Your First Therapy Session

first therapy session hi
Most people have never been to therapy before and are understandably a bit nervous about what it’s going to be like.  If you’ve gotten up the courage to make that first appointment, you may now be wondering how you’ll even know if it’s going to work?  How long do you have to go for to see if you’re getting something out of it? Of course, every situation and every individual is different. It’s true that you probably shouldn’t expect major changes in your life within one or two sessions. Nevertheless, there are some important indicators you can look for in your first session that can help...
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What Do You Do in Couples Counseling?

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If you’ve never been to relationship counseling before, the whole thing might seem mysterious, confusing, and downright frightening. The truth is it’s really not as bad as you think it is. The representations of therapy you’ve seen on TV are almost certainly inaccurate - maybe you’ve seen people bopping each other with foam bats, engaging in massive screaming matches in front of the therapist, or being asked about their deepest personal secrets. That’s not therapy; that’s Hollywood.  To help you get a feel for what to expect, here are some of the things you will do in couples counseling: 1. L...
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Making Your Marriage a Priority

empty nesters hi
Recently I was interviewed on the radio to discuss the question of how to prioritize your relationship with your spouse vs. your kids. You can listen to the 20-minute segment here. Here’s the spoiler: I come down firmly on the side of keeping your spouse #1 on your list. This of course doesn’t mean that you ignore your children’s needs or that you spend 100% of your time and energy on your spouse. It just means that your relationship with your spouse comes first. Many people think that “the children come first” and end up putting too little, or nothing at all, into the marital relationship....
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How to Save Your Marriage

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Are you trying to save a marriage that’s on the rocks?  Hoping to turn things around from anger and resentment to happiness and love?  It can be done.  Most marriages can be repaired if both parties really want it – but that doesn’t mean it will be easy.  You will likely have to have some difficult conversations, take a hard look at where you’ve messed up, and make real changes to the way you do things in the future.  If you want to know how to save your marriage and are up for the challenge, read on. 1. Find a marriage counselor. This may seem like a cop-out answer, but it truthfully is the...
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Is Texting Good or Bad for Your Relationship?

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Texting is a very wonderful thing.  It allows us to send quick ideas and comments to our friends and families without having to catch each other at the right time.  It’s great for adding to the shopping list at the last minute or reminding each other of an appointment.  It can add all kinds of useful benefits to our relationships.  And, of course, as with any tool, texting can be seriously misused and can be a real detractor from relationships as well.  Let’s look at some of the ups and downs of texting as they relate to your relationships.  Certainly this applies to marriages and other romant...
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Is It Okay for Married People to Watch Porn?

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No. Okay, that was a little harsh.  But hear me out.  This is not a moral discourse on the propriety of pornography in general but rather a consideration of what it does to your marriage (or other committed relationship). While some writers have waxed enthusiastic about the benefits of porn watching, common sense – to say nothing of my clinical experience – tells me that the drawbacks far outweigh the benefits.  This is true of both the folks watching it solo and those watching as a couple.  Let’s take it one at a time. (Warning: this post doesn't pull any punches - be prepared for frank la...
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Don’t Start Couples Counseling Before You Read This!

marriage counseling hi
If you are considering seeing a couples counselor/marriage therapist to address a problem in your relationship, there are a few things it’s vital for you to know before you jump in. 1. Be prepared to change Many people come in to couples therapy feeling like their spouse or partner is causing the problem.  They ask their therapist, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly, to “fix” their partner.  But more often than not, both parties will have to do some changing to make a difference in the problem.  Importantly, this is often true even when one of you is objectively doing something wr...
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How do you make a long-distance relationship work?

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In these days of constant change and mobility, long-distance relationships are increasingly common and necessary as people take jobs and pursue life goals that move them about the globe. There’s no question that a long-distance relationship poses challenges that typical relationships, where people live with or near each other, do not.  That does not mean that long-distance relationships can’t or don’t work; it just means that being aware of and real about those challenges, instead of downplaying or entirely ignoring them, is critical. So how can you make a long-distance relationship work?  ...
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Are You in An Abusive Relationship?

abusive relationship hi
All relationships have ups and downs. Some seem to have more downs than others. A relationship that’s on the rocks can often be fixed with commitment on the part of both partners and with professional counseling.  However, some relationships are abusive, and these cannot be repaired until the abusive partner decides to change his or her ways. However, since abusers often bring a strong sense of entitlement to the relationship, they rarely look at themselves as doing anything wrong and therefore rarely take stock of their own views and behaviors. If you are the victim in an abusive relations...
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Anger in Relationships

anger management hi
Anger is one of the major destroyers of relationships. People can say and do things when they are angry that are offensive, hurtful, even downright mean. But anger is a normal part of the human emotional makeup, and it’s only natural to feel angry sometimes. How can you deal with angry feelings without harming your relationship? Expressing anger Being angry is different from being aggressive, mean, or threatening. If you have been in the habit of blowing your top when you get angry, you are probably aware that it does not work very well. Either you get into a screaming match and nothing is a...
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How to Have a Fair Fight

How to Have a Fair Fight hi
Arguments are a natural part of any relationship. No two people will agree on everything all the time. Disagreements are bound to happen. Slight offenses are inevitable.  But how do you deal with them in a way that is productive and not destructive? What does a fair fight look like? Talk about yourself, not your partner This is one of the most important and most difficult shifts we have to make in order to prevent minor disagreements from turning into major fights. When you talk about the negative things you believe your partner has done, you automatically put them on the defensive. Defens...
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Can an Affair Help the Relationship?

affair hi
Many people believe that infidelity unavoidably spells the end of a relationship.  However, the truth is that many relationships survive the injury of an affair, and in fact many get much better in the aftermath.  If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, you don’t need to despair of your relationship; it can certainly be saved if both partners are willing (which, of course, is a big question). We have helped numerous couples move beyond cheating in the relationship, whether they are dating, engaged, or already married.  And indeed in many of these couples, the relationship reache...
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Couples Counseling: Not a Last Resort

need couples counseling hi
All too frequently, the couples I see in my office for marriage counseling/couples therapy are at the end of their rope.  There has been trouble in the relationship for a long time; months, years, or even decades of fighting, harsh words, and distance have seriously worn away at their bonds of love and commitment.  They might be angry, exasperated, and hopeless.  And it is in this state that they come before me asking me to help them make it work. Certainly, it can be done.  I see very few cases where the relationship is a lost cause (often this involves a pattern of abuse on the part of on...
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The Five Love Languages: Finding Your Language

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Okay, so, we’ve talked a lot about the different Love Languages. But how do you know which is yours? Below we’ll discuss a couple of ways you can try to determine which language fits you best. You and your partner can both try to figure out for yourselves, and for each other, what your love languages are and share your answers with each other. 1. It’s obvious Sometimes, one of the Languages just jumps out at you.  You read about it (see our above posts) and it really resonates with you; you know that’s YOU.  If so, consider yourself lucky, and pass the info on to your significant other so s/...
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The Five Love Languages: Physical Touch

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The last of the Five Love Languages is Physical Touch.  This one is in some ways very easy and in some ways very hard. It’s very easy because it’s pretty clear what we’re referring to when we say “physical touch.”  But it can also be very hard because for many people, it’s simply not natural. Let’s explore further. What it Looks Like As with all the other Love Languages, Physical Touch is for some way the main thing they need to feel loved.  Words are nice, gifts are delightful, but they don’t help such a person to feel truly connected and loved.  To bond with a Touch person, then, you need ...
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The Five Love Languages: Acts of Service

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The fourth of the Five Love Languages® is called Acts of Service.  For some people, actions indeed speak louder than words. Of course, just as with Words of Affirmation you can’t speak nicely while neglecting the other aspects of your relationship and expect to come out on top, so too it should be noted that if you constantly say nasty things to your partner while you do nice things for them you probably won’t get very far either. Acts of Service are things you do for your partner as opposed to things you say; they are ways to take care of that person’s needs.  You may envision providing a ...
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The Five Love Languages: Receiving Gifts

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The third Love Language is Receiving Gifts.  This one is easy to grasp, but it sometimes gets a bad rap because to some people it smacks of materialism.  In fact, a person whose Love Language is Receiving Gifts may or may not be materialistic, just the same as anyone else. There is a big difference between giving a gift to someone for whom it is the primary way of receiving love and giving a gift to someone who is out for material gain. What Are Gifts About? The dictionary definition of materialism is “a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than sp...
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The Five Love Languages: Quality Time

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In the last post I described the love language of Words of Affirmation.  The second language is called Quality Time, and you probably have a fair idea what that’s about without needing much a definition.  As you would expect, it means that some people primarily feel loved by spending time with you.  There are various ways this can be accomplished, as well as some pitfalls to avoid. Let’s explore. For Quality Time people, being in the presence of a person they love fills them up and allows them to feel loved.  Naturally, there is more to this than just being in the same room.  Two people sit...
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The Five Love Languages: Words of Affirmation

Words of Affirmation hi
Words of Affirmation is the first of the love languages described in Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages system. For people whose primary love language is Words of Affirmation, it’s what you say that counts.  This of course does not mean that you can act like a slob, forget your wife’s birthday gift or cheat on your spouse as long as you say nice things while you do it. It just means that in order for your spouse to feel truly loved by you, you will need to use the power of speech. This is in some ways very easy and in some ways very difficult.  On one hand, we all know what it means to spea...
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The Five Love Languages

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The Five Love Languages® is a great tool for improving relationships, whether you’re at the beginning of a new relationship or you’ve been married for decades.  It is a very simple and understandable method of connecting with your significant other – as well as your children, parents, siblings, friends, and anyone else you are in a relationship with.  There is an extensive array of books, quizzes, and online resources you can look into at http://www.5lovelanguages.com.  Here I will offer a brief overview of this concept which you can use as a springboard for further exploration; I will continu...
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Four Ways to Identify a Bad Therapist

bad therapist hi
Following up on our last post, let’s talk a bit about what possible red flags to look out for when searching for a therapist in Baltimore or anywhere else.  Unfortunately, as we mentioned last time, it’s not that hard for a nasty person to get a master’s degree and a counseling license, provided that s/he can pass tests and write papers.  And a nasty person is not what you want for a therapist.  But since therapists rarely advertise on their websites that they are nasty people, you are unlikely to discover this unless you go in for a session with them. And that is actually probably the best wa...
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How Do I Find a Therapist?

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So you’re looking for a therapist in Baltimore.  Maybe you typed “Baltimore therapist” into Google and it sent you here.  But how do you find the right “Baltimore therapist” for you?  What goes in to choosing a good therapist – and not just a good therapist, but a good therapist for you? That’s an important distinction to take note of.  Research shows that virtually all modes of therapy depend more on the relationship between the client and the therapist than on any other factor, including how many degrees the therapist has, how many years s/he’s been in practice, how many Twitter follower...
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How Long Does Couples Counseling Take?

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This is a question I get asked all the time. How long will it take?  How many sessions do people usually need?  People rightly want to know how much time and money they will be investing into this process.  Unfortunately, there is really no way to give any useful answer to this question.  Let me explain. Imagine you call up a doctor and you tell him, “I’ve got a headache.  What will it take to get rid of it?”  What kind of answer do you think you are going to get?  Without doing a thorough checkup, he can’t possibly know what the cause of the problem is or how to fix it.  Were you at a loud...
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Couples Counseling – What’s It All About?

What is couples counseling like? hi
What is couples counseling? Couples counseling goes by various names: couples therapy, marriage counseling, marital therapy, relationship counseling, and more. These are all ways of framing the same process, namely, trying to help a couple (whether married or not) achieve a better level of functioning. What this means is that when one or both parties in a couple are not happy with the relationship because of the way they are interacting with each other, a couples counselor can help them change the way they relate to each other in order to help restore the happiness in the relationship. (In th...
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