Why Couples Counseling Fails

I know this sounds so negative—and from me, a therapist yet. But I often hear people speaking about their experiences with couples and marriage counseling in a very depressing manner. Recently, I saw a couple who I had complete confidence could really progress and I believed, passionately, that they could make it. There are little signs that after 15 years I’ve come to notice. One may seem small and silly but it’s how a couple sits on my couch. If one sits on the couch and the other on the chair opposite—well, not such a great sign. A bit of a disclaimer now: If you are about to venture into counseling with your partner don’t go taking this sitting on the couch thing as part of your instructions.

So, this thing about the couch?  Some couples come in and sit close—they probably aren’t cuddling but they are at a reasonable distance to reach out and touch a hand during an emotional moment. They can turn to face each other and not seem like they are on different coasts. These small things have a voice that seems to say “I’m trying” and “I want to keep trying”. And in the very best and hopeful cases, “I still love you”.

Then there is the big thing that involves showing up! Couples are often inconsistent when it comes to appointments for counseling. Honestly, counseling only works if you show up.  And once a month just doesn’t cut it.

And couples generally show up too late in the process. They arrive in the counselor’s office when the anger is so intense and has been there for so long. For the therapist, it becomes like trying to cut a diamond with a plastic knife.

As for the couple I saw—sadly, they came only twice. Their sessions were productive and they were very loving towards each other. I have to admit situations like theirs frustrate me — to see potential without the follow through.

Don’t give up on counseling as being ineffective. It works best in the earliest stages of discord. Schedule weekly appointments for at least a few months. And don’t expect immediate miracles–it can really work if you give it time and both people are committed. 





The CURE for Creative blocks

I am not ashamed to admit that I rarely suffer from a creative block. It’s not that my cup is always overflowing with ideas or that I have a creative vision every time I step in front of a canvas. What I do have is a toolbox of strategies—and they work.

Here’s a peek into my artist’s toolbox. There’s a way to do this for writers, musicians, etc. Don’t hesitate to contact me for more on that.

Start a lot of projects! Most “successful” artists have 2-3 projects going at once. I need more than that. Have a few different things going. If you are a painter perhaps you have 2 or 3 canvasses going at the same time. Add 2 or 3 MORE different kinds of projects to the toolbox like the following:

1. Start a color journal to explore color palettes you like – mix color and paint your own into the journal. Try to keep track of the colors you mix. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mixed a color I love only to discover I can’t recreate it

2. Collect magazines, catalogs, etc. and tear out pictures of paintings you like. This is not for copying but sometimes a color palette someone has chosen will really spark your own creativity. In my case I’m working on composition so I’ve taken a keen interest in abstract art.

3. Create a playlist of music to create from.

4. Learn about social media and start utilizing it. There are so many youtube videos and articles about it. It isn’t a waste of time to use some of your creative time to learn.

Patience and Equanimity

It isn't easy. This life journey is fraught with daily challenges and frustrations and everyday seems to call upon us to be our best selves. Whether it be on the grocery line, connecting with a friend, dealing with a customer, communicating with your spouse, children, the computer tech person  (LOL) etc — The list is endless! Fortunately, for most of us, those bumps are tiny and lead to nothing catastrophic.

These last few months of my life have brought both opportunities and challenges. I have big plans and dreams for the future. I'm excited about the steps and strides I've made in my creative journey and my work in counseling and creative consulting is seeing changes as well. The world as I knew it when I began my private practice is WAY, WAY, WAY different than it was 15 years ago. I'm playing catch up to this new world- finessing, fiddling and figuring out where I want to be.

Change(s), the process of getting from one place to another is often way longer and bigger than you imagined when you first started out. There are huge learning curves. That passion you began with can quickly take a detour into stress, anxiety and fatigue. And it's the same—regardless of the change. Leap too quickly and inevitably you are going to trip and fall somewhere. 

So, what's the answer? Hmmm, good question. My clients would look at me in that way they do—with great expectation and relief that I'm going to have the answer. Sorry to disappoint. There's no magic. If there were, people would be lining up around the block. The key is in the title of this blog— "Patience and Equanimity" — trying to enjoy the journey and not getting so attached to the end result. It's the attachment to results that always gets us. So this blog you are reading…I was sure you would be reading it a month ago. But then the title would be different. It wouldn't have been the result of enormous challenges and endless hours on the phone with tech support. But I learned and in the end I'm grateful. It's always easier the tenth time around. Happy New Year from my Work In Progress.