Aaron Kirkwood, marriage and family therapist with Counseling Associates for Well-Being in Athens, GA talks about a practice you might try to improve your relationships and your mental well-being during this trying time. See the video here.
Aaron D. Kirkwood, LAMFT, will be starting a group for couples entitled Collaborative Relationship Enhancement Group and is seeking feedback from couples in committed relationship. If you are in a committed relationship and would like to respond please follow the link below to take this very brief survey. Your feedback will help to shape the group so that it is useful for couples looking to improve their relationships. This is an informal information gathering survey for the purpose of ensuring that the group is useful for couples who might attend. If you have questions or comments please fill free to reach out to Aaron at (706) 534 – 8558 or Aaron@ca4wellbeing.com
The survey can be found at this link.
Check out Aaron’s latest vlog about romance in long-term relationships/marriages.
(706) 534 – 8558
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.
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.
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.