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…

 

“What’s on Your Relationship Bucket List? Tips to Improve How and Who You Date.”

How many times have you gone on a date thinking, “THIS will be it! This person sounds great!” Then, you leave the date wondering, “what the heck went wrong…AGAIN?’ and “Why is it so hard to find a match!?

Did you use your five non-negotiables and your relationship bucket list for this potential match, OR did you choose someone who SEEMED a great fit for you?

A relationship bucket list is similar to a life bucket list, but for qualities and characteristics you want in your partner. Many times, one creates a list of “don’t want” characteristics versus “do want” characteristics. As a good friend so wisely stated, “How the hell do we know what we WANT if we’re only looking at what we DON’T WANT??”

Bucket 4

How do you create a relationship bucket list? There are many ways, but this is what I recommend to clients:

First, create your list of characteristics you WANT in a partner. This may be hard at first as you are used to creating a DON’T want list. If you find yourself coming up with more “don’t want” characteristics, ask yourself “what is the opposite of that characteristic?” or “Instead of this quality, what quality do I want?” It becomes easier as your list gets longer!

Second, take a look at your list and make each characteristic more specific. If you said you want an “athletic partner,” does that you mean you want someone who goes to the gym after work? Someone who cycles? Someone who plays a specific sport? Someone who will enjoy the same athletic hobby as you, or someone with his/her own athletic interest, or both? It’s “ok” to be very specific if that’s what you WANT. It’s also “ok” to be broad on characteristics. If it helps, create a scale of importance (i.e. very important to not important at all) to help complete your list.

Finally, identify your “five non-negotiables.” I must give credit where credit is due; I’m borrowing this term from Patti Stanger, the Millionaire Matchmaker and host of the Bravo reality show by the same name. I thought it was great, and I use it with clients all the time. Your “five non-negotiables” are the five characteristics that you will not make ANY exceptions. Your “five non-negotiables” will decide whether you even go on date number one with a person. If a potential match does not meet even ONE of those five characteristics, politely decline a first date. Why waste your and the other person’s time if you know that one characteristic is a deal breaker?

The last part is FINDING your potential match! Where do you start? Take a look at your list! Based on your “relationship bucket list,” create a list of places in your area that you’ll most likely meet potential matches. If you want an athletic partner who enjoys swimming and hiking, go join a local swimming pool or join a hiking club! Looking for someone who enjoys craft beer and football? Check out local craft beer classes or find out where other sports fans watch the game.

Having trouble creating your list or finding matches? Give me a call and let’s figure out how to get you on the right track!

“You’re a Sex Therapist? Does that Mean You have Sex with Your Clients?”

Part 1: What Does that Lingo Mean?

Many times friends, family, strangers, and clients have asked me, “What is a sex therapist?” and “What is it you do?” Many times the facial expression says, “Do I really want to know her answer?”

I decided to write a blog about not only the practice of sex therapy and how one can find and chose a therapist, but also how I became a sex and relationship therapist.

First, no, I do not have sex with my clients. A sex therapist is a trained and licensed mental health professional. These professionals are either a master’s or doctor’s level clinician or has obtained a medical degree with a focus in psychiatry. At some point, they decided to narrow their focus of treatment to sexual disorders and sexuality and have obtained further education and (possibly) certification.

grad photo op

In the United States, any professional claiming to be a therapist MUST be licensed by the state where they choose to practice or see clients. For example, I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in Georgia. In Georgia, you may also see Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), or LAMFT/LAPC/LMSW, who are licensed therapists under supervision. Each state has the equivalent of the above licenses though different terminology may be used.

A Certified Sex Therapist (CST) is certified by a national organization called the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (this blog will focus on the “therapist” part, but visit AASECT.org for more information about educators and counselors). NOTE: Some states require state certification in order for a therapist to claim they are a sex therapist though most states do not require any additional training or certification. Please contact your local state board to determine if this is a requirement in your state.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series, which will provide tips to find a sex therapist in your area.

For more information about Courtney Geter, LMFT, please visit www.SexAndRelationshipTherapist.com


The Rules in a Relationship: Building a Foundation for Success

The other morning, I was driving to the gym flipping through morning talk show stories to find actual music. Yes, I’m THAT person who doesn’t care about the talk, but just wants music to wake me up. On this particular morning, one segment caught my ear. A female listener was recently engaged. Her best friend, who lives out-of-town, was coming to visit and had never met her new fiancé. Apparently, an idea was concocted to have the best friend flirt or hit on the fiancé to test his reaction. My disclosure is that I only heard ten minutes of this segment and that I may not have received all the details of the story, nor do I actually know this woman or her family. What I gathered, from the part of the segment I heard, is that the majority of listeners did not agree with or condone this plan, and people wanted to know WHY one would test their partner in such a way.

couple back to back

The question now is not WHY would one want to test a partner, but what is the STORY behind this behavior? As a relationship and couple therapist, I don’t just look at the two people sitting in front of me. I look at the two people and the two different families that created each person. I also look at each person as a unique individual that (hopefully) developed his/her OWN beliefs in life. My question would be, “Does this relationship work for you both?” If so, you don’t have a problem. If not, then let’s look at how to make the relationship work for both of you. Couples can create rules in their relationship that others might not agree with or support. This is not a problem. The problem is when both people in the partnership do not agree. Continued use of behaviors that create tension can lead to many problems in a relationship, including but not limited to, loss or decrease of:

1. Sexual desire

2. Communication

3. Time spent together

4. Shared decision-making

5. Intimacy (not to be confused with sexual desire). The list could go on.

What one should take from this radio segment is not judging this couple before knowing the rules of their own relationship, whether you would incorporate this into your relationship or not. What one should think about is “Am I happy in MY relationship?”

holding.hands

 

Photo 1 Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net from the portfolio of “David Castillo Dominici”
Photo 2 Credit:  FreeDigitalPhotos.net from the portfolio of “arztsamui”

There is No Normal Sex

To err is human, to have “normal sex” is for the birds! Simply put, there is no normal sex.

“Normal” is what makes many people think they are “weird” in life, in love, in family, and in bed! Think back to when you first learned about sex. What did you learn? Did anyone say, “OK class, it’s alright for you all to explore and experiment what turns you on?” Did anyone ask, sans judgment, “Do you want to be tied up, spanked, wear sexy outfits or watch someone wear sexy outfits, or roll around in jello?” I wonder if anyone said, “Yeah, it’s cool that watching erotic videos is sexually stimulating.” Would the word “partner” have even been used? Unless you grew up in a home or community that supported sexual diversity, this is probably not how you learned about sex.

 

refugee class

 

Thinking back to my 8th grade year of school, I clearly remember the experience of “sex education.” This was an all girls class with a female teacher, and the curriculum taught consisted of anatomy, reproduction, sexually transmitted diseases, abstinence, and how to protect yourself from peer pressure and rape. Although this was my experience, I have found that many people share the same experience. Many children learn that “normal” sex solely involves the male and female anatomy. Often sex education is taught in separate rooms, with separate curriculum.   Personally, I have yet to figure out why boys and girls had to be separated for this course. You also might have learned about sexually transmitted infections or STIs (formerly called venereal disease or sexually transmitted disease), and why STIs are “bad” or “dirty” and that “not having sex is the best way to prevent them.” Some of you reading this were probably told that only “two adults who were married and in love have sex.”

Many people grew up with a set-in-stone definition of “normal” sexuality and “normal” relationships. When one decided to go outside that definition, they were “deviant,” or “weird,” and “we can’t talk to them (because it might rub off, Heaven forbid!). This mindset does not allow people to openly talk about sexuality, explore their interests in sexual behaviors, or explore their own body. “Problems” arise when we are not allowed the opportunity to explore our unique definition of sexuality. These “problems” have been given names such as “erectile dysfunction,” “low sexual desire,” and “vaginismus,” to name a few. Although these “problems” are real, they can be treated, AND, sometimes, they can be prevented.

 

crimson forest

 

So, what IS normal sex? Sex is what YOU (and your partner or partners) want it to be. Myjob is not to tell clients what his/her/their sex life or sexuality should look like, but help them discover and embrace their own sexuality. When given the time and space to openly explore sexual interests and learn about one’s OWN sexuality, you not only improve your individual self, but also your relationships improve as a whole.

So, if there is no “normal” sex, does this make us all normal?

 

 

Photo Credit:  Big Thanks to Lorrie Lynn King and 50 Cents.Period for the use of  the lovely photos!  First photo is a class of Burmese, refugee women attending Women’s Circle class to learn about physical and emotional health. Please visit www.50centsperiod.org for more information. The second photo is Crimson Forest in Gryfino, Poland.

Spice Up Your Date Night! Part 2

In Part 1, we talked about reasons to spice up your date nigh with tips to start making your sex/dating/love life better. Part 2 will gives you ideas to create your own “Spice Up Your Date Night Bucket List.”

  • Couples Massage:    If you enjoy massages alone, why not get them as a couple? There are no rules to couples massages! You can choose to talk or not talk, sleep or not sleep, partially clothed or nude.  It’s up to you and your partner!  From my experience, great massage therapists will discuss with you (and your partner) your expectations of the experience.  Want to make this time together MORE hands on?  Find a massage therapist who offers classes on giving massages to others and do it at home with your partner!
  •  Boudoir Photo Shoot:    Who says sexy photos are just for Victoria Secret models?  Don’t tell me your body is not “right” for lingerie or photos.  Your body is what you want it to be and what your partner likes!  Why not show it off for you and that special person in your life? Make it a date and go together for a session or go solo and surprise your special someone with a portfolio!  Again, communicate your needs and wants with your partner and the photographer!  Tell them what YOU are comfortable with doing and what you are not comfortable doing. You don’t want to show too much skin? Then, DON’T!  Make the time enjoyable for you BOTH.
  • Park Picnic:    A spiced up date doesn’t always have to be at night, right?  Plan a day in the park!  Do you like to eat?  Take a picnic!  Do you like to be active? Plan some games or activities.  Looking for something more romantic? Plan an evening picnic dinner with wine, candles, blankets; whatever gets you in the mood.
  • Teach your partner a skill:    I’m an advocate that partners can have differing interests and hobbies, but why not teach each other something you’re good at and enjoy?  This suggestion also comes from blog reader too!  Do you enjoy cooking, woodwork, gardening, shooting guns, playing a sport/game, etc? Take a day or half a day to teach your partner. There is nothing wrong with sharing your hobbies; just communicate your expectations and boundaries with your partner.  If you have regular time with a group doing your hobby, state your need to keep that time without your partner. If your partner ends up enjoying the hobby, negotiate time for him/her to join or time for you both to enjoy together.
  • Learn something new together:    Have you always wanted to learn or try and new skill or hobby?  Grab your partner and go! Like the above suggestion, you might find a hobby you both enjoy or that you enjoy separately!
  • Erotic Workshop:    Want to explore your more sensual side together?  Check out an erotic class or workshop.  Explore adult stores or dance studios for classes and workshops. As with many of the suggestions in this blog, communication is the key!  Communicate with your partner your interests and comfort level as well as respect each others opinions and comfort levels.

Interested in any of the above?  Add them to your own “Spice Up Your Date Night Bucket List” as well as check out local area resources! Have suggestions?  Go to the contact page and email me!  You never know if you’ll see them in a future blog!

photo (6)

Spice Up Your Date Night! Part 1

I don’t care what anyonmedium_5984718411e says, but you are never too old to add a little spice to your life!

A common concern I hear from many couples (and individuals too!) is their romantic and intimate life has become boring.  After hearing story after story, the common pattern for relationships is falling into the “same old” routine. Here are just a few reasons I’m told:

  •  “We only go to the movies for dates.”
  • “We can’t go out during the week!  We have kids!”
  • “We just stopped doing the things we did when we were dating.”
  • “Only attractive and sexy people/couples do those things!”
  • “We just don’t have time during the day.”

When was there a law created that said couples, after a certain time together, can only sleep, work, run errands, clean house, and maybe go to dinner or a movie once a week?  Who said that parents aren’t allowed to go out during the week?  Again, who created a law that only “attractive” people can have “spicy” lives together?

This is my two cents (ok, maybe three cents…),

First, MAKE TIME FOR SPICE!  Before you can actually ADD spice to your life, YOU MUST MAKE TIME FOR IT!  Schedule a date night and make it just as important as your cardiology workup, afternoon gym session, or holiday dinner with the family!  Put it on your schedule and in your budget if you must.

Second, think about what USED to excite you or what you looked forward to on a date with your partner.  Think about activities you never tried, but WANTED to try. Create a list of activities or dates. Call it your “Date Night Spice Bucket List.”  Put that list in a place you will remember and see often so it is a constant reminder of what you need and deserve.

Third, forget about what others will think!  This is for YOU and your partner (or just you if you so choose!).  If we were talking about paying your bills or fixing dinner or your next vacation, would it matter what your best friend/cousin/sister/mother in-law thought?  Right.  Then why are your intimate Spice up date night imageor romantic activities any different?

In Part 2 of this blog, Courtney will give you ideas to create your own “Date Night Spice Bucket List!”

 

 

 

 

photo credit (photo 1):  PhotoPin.com