Toxic Relationships: An Open Letter to the One Who Won’t Let Me Go

Thank you for teaching me how to love myself better and to grow in this world that throws a curveball whenever I least expect it. But now, it’s time for us to part, and I need you to let go so I can continue to grow and become an even more healthy person than I already am.

You are not the overbearing, clingy-type who is following me on social media to see where I am and who I’m with. You are not the possessive type who does not want any other person to enjoy my company and is keeping me locked away from the world…

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Originally posted on Metro.us and written by Courtney Geter, LMFT, CST

How to Get the Most Out of Your Therapy Part 2: Committing to Therapy…

Committing to Therapy…

In my practice, one of the biggest reasons therapy is not ‘successful’ is that people don’t commit the time or to making the process a priority. For many, this means attending the

Tips to Improve Therapy: Committing to Therapy
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

session as scheduled and reflecting on the therapy outside of session. My time recommendation for new clients is a weekly appointment, as this allows time for you and your therapist to learn about each other, to develop a rapport, and to begin the therapeutic process. If time or cost is a barrier, every other week is an option to discuss with your therapist. Once a client is established or has achieved the goals for initially seeking therapy, we discuss sessions monthly as “well-care” or as needed. I have many clients in my caseload who schedule as needed because they used therapy to develop skills to keep them healthy, one of which is understanding when they need a professional’s unbiased thoughts. In terms of “how long therapy will last,” I don’t put a timeframe. Again, therapy is your own personal journey, aimed at working with your psychology needs, and this journey may not have an obvious or definite end. That all depends on you and your goals – which can change as therapy progresses.

 

… the Therapeutic Relationship…

Another reason therapy doesn’t work out is a lack of connection in the therapeutic relationship. Although your therapist is not your best friend or family member, a potent bond still forms. This person may be one of the only people who knows the most intimate and vulnerable details of your life. It’s important to feel safe and comfortable with them! But therapists are still human, and this means we may not click with every other human in the world. It happens and it’s ok to be realistic about this and seek out a new therapist. Instead of ghosting on your therapist, have a discussion to properly end the relationship. In these cases, professional therapists will understand where the client is coming from and can recommend a colleague who may be a better fit.

Tips to Improve Therapy: Committing to Therapy
Image courtesy of everydayplus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Addressing Outside Factors…

Another reason I see clients reporting dissatisfaction with therapy (either with our sessions or past therapy with another therapist) is focusing on other aspects of the process. These can include costs or pricing, insurance issues, and rapidly switching therapists before change can occur or is about to occur. Yes, the cost of therapy is an important factor (we don’t want you going broke in order to grow or heal!) but is your growth and healing less important than finding someone with a lower rate or being able to use your insurance benefits? It’s important to answer this question in the best way for your situation, and also, to discuss this concern with your therapist.

In the past insurance plans were more consistent and changed less frequently than today. Now, the majority of plans could change in a year or a provider may leave your state or network. For instance, your employer may contract with company A this year though next year contract with company B, altering your network and your coverage significantly. Even private plans through the insurance company may change each year, resulting in a change of your benefits including mental health coverage. Before beginning therapy and choosing a therapist, I suggest exploring what is most important to you about therapy and then choose based on those options. If seeing a person with a specific niche or knowledge area is important, then choose a therapist based on those criteria. If using your insurance is most important, then choose a therapist who accepts your insurance with the possibility that this could change at any point during your treatment. And as always, discuss these issues with your therapist. He or she is invested in your success as well, and will often be able to find workarounds and compromises for insurance, coverage, and billing difficulties.

 

…And Embracing Unintentional Change

As I tell clients beginning therapy, be open to the process involving change you

How to Get the Most Out of Your Therapy Part 2: Committing to Therapy
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

aren’t expecting. Therapy is a journey and, at times, our path may take us down an unintended route. You may begin therapy with a specific goal in mind, but the could open other possibilities or provide insights you’d never considered. These can be some of the most moving and helpful sessions, even though neither I nor my client anticipates them when therapy begins. Much of my work with clients is not only symptom management but also helping clients learn about themselves (and learning along with them) and the systems impacting their development. Being too rigid with goals and expectations of therapy can lead to dissatisfaction and lack of growth. For those concerned about too much flexibility, a good therapist won’t let you flounder around and will help keep you and the process on track by reviewing the reasons you started therapy and reviewing the progress and change. And of course, therapy is grounded in communication: if you think your progress is slowing or something is not working for you, tell your therapist, who can help work out new strategies.

 

Tell us your thoughts about how you choose a therapist and what is most important to you…

 

Running Out of Steam in Bed? Tips to Build Endurance in the Bedroom

 

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Endurance is the ability to exert oneself over a long period of time without fatigue, as well as recover from the exertion without injury or trauma. Endurance is important in all areas of life; it also benefits our sexual activity by allowing us to engage in longer, injury free sexual acts or “running out of steam” before we choose to end sexual activity. When we can’t endure a longer sexual session with our partner, we could develop feelings of guilt or shame from thoughts such as “I am not good enough,” “Other people are better than me,” or “I’ll never be able to last longer.”

 

How Much vs. How Often  

Before we talk about “lasting longer in bed,” we first need to understand and feel satisfied with “quality over quantity.” As a sex positive therapist, I help clients reframID-100112062.jpge negative thoughts to promote positive feelings and self esteem.  There are times when a “wham bam thank you ma’am (or sir)” is all we need to get a boost of enery or relaxation. Understanding “do I want to last long?” versus “do I want to get off quickly” h
elps create a positive mindset going into the bedroom. We also need to communicate this to our partner so we’re both in agreement about expectations.

 

The Green Light to GO and How to Get There!

Secondly, I encourage collaboration with other healthcare providers to ensure individuals are healthy enough to increase any physical activity including sex. Sexual activity falls into the category of exercise including cardio and strength training movements. Therefore, changing current physical activity could create or exacerbate current medical conditions including pulled muscles or heart conditions. Allowing communication between all of your healthcare providers improves your chances of progressing instead of regressing in your goal to increase endurance.

Since sexual activity is physical exercise, we also need to prep our muscles before sex and allow recovery time after sexual activity. In other words, we need to warm up our whole body including the vagina and penis. A sensual massage that will help blood flow in the muscles is a great warm up activity and also builds intimacy between partners. Orgasms and vaginal stimulation also decreases tightness and helps relax muscles before penetration. This is particularly important for women with a history of vaginismus. Finally, make sure you have a great lube on hand! Lack of lubrication can cause pain or injury resulting in possible future vaginal pain or longer periods of healing time between sexual activity sessions. Courtney recommends a variety of lubes including AloeCadabra, which is also safe for toys. Check out the product at www.AloeCadabra.com and enter AFGETER at checkout to save 25% and get free shipping!

 

ID-10044290.jpgCool down or recovery time is also important for muscle recovery. Your sexual positions will determine the type of stretches used after sex. I recommend talking to your physical therapist or personal trainer to create a routine for you and your partner. This is another great time to build intimacy and communicate with your partner about the sex while. Skipping the warm-up and cool down parts could create injury during sexual activity and delay increasing endurance.

A final tip is rest and sleep. When one is already fatigued from a busy day or lack of sleep, longer endurance may be an unreasonable expectation. Due to busy lives and unexpected events, we can’t predict when we might loose energy. However, we can understand that longer sexual activity may not occur or be a reasonable expectation after a 10-hour work day plus taking care of children though it may be more reasonable after 8 hours of sleep and before getting ready for your day. In regards to rest and recovery for your body, if you go to the gym after work, a long sex session that night may be unreasonable and potentially unhealthy as you’ve already exerted energy and fatigued your muscles. Plan longer sex sessions during times you are physically and emotionally well rested.

 

Don’t forget to check out AloeCadabra.com for a natural, water-based lube that is safe for silicone toys. When checking out, use code AFGETER to save 25% and receive FREE shipping! Stock up on all flavors to get a bang for your buck!

 

Photo 1 Credit: Unsplash.com- Krista Mangulsone
Photo 2 credit: marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photo 3 credit: Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is Your Online Behavior Ruining Your Love Life?

If you’re in the dating world, you’re likely no stranger to online dating. From my personal life to my professional life, I hear and experience how people lose manners once a screen is between them and other people. At one point, my best girlfriends and I joked about creating a blog to record online dates-gone-bad.

 As a therapist, I want my clients to feel comfortable going online to find a potential partner. Part of our discussion involves understanding how their actions impact the dating experience. As a person, I would love to report more positive experiences with online dating, and as a therapist, I want hear many more success stories. Without further ado, here are a few things to keep in mind with online dating:

 

  1. Politeness: If you wouldn’t do it in person, why would you do it online? In other words, if you called someone on the phone, and they did not answer, would you call back five minutes later and continue with multiple phone calls? Would you walk up to a stranger and state something perceived as obscene or rude? If you answered “no” to those questions, then why is it appropriate to exhibit this behavior online by sending multiple messages back to back to the same person or to engage in rude conversation with a stranger? If you’ve listened to my podcast, you are aware of my experience with online dating (and if you haven’t listened, then head over to sexandrelationshiptherapist.com to take a listen!). Just recently, I began talking to Chris, who first started out very respectful. After brief conversation, Chris began calling me “sexy” such as “good morning sexy,” or “Are you sweaty and sexy” after I told him I’d been at the gym. I’m thinking (and praying!) he would not greet a co-worker, friend, or other non-romantic partner in such a way!

 

  1. Honesty and Directness: Going back to Chris, after his change in behavior in our conversation, I created theories including: 1) he had no understanding of appropriate and respectful conversation with a stranger, 2) he learned this was how you talk to some one he met on a dating app, or 3) he had an underlying motive. It turned out Chris was only looking for a hookup, which was not my intention for dating. After this discovery, our conversation ended. Now, why couldn’t Chris be up front with me in the beginning? If he had informed me that a hookup was his intention, we could have saved time and ended that conversation sooner rather than later. There are plenty of men and women who only want to hookup and plenty who are looking for dating or a relationship. One of my best dating experiences was with a man who was upfront with his intention for a non-serious relationship. I encourage people to be open and honest about their desires early on in conversation or meeting, and for each to respect the desires and wishes of the other person.

 

  1. Mindful and Awareness: Our prior discussion on politeness correlates with mindfulness and awareness. I have experienced many interactions with different men where it appears they believe I am constantly monitoring my inbox or receiving notifications of new messages. When I don’t respond in a timeframe these men deem acceptable, I receive additional messages ranging from rudeness for not responding to multiple annoying messages asking if I’m going to respond or reminding me they are waiting for a response. Let us keep in mind that 1) some people may not check their messages daily or more than 1x daily, 2) some people may not use the phone app, 3) people could be doing other things such a working/hobbies/social engagements/sleeping and the list goes on, and 4) a person just might not be interested in you for any number of reasons. In regards to number 4, please don’t take this personally. As I discuss with clients, we aren’t going to like or be attracted to everyone we meet. The same goes for other people meeting us. This is not a reflection of who we are as a person though a preference.

 

  1. Grammar: Face to face communication is ultimately the most important as one gives and receives different forms of communication from verbal words, body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. With electronic communication, you lose all but verbal words and your grammar becomes your first impression. These days, emoticons enhance our electronic communication though it won’t ever compare to in person interaction. How many times have you received a text message or email from a friend where the grammar or writing was so bad you couldn’t figure out what your friend was trying to relay? This happens all the time in online dating. As I’m write this blog, I just received a message stating, “Dhali Llama?” That’s it, though I think he might mean “Dalai Lama…” This is not mindfulness or awareness in action. Is this person asking if I am the Dalai Lama? Is he asking do I like or know anything about the Dalai Lama? Could he be asking about my religious preference or if I am Buddhist monk? Is he trying to make a joke about my profile although my profile contains nothing to my knowledge about the Dalai Lama, India, Buddhism, or even lamas or farm animals! Your grammar doesn’t have to be New York Times quality writing, though please know complete sentences and spell check will greatly improve your chances of getting a response.

 

These are only few tips to improve your online dating experience though ones I feel are very important. Remember, your messages may be the first impression you give to another person. Stay tuned for a future blog (or podcast) talking more about how to make your online dating experience successful.

Wear Your Label NOT the Stigma!

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I came across another great website and company this past week.  WearYourLabel.com fights the stigma of mental health by encouraging people to be open about their diagnosis instead of hiding behind shame, guilt, and stigma. According to the National Institute of Mental Health’s 2012 statistics, 18.6 of the adult population over 18 years of age were diagnosed with a mental health condition, and data from the CDC shows that 13.6 children ages 8-15 are diagnosed with mental illness. The company was founded by Kyle MacNevin and Kayley Reed who both have mental health diagnosis. Kyle and Kayley wanted to promote people talking about mental health and decided to create a clothing line addressing mental health illness. In addition, Wear Your Label donates to mental health organizations in order to end the stigma.  Check them out at http://wearyourlabel.com/collections/clothing

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Photo credit from Wear Your Label Facebook page!