Attachment Styles and Relationships

Do you find that you tend to attract the same kind of mate?  Lately, a comment I’ve been hearing from several of my single female clients is “why do I always end up with men who need fixing?”  Or, “why do I end up going on great dates and then I never hear anything back?”  Interesting pattern.  Once you understand attachment style, you will better understand yourself, others around you, and those you date.

It is believed that adult attachment is based on interactions with one’s caregiver when an infant, as studied by psychologist John Bowlby, as well as experiences as one goes through life.  Even memories we don’t recall can impact our attachment style! There are 3 main attachment styles we see in adults:

  • Anxious:  those with this style are very focused on their relationships, anxious about how the relationship is going, and worry about their partner’s ability to love them.  They may be referred to as “clingy” or often needing reassurance from their partner.
  • Avoidant: those with this style are fearful of losing their sense of independence and often do not find themselves worrying about the relationship.  They try to minimize closeness.    Those in this category are described by their partner’s as being “emotionally distant.”
  • Secure:  those with this style are secure within relationships.  They are normally seen as warm as loving.  They are able to communicate their needs to their partner and “go with the flow” within the relationship.  If there is a fight or their partner doesn’t respond right away to a message, they do not become anxious that their partner is going to leave them as the anxious attachment may experience.

None of the attachment styles are necessarily considered bad or good.  It’s the attachment style one has which helps us to have a better understanding.  Many of my clients have expressed a sense of relief once better understanding attachment and how it plays a role in their relationships, both with themselves and if they are noticing they end up being attracted to multiple partners with similar attachment styles.  If a potential suitor seems  to have patterns of becoming distant or ghosting you, yes, it could have something to do with you, but it is also possible you are attracting potential partners with avoidant attachment style.  Once you figure this out, this can make dating easier as you now know what to expect from the person you’re seeing and why you may be responding in a certain way to their behaviors.

Paying for Therapy: To Use Insurance or to Not Use Insurance?

Therapy can feel expensive as rates for psychotherapy can vary between $100-$300 per session.  For many, it is a relief that insurance tends to cover therapy sessions, which can make it more affordable.  What makes using insurance different than paying out of pocket?

  1.  For insurance to cover the cost of a session, the client must be seen as having an issue that is considered to be “medically necessary.”  How is this determined?  By the clinician providing a diagnosis.  Otherwise, insurance companies do not see you as having a concern that needs medically necessary treatment.  When receiving therapy without using insurance, the clinician is not required to provide you with a mental health diagnosis from the DSM-V.  For example, if you are receiving treatment for a relationship, the diagnosis can be relationship issues rather than depression or anxiety as a result of the relationship problems.
  2.  Insurance companies can conduct an audit to make sure the clinician is providing appropriate treatment and that you are working on goals designed to treat the illness that is diagnosed and ideally reduce the amount of time you will need to be in therapy.  This limits confidentiality in that the insurance company can have access to your records, which you agree to when signing the informed consent at the beginning of treatment.  Many times, this can be several people at the insurance company reviewing your records, including your diagnosis, and not all of those people have a clinical background. When not using insurance, you can keep your treatment private, between yourself and the therapist (unless there is a subpoena for records due to court involvement).
  3. Many companies change insurance companies.  Some therapists may only work with a limited number of insurance companies.  If that happens, you may by faced with a decision of whether to remain with your therapist without using insurance or switching to a brand new therapist who is covered under your new insurance.  This would never be an issue when paying out of pocket for your treatment.
  4. Most insurance companies do not cover couples or family counseling.  Many times, one of the partners or family members is the “identified patient” and is the one given a diagnoses, with the collateral attending sessions with you.   When not using insurance, the clinician can focus treatment on the relationship issues rather than how the relationship issues are impacting the identified patient’s medically necessary diagnosis.

There are pros to using insurance to help make therapy more affordable.  However, it’s important to be aware of the differences so you can make an informed decision on whether to use insurance.   Although therapy may feel expensive, remember, at the end of the day it is an investment in you!

3 Tips for Women to Cope with the “I Need Space” Conversation

You’re dating the man of your dreams.  Things are going wonderfully.  And then suddenly, it seems as though he’s backing off and becoming more distant.  You are confused.  You ask him what’s going on and hear those 4 dreaded words “I need some space.”  What does this mean and what are you to do?

Men and women process things differently.  Women like to talk about emotions, where men often deal with emotions by retreating into their “cave.”   Women often panic when hearing these words, therefore pursuing their partner more aggressively in an attempt to hold onto him.  This will in turn push the man further away, as not only is he not getting his space, his partner is now going into overdrive in an attempt to hold onto him and fix things.

When a man needs his space, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he wants to end the relationship.  It could be that he is feeling overwhelmed with external stressors or is trying to find himself or find balance, therefore the reason not having much to do with his partner or the relationship itself.  On the other hand, it could mean that he is feeling overwhelmed in the relationship, that it is getting too serious, or that he is questioning whether to stay in it.  Whatever the reason, he needs his space to retreat, recharge, and figure this out for himself.  After getting space, he may bounce back and in turn be able to be a better partner as a result!

Ideally, it will be helpful for the two of you to discuss what the space will look like.  What are the expectations?  What will phone, text, or in-person contact look like?  How long will the space last?

Tips on how women can handle this:

  1.  Give him the space that he is asking for.  The more that you pursue him, the worse you will make the situation.  If he wants limited contact, then do not call, text, or use social media to contact him.  Let him reach out to you when he is ready.  This will give him a chance to have the space to sort things out for himself, see that you are respecting that, and maybe miss you in the process.  Being patient is tough but will likely be worth it if you are still invested in working on the relationship.
  2. Do things you haven’t had time to do.  Is there a project that you were wanting to work on, but just didn’t have the time?  Is there a class you wanted to take?  Have you found yourself spending less time with girlfriends?  Whatever it is, take this time to focus on you and things you would enjoy doing.
  3. Take care of yourself.  Make sure you are still taking care of yourself.  Don’t stop eating or isolate.  Journal about your feelings; it’s okay to feel sad, angry, scared, or frustrated.  If you decide you no longer want the space, it’s okay to communicate that to your partner as your needs are important, too.  That might mean potentially moving on to a different person who can better meet your needs, but it’s better to get your needs met rather than agreeing to something that does not make you happy.


How Couples Counseling Can Help

When making the decision to see a trained couples counselor, there are many things this person can help you with: communication difficulties, a change in level of emotional connection, trust issues, understanding each other better, or even getting your friendship back, to name a few areas.  Couples counseling can even help with a relationship tune up, to get back on track.   It’s important to see a trained couples counselor who has the knowledge and skills to help your relationship.  This is different than a counselor who has knowledge and skills to help an individual and then attempts to apply individual counseling skills to the relationship–this won’t be as effective.

No matter how effective a couples counselor may be, how ready and willing you and your partner are to explore issues and make changes will be the key to the success.  You will need to practice and apply skills in between sessions that your counselor teaches you in order to see ongoing success.

Go to see a couples counselor before it is too late.  Statistics show that many couples wait 6 years after a problem has started to see a counselor.  Prevention is much easier to tackle than intervention.

Couples counseling can be very effective.  If you go into it with an open mind and with the hopes your relationship can improve as a result of applying the skills, you will have better results.

Why Should I See a Therapist When I Can Talk to a Friend?

You may be going through a challenging time.  Maybe your boss is giving you a hard time, your significant other is not listening to your concerns, or your mother is nitpicky about everything.  Talking to a friend is nice and helpful to get support, but you’re finding you’re really not moving forward with anything changing.  Maybe you’re also worried that your friend only hears about your partner when you are having problems and you’re worried they are going to develop a negative opinion of him or her.  You’ve never seen a therapist and are unsure whether it makes sense to see one, but the thought has crossed your mind.

There are benefits of seeing a therapist over talking to a friend.  A therapist is not just for those with serious psychological concerns.  Anybody can benefit from seeing a therapist.  Here are just a few points to consider when determining the difference between seeing a therapist and talking to a friend:

  1.  Therapists are bound to confidentiality.  Therapists are bound to ethical standards which state that everything that is said in the therapy room remains there, except when there is an intent to harm oneself or another or child/elder abuse is occurring.  You don’t have to worry about what you share getting back to your partner, your parents, your sister, your boss, etc because therapists are required to maintain confidentiality.  When talking with friends or family, you can’t always guarantee that confidentiality.
  2. Therapists are objective.  Therapists are looking at your concern from an outside lens.  Therapists are not biased and do not have a preconceived notion of you.  Family or friends are unable to be objective, due to the personal relationship they have with you.  They may not be honest for fear of hurting your feelings or may be overly critical, such as saying “there you go again” or “I told you so.”
  3. You have a set appointment time.  You will have an hour each week of uninterrupted time to meet with your therapist to address your concerns.  When spending time with family or friends, it tends to be more of a “give and take” conversation, with both sides sharing things.  Have you ever experienced telling a story where a family member or friend says “I know what you mean” and proceeds to take over the conversation with their experience?  This will not happen in therapy.
  4. Therapists are trained.  While friends or family members may provide support, you will also get that in therapy.  But, therapists will work with you to determine the root cause of your problem, process and explore your thoughts and feelings, and work with you to identify coping strategies, behavioral changes, and help you to create the outcome you’re looking for.  This is a lot more than just providing a listening ear.

Although there are benefits to getting support from family and friends, there is a different type of value in seeing a therapist, which anyone and everyone can benefit from.

The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important relationship we have…

I once read a quote that said the most important relationship we have in our lives is with ourselves.  That really stood out to me as I think often we prioritize the relationships we have with our significant other, family members, friends, or even work, ahead of the relationship we have with ourselves.  But, when it comes down to it, we need to live with ourselves day in and day out, so hopefully our relationship with ourselves is a positive one!

How can  we evaluate this?

1.  Assess for self-talk.  Is your inner voice critical or encouraging?  Are you asking yourself “why did you do this, that was so stupid?” or are you telling yourself “you did the best you could.  Tomorrow is a new day.”  How we talk to ourselves is a central piece in identifying our relationship with ourselves.  Are you kind and encouraging to yourself or are you putting yourself down all day long?  If you find you have a pretty negative inner critic, the most important piece is becoming aware of that.  Once you are aware, you can then work towards modifying and reframing your thoughts to something more positive.  Without the awareness, you won’t recognize the need for a change and will accept those negative thoughts at face value.  If you’re really struggling with this, then look for a therapist who uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques to help you with this.

2.  Who or what comes ahead of you?  Do you find you’re putting the needs of others ahead of your own?  For example, are you putting off vacations because there’s too much to do at work?  Are you doing things for others when you are already feeling burned out?  Putting yourself first is not being selfish.  The bottom line is you need to take care of yourself so you are able to do things for others.

3.  Self care.  Does this exist for you?  It will be different for everyone, but self care is exactly what it says:  what are you doing to take care of yourself?  It may include things such as getting enough sleep, eating well, or exercising.  It may be taking time to do enjoyable activities, such as reading a book, going for a walk, or  getting a massage.  It may be self reflection, such as journaling, meditation, or mindfulness activities.  It also may include spending time with friends.  Self care is what helps us to recharge and rejuvenate so we can then feel more balanced and better handle life stresses and responsibilities.

The most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves.  Because of that, it’s essential that we make it a priority.  Try to schedule self care time in on at least a weekly basis and see if you notice a difference in how you feel.

If you’re not taking risks, you’re not growing…

I recently went to a presentation on personal growth, in which a couple of concepts stood out to me.  The first concept, which will be addressed in this blogpost, was on change.  When we find ourselves doing the same thing, stuck in a rut and habitual to a degree, this does not implement change. That seems like common sense, but how many of you are finding yourself in that situation yet really desiring a change to happen?  What does implement change is doing things, therefore taking conscious actions, which may make you slightly uncomfortable and put you out of your comfort zone.  I once had a client tell me that if you’re not taking risks, you’re not growing, and that has always stuck with me.  A risk doesn’t have to be something monumental, but a risk can be something as simple as doing something outside of your typical routine.

Why is it so hard to change from our routines?  It’s because our routines become our habits.  I’ve heard before that it can take about 30 days to change a habit.  Taking risks and making changes requires thought, planning, and determination.  Think about the times you’ve told yourself you want to eat better, exercise more, or save money, which are typical resolutions for the new year.  You may have been determined, but any changes you made may have only lasted a week or two. Why?  Because you did not do it long enough for it to become a habit.

Here are some ideas on how to start the change process:

1.  Start with something easy.  Can you get up 15 minutes earlier every day to eat breakfast?  Can you eat 1 piece of fruit 3 times per week in an effort towards healthy eating?  How about taking a walk around the block during your lunch hour.

2.  Once you’ve noticed you’re capable of creating change in yourself based on successes from #1, step it up to something more challenging that’s related to your goal.  Can you eat a piece of fruit daily rather than just 3 times per week? Can you write down an inspirational thought each day?  Can you get up 30 minutes earlier each day and meditate?  Can you exercise for 30 minutes instead of 15 minutes?  Can you keep a daily spending log?

3.  Visualize where you are now and where you want to be.  What will be different when you meet your goal?  How will you be feeling and acting?  Really visualize this potential change. I’ll use myself as an example here.  Right now, I work part-time in a group private practice and have a separate full-time job.  However, my goal is to work full-time in a private practice to be doing what I love and to have the flexibility and work/life balance that I desire.  I envision myself feeling happier, fulfilled, more care-free, relaxed, less stressed, and more balanced.  I envision myself having more time to do other things I would love to do but simply don’t have time to do now, such as taking a Spanish class, attending trainings and consultation groups, and devoting more time to my family. It can even be an actual picture, such as a picture of a vacation spot you’d like to go to or an outfit you’d like to fit into. Visualization of what will be different is a huge motivator and a reminder of what you’re working towards.

4. Play it SMART.  The smaller steps towards reaching your goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  Otherwise, it’s too easy to become overwhelmed and put yourself at risk of giving up during the process.  You need to see and feel those small successes with each step to keep the momentum going.

5. Remember, if you’re not taking risks towards change, you’re not growing.  Taking risks and putting yourself outside of your comfort zone is uncomfortable.  But, are you happy with where things stand now?  Or, do you want something different for yourself?  You may feel uncomfortable or anxious in the beginning of the change process, but think how exhilirated you will feel once you’ve reached your goal.

I love the saying that you are the author in your life story.  Some things we have no control over changing, only our outlook or attitude on the matter.  These are the most frustrating things, but once we have come to terms with this rather than fighting it, change can happen.  Other things we do have the power and control over changing.  We can choose to eat better, watch our spending, leave an unhappy job, end toxic relationships, etc. Change can feel risky and outside of your comfort zone, but if you visualize yourself feeling happier in the end, what do you have to lose?  As you think of the life you desire and changes you want for yourself, what will the next chapter in your life story hold for you?

Finding Meaning in Life

Have you ever felt like you were living life by just going through the motions?    Perhaps you’ve found yourself going through the same routine, day in and day out, not feeling inspired or as though you are living your life purpose?  If so, you are not alone.  This is something many, many people encounter.   The key question is how do you pull yourself out of this and move towards living the life you want for yourself?

First, take a look at what’s happening from a deeper perspective.  Yes, this means self-exploration by looking at the core issue and the emotions beneath your stagnation.  For example, are you unhappy at work because you feel you have plateaued in your growth and are bored, or perhaps you feel a lack of control with the demands asked of you?  Are you unhappy in your relationship because you feel your partner has prioritized other things and you feel neglected or uncared for?  Are you unhappy with yourself because you’re a people pleaser and are angry or tired of putting others needs and wants ahead of your own?  The list can go on.

Once you are able to identify the core issue, ask yourself if it’s something you can change.  Using the above examples, can you identify anything that gives you pleasure at work or do you have the ability to delegate or set boundaries with the pressures?  Can you talk with your partner and share what you are needing from him or her?  Can you start saying “no” to others and putting yourself first?  And after you experiment with these changes, do you still feel the same?

If you are still needing more from life, think more about what topics you love to talk about.  For example, is it the arts, sports, fixing things, fashion, etc?   Whatever it may be, this is your passion.  How can you incorporate your passions into your daily life?  Anyone who knows me will tell you my passion is to talk about relationships and research that has been done on working with couples.  For myself, reading books and articles about couples work, attending seminars, providing couples counseling, or even sharing information about relationships strategies and research with people that I know helps me to incorporate that passion into my life.   In my example, it can be a career move, simply talking with others about my passion, or taking my own time to attend workshops or reading about my passion.  Each one of these things helps to give my passion more meaning in my life.

Life is short, so make sure you are living the life you want to be living.  You have more control than you may think.  If you feel you’ve lost the meaning in any of the areas in your life, re-evaluate what is happening for you on a core level, identify whether you can do anything to change it, and think about how you can bring more meaning into your life by incorporating the things you are passionate about. I’ll leave you with a quote by Pablo Picasso:  “The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away.”