “non-essential” functioning and increases breathing (which can lead to hyperventilation). This can become a sort of positive feedback loop where you feel like you can’t breathe, which heightens your anxiety, which in turns causes your brain to continue signaling the body to take in that extra oxygen further pushing you towards hyperventilation. All of this can happen in a matter of minutes at the beginning of an exam causing test anxiety.
The Mayo Clinic has some suggestions for combating test anxiety. Again, the key to overcoming test anxiety is to start preparing long before test time. You may have spent a lot of time studying but if your study habits are not efficient and effective you may still feel at a loss on test day. Make use of your college or university’s study prep resources. These may be in the form of a course that you can take, tutoring, or a study skills workshop. Many students who did exceptional work throughout their academic career leading up to college never learned effective study skills because they were not needed at the time. These same bright students come to college without the tools necessary to study effectively and they cannot understand why they aren’t doing well. I know because I was one of those students.
My personal experience is that reading the material before class helped me tremendously. If I read the material ahead of time then when I was exposed to it again during lectures I was more likely to absorb it or if I did not understand I was able to recognize this and ask questions while we were still on that topic in class. This sort of preparation helped me feel more prepared when exam day rolled around.
Relaxation techniques such as control breathing and meditation can also be helpful but they need to be practiced ahead of time. Remember that your brain is not functioning fully when you are already experiencing test anxiety. Getting a good night’s sleep, in general, but particularly the night before an exam is critical. Positive self-talk will help you combat the negative thoughts (“I’m going to fail I just know it!”) that help to trigger the test anxiety. Sometimes though the anxiety feels overwhelming and that’s when you may want to seek the help of a counselor, either at your school or in the community.
Do you need help dealing with test anxiety, or general anxiety? Contact me at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com or call 706-425-8900 ext 716 to set up an appointment today.
Many individuals have experienced some form of trauma in their lives, ranging from mild to catastrophic. The good news is the recovery from a traumatic event is more than possible, it is a true probability. Evidence based treatment methods, to include EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Memory Reconsolidation Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Yoga, and relaxation/meditation techniques are instrumental in providing relief and recovery for some of the debilitating symptoms of a past traumatic experience. Evidence based treatment methods used in counseling have proven time and again to work as well as, and sometimes better than, psychiatric medications which are typically used to treat depression and anxiety.
The interesting thing about traumatic experiences are the varying degrees with which individuals perceive the same experience. For instance, a car accident could potentially prevent someone from riding in a car for as much as the following year. Another person may have the same type of accident but experience it much differently with different effects. Maybe the second person is okay to hop in the driver’s seat the next day after a major accident. We are all unique and experience this world in various ways. No matter what the outcome, it is possible to rise above the despair and fear, no matter how great or small, and to overcome any distress or symptom which may linger.
The loud sound of a crowd, horns beeping in traffic, sudden noises, particular places, certain smells, or any trigger which leads to the memory or response of the trauma can lead to extreme discomfort, to say the least. Don’t give up hope. Help is just around the corner and counseling can have significant results in alleviating your symptoms! If you would like to speak with me regarding the techniques, please do not hesitate to call me at (706) 425-8900 ext. 717 or email me at email@example.com.
Janet W. Beasley, LPC
Active listening sounds like a pretty simple and easy thing to do yet when I work with couples it’s one of the skills that we spend a lot of time on. I often have each partner roleplay what I call the two roles in any productive conversation. One partner is the Speaker and the other is the Listener. Your role as the Listener, and this is the most crucial role I believe, is to make sure that you have really “heard” what your partner is saying. I don’t just mean that you can parrot their actual words back at them. Anyone can do that if they are half-listening. The role of the Listener is about making sure that what the Speaker intended is what the Listener understood them to be saying. As the Listener you have to give the Speaker your undivided attention, that means no only turning off the TV and putting away the cellphone, it also means blocking out your own mental distractions. You cannot simultaneously be listening and formulating your response at the same time.
Active listening doesn’t just help with intimate relationships. You will find that if you practice the skills in this blog it will help you get along better with co-workers and friends and maybe, if you’re lucky, your in-laws.
Check out this post from the Gottman blog about active listening and read their tips for improving your communication, which will likely improve your relationship.
Their tips include:
Focus on being interested, not interesting. – Don’t sit the entire time the other person is speaking in anticipation of telling your own story. Absorb what they are saying and know that you will get a chance to express yourself as well.
Ask questions – Don’t just leave it up to the Speaker. Instead actively engage them by asking questions. Ask about their thoughts and feelings so that you can clarify what they are trying to get across to you. If you want to build your relationship, ask about their desires and future plans.
Respond with an occasional brief nod or sound / From time to time, paraphrase what the speaker says – This lets the Speaker know that you actively engaged in the conversation and helps them feel they are being “heard”. It also helps the Listener stay with the conversation when the Speaker has a lot that they need to convey.
Let go of your own agenda – Again, you cannot simultaneously be listening and formulating your response at the same time. You will have a chance to express your own thoughts and feelings and when you do you will appreciate the same level of attention that you are showing to the Speaker.
Do you need help with active listening skills? I’m glad to work with couples as well as individuals in developing this essential skill for improving your relationship with almost everyone from a romantic partner to a business partner. Please contact me today and let’s set up an appointment to get started building this essential skill. I can be reached at (706) 534 – 8558 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to working with you!
I would love to say that couples couseling is always successful. The question of whether it will work or not is determined by a number of factors including whether the couple is willing to put in work towards repairing and improving their relationship. There is no easy answer to such a complicated question and each couple may experience a slightly different result.
The truth is we don’t often “solve” a couple’s problems in couples counseling sessions. Instead what we do is give them the tools to address their problems and deal with them in a more productive way. According to findings from the Gottman Institute who run the “Love Lab” in Seattle, Washington only about 31% of a couple’s problems are “solvable”. What couple’s counseling is really about it is developing skills for effective communication so that a couple can learn to live with these problems by acknowledging their partner’s thoughts and feelings and in turn feeling that their own thoughts and feelings are being validated.
Imagine a scenario where you have gotten your way when a conflict has arisen in your relationship and your partner throws their hands up in exasperation and exclaims “Fine we’ll do it your way but I still think I’m right!” You’ve gotten your way, sure, but how satisfied do you feel? Now imagine a scenario where your partner says “I hear what you’re saying and I know why you would like to do it this way but I really think it’s better if we do it this other way and here’s why…” Now you may not get your way in this second scenario but you’re likely to feel much more positive about the situation because your partner has truly heard and understood your point of view. Through the use of roleplaying and modeling these strategies couples counseling can help you learn how to be a better partner and what you should expect in return from your partner.
My own work with couples is heavily influenced by the work of the Gottman Institute. They have spent decades researching what makes for happy, lasting relationships and what leads to the inevitable demise of other relationships. Using this research, I help couples develop the skills (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work) that bolster healthy, loving relationships while avoiding the pitfalls (The Four Horsemen) that mire couples in patterns of conflict and ill communication.
Are you willing to work to change the unhealthy patterns that have developed over time? Are you open to constructive feedback about what you already do well and what you can do to improve? Do you desire to get back on track and live a long and fulfilling life with your current partner? If so, then couples counseling may work for you.
If you would like a better idea about the kinds of communication and conflict resolution skills that I assist couples in working on you may want to watch this excellent video of a presentation given by Laura Heck, who is a Master Trainer for the Gottman Seven Principles Program.
Please contact me today and let’s setup an appointment for couples counseling to help get your relationship back on track. I can be reached by telephone at (706) 534-8558 or by e-mail at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com.