Category Archives: Counseling

Solution-focused, Marriage and Family Therapy offered in the Great Southwest of Michigan, including the communities of Saint Joseph, Benton Harbor, Coloma, Watervliet, South Haven, Stevensville, Bridgman, Berrien Springs, Niles, and beyond.

Depression and the Paralysis of Analysis

Paralysis of Analysis

A personality test tells me that I like to leave all of my options open until the very last second so that I can make the most informed decisions.  The idea of making a decision before all of the options have had a chance to play out or the newer ones have had a chance to emerge is maddening.  So much so that I often get locked up in the paralysis of analysis and depression.

When locked up in the paralysis of analysis it is hard to make a decision…and so we choose not to make a decision…which really is a decision…which we don’t want to make…so we make one in order to not make one.  The paralysis of analysis.

Many see the paralysis of analysis as procrastination which is understandable because the two concepts are similar in outward appearance.  The problem is that procrastination has kind of a negative tinge to it that causes one to think that the person doing it is somewhat deficient or in error.  All that is needed is often metaphorically referenced as the need for “a swift kick in the rear” or “a thump on the head.”

This way of viewing the inordinate amount of time required to take action is not as attractive as is the thoughtful, intentional, methodical, systematic efforts of one who is engaged in the paralysis of analysis.  For one thing, this is not an idle analysis; rather, it is the active pursuit of the best possible choice by weighing every option and considering every possible eventuality.  The fact that the one engaged in this pursuit waits until the very last minute belies a deliberate, intentional, highly planned decision not to decide until it becomes imperative and critically important.  Deadlines are very important to those who wrestle with the paralysis of analysis.

There is a sense in which, however, the paralysis of analysis can begin to resemble a type of depression in which the analysis becomes overwhelming.  This is especially true when the classic double-bind raises its head; i.e., there is no right answer, all options involve hardship and pain.  It is at that point that waiting around for another option begins to make sense.  An option with less pain and hardship is certainly more desirable.  While the hope for a painless solution is all but gone, some middle-ground between the extremes where it is sort-of painful and sort-of hard becomes increasingly attractive but, at the same time, increasingly illusive.  In other words, your options really stink.

It is at this point that the paralysis of analysis transforms into any number of metaphorical descriptions such a deep, dark pit that swallows you or a swirling whirlpool that sucks you under, bobbing for air.  Unable to decide what to do leads the person caught in this spin cycle to make a decision to do nothing.

That is when things become even more intriguing and overwhelming.  Rarely do the choices we make occur in isolation to other dilemmas that have their own consequences that ripple across the surface of our tranquility of indecision.  In other words, deciding not to decide can lead to more decisions that have to be made which require more planning and, unfortunately, more decision making.  This is when another metaphor comes in handy, most commonly referred to as ‘snowballing’ which describes the small snowball released at the peak of the mountain that, as it descends, grows in magnitude and velocity until it can’t be stopped.

Sometimes life can become that snowball.

The result is a disorientation that distorts the sense of emotional equilibrium, seems unalterable in the corse that is taken and unstoppable because of the mass and weight of the consequences.  In the process a sense of helplessness to change course becomes coupled with a sense of hopelessness that the end result can be anything but bad. Out of desperation you try anything and everything until you exhaust your creative options, finally concluding that the only solution is to give up in the valley of paralysis of analysis; the ultimate decision to not decide.  In other words: depression.

This is when a marriage and family therapist can be particularly helpful as he or she helps a person discern the best course to salvage those matters within their, what Steven Covey calls “Circle of Concern,” distinguishing between those choices that are open to one’s influence and those that are not.  To read more on the challenge of depression check out the article at the AAMFT website entitled Depression.

Stephen Pylkas, LMFT 734-658-7649

The Holiday Blues

Preparing for the Holidays

We all know how the holidays ought to be: mom, dad and the kids gathered around the grandparent’s dining table to enjoy the holiday feast.  Norman Rockwell caught this American  spirit in many of his paintings.  This certainly is not a time for the holiday blues!

For many, however, the holidays can be a very difficult time.  Most commonly we grieve over the bittersweet memories of family members and friends who are no longer with us.  Other memories are more jaded with painful recollections of holiday meals ruined for any number of reasons that still baffle and bewilder.  Sometimes those memories can overshadow the present to the point that we can’t shake the depression and we feel stuck, unable to find the joy and the happiness for which we long..


Marriage and Family Therapists are uniquely trained and experienced in helping families when they confront these roadblocks to the proverbial ‘Happy Holidays.’  No magic wands or secret codes.  In fact, learning how to integrate our past with today’s
reality and move on can be a great deal of hard work.  Sometimes, the key is finding a patient confidant who can come alongside you and your spouse or your family and help you find a new path 
with new skills for handling old challenges. 

There is no charge for the first session just to consider whether or not this is the time and if we can help.  Give Steve a call at 734-658-7649.

Marriage: Conflict Resolution Skills


Arriving at mutually gratifying solutions to problems can be a challenging experience for couples.

Even simple conversations can become problems when the skills for listening carefully are not developed adequately.  Learning to value understanding over insistence upon being understood can be  huge but necessary step.

When things begin to go wrong, communications become win/lose battles for power and control.  The danger for this pattern of communication means one person believes that they have convinced the other of their argument.  Just because the other person has stopped arguing for their position, however, it does not necessarily mean that they have been persuaded; they just stopped arguing.

Sometimes the negotiations lead to each partner agreeing to compromise where each person giving up something in order to end the  struggle.  There are times when agreeing to disagree helps life go forward.  The hope is that we will return to the topic to flesh out more details and come to a point of resolution.  Too much compromise in a relationship, however, keeps couples from experiencing the joy that comes with getting on the same page together.

Enough win/lose and compromise over time can lead to ‘the silent treatment’ because the goal becomes the cessation of hostilities instead of working through conflict.  The silent, conflict-avoiding ‘resolution’ patterns can lead to ticking time bombs.

The goal is to learn the needed skills for developing win/win scenarios and being willing to expend the energy to make it happen.  Marriage and Family Therapists are specially trained to help couples learn, practice and implement these special skills.  This is one of those aspects of relating that, when practiced as a lifestyle, can generalize to satisfying scenarios in other relationships as well.

Marriage: Communication


It’s impossible to not communicate.  Therefore, it is among the most important ingredients in marriage.  You are going to communicate, so why not choose to communicate in ways that bring out the best in others while, at the same time,  being honest and true to yourself?.

So many elements go into clearly conveying a message from one person to another.  For example, if you have ever struggled to put your thoughts into words then you already know that communication can be a real challenge.  Assuming that the other person actually heard what you meant to say with the words you chose to use can be dangerous!  Add a little body language that is not consistent with what you meant to say and a little noise like texting on a phone, a blaring TV or radio, a crying baby, etc. and the simplest efforts at communication can be incredibly complex.

But, we still tend to assume that the other person heard what we meant to say.  Rather than expending the needed effort to make sure that we are speaking clearly and being heard accurately, we go on with our lives without giving our communications another thought.

That can be dangerous when the other person hears something very different from what we intended to say.  Add a little anger and negative assumptions to the mix and communication can be deadly to a marriage.

Marriage and Family Therapists are specially trained to help people work through the miscommunications and learn the skills necessary to help people do better.  Communication is never a perfect endeavor.  Actually, it really is hard work.  Instead of working into another frenzy over what he or she just said, why not get to work on getting on the same page?

Considering Divorce

The use of the “D” word can either be a cry for help or an announcement that a decision has been made.  It either case, when the word ‘divorce’ comes up it could be time to make an appointment with a Marriage and Family Therapist who has been rigorously trained to address a broad range of problems that any marriage can face.

Marriage and family therapy may be able to help…

…if you are contemplating divorce;

…if you are in the midst of the divorce process; or

…after the divorce is over.

At any point in the process marriage and family therapy can be helpful, especially when children are involved.  From communication issues to differences in childrearing practices or the trust issues of an affair, the challenges can be serious and even deadly to a marriage.  Diagnosing the problems is only the first part of the process.  The marriage and family therapist will work with everyone involved to determine the goals of therapy and to suggest options for working through them.

The key is that there are other options…

For divorce to be the only option, one or both partners have decided that they have exhausted all possible options.  Certainly, it can seem to be that way at times; but, sometimes a fresh perspective from a professional can surface new alternatives.  Furthermore, a marriage and family therapist can guide families in the change process and help them choose to repair the damage done, renew their commitments to each other and even thrive in ways never imagined before.

One of the things that sets marriage and family therapists apart is their systems approach to interpersonal relationships.  While couples are often spending time trying to blame one another, the marriage and family therapist is looking to identify the behaviors and interpersonal patterns that perpetuate problems.  This is a key to understanding and aiding individuals and families as they try to hold together in times of conflict and dissatisfaction.  Once, when we discover what those issues are and we begin to address them in a healthy, mutually respectful way, couples often decide to give it another try.

When there are no other options…

Still, if a couple decides to go forward with a divorce a marriage and family therapist can often help them through the process in a way that is more mutually beneficial. When there are children involved, they can often work to help couples develop the skills and acquire the tools to help them work together to the benefit of their kids. If this is your present challenge, the website for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy has some helpful advice about Divorce and Children.

Paying it forward…

Before spending thousands of dollars on lawyers and mediation, why not give it one last try and spend some time giving marriage and family therapy a try? What have you got to lose? Better yet, think of what you have to gain if you work it all out!

Speak one-on-one, confidentially, with a counselor. Contact Steve at and let’s see if we can partner together to work it out.

Reaching Potential

Coaching for success in life

Reaching out for your potential.

Navigate the path ahead.

Setting Goals and counting the cost.

Clarifying your core values.

Clarifying your passions.

Clarifying training and experience.

A counselor can help you unlock your potential from within. Next is to map out where you wish to go, what you wish to accomplish and what will be required. Then comes the most challenging part of it all…

Hitting the Road

Often the hardest part of reaching your potential is putting your plan into action. Having set your goals and counted the cost based upon your core values, passions, training and experience, how do you develop an action plan and make it happen? Persistence, resilience and flexibility will be required to face the challenges ahead.

In the Bible, Jesus talked about the difference between the man who builds his house, digging deeply to establish a firm foundation versus the person who builds without planning for the storms (Luke 6:47-49).  It is one thing to build something; it is quite another thing to build it correctly.  The later approach comes about by digging deeply, using the correct materials to establish a firm foundation, and laying the groundwork for a foundation that will not be moved.  Then, and only then, does it make sense to build.

Life is much the same in that the planning and design of a life is everything.  It is never too early to start and it is never too late to begin.  The point is to start….  This is what counseling is really about.  It’s not usually that we don’t know what we need to do for ourselves.  If you can’t think of what to do you are probably surrounded by well-intentioned friends who can supply the solutions because they know all of the answers.  Many times moving forward is much more challenging than knowing what to do…..

Southshore Counseling.  There is no charge for the first session.  Why not give you potential a chance!  (734) 676-3775.

Managing Transitions in Life

Transitions Come With Life

Reality confronts our beliefs, our hopes and our dreams as we move through the stages of life. At times the changes go un-noticed and we move forward seamlessly. At other times the changes derail everything. Questions evade answers. Nothing makes sense anymore. Before it was all so clear; but, now . . . .

There are Transitions For Which We Plan

You realize that it is time for a change. You want to be proactive. It is time to act. You look at all of the options and the potential consequences of your decisions. The ‘paralysis of analysis’ leaves you listing in a sea of indecision.

This is not a time to be preached at, for people to oversimplify your challenges or to have someone stand in judgment over your ideas. This is not a time to hear someone else’s claim: “I know exactly how you feel.”

There Are Transitions For Which We Do Not Plan

There are an infinite number of possible scenarios that can change the entire course of one’s life. Sometimes the changes occur at breakneck speed. At other times the change is gradual but unstoppable. Some changes can be good for us. Some changes can be devastating. Perhaps life has dealt you a hand that has left you with limited options and seemingly insurmountable challenges.

What you need is a caring person…

  • …to hear you out.
  • …with whom to think out loud.
  • …to ask questions and explore options.

It is time…

  • …to weigh out the pros and cons.
  • …to think outside the box.
  • …to challenge assumptions
  • …to set a new course and a new beginning.

It is time to plan for the change ahead and you want to minimize your risk and anticipate the hazards. Too much is at stake this time.

In Your Time…

Take time to assess the magnitude of the transitions, time to work through the feelings, time to take stock of your resources, and time to project where you wish to go now. It’s time to calculate the costs, work out a plan and put it into action.

To do this well takes time. In addition, having someone to help you assess where you are at in the process and where you need to go next can transform an intimidating process into smaller, do-able pieces that will lead to the best possible results.

Marriage and Family Therapists are trained to help individuals and families move through a broad range of personal and interpersonal challenges. In times of transition it is important to bring everyone along, whenever possible. To do this means examining life from a variety of perspectives, looking for the points of conflict and tension and helping people transition to the next level of functioning.

Overcoming Obstacles

We believe in solution-focused, brief Marriage and Family Therapy. Solution-focused because we function best with goals and objectives that clearly define when we have completed the task.  Brief because we believe that our role is to help families overcome obstacles, move past difficulties and get on with life. Typically we are able to arrive at a treatment plan within the first three sessions.

Not all obstacles and challenges can be addressed briefly, however. The key is that the therapist works out treatment plans with the full participation of the individual, couple, family or other type of interpersonal and relational system. Sometimes it is important to maintain a working relationship over a long period of time to track progress, to clarify or re-assess goals or to tackle challenges and interpersonal issues that get us off track.

Educated and trained in the tradition of Marriage and Family Therapy, Stephen emphasizes the importance of relationships that often stand behind the challenges we face. We focus upon the interpersonal factors that are at work, helping us do well, and which ones are getting in the way of helping us obtain what we desire. For many of us, we know what needs to happen and we even know what we need to do. The rub comes when we try to do it in a way that lasts longer than a few days or a few weeks; we’re looking for long-term solutions.

These relational systems can be between couples, parents and children, families and can be expanded to relationships at church or synagogue, school, work and beyond. The key is to evaluate the system as a whole and look for innovative and creative ways to emphasize the positives, always looking for the best. At the same time, it is important to identify the things that hinder our progress and to find ways transform those into learning opportunities and impetus for change.