I often hear from people who are in relationships and feeling disconnected or dissatisfied, who ask me if they need to get their partners to come in for relationship therapy and counseling—or should they just come in alone?  Sometimes people want to know if they can come in and explain to me what is wrong with their mate, so that I can offer advice about how to change him or her.  Or they think that once they present their case to me, I will proclaim that they are clearly the saner of the two and therefore they can go armed back to the spouse with an expert recommendation that he or she must rush in for an appointment to be fixed.  Occasionally someone may just also want to come in to process how they are feeling about a relationship. They don’t feel comfortable being open or honest enough yet with the partner to say what they need to say. Or they aren’t clear about how to proceed. This is often the case when people have become so distant or disconnected that there is little emotional intimacy or when things have been so charged, and tense that there is no emotional safety.  

 Of course,  to make the relationship better,  it is generally better to bring in the other person if you can.  It is easier to change the dynamics of a relationship by working with both people who participate in and are a part of that relationship.  

  In many instances, coming in alone is truly the only option when partners are reluctant to participate.  No, you can’t change anyone except yourself. You can certainly affect and influence people to be sure. And you can change a relationship by changing the way you are in that relationship.    

 To be really clear again, this does not mean that if come alone, you will be able to learn some tricks to make your partner change into a new person.   Simply that you can learn in individual work how to change what you contribute and therefore things might change between you.  

So along those lines, there is this saying that goes something like this: “In order to love someone else, you first must love yourself.”  I have been contemplating this a bit. I think the essence of this idea is perhaps not so much about loving yourself in the “I think I am the most awesome person ever” way, but more in the” I know myself and accept myself and am therefore able to recognize my needs – and therefore will be able to articulate those needs to someone else” way. This is one of the most important elements in being able to connect with someone else.  In order to be close to someone and truly be connected in an intimate way, you have to be able to access who you are.  You have to be able to show up.

There is a safety and security that comes from being comfortable with and accepting of yourself.  It allows you to be more open to learning about and “visiting with” someone else’s experience and perspective, without being unsettled by it.  For example if you discover that the person you are relating to has a different value or perspective than you do, you can be curious and empathic rather than defensive, or guarded, or challenged, or scared.   You can connect, show up, and be “ok.”

So, in summary, if your relationship isn’t working well for you, invite your partner to  work on it with you. If you can’t invite them because you aren’t sure how they will respond and it unsettles you to do so, come on in alone. Or if you ask, and the answer is a definite no, come on in alone.  Or if you aren’t sure yet if you want to work on it or let it go, come on in alone.  We can work on your growth and self-love and acceptance, and  help you to love better as a result.        Claire Zimmerman, LCSW   


Here, in an interesting article, Keith Molyneaux helps us look at relationships from a different perspective: “Why Men Withdraw Emotionally”, and offers insights about men’s world. It may not apply to everyone, yet it certainly opens space to consider our own reactions: when we withdraw and why -man or woman-, whether it comes from protection and/or frustration, confusion or overwhelming feeling. It also brings more clarity about existing double standards and levels of expectations men have to face. Keith Molyneaux looks into the challenge of 2 partners needing nurturing, empathy, support and recognition at the same time, with one of the two having more experience, in this area, than the other.

Resonating with this article? Open to explore each other’s world in a safe environment? Feel free to contact Aline Robolin, LPC at 706 425 8900, ext 705, or


We are wired toward connection! This is an exciting time in terms of the emerging knowledge regarding our minds and our behavior in relationships.  I highly recommend you read the article linked above.  Interestingly, recent MRI studies show that participants react to a threat against a loved one with the same intensity as they would a threat to themselves.  Daniel Siegel, who is a pioneer in the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology, has written and spoken prolifically for years describing how our minds develop through interactions with others and that processes to integrate the mind heal relationships (and the reverse is true as well).  These MRI studies confirm what therapists have known for years about the importance of empathy in our relationships.  Also, this type of research is confirming what we know about couples: partners become emotionally attuned to each other and react to the other’s emotions and moods.

The really good news is that when we learn to have attuned communication with others, we actually integrate and improve the wiring in our brains.  Attuned communication is defined by Siegel as resonating with another’s inner world.  This connects with John Gottman’s research with couples also that happy spouses know each other’s inner worlds.  Siegel says we cannot just focus on the thoughts and feelings, but we have to be mindful of the energy in our exchanges with others.  Mindfulness practices and meditation can improve our ability to be present in relationships as well as improve our well-being.

If you are interested in improving your understanding of your own behavior in relationships and learning tools to enhance them, I am a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist and Certified Hatha Yoga Instructor with expertise in helping individuals and couples improve their communication and lessen their reactivity as well as change patterns that are painful.  Please call 706-425-8900 or email with questions or to schedule a session.


Over the weekend I had the pleasure of completing my certification in hypnotherapy.  The entire training process was wonderful and enriching on both a personal and professional level.  I have experienced great results in changing my own habits as a result of the hypnosis I received during our training.  I am so excited to now use this powerful tool to help my clients.

In previous training classes we learned how to induce someone into a hypnotic state and make suggestions to effect change on a subconscious level.  So often we know what we want and we know how to get there, but something just seems to be preventing us from taking those steps.  Suggestive hypnosis can be very effective in helping us surmount those hurdles to allow us to reach our goals.

What I learned in our final training class was a more dynamic form of hypnotherapy.  We learned how to communicate with our clients while they are in the state of hypnosis to address past events that have left them feeling hurt, helpless, or in another state of pain or trauma.  We learned ways to address and heal these painful past memories and events.

If you are interested in trying a different way to experience therapy, please call (706) 425-8900 ext 709 or email me.  I would love to talk with you to see if hypnosis might be right for you.


I am very excited to currently be in the process of obtaining my certification in hypnotherapy.  I didn’t know much about hypnotherapy when I registered for the course.  I wanted to share my understanding of hypnosis, to demystify it and help people determine if it might be worth a try.

What is Hypnosis?

Hypnosis is the process of entering an extremely relaxed state, in body and mind, to allow suggestions to bypass the consciousness and flow directly into the subconscious.  This relaxed state is led by a hypnotherapist and utilizes guided imagery.  The client is aware at all times of what is being said and suggested and can stop the hypnosis at any time.

What can Hypnotherapy Address?

Hypnotherapy can address anxiety, stress, guilt, fears, phobias, lack of confidence, poor self-image, negative thought patterns, compulsions, unhealthy eating habits, disordered eating, smoking cessation, and more.

What is the First Step in Hypnotherapy?

An important first-step of hypnotherapy is to have a discussion with the client to learn exactly what the desired outcome is.  From there, I develop specific suggestions and discuss them with the client to ensure that I have a clear understanding of the goals.  It is very important to note that in doing this, the client maintains complete control over the specific messages that will be sent during the hypnotherapy session.

What is the Hypnotherapy Session Like?

At the start of the hypnotherapy session the client can choose to sit or lie down on the couch.  I ask him to close his eyes and take some deep breaths.  The first part of the session is called an “induction” which is simply a way for the client to relax.  It can involve progressive relaxation, with the client focusing on relaxing the body, one part at at time.  It usually includes some guided imagery, focusing on a comforting, relaxing place of the client’s choice.  The goal is for the body and the mind to be in a completely relaxed state, free from the conscious mind “noise” consisting of to-do lists, stressors, repetitive thoughts, etc.

Once the client has reached this peaceful and relaxed state, I incorporate the previously agreed-upon suggestions into the hypnosis.  These suggestions are able to bypass the conscious mind and enter straight into the subconscious in a clear and concise way.

Once the suggestions have been made, it is time for the client to “emerge” from the hypnosis.  There is count-down with assurances that the client will feel refreshed and energized.  My clients have reported feeling wonderful and relaxed after hypnotherapy.  One client described it as feeling similar to the experience of the “savasana” pose in yoga.

How Do I Determine if Hypnotherapy Might Help Me?

Please give me a call at 706-425-8900 ext 709 or email me at  I would love to chat with you to assess your needs and determine if hypnotherapy may benefit you.


This talk by Dr Brene Brown “Shame and Empathy” has been, for me, invigorating, clarifying and thought provoking. I resonate with her statement about connection being the essence of human experience, as it gives meaning to our experience. She presents a concept about connection, where empathy and shame are at the opposite ends of the spectrum, and vulnerability/authenticity is the cursor between the 2: the more vulnerable/open you are, the closer you are to empathy; and the less you are vulnerable, the closer you are to shame -“I cannot let you see these pieces of me, because I fear that will create disconnection “-.  We armor ourself for self-protection from suffering, and as we live in a culture of fear about not fitting in, it does not leave space for vulnerability. Yet vulnerability and authenticity are the path to what we are longing for: love, belonging, trust, intimacy joy, creativity and innovation, as well as empathy. How do we create compassionate/safe space to share and listen to our stories? How do we create a place for connection?


I am leading several groups of NonViolent Communication, also called Compassionate Communication (more information at If you resonate with this subject and are longing to be heard and to listen to others in a safe environment, you can contact Aline Robolin, LPC at 706 425 8900, ext 705, or

I invite you to watch this video and share your feedback if you desire.



Goal setting plays an important role in moving ourselves forward in life.   At the beginning of a New Year, many people choose to make New Year’s resolutions with the intent to improve some part of their life.   I have made many over the years, many of which I had given up by the third week of January.   Also, there have been years in which I have sworn off the resolutions to avoid the feelings of lack of discipline and failure.

This year, after taking the first three weeks of January to consider what I wanted to create in my life, I narrowed down a list of several areas of my life that could use some help. Consistently, they all lead back to one simple basic habit. This simple, but often elusive, habit is crucial for developing and maintaining a healthy mind, body, and spirit.   It’s the basic practice of getting adequate sleep.  Seven to eight hours of sleep a night for an adult is considered to be healthy sleep.

Sleep affects the mind, body and spirit in numerous ways.  Most everyone has short-lived bouts of insomnia, which is generally nothing to be concerned about.  The bigger concern is chronic sleep loss which include sleeping issues several nights a week or less than six hours of sleep on a consistent basis.  Chronic sleep loss can contribute to health problems in areas such as learning and memory, metabolism and weight, anxiety and depression, blood pressure and hormone levels, and the immune system.

Sleep allows the body to do a lot of repair work both restoratively in the body through muscle growth, tissue repair, and growth hormone as well as cognitively in the brain with neural plasticity.   Sleep is a key to keeping your body and mind fit and healthy.

If you have difficulty sleeping, neurofeedback training may help you.   Recently, I worked with a client who had sleep problems for over five years.  After trying many sleep solutions including several prescription sleep medications and not having results, the client gave neurofeedback a try.  Now, he is sleeping through the night for at least eight hours on a consistent basis.

Getting adequate sleep can have life changing effect for health and well being.  Contact Pamela Key at Counseling Associates for Well-Being at (706) 425-8900 or for information on how neurofeedback training can help you.







I am not a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions. I find them to be similar to diets in the way they create a setup of unrealistically harsh expectations for one’s self that are bound to fail. However, there is one resolution I would suggest and celebrate for anyone to make, and this resolution improves outlook and mood, health, relationships and all other aspects of life. This resolution would be a commitment in the year 2014 to improve one’s relationship with self. The relationship we have with ourselves is the longest and most important as it forms the basis for how we see the world and make choices for our behavior.

How does one improve that relationship? One way we improve it is by becoming aware of and improving our self-talk.  Many of us have developed a strong inner drill sergeant that seeks to motivate us to “be better” and “do better”.  I would argue that we get a lot further with compassion for self and treating ourselves as we would a dear friend.  Compassion for self does not mean denial or dishonesty, but looking at situations in our lives with the understanding we are human and deserve unconditional emotional support first and foremost.  With compassion and honesty with self, we are more likely to make choices such as better self-care or reaching out for help when it is needed-and we all need help as human beings.

I would suggest mindfully starting with this intention each day.  Take a few quiet minutes to meditate on the intention to be compassionate toward one’s self on a daily basis.  This alone could create quite a lasting change this year.  Contact me at if you would like to work on a new approach to making changes and dealing with challenges. Happy New Year!



So we just finished the Thanksgiving holiday celebration.  As it happens, my  birthday week falls around Thanksgiving every year. These birthday things keep happening year after year no matter what.  They are often a time to reflect, to take stock. I don’t generally enjoy so much thinking, but this year I thought about what I am thankful for about my advancing age.

I love that I finally can stop wishing that I can one day live up to the incredibly unrealistic physical image of 20 year old super models. I love that the things I now value are so much more important. I actually pause to be grateful that I can walk up flights of stairs or enjoy the beauty of the beach or enjoy a fabulous meal with friends or family.

I am grateful to have time to read even if some days  it is just the newspaper, or the captions under the pretty photos in my favorite magazines. I am grateful  to have some ideas about what I enjoy, and also to still have an abundance of curiosity about what else there might be to discover.

I am grateful that my vision is no longer what it once was. I marvel at the genius of the design that allows me to lose the ability to see clearly the wrinkles that are spreading like fine webs under my eyes.

I am grateful for the realization that painful moments do in fact finally end. When I was younger, it was so much harder to endure things that were difficult when I had no idea that “these things pass.”  I am grateful that there are still so many things to look forward to.   Getting older is getting better and better!  And gratitude is a wonderful thing.


25 Nov 2013
November 25, 2013

Stress Less

News, Stress, Wellness


National Stress Out Week is this month, and the timing is just right. The days are shorter, and holidays are here. Shorter days, changes in schedules, and an increase in demands, whether actual or perceived, create stress.
The downside of stress is that too much stress over time can wear you down physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The upside of stress is that some stress can be helpful. It creates energy and focus needed to accomplish tasks. And, the stress that’s not helpful can be reduced or managed.

One of the first steps to managing stress is awareness. Observe when you feel stress. Be mindful of thoughts, actions, and circumstances that prompt feeling more emotionally anxious or even slightly frustrated. Stress is usually from some external source, like as request or perceived requirement from another person or a circumstance. The negative response to stress is often at least partically internal and may include emotions, thoughts, and even physical sensations. It can show up as anxiety, worry thoughts, sadness, frustration, physical sensations such as muscle tension, and even reduced immunity to illness.

There are many ways to deal with unhelpful stress and its impact. I like to address stress considering three factors.  These include mindfulness, reducing unhelpful stress, and managing what can’t be reduced. This approach is grounded in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and lines up with several other proven therapeutic approaches.
We are all different and respond differently to events and life circumstances. However, we all have some experience of helpful and unhelpful stress.
If you would like to learn, practice, and enhance stress management skills, I would be pleased to talk with you.  You can contact me, Alice Deal, at or by calling 706-425-8900 ext. 703