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.

 

I would like to invite you to consider the difference between discussions and arguments in the latest video on our YouTube channel.  You can watch it here.

Aaron D KirkwoodIf you would like to work on improving your communication either individually or as a couple please call or e-mail to set up an appointment.

Phone: (706) 534 – 8558

E-mail: 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 recently sent my first child off to college and my second will not be far behind.  With the reality of becoming empty nesters looming, my husband and I have discussed moving from our home we have raised our children in for the past seventeen years.  This has prompted me to begin the process of cleaning and purging clutter that has accumulated in our house over the past two decades.  I am a sentimental person and have a hard time parting with items that feel special to me, but as I began emptying out closets and boxes I began to realize that I might actually be a bit of a hoarder!  Books and papers from grad school, cards from my wedding [both of which took place over 20 years ago!], finally found their way to the dumpster.  I carefully weighed the value of each item I came across as I asked myself… “do I really need to keep this”??  As I opened each box I felt like I was reliving a chapter in my life, it was like the story of my life was unfolding in front of me.  I found items from first jobs, graduate school, mementos from dating my husband and our engagement, notes from planning my wedding, information from buying our first house, keepsakes from having my first then second child, reminders of my life as a stay at home mom, papers pertaining to reactivating my license once I made the decision to return to work years later, the list could go on and on.

I went through each box and cabinet revisiting the different phases of my life, carefully choosing the items that felt important enough to follow me to the next phase.  I could not pitch everything.  I did not throw away all of the priceless papers, mementos, or wrinkled drawings that my now grown children brought home from their early days of school.  The numerous letters and stories from my children when they were young declaring how much they loved me, definite keepers!  As anyone with teenagers knows, it is highly unlikely you will hear much of these sentiments as they enter middle and high school!   I came across letters from my husband when we were dating, gentle reminders of the past and what brought us together so many years ago, things that are sometimes hard to recall when dealing with the struggles and changes that come with a marriage or long-term relationship.   And I can’t forget the box of completely unnecessary random “stuff” from my own childhood, old stuffed animals, old clothes, pictures and keepsakes.

Life presents us with many twists and turns, and even some of the most joyous moments paradoxically come with stress, anxiety, sadness and grief.   As I experience and adjust to a new major life change, I can’t help but reflect on my journey and the previous major transitions in my life, the joys, the struggles, and how I have experienced and gotten through each one.  I look back on my relationship with my husband, who I have now been married to for over 20 years, and reflect on the ups and downs we have had, the good times, the bad, and the struggles we have experienced and overcome as we have lived through many life stages and changes together.  It’s a joyous time to be celebrated when two people get married, but very few people tell you how hard this relationship is going to be, and how much work is involved on an ongoing basis to sustain the relationship and the changes you will go through.

Becoming a mom was without a doubt one of the happiest moments of my life, but along with this also came some of the biggest changes and challenges I have experienced.  Deciding to become a stay at home mom, and not only reinventing my day to day life but reinventing myself in the process, was no easy task.  Many people who have not experienced this role may assume the life of a stay at home mom is a life of leisure.  While I loved being available to spend my time with my young children and am thankful I had the choice to do so, I will tell you it is definitely not a leisurely life!  It is a role that also comes with learning to navigate many challenging dynamics of its own.

Flash forward years down the road I found myself contemplating how to get back into the workforce.  Having not worked in my field in 10 years the thought of putting myself out there was scary, overwhelming and very anxiety provoking.  But put myself out there I did, and while going back to work and setting the goal to get my LCSW seemed almost impossible, here I proudly sit today as an LCSW in private practice, exactly where I had hoped I could get to so many years ago.

And now, I begin to face and deal with one of the most difficult things I have had to do in a very long time, sending my children out into the world on their own.  This is not only a huge change in my day to day life, but also a major identity shift for me as my role in their lives changes drastically.  Once again, I find myself facing this new challenge with mixed emotions, while there is a lot of sadness over this shift in my life, there is also a sense of curiosity and interest to see what the future holds for me and what is yet to unfold.

I find great joy in working with people trying to find new avenues in life, people who may be struggling with a major life change and identity shift, and enjoy helping them create their vision for the future.   If you are facing a major change in your life it can help to have an objective ear and some added support to get through the challenges that come with these transitions.  My personal and professional experience provide me with a great deal of knowledge when dealing with some of life’s major transitions.  If you are struggling in your relationship,  are getting married or adjusting to being newly married,  ending a long-term relationship, contemplating divorce or going through a divorce, starting a family, becoming a stay at home mom or returning to work after years of staying home with your kids, contemplating a career change, sending a child off to school or becoming an empty nester, give me a call or send me an email. I would love to help you navigate this challenging yet exciting time of your life that is filled with many possibilities.  call: 706-425-8900 or email: beth@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.

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.

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.active listening

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 aaron@ca4wellbeing.com.  I look forward to working with you!

Aaron D Kirkwood