INTRODUCING “RISING STRONG™” A NEW CURRICULUM AND BOOK BY BRENE´ BROWN, LMSW

RisingStrong_LogoBasedOnLast week I began publicizing my upcoming Rising Strong™ group for women (see attached flyer at end of post). I want to say a few words about this new curriculum since many people do not yet know what it is. Brene´Brown released the book Rising Strong™ in August 2015. It is the latest in her series about creating a courage practice for your life based on development of shame resilience and increased willingness to be vulnerable in one’s life. As a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator-Candidate I received an advance copy of the book with the expectation that I would ultimately be trained in the material and integrate it into my work with individuals and groups. After having enthusiastically read Brene´’s previous three books I admit to having been a bit wary of this one. After all, how much new material can she have on shame resilience? I thought to myself that this was going to be the one where she starts repackaging and rehashing everything we already know about vulnerability and shame, and I was going to be disappointed and bored.

I am here today to say how wrong I was. I am super enthusiastic about the book and about my upcoming group in January. Rising Strong™ really does take off where The Daring Way™ left off. Both books use the analogy of Teddy Roosevelt’s “arena” to describe how we show up and be seen in our lives. In the case of The Daring Way™ we learn the tools we need to enter the arena, knowing that we’re at risk of getting hurt. In a nutshell The Daring Way™ teaches us the importance of having trusted friends we can count on, and how important empathy and self-compassion are when we’re going into a situation with no guarantees. The curriculum teaches us to remove our armor and let ourselves be seen, and helps us understand how to recognized shame and what our shame triggers are.

Rising Strong™ specifically addresses what we can do when we’ve already gone into the arena and have fallen. How do we get curious about our emotions when we’re feeling hurt? How do we understand and question the stories we tell ourselves about what happened so that we can really rumble with the underlying hurts? And how do we write a new ending to our stories that allows us to move past the hurt and try again? As you can tell by my choice of words, Rising Strong™ is all about story. It’s about the stories we tell ourselves when we fall, the ways we act out those stories by offloading hurt, and is about finding a more accurate ending that keeps us aligned with our authenticity. Using the idea of story to address hard issues such as grief and forgiveness, anxiety, criticism, and trust allows us to really dig in and access hard material that would be a lot harder using a different format.

I hope this answers a few of the questions that have come up about the curriculum. My flyer for the upcoming group is attached to this post, along with contact information if you’d like to know more. I look forward to Rising Strong with many of you in the coming months.

Rising Strong Flyer

 

 

 

COPING WITH THE DARK – FINDING HAPPINESS AND JOY IN THE DARK DAYS OF FALL AND WINTER

It’s been a little over a week now since the clocks changed back, and I find myself mourning the loss of the light of day and the warmth of the sun. This is always I tough time for me and I think it is for a lot of other people too. It’s a time when we pull back and reflect on the past year and then try to think forward to what’s next. But forward thinking can be tough at this time of year, as many of us get stuck on thinking more about what was than on what could be.

So, with that in mind, I decided to do a little scavenging for articles on happiness. The one I’m attaching here is very simple – it refers to 10 studies on happiness, several of which debunk a couple myths of happiness (that money and possessions bring happiness), and a few others that are reflective of the simple practices that can help us maintain our connection to basic happiness and connection.

The practices can be summarized as follows:

  • Maintain a simple gratitude practice to increase overall happiness (note at least 3 things each day that you are grateful for – they should be mostly different things each day).
  • Hug the people you love. Increased levels of oxytocin are associated with happiness and can be achieved simply through eight hugs a day.
  • Think positive thoughts and smile. Smiling as a result of thinking positive thoughts improves mood. When we place our thoughts on the positive we feel more positively.
  • Surround yourself with happy and joyful people. Happiness is contagious.
  • Engage in acts of kindness. It helps others feel good, and rebounds to help you feel good too. One simple compliment each day or a simple random act of kindness works wonders.
  • Exercise. People who exercise on workdays are happier and have less stress in their lives. Really, if you make sure you move every day you will feel better.
  • Volunteer. Volunteering results in improved mental health overall and decreased feelings of depression.
  • Give generously. Generosity promotes happiness. Whenever you can spend more on others than you do on yourself.

As you can see these are very simple and basic practices. One needs only to decide to try them out to see that they begin to work almost immediately and make these dark days of fall and winter a little easier to bear.

For more information on the studies and more detail on the practices see the full article, as attached. http://www.becomingminimalist.com/happier/

THE NEED FOR SELF-COMPASSION WHEN DARING TO BE SEEN

I couldn’t resist reviewing and commenting on the attached article by Kristin Neff. Her work on self-compassion is integral to The Daring Way™, Brene´Brown’s shame resilience and vulnerability curriculum that I facilitate with individuals and groups. Self-compassion is an essential component of the Daring Way™ model. It’s seen, not as an attribute that people either do or don’t possess, but as a practice that we have to cultivate over time. In the Daring Way™ we talk about how if you’re going to show up and be seen at vulnerable moments you must be able to practice self-kindness and recognize that when we screw up we’re not alone – everyone screws up sometimes. We have to be willing to take risks, screw up, getting back up, and try again. Without a little self-compassion it’s tough to get up and try again.

In this article Kristin Neff describes five myths about self-compassion that make it hard for us to practice self-kindness: 1) Self compassion is a form of self-pity, 2) self-compassion means weakness, 3) self-compassion makes one complacent, 4) self-compassion is narcissistic, and 5) self-compassion is selfish. These five myths tend to be compelling because they’re reflective of our dominant cultural beliefs that in order to be a good person we have to be really hard on ourselves.

I’m struck by how similar these myths are to the four myths of vulnerability: 1) vulnerability is weakness, 2) we can opt out of vulnerability, 3) vulnerability is over-sharing, and 4) we don’t need vulnerability if we can go it alone. The problem is that we’re living in a culture that values self-flagellation, perfectionism and comparison so it’s hard to see that being kind to oneself during tough times could be anything but weakness. If you read through Neff’s article, however, you will easily see the fallacy in this position. She describes the research that debunks the myths about self-compassion and demonstrates that high levels of self-compassion are associated with better ability to refocus on others rather than remaining stuck in shame and self-criticism. Self-compassion, it turns out, is not only indicative of strong coping skills and high levels of resilience, but is in many ways the opposite of narcissism and completely incompatible with selfishness. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_five_myths_of_self_compassion#

 

 

ON CREATING AND MAINTAINING A SAFE ENVIRONMENT

I recently came across the attached article on therapeutic ethics. This article was particularly compelling to me because it talks about how to provide a safe and contained environment for therapy to take place. Providing a safe environment is vitally important to helping our clients develop the trust necessary to succeed in therapy. Yet how many of us have operationalized safety and really gone out of our way to ensure that we have really clear boundaries and rules in place to ensure that clients can feel safe.

As the clients and therapists I work with know, I search through Therapist Directory profiles as a first step in bringing therapists into my network. I look for profiles in which the therapist describes what they do with clients and how they do it. If they can describe their work I know that this is probably someone who is well trained and has theory behind their practice. About 80% of the profiles that I read, however, talk exclusively about safety, and maintain that the reason people should come to see them is that they provide a safe and trusting environment. Most of these profiles say little else, and I can honestly say I bypass every one of them. To me, providing safety is so fundamental and obvious that if that’s all that a therapist has to say about what they do, I figure they’re not doing much with their clients beyond sitting and listening to them. And I think it’s also likely that if I called most of these therapists and asked them what they do to provide safety and a trusting environment they wouldn’t be able to tell me.

I’m pleased to see this article in which the author describes in great detail all of the ways that she ensures safety and clear boundaries with clients. This includes a pointed dialogue with every client about what the boundaries are, how a therapeutic relationship is different from a social one, how the therapist might behave in session, when and how physical touch can or won’t occur, what silences mean, and a discussion about how the therapist and client should behave if they meet outside of the therapy session. And while I don’t share the same therapeutic stance as this therapist on whether it is ever appropriate to share personal information, I appreciate so much that her position is consistent and well thought out from a consideration of what is ethical and in the best interests of her clients. This is what matters the most.

So in the end, yes, safety and trust are the most important elements in a therapeutic relationship. The big lesson for me in this article is once again, that therapists need to be able to talk about what they do to help clients, and if what they do most of is provide safety and a trusting environment then every client coming in to see them should know how that safety and trust will be there and what it looks like. http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/daily/freereports/ethics-in-therapy-defining-professional-boundaries/

 

THE BENEFITS OF THERAPIST SELF-DISCLOSURE

SharingFor several weeks I’ve been reviewing articles, looking for a good place to resume writing pieces that will reflect all aspects of my practice, including my assessment and referral service, my work with clients undergoing life transitions, and my work using Brene´Brown’s, The Daring Way™. I chose this article (see link below), The ‘Rules’ of Psychotherapy, because it reminds me of a couple of things; 1) that there is no ‘one size fits all’ way of doing therapy, and 2) that as humans we’re hard-wired for connection, and develop trust and authenticity through moments of mutual connection.

The article makes a case for how therapist self-disclosure can open up trust in clients who are disinclined to engage with therapists that only provide reflection in the service of developing insight. I admittedly work with several therapists who adhere to this principle. Although this is not my style, I work them because know that many clients want, expect, and benefit from a clean and clear therapeutic environment. The therapists I work with who hold to this position work from theory, know what they’re doing and why, and they are very good at it.

My problem with the general neutrality stance, however, is that it’s often assumed to be the only acceptable stance in psychotherapy. Traditionally it’s considered ‘wrong’ for a therapist to self-disclose in sessions. I have written several other pieces on this subject in the past, because I so completely disagree with this line of thinking. I believe that what’s most important is for the therapist know when and how to self-disclose and to do so in the service of helping clients, rather than to get their own needs met.

I love the attached article because it uses a case example to explore this issue. The client in the article had always been the one who provided reflection in her relationships. What she lacked was a feeling of genuine connection with another person. At first the therapist refused to allow herself to be seen by the client, and in doing so negated the opportunity for an experience of connection that this client badly needed. Once the therapist lowered the veil of neutrality the client began to make progress.

The decisions about when and how to self-disclose are not always easy to make. I know therapists that are inappropriate in their self-disclosures, and that do harm by unknowingly using clients to get their own needs met. When I think of Brene´Brown’s work, however, and consider why she has become so popular I realize it’s because she lives her work. She insists that to be wholehearted we have to live inside of our stories, and with this posture she never hesitates to tell stories of her own vulnerabilities and experiences with shame. This resonates with her readers and promotes trust in her authenticity. It is one reason why I continue to do this work, and to share my stories with clients when helpful.http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/11/22/the-rules-of-psychotherapy/?_r=0

 

WHY SHAME RESILIENCE AND DEVELOPING A COURAGE-PRACTICE ARE SO IMPORTANT FOR YOUNG ADULTS

DW_HeavyQuoteImages9The other day I posted my flyer, (which I have again attached at the end of this post), for my upcoming Daring Way™ group for young, college-aged women. I’m excited to be able to provide the Daring Way curriculum to this population who are going out into the world for the first time, without parents at their heels, and jumping into life without boundaries. If ever there was a group of people that could benefit from a Courage-Practice it’s young adults that have been launched from high school into whatever comes next. With that in mind I thought it might be helpful to talk a little more about why this type of group is so powerful.

  1. It provides a common experience that teaches the members to recognize and name shame, vulnerability, authenticity, belonging and worthiness at the time when they are feeling most exposed.
  2. It gives them a supportive network that is experiencing the same things as them, so that they know they’re never alone.
  3. It provides tools to help them recognize shame and walk through it to the other side where they will find connection and belonging.
  4. It focuses on values and helps group members to name what values are most important to them, so that they can use their values to light the way to authenticity and recognize when they are stepping away from their values.

These are just a few of the things that participants in the Daring Way™ for Young Adults group will learn and experience together. Oftentimes, participants in Daring Way™ groups form lasting bonds and develop ongoing connections after the group has ended which can be an invaluable resource to them in the months and years to come.

To save your place in the upcoming Daring Way™ for young adults group, contact me, or my colleague, Lynn Zakeri, per the attached flyer.

DW Young Adults

COMPATIBLE COUNSELING SOLUTIONS EXPANDS SERVICES TO INCLUDE BRENE´ BROWN’S THE DARING WAY™

DW_HeavyQuoteImages8I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about what I’ve been doing and about the future of Compatible Counseling Solutions. Admittedly, it’s been a long time since I’ve written a post. This is largely due to some outside work I engaged in during 2013-2014 helping manage behavioral health programs in my former agency, a temporary engagement that took much of my time. During that time also, however, I also participated in The Daring Way™ National Training, a 5-day intensive training in which I learned the contents of the new Daring Way™ curriculum and became a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator-Candidate. It was a wonderful opportunity in which I was honored to meet program developer, Dr. Brene´Brown and learn from her senior faculty how to implement the curriculum for use with both individuals and groups.

Now that I’m done with my outside work, I’m ready to being implementation of the Daring Way™ as part of my practice here in Chicago. At this time I am opening up my practice to allow for a limited number of individuals to participate in the Daring Way™ 12-session curriculum in a 1-1 format. Each session is 1 – 1.5 hours long and will allow participants to work at their own pace in completing the curriculum. The cost to the participant is $100 for each 60 minutes session or $150 for each 90-minute session. Interested parties may call 773 372-4111 or contact me at [email protected]

For those interested in participating in The Daring Way™ in a group format, I am postponing the start of groups until January 2015 so that more people will have an opportunity to benefit. If you are interested in participating in the group you may call 773 372-4111 or contact me at [email protected] and I’ll happily keep you updated on when I will be opening registration. All services including groups will be held at Compatible Counseling’s offices in Chicago, Illinois

The Daring Way™ it is a highly experiential methodology that explores topics such as vulnerability, courage, shame, and worthiness. It examines the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are holding us back and helps participants to explore the new choices and practices that will move them toward more authentic and wholehearted living.

The Daring Way™ method is based on the research of Brené Brown, Ph.D. LMSW. Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past twelve years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Her groundbreaking research has been featured on PBS, NPR, CNN, and Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday.

Click on the link to view Brene´Brown’s groundbreaking 2010 TEDx Houston Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability”. The Power of Vulnerability is one of the top ten most viewed TED talks in the world, with over 14 million viewers.

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

 

WHEN THERAPY GETS STUCK: HOW THERAPISTS CAN HELP GET IT MOVING AGAIN

Busy going nowhereThe attached article is long, but worth taking the time to read. It does a great job of describing how therapy relationships often get stuck into a comfortable but stagnant routine that can go on for years. Unfortunately, this sort of therapeutic stagnation is especially common. I believe more therapists than not are comfortable with stagnation and allow their clients to pay for long-term therapy that goes nowhere without giving it a second thought. I appreciate the author’s candor in describing his own experiences with this model and I even more appreciate that he became uncomfortable with his clients’ lack of progress, analyzed the reasons for his own complacency, and found ways back into productive work. The author does a great job in describing how therapy can get back on track again.

The concepts this author describes are the same ones I talk about all the time: collaboration and evaluation. It’s so important for therapists to involve clients in evaluating their progress, and to empower them to make the final determination of what is going to happen next. This article describes how effective evaluation and decisions can be made. If you are considering therapy it’s a good idea to read through these processes so that you can ensure that a similar process takes place in your sessions.

This article goes on to describe some common mistakes that therapists make when therapy has reached a dead end. These are also worth reading, as these are very unfortunate mistakes that therapists make in personalizing the client’s lack of progress or treating them like they are “resistant” and either stupid or unwilling to make necessary changes. Please, if you get in a relationship where you feel like this GET OUT and find another therapist.

Beyond that, the article offers up a few more suggestions for how to get therapy moving again. As a therapist I found these last couple of pages interesting. As a client or potential client it may provide more detail than is helpful to you. In any event I strongly recommend reading at least the first four or five pages of this article. It’s provides a good education into how a lot of therapy really works. http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/recentissues/2013-mayjune/item/2129-when-therapy-is-going-nowhere

QUALITY PSYCHOTHERAPY PREFERED OVER MEDICATION – BUT HARDER TO FIND

Find a Therapist in ChicagoGiven the work I do matching individuals and couples with counselors, I found the article in the link below very interesting. It addresses the contradictory finding that while a majority of clients say they prefer psychotherapy to medications, studies show that the use of psychotherapy alone is decreasing while the use of medication alone is increasing.  The article states that a lot of the reason for this shift is due to the high level of marketing done by pharmaceutical companies and the low level of marketing done by those that develop and research psychotherapy models.

No doubt this is an accurate representation of the marketing realities, especially given the enormous advertising budgets that pharmaceutical companies possess. Consumers who want to find quality services have to search for information regarding the best approaches because it’s not readily available. And they have to do this during a time when they likely don’t have much energy to do research or “shop around” for therapy.

Those of us who spend time seeking qualified professionals know how hard the “shopping around” can be. While there are many professionals who use evidence-based approaches skillfully, there are many who don’t. Finding a skilled professional who is a good fit for one’s problems can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. I can’t tell you how much time I spend pouring over websites and directories trying to sort out the good therapists from the bad. Literally hundreds of therapists are out there that all say the same thing: they provide a safe environment for clients to share their stories, or they will provide a trusting relationship where clients can heal. I can’t tell one of these therapists from another and I don’t know how clients can either.  Some of them probably do good work, but many of them don’t.

So, is it any wonder clients are turning to medication for symptom relief instead of shopping for therapists?  The odds of finding a good therapist are against them, but finding a psychiatrist who will prescribe medication is easy.  I wish I had a solution to this problem. If you’re in the Chicago area, of course, Compatible Counseling Solutions is here to help with a personal assessment and referral. We will also continue writing these blog pieces and presenting articles that can help you be a better and wiser consumer. For more information on this particular topic, please read the attached article.    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/opinion/psychotherapys-image-problem.html?_r=0

OVER-ANALYSIS IS CORE STRATEGY FOR WORRIERS AND PERFECTIONISTS

Overworked BusinessmanI admit it. I’m a chronic worrier and a perfectionist. I come by it honestly. My mother is the champion of worrying and she taught me well. In her case, she feels she has no purpose if she’s not actively worrying about the people she loves. For me, it’s not so steeped in meaning. I have learned from a lifetime of being told to BE CAREFUL! that to make a mistake would be a catastrophe, so I over-think every move before I make it. A lot of us are like this, but know how dysfunctional it is and how much it limits our capacity to experience joy and richness in our lives.

I saw this little article the other day that says that analytical thinking is the primary tool of chronic worriers. Since analytical thinking is my primary modus operandi I was intrigued. The article describes that worriers and perfectionists use systematic processing and analysis to check and double check themselves due to a lack of confidence in themselves and fear of making decisions.  Having grown up in a family that scans the environment for every possible source of disapproval before making a decision, I know how limiting this level of systematic processing can be. And I’ve seen it a lot in the clients that come to me for help who want to make changes in their lives but are afraid that others will not approve.

So, for the most part I really liked this article and thought it would be worth citing here. The article poses that by using cognitive-behavioral therapy one can learn another way to manage thoughts that’s not so debilitating as over analyzing. I’m a big fan of cognitive-behavioral therapy, so I have no problem with that. But the article starts out also talking about gut instincts, stating that chronic worriers are people who don’t listen to their gut.  I had hoped that the article would go on to talk about intuitive thinking and the value of trusting your gut instincts. Unfortunately, however, the article never got back to talking about intuition after that first statement.

I recommend reading through the article if you have problems with over-analyzing or with worrying. Cognitive Therapy is an excellent option for the worrier. I recommend, however, balancing cognitive work with work on learning to sense and trust intuition. Listening to intuition means listening to the heart and following your internal “knowing”. This is a skill we are all born with but squash out of ourselves as we learn that over-analysis is more highly regarded. If you are interested in ridding yourself of that pesky voice that keeps you from trying out new options and ways of being I recommend finding a therapist that will help you to trust your intuition as well as challenge your negative thought patterns.  In the meantime, please take a look at the article. http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/08/31/chronic-worriers-tend-to-rely-on-analysis-not-gut-feelings/59057.html