May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States.  Before the month slips away let me share some tips for improving your mental health.  Check out my latest Youtube video on ways to improve mental health here.

Aaron D KirkwoodIf you would be interested in setting up an appointment and discussing ways to improve your own mental health give me a call or send an e-mail.

Aaron Kirkwood, LAMFT

(706) 534 – 8558

Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com

I wanted to follow up my video on using Gottman Method in couple therapy by talking about Gottman Method’s Four Horsemen (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling).  I discuss how to recognize if these are happening in your relationship, as well as some ideas for how to respond in a more productive way to your partner.  Please watch the video here.

Aaron D KirkwoodIf you’re interested in setting up an appointment for individual, couple, or family therapy you can contact me at the following:

(706) 534 – 8558

Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com

Aaron D. Kirkwood, LAMFT

I have posted a new video discussing my use of Gottman Method in session when working with couples.  You can view it here.

I see clients on Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 am until 7 pm and on Saturday from 9 am until 1 pm.  I gladly offer reduced fee services if financial circumstances are prohibitive for potential clients.

Aaron D KirkwoodIf you’re interested in setting up an appointment for couple, family, or individual counseling you can reach me at:

Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com

(706) 534 – 8558

Aaron D. Kirkwood, LAMFT

25 Oct 2017
October 25, 2017

Winter Blues

Depression, News

Ever thought to yourself “I have the winter blues”?  The combination of shorter days plus colder temperatures means that many of us are exposed to less sunlight during the winter months and it is believed that this could be one of the things that can contribute to some people experiencing seasonal affective disorder.

What is seasonal affective disorder?

It is a type of depression that is strongly associated with specific times of the year, most commonly autumn or winter.  The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are similar to major depressive disorder with the exception that they usually abate when the seasons begin to change.  These include feelings of hopelessness and/or sadness, reduced energy level, weight gain, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and more.

How do I treat seasonal affective disorder?

There are various things that you can try if you’re experiencing the “winter blues”.  Some possible things that you might do for self-care include getting more physical activity.  Exercise is one of the best “natural remedies” for depression of all kinds.  Increasing your sun exposure may also help.  Keep in mind that any change in medication or physical activity should be done under advisement of a medical professional.  Of course, you can also make an appointment to a see a therapist.  This may be something short-term just for the season and that’s okay.  Here’s a link with more information about seasonal affective disorder.

 

Aaron D KirkwoodIf you believe you have a case of the “winter blues” and would like to talk to someone about it please give me a call to set up an initial appointment today.  I can be reached by phone at (706) 534 – 8558 or by e-mail at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com

I thought I would conduct an interview with a Marriage and Family Therapist to get a small peek inside the mind of someone who spends all their time “inside” the minds of others.  It just so happens that I know a Marriage and Family Therapist rather intimately, and that is who I decided to interview.

Have you ever seen the movie Interview with a Vampire?  Well, I can almost promise you this interview will not be as interesting, sexy, or scary as that.  Read on to see if you agree.

Me: So, what made you decide to become a therapist?

Also me:  Well, I remember having friends in high school whose parents were divorced and seeing how that experience really affected them, mostly in negative ways.  I decided, rather foolishly, that I would grow up and find a “cure” for divorce.  I also recall reading a book somewhere around 10th grade on the history of psychology in the library and finding it incredibly fascinating.  As I began to express interest in psychology my 10th grade biology professor, Mrs. Taylor, encouraged me to look into Marriage and Family Therapy.  Plus, I’m really bad at math so I knew I couldn’t be an accountant or an engineer.

Me: What is your favorite thing about being a Marriage and Family Therapist?

Also me: At the risk of sounding cliché, I really love helping people.  When the end of a work day rolls around and I have had at least one client who seemed to benefit from our session I feel an immense sense of satisfaction.  I can honestly say that this is the most fulfilling thing I have done for work.  It feels even more powerful somehow when I am working with a couple or a family and there is a shift in the relationship.  Suddenly, where the clients had been experiencing only sadness, hopelessness, or remorse a renewed hope blossoms.  There are few feelings as awesome as experiencing this first-hand!

Me: So, can therapists like, read your mind?

Also me: Nope!  Not even a little bit.  A good therapist is attuned to their client’s body language, however, and this helps us read a client’s emotions when he or she might not be consciously aware of them.  For instance, a client may begin to tap or shake their foot rapidly as a stress-inducing conversation gets underway.  I might ask that client “Are you feeling any anxiety just now?”  The client may reply “No, I’m okay.”  “Because I noticed you were shaking your foot quite a bit there.”  “Oh, was I?  Hmmm.  Well, now that I think of it I might have been feeling some stress when we started talking about …”  I don’t have any superpowers and supernatural abilities unfortunately, just what Sherlock Holmes might call a keen sense of observation and deduction.

Me:  What inspires you?

Also me: Well, besides seeing a person feeling better because of some new insight or perspective, I would have to say music is a big inspiration to me.  I get flashes of song lyrics in my head all the time, even during therapy sessions.  When it is feels appropriate I sometimes share these with clients, particularly if they might offer a unique perspective or confirm a client’s newly discovered perspective.  Music can be a beautiful metaphor for relationships.  Individuals (notes) come together to form relationships (chords) in different configurations (chord changes) across time (a song).

Me: Who are your favorite clients to work with?
Also me: Gosh, that’s a hard question!  I think if there is a common thread to my work when I’m feeling the most satisfaction, it comes from working with individuals who feel, for whatever reason, disempowered.  Working together with them to develop a unique voice, and learn to resist the forces who might have made them feel unworthy or uncared for is uniquely rewarding.  I focus often on relationships, especially couples, as a Marriage and Family Therapist, but I also really enjoy working with individuals.  The work can be very different when I’m talking with a client one-on-one versus working with a couple or a family.  I love being able to switch it up throughout the day because it keeps the work interesting and stimulating.

Me: What advice would you give someone seeking therapy for the first time?

Also me:  Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find a therapist who you feel comfortable with.  Just don’t be afraid in general of seeing a therapist.  I personally try to make it as painless as possible, even though sometimes painful things arise.  We deal with those things in a comforting and safe environment.  Try not to get hung up on buzzwords and psycho-jargon.  Studies tell us that almost all therapies are roughly equally effective.  If your friend had luck with cognitive-behavioral therapy but it doesn’t feel right for you then don’t do it.  Find someone with an approach and a personality who feel like a good fit for you.

Aaron D KirkwoodIf you’re interested in beginning therapy please contact me

via e-mail at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com

or call me at (706) 296-0455

and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

Therapy is exercise for the brain

If therapy is exercise for your brain, that makes me a personal trainer.  Time to rethink my work wardrobe!

I have a confession to make.  If you promise to keep it just between us I will tell you.  Agreed?  So, sometimes my clients will say to me “Hey, this was really helpful.  I appreciate what you’re doing for me.”  My response is generally, “I’m so glad you found our session helpful.”  But inside?  Inside I’m thinking “I have no idea why this was helpful.  I really thought we didn’t get much done today.”  Rest assured, I’m not some dope who’s faking his way through being a therapist.  Every therapist I know has a similar story.

There’s an excellent book on the subject that has eased my mind and helped me make sense of what might be happening for my clients in therapy.  It’s called Why Therapy Works: Using Our Minds to Change Our Brains by Loius Cozolino.  It has to do with the concept of neuroplasticity and how thoughts actually change our brains functioning.  According to Cozolino neuroplasticity “refers to any changes among, between, and within neurons as a result of learning or the natural processes of healthy development.  It is the ability of the nervous system to change in response to experience and to encode that experience into its structure.”  In other words, our brains literally change in response to our experience.  I liken this change to the growth we see in our muscles because of exercise.

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of hanging around with some serious weightlifters you might have seen them nudge each other in the ribs, give a head nod towards someone walking by, and snicker.  Then in a conspiratorial whisper one says, “Someone skipped leg day.”

Your brain is not a muscle.  In fact, it is the fattiest organ in your body.  It makes up only about 2 percent of your bodies total mass but is uses 20 percent of your body’s energy.  No wonder it’s so exhausting when you’re anxious all the time! (For more brain facts click here)

Okay, but what does that have to do with your brain and therapy?  Well, therapy is exercise for your brain.  If you have had depressive thoughts for a while your brain has developed to easily have those thoughts.  Meanwhile, your ability to experience “happy” thoughts is undeveloped.  You might say that you’ve been skipping happy day.  When I’m asking clients in therapy to describe what they would like to be doing differently, what they might prefer their life to look like, I am like a spotter in the gym encouraging them “C’mon!  You can do this!”  At first it can be very hard for someone who has felt depressed for years to even imagine what “happy” is for them.  However, with practice they can literally change the structure of their brain so that it becomes easier to bring to mind those “happy” thoughts.  The same concept applies to people who are anxious all the time.  They are well practiced at having anxious thoughts.  Their brains have been shaped by these experiences and so they come “naturally”.  Through therapy we will do the work necessary to reshape the brain.

Is it easy?  No.  Is it fun?  Sometimes, but it can also be painful just like any other workout.  Is it worth it?  DEFINITELY!

Aaron D KirkwoodIf you’re constantly plagued by depressive or anxious thoughts, contact me today and let me be your personal brain trainer.  I can be reached via telephone at (706) 534 – 8558 or e-mail at Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com.

turning complaints into requestsHaving 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.

Aaron D KirkwoodIf 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.

improve married sexI 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 D Kirkwood

Aaron Kirkwood, LAMFT

(706) 534 – 8558

Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com

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.reduced fee services

  • 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.

Aaron D KirkwoodIf 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

five-magic-hoursThe 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.

Aaron D KirkwoodDo 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.