In these Practice What I Teach post, my intention is to take the most frequent tools I provide my clients and put them into practice. In this edition we are talking about self-care.
It’s often in the first or second session with a client I ask them about their self-care. “What credits your energy?” “What fills you up?” I make sure we cover this, because therapy is hard and can be draining. So, it’s important to take time to care for yourself.
As a person who spends the majority of my day helping others, not only in my profession, but as a mom, it’s also important that I care for myself. That’s when I decided to make a list of what fills my cup and try and incorporate these into my weekly schedule. Most of my self-care is in the span of 10-20 minutes. For longer self-care sessions, I have to be more intentional about finding help with my kids and blocking it on my calendar. It’s a challenge, but I know it makes me better at each role in life. During my list making and practice, I discovered there are two types of self-care. DISCONNECT and CONNECT. Each type is beneficial. Regardless of introvert or extrovert, it’s important to integrate both types of care.
Let me share my definitions and ideas for these two types of self-care.
Disconnect is an opportunity to be alone. To put the focus and energy on yourself. This can look a variety of ways and I’ll include some examples below. The goal of of disconnecting is to slow-down, quiet your mind and be present.
Connect is an opportunity to share experiences with others. Shared experience is a fundamental human need. The goal with connecting is to give and receive care with others.
My hope is that you can take at least 2-3 of these ideas and implement them each week. Remember, our ability to make change and do the work is reliant on our energy. Set yourself up for success, by taking care of yourself and filling your cup.
It can be overwhelming picking a counselor to work with. There are many things to consider when choosing a counselor. The theory, techniques, and experience can have an impact on the outcome of therapy; however, studies have shown that the therapeutic relationship accounts for about twice as much as technique in having a positive outcome of therapy. Having a poor therapeutic relationship also accounts for people dropping out of therapy early. If you feel uncomfortable around your counselor, don't like them, or don't trust that they can help you then there is little chance you will have a positive outcome.
Some qualities that go into a good therapeutic relationship include having mutual respect, a sense of teamwork, good non-verbals such as eye contact, good listening skills, encouragement, honesty, and use of humor. It is also important for a counselor to include you in the therapeutic process, including goal setting and feedback. Many clients appreciate counselors who appreciate the autonomy of clients, that they have the right to make their own decisions and that they know themselves better than anyone else.
There are several qualities that have been proven to help the counseling relationship. Genuineness, or the counselor's ability to be authentic and real, helps clients feel comfortable and willing to be themselves. Acceptance, or the ability to approach clients in a non-judgmental posture, helps clients trust that the counselor isn't trying to pass off their own moral judgments onto them. Counselors should also express positive regard to their clients, meaning they respect the clients' ability to make their own decisions and welcome their feedback during the counseling process. Lastly, counselors should be experts in expressing empathy. Empathy is not feeling sorry for others, but it is genuinely trying to understand the feelings of others and putting themselves in the other's shoes.
Two different clients could have a vastly different impression and experience with the same counselor who has these qualities. This is why it is important to not only know what qualities make a good counseling relationship and a good counselor, but to also find a counselor that you feel comfortable with and enjoy being around. By taking these steps and finding a counselor you like you greatly increase the likelihood of having a positive counseling experience.
As I was sitting with my last therapy client on a long Monday, we discussed the benefit of setting boundaries within her relationships. It was during this conversation I realized that I have this conversation with almost every single client at some point in their treatment and often find myself saying the word “boundaries” around 20 times per day. It’s because of this fact: people are not going to treat you any differently until you decide to do something different.
Like many of my clients, I have recently found myself being fueled with anger when someone else’s behavior seems disrespectful or dysfunctional. I noticed old patterns of behaviors that this person had been doing simply because no one said anything or did anything differently to cause a behavior change. Without boundaries, we are enabling the other person’s behavior.
Boundaries look and sound very different depending on the person and the situation. They take many forms. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend described the impact of setting boundaries in their book Boundaries as, “They may feel a hole where you used to plug up their aloneness, their disorganization, or their financial irresponsibility. Whatever it is, they will feel a loss.”
Truth Boundary Bombs:
Benefits of setting boundaries:
There’s no glory in being a martyr -- in saving someone from having to take ownership or do the work. I fell into this trap and sometimes still do in relationships where I’m afraid of making the other person angry. But again, your relationship may improve when you set boundaries simply because your resentment will decrease.
Wouldn’t it be nice if people just knew how you wanted to be treated? If they just automatically knew all the things? Yes, it would; however, I bet someone has set a boundary with you before! We need them. They are important to keep relationships healthy and functioning. And remember: someone else’s temporary emotion is worth long-term relationship preservation.
Millennial Therapist, LSCSW, CPT