All You Want to Know About Therapy

For Therapy to work, you must have a good connection…

and that’s why        

self-help books don’t work.

Our emotional lives, with all their emotional cues, are on board before any verbal or conceptual ability appears. And the consequences of these experiences are unaffected by intellectual efforts to change them.

That may be because emotions, and our most powerful “memories”, seem to be stored in the right hemisphere of the brain. And yet our thinking (or intellectualizingis a left-hemisphere activity.

Books and conversations about why we act the way we do are certainly helpful, but they don’t seem to be enough to effect real changes in our interactions with the world and ourselves.

So how can we make real changes?

Only by recreating as much as possible the initial conditions in which the processes were created in the first place.

We are born wired to seek connection with others. 

You may have heard that your first loves (parents) create the models for every relationship there after. They become our relationship-blueprints. Our experiences, especially with our caregivers, will become unconscious, intuitive memories that form the basis of our emotional life.

So if you want to change the deep, unconscious patterns that define your reactions to life’s events, you need an environment that can mirror those earliest connections, while, ideally, re-writing them (“neuroplasticity”). The result is a more harmonious existence in your current situations.

A powerful way to do this is through a positive connection with a trained professional (i.e., a psychotherapist). Good therapy aims to create a safe connection with the client so that emotional healing can take place.

And there is more to it, of course. Techniques that require direct experience have proven effective, such as working with the “inner child , mindfulness meditations, Journaling and others. I believe these techniques work because they access the right-brain.

When my client opens up to me as much as they can in a session, I know that we are accessing the right-brain. In doing so, the chances for authentic change become possible.

If you’d like to contact me, have a question, or want to chat, please click the link:

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call, 801-252-6754 (private voicemail, 24/7),

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Stay in Love by Staying Out of Fantasy

Old CoupleThere is hard science behind the notion that true love can last a lifetime. A neurological study from Stony Brook University revealed that couples who experience “romantic love” long-term, keep their brains firing in similar ways to couples who have just fallen in love.They defined “romantic love” as characterized by “intensity, engagement and sexual interest.”

If lasting love is an attainable goal, then what’s getting in the way of achieving it? What keeps so many people from maintaining that excitement and closeness they once felt with a partner?

One psychologist would argue that many couples can preserve “romantic love” by avoiding the trappings of a “Fantasy Bond.”

The fantasy bond is a concept developed by psychologist Robert Firestone. It describes an illusion of connection a couple forms that replaces real acts of love, affection, and relating. A fantasy bond exists when a couple starts to forego their individually and lose the “me” to become a “we.”

The most remarkable sign that a fantasy bond has been formed is when one or both partners give up vital areas of personal interest, their unique points of view and opinions, their individuality, presumably to become a ‘unit’, or a ‘whole’. The attempt to find security in an illusion of merging with another leads to an insidious and progressive loss of identity in each person.

According to Dr. Firestone, people have a tendency to reenact the defensive styles developed in childhood. Once old defensive styles are triggered,the individual acts with this defensive posture, blocking the development of a genuine, unique relationship with the partner.

The fantasy bond allows us to feel secure and connected to someone else, while numbing us against some of the more painful emotions that love stirs up, such as fear of loss, memories of hurt, longing, or rejection.

Unfortunately, we cannot selectively block out pain without also blocking out joy.

Without knowing it, couples tend to set up routines and fit each other into roles rather than face the unpredictability and inherent challenges that come with maintaining passion, excitement, and a deep sense of fondness for another person, separate from themselves.

So what are some signs that you may be in a fantasy bond?

• Less eye contact
• Breakdowns in communication
• Less frequent affection and routinized lovemaking
• Loss of independence
• Speaking as one person, overusing “we” statements
• Using everyday routines as symbols of closeness, in place of being emotionally close
• Engaging in role-determined behaviors (i.e., as father, wife, breadwinner, decision-maker), rather than developing yourself based on your personal goals and interests
• Using customs and conventional responses as substitutes for real closeness and relating

If you notice that your relationship has some of these qualities, don’t despair! A fantasy bond exists on a continuum. It isn’t a black or white, good or bad label for your relationship. Once you realize that you have fallen into some form of a fantasy bond, it is possible to reemerge as a happier, more in-love version of yourself.

To do this, you must first investigate and explore how your old wounds were triggered. Therapy can help you with that. It’s often hard to discover on your own. Then you can engage in behaviors that encourage real and meaningful contact with your partner, i.e.,try the opposite of what’s on the above list.

Ultimately, you can become the person you want to be in your relationship—minus the fairytale, but with a much happier ending.Stay in Love by Staying Out of Fantasy.

Some excerpts from PsychAlive:

Test: How Much Do You Admire Each Other?

Fondness and Admiration: Assessment

From Dr. Gottman’s Relationship Blog

happyPeopleAccording to research, fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance. Getting through stressful times and managing conflict is much easier if you and your partner regularly show how highly you value each other!

The following questions have been designed by Dr. Gottman to assess the current level of fondness and admiration that exists in your relationship.

On a sheet of paper, please answer T for true and F for false.

  1. I can easily list the three things I most admire about my partner.T F
  2. When we are apart, I often think fondly about my partner. T F
  3. I will often find some way to tell my partner “I love you.” T F
  4. I often touch or kiss my partner affectionately. T F 
  5. My partner really respects me. T F 
  6. I feel loved and cared for in this relationship. T F
  7. I feel accepted and liked by my partner. T F 
  8. My partner finds me sexy and attractive. T F 
  9. My partner turns me on sexually. T F 
  10. There is fire and passion in this relationship. T F
  11. Romance is definitely still a part of our relationship. T F
  12. I am really proud of my partner. T F 
  13. My partner really enjoys my achievements and accomplishments.T F 
  14. I can easily tell you why I started dating my partner. T F 
  15. If I had it all over again, I would date the same person. T F 
  16. We rarely go to sleep without some show of love or affection. T F 
  17. When I come into a room, my partner is glad to see me. T F 
  18. My partner appreciates the things I do in this relationship. T F 
  19. My partner generally likes my personality. T F
  20. Our sex life is generally satisfying. T F

Give yourself one point for each true answer.

10 or above: This is an area of strength in your relationship. Because you value each other highly, you have a shield that can protect your relationship from being overwhelmed by any negativity that also exists between you. Although it might seem obvious to you that people who are in love have a high regard for each other, its common for spouses to lose sight of some of their fondness and admiration over time. Remember that this fondness and admiration is a gift worth cherishing. Completing this exercise from time to time will help you reaffirm your positive feelings for each other.

Below 10: Your relationship could stand some improvement in this area. Don’t be discouraged by a low score! There are many couples for whom the fondness and admiration system has not died but is buried under layers of negativity, hurt feelings, and betrayal. By reviving the positive feelings that still lie deep below, you can strengthen your bond enormously!

If your fondness and admiration for each other are being chipped away, the route to bringing them back always begins with realizing how valuable they are. Fondness and admiration are crucial to the long-term happiness of a relationship because they prevent contempt – a corrosive that, over time, breaks down the bond between partners –  from becoming an overwhelming presence in your lives. The better in-touch you are with your deep positive feelings for each other, the less likely you are to act contemptuous of your partner when you have a difference of opinion.

Finding the Right Therapist for You

Couples therapy

If you’ve decided you’re ready to go to therapy, the next step is finding a reputable therapist. If you have a referral from a friend, family member, or a trusted Doctor, start there. If not, you can check with your insurance carrier, or go on-line and research therapists yourself. Once you find a few names, give them a call or send an email. Some questions to keep in mind are:

  • Experience – The longer a therapist has been practicing, the more competent they are likely to be. Also ask what percentage of their clients are in your age group and have had similar issues. If the therapist is something other than a psychologist, ask what their bachelors degree was in. Social workers, for example, can apply to graduate school with any bachelor’s degree. If their first 4 years was NOT in psychology, then they’ve essentially only had 2 years training!


  • Basic therapy style – Believe it or not, this is important to clarify. Some therapists guide their clients from a  “Brief Solution Focused” model (behaviors), “Cognitive-Behavioral” (thinking patterns), “Psychodynamic” (childhood experiences), etc. This may be too much information, but you might ask how they would approach your particular issue. This gives you a “feel” for the person you might be spending time with.
  • Life Experience – Therapists are supposed to be objective, well-trained professionals, but let’s face it – they are still people. If you think someone will understand you better if they’ve been through a few things like you, go ahead and ask! In Salt Lake City, for instance, most people have strong views about church affiliation. It’s OK to want a counselor that understands you in that area. Also, if you are struggling with children or a divorce, it makes sense to want to work with someone who has “been there”.
  • Personality Fit – Once you’ve made an appointment, a good rule to keep in mind is this – do not waste your time if you do not click with the therapist. (One to three sessions should give you enough information on the “click” factor!) Feeling confident that he or she can help you is the most important aspect of successful therapy. If you are not comfortable with the therapist’s style, you need to find someone else.
  • Location – It may be important that your therapist isn’t more than ____ minutes drive from you. This may be close to home or close to where you work. (If location is not a big deal for you, you can use your commute time to listen to a podcast or relaxation music!)
  • Availability – What are the times that would be ideal for you? Some like going during a lunch hour, before kids are home from school, or on the way home from work.

REMEMBER –  Therapy is for youYou will be their employer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to talk about what you expect from therapy. We are people people – we can handle it!

Happy Hunting!