Tag Archives: Psychological Tips

Reasons to Leave your Therapist, Part III: Therapy Love? How about Therapy I’m starting to Hate?

September is back to school, back from summer vacation, and for many the beginning of a new year and a new beginning.  In our lives, some things are always beginning, and some ending, but it often takes contemplation to know which should be which…

How in the world do you know when to end therapy?  There are a number of scenarios, depending on you, your therapist, and your course of treatment. Leaving the good experience can be tough; ending a not-so-good, or a downright bad, therapy can be even more difficult.

Ending before you begin:  What’s a fair amount of time to decide if this is the (right) therapist for you?  What if you get a funny feeling early on?  What if you’ve been given a referral by someone you trust, and you have a terrific initial conversation, only to find something comes up early on that really bothers you?  Should you start with a therapist when you’re not so sure she’s the right one for you?


Here’s a shortcut to what I think is the right balance:  you should feel comfortable enough to speak openly and honestly, but not so comfortable you feel as if you’re having coffee with a friend.  Go with your feelings.  If it feels right, dive in, if not, keep looking.

Ending in the middle:  You’ve hit a speed bump.  Maybe your therapist did something you didn’t like, or has turned out to have shortcomings you hadn’t seen before (I have certainly been guilty of both, and no doubt will again).  Maybe your therapy’s veered in a direction that doesn’t quite feel on the mark.  Maybe there’s something you just can’t bring up, maybe even bring yourself to face – about the problem that brought you in to therapy in the first place, about your feelings toward your therapist, about your thoughts or conclusions. 

Bring it up.  No matter what it is, whether you are “right” or “wrong” think you “should” feel this way or not, might “hurt feelings” or “make her angry.”  Bring it up.  Because that accomplishes two things:  you get it out and realize you’re still alive (hopefully with a tour guide who’s calm and compassionate), AND you get to see how your therapist reacts.  Does she minimize what you say, make you feel small or silly or just plain wrong or bad?  Or does she listen, take you seriously, consider her part in your discomfort and work with you to get over (not around) the bump?  Because that will tell you all you need to know.  Can’t avoid the bumps, I’m afraid; can avoid feeling afraid to talk about the bumps with the therapist who’s meant to help you do so.

Ending when it feels as if you’ve been going forever.  If therapy’s been uncomfortable and unproductive for a long time, if you find yourself leaving each session wondering why you bother,  if you keep trying to communicate something but your therapist really doesn’t seem to get it/you,  if you feel increasingly frustrated (maybe even angry), it’s time to reassess.

If, after months, maybe even years in therapy, you are feeling that you’ve hit a wall, chances are you have.  If, after months, maybe even years in therapy,  you are feeling unheard, you’ve got to wonder:  what will it take for this therapist to get me?  Actually, maybe you’ve got to stop wondering, and just start saying your goodbyes.  Because if you’ve invested months and years in treatment and your therapist still doesn’t get it, or you’ve stopped learning anything significant about yourself long ago, or if you’ve gotten stuck in the land of diminishing therapeutic returns: it is time to go.  Maybe time to end therapy, maybe just time to end therapy with this therapist.  Doesn’t mean it hasn’t been real, useful, important; just means it hasn’t been for a while.  A dry spell is one thing – every therapy relationship (geez, every relationship) goes through those – but a dry spell that lasts for weeks and months is more than a dry spell.  It’s a dessicated therapy experience.  And that is none too therapeutic.

Copyright © 2012 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.


How to Get Him to Listen: A Primer

Ever get the sense the person you are talking to may hear you, but is not listening?

Want to be heard, really heard, before you lose your cool?

Before you begin

(by – and for – yourself):

  1. Determine clear, specific objective for the conversation.
  2. Have your facts available, preferably in bullet-point form.
  3. Note alternatives if your objectives are not met (end the conversation, rethink your assumptions, time-out to cool down, enlist others, etc.).
  4. Your goal: to reach similar conclusion, redefining the problem as a common problem to be solved together.  (Assume you are on the same team, simply with different information, points of view, which when shared lead to mutually satisfying conclusion.  Your job: to get you there).
  5. Take a breath, collect yourself.

During the conversation:

  1. State your (joint) objective.  Make sure you have buy-in from listener.
  2. Ask listener to explain his point of view while you listen without reacting.(Repeat what you hear:  ensures you understand his position – and that he knows you take him seriously, are listening).
  3. Ask if he’s done and will now listen to your point of view.
  4. Keep it short.
  5. Stick to the subject.Spell out (new) points of agreement, next steps.

Always Remember:

  1. Respect.
  2. Your tone of voice: patient explaining, interested listening, patient explaining. No attitude, yelling, condescension, bullying, insulting.
  3. Facts, not personalities.  Contingencies, not threats. Best outcome for all, not who’s right and who’s wrong.
  4. Breathe.  Remember your objective and goal.
  5. If he stops listening, you stop talking (and start listening until he’s ready to listen again).
Copyright © 2011 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

Sorting Out the Bad Apples:

picture-551Three parts.
Sorting out the bad apples — in love, in friendships, and in business.

What do you do when your heart says one thing but your brain says another?
Which gets veto power?
You know, the whole “checklist syndrome” – What to do, what to do?

At what point do you say to yourself “those last 18 entries on the list of qualities she really has to have are a bit much; maybe I’m asking for too much,” and what items are so fundamental to your happiness that they must stay?

The friendship has been important to both of you, has seen you through some terrific – and some tough – times. But it’s been getting harder and harder to push yourself to make that date to get together, and, when you do, it’s not as much fun as it once was. Time to end things?

Perhaps you can point to a lot of good things about your job, (like you HAVE one these days), but what if it’s been a while since you felt ok about that je ne sais quoi factor, namely “but I’m just not happy?”

Asking for too much, expecting more than you should.
Settling for too little, giving up more than you should.

How can you tell if it’s the situation, the other person, or if it’s you? Well, here’s a start.

Is anything making you happy these days, or are you dissatisfied all around?
If nothing seems to do it for you, if you’re feeling disappointed and dissatisfied by everyone and everything, chances are you should look in the direction of yourself. Are you depressed? Are you suffering from recent loss that’s colored your view of the world? Are you jealous of someone else who seems to have everything you want (and feel entitled to)? If so, you’re looking in the wrong direction if you think the bad apples are all around you. Just maybe it’s time to look inside to find the rot, and root it out (Ok, not the best analogy, but it’s early am…)

Are you dealing with a bad apple?Rotten-apple Any chance you already know the answer to this one? Maybe you know, and just don’t want to know what you know? Don’t want to act on what you know? Think about it. And let me know…

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

How to Deal with His/Her Defensiveness

Not a blasted clue.

Oh, I can tell you how a therapist does it. But how does that translate into real life relationships? That’s a really tough one. I can’t say I have mastered it yet. And I have been tackling it for years and years. Being on the wrong side of a defensive person is so taxing, so frustrating. There’s lots written about dealing with one’s own defensiveness, but I haven’t found much at all that’s helpful about how best to cope with someone else’s defensive behavior.

That’s how difficult this one is. But I’m working on it. Why it’s so difficult to deal with.

Tune in for part I: How it Works.

Then we’ll get to Part II: What a defensive person should/could do.
and Part III: What to do when you’re on the other side of someone’s defensiveness.

And please. If you have any ideas about what works (or doesn’t), write a comment! I know I’m not the only one having trouble with this one!

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

3 Minutes to Conscious Dreaming

cow_jumps_over_the_moon_bwAre your anxious kids having trouble falling asleep? Help them dream away their troubles with Conscious Dreaming.

If you’ve been following the Soothe the Stress posts, you know the first steps to relaxation. Teach them to your kids! No time like the present. The sooner you help them develop the capacity to soothe their own stress, the more practiced and prepared they’ll be for the as-yet-unimagined stresses they’ll encounter in their lives. And along the way, you’ll be helping them develop the emotional intelligence to recognize how they feel when they feel it, as well as what to do when those feelings are getting in the way of the good life.

Start with this: “As you lie in bed, focus your awareness on your breath, and let it fill your belly full full full! Now let your breath slowly slowly slowly out through your nose. Three times, and you’ll notice you’re feeling more and more sleepy. As you drift off to sleep, remind yourself that you will not only remember your dreams tonight, but you’ll dream about…”

Have your four year old who’s afraid of monsters in the dark imagine a magic sword in his hand, which, when pointed at said monster, lights him up and makes him giggle.

Tell your anxious teenager to put his problems on a stage, one at a time, while the audience (all him) and the director (him, too) come up with possible solutions.

Or tickle the arms of your anxious daughter while telling her to imagine she’s skiing down the mountain, fast and free and in complete control.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

Today’s Slice of Life in the Big Apple

apple_bitten_dan_gerhard_01 It’s not rotten, it’s just that a gigantic bite has been taken out of it, before you got to it. Or got enough of it. Stores are closing left and right along Madison Avenue. The ones still open have sales signs in the windows – for the Spring season. AIG bonuses? You’re for ’em or agin ’em, but you’ve got one strong opinion one way or the other, none of it good. Layoffs. Anxiety. No matter how you slice it, the mood in the city right now isn’t such a good one. But there are two ways to come at this:
#1: Enough of winter and all this…The buds are barely on the trees. OR
#2: It’s almost spring…The trees are starting to bud.
Give it a shot, take a breath and choose route #2. Because today people were soaking up the sun at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in coats and gloves and crowds and green and hope.
Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

Don’t Get Her At All?

question_mark_3d2Can’t figure her and her family out? Haven’t got a clue why she does what she does – (and why it bugs you, maybe)? How do you handle things about another person that you can’t understand at all?

One way to deal : get into the “oh, how interesting!” mode. Pretend you’re an anthropologist or sociobiologist, exploring a people and place you don’t know. The purpose? To get to know the local people and customs, noting your own assumptions and preconceptions as you try to set them aside and be objective. You begin with a hypothesis. You live among these people with whom you are not familiar. You come to experience their lives, how they work, what they believe, how they think, what matters to them. As best you can as an outsider, of course, because you never really become one of them.

And then you leave.

Might give you some perspective on what she’s all about. Might let you experience empathy without risking your own position. Give it a shot. Let me know how it goes.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.