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 steve@southshorecounselor.com and let’s see if we can partner together to work it out.

Before You Marry – Premarital Counseling

Marital Bliss

Weddings often cost thousands of dollars and involve tens if not hundreds of people. Families, friends, and co-workers all come together to celebrate these special, once-in-a-lifetime occasions. Gifts, food, flowers, rentals, tuxedos, matching gowns and dresses…the list of expenses can be huge. Question: What gift outlives most gifts when you marry? Answer: premarital counseling…the gift that keeps on giving.

We are so in love…

It is so easy to start out thinking that we can work through our difficulties because we are so in love. So, we decide to go ahead and get married, trusting that our love for each other will be strong enough to weather any storm, to iron out all of our idiosyncrasies and differences of opinion. Far too often marriages fail because there had not been enough advanced planning about the things that really matter years after the wedding is a distant memory.

Win/win for the two of you

Compared to the cost of a wedding there are just too many relatively inexpensive tools available not to spend a few hundred dollars on premarital counseling. The Marriage and Family Therapist has access to diagnostic assessments and therapeutic tools that can help a couple address their challenges before they tie the knot. Pre-marital counseling raises the flags in relationships before the seemingly minor differences between people become sources of tension and hostility. By addressing our challenges up front therapists help couples develop the skills to help them resolve their problems as win/win scenarios long before they ever become win/lose battles for power and control.

I do…

Before you say “I do” spend 1-hour with a South Shore Counselor who can help you anticipate the opportunities and challenges that are unique only to you and your partner.

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.

Echoes of a Marriage and Family Therapist

This morning it was in the upper 40’s and it was cold.  Cold enough to wear a jacket!  Just two days ago it was 97 degrees and humidity was over the top miserable.

Coming down off of mid-life I have had several revelations of late.  One of those involves this ‘cold’ weather in the upper 40’s with overcast skies of the darker, heavier thin altocumulus type.  While attending school at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas I disliked the intense heat of the summer.

One summer I traveled with an International Campaign group to Germany and Austria and I was overwhelmed by the coolness of the evenings in the middle of summer…I loved it!  And so, from then on I have associated cool snaps in the summer time with Europe wherever we have lived in the south: Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Louisiana.

It was only this year that I realized that my love for the cool evenings in Europe had its origins in my childhood days in Michigan, much like we are experiencing today.  The high was in the 60’s with a low in the 40’s, the skies were overcast and mowing the grass was almost…almost…an enjoyable activity.  Growing up with this kind of weather led me to appreciate it in other locales to the point that I forgot about those early experiences.  Nonetheless, I longed for them.

Then the trips to Europe and Scandinavia became associated with cool nights and warm afternoons.  And then it hit me, after 54 years: the reason I love the weather in Europe is because I love the weather in Michigan.

Which reminds me of one of life’s great lessons.  Many of our attitudes, perceptions and values are shaped by times, places and people long forgotten or far away.   One of the great tragedies of life is the unexamined life.  Moving from one life event, family life cycle or crisis to another without contemplating how I deal with things and why leaves me rediscovering deja vu experiences without understanding why or how I got there.  But, perhaps one of the greatest tragedies is the unexamined faith is when we accept what we accept because we accept it without considering its basis in reality.  To live life with Christ without verifying, modifying or dispelling my beliefs…essentially, testing them, is to miss out on the adventure and to terminate the depth of understanding that comes with the life examined and tested.

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed” (1 Cor. 13:5-7).

A Morning Person

I used to think I would never become a morning person.  Actually, I used to be one back in Junior High school.  College changed all of that for me.  Late nights cramming or playing hands of ‘Rook’ would keep me going until the wee hours of the morning.

Late nights seemed productive for me over the years and, certainly, a great deal of work was done while everyone else in my house was sleeping.  As in all good things, however, there came a time when I needed to change and so, I decided to become a morning person.

The transition was not as difficult as I had convinced myself that it would be over the years.  It began with a trip to Finland and the jet lag challenge that comes with returning home.  Instead of fighting it, however, I chose to go with it and I crashed in bed, first thing.  Waking up at 4 am I got up, dressed for the gym and started the routine that has continued to today, more than 3 years later.

Now Pam is the night owl and I’m ready for bed by 9:30 in the evening.   She gets to greet the kids when they come home at night…come to think of it, being a morning person does have its advantages.

Family Life: My Dad’s Bible

Dad’s Bible

During a recent visit with my family in Searcy I found one of my dad’s Bibles that I knew he had used in Finland.  It is obvious that he had read it cover-to-cover.  It is pretty worn and frazzled with a couple of pages falling out.

There are the pencil highlights that verify his journey through every page.  Hardly a page in his Bible escaped a note or a pencil underline.

Then there are the pages folded over to mark special passages that he could turn to easily and that he did not want to forget.  One of those passages jumped out at me this afternoon.  Not only was it folded over; I also discovered one of my old business cards tucked in the fold of the page!  The passage is in Isaiah 1 verses 13 through 17.  It reads:

Stop bringing meaningless offerings
  Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations–
  I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
  my soul hates.
They have become a burden to me;
   I am weary of bearing them.
 

Later, God says,

Stop doing wrong,
  learn to do right!
Seek justice,
  encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
  plead the case of the widow. (NIV)
 

Reading this passage reminded me that my dad has always made a point of showing me his religion.  A man of few words, dad rarely lectured me on the truths of scripture.  What he has always done is illustrate the Word of God with his life with a consistency that still causes me to marvel, setting a standard that I still aspire to achieve.

HOPE

Goldfinch In Spring

It doesn’t usually take much.  A small thread, a gleam, a light at the end of the tunnel, a silver lining…all of these colloquial expressions refer to the wonder of hope.  Just one little ray of sunshine can take horrible circumstances and transform them into redemptive events.

Here in the dead of winter in southeastern Michigan I sometimes wish it would warm up just a little bit…and then they forcast a low of 8 degrees over the next couple of days.  I found this picture from last summer and I thought, “It won’t be too long.”

Sometimes hope lies in the ‘already-but-not-yet’ aspect of our faith in Christ.  Paul tells us that our hope lies in the very power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:15-22) and which, also, ushered us into the very throne room of God (Eph. 2:1-10).  Past-tense event empowers present-tense fact and points to a future-tense reality of standing in the throne room of God, face-to-face.

Hope.  It is an amazing thing.

Serenity

The Rising Fog

There are times when just being alone on the river in the peace and serenity of the evening can be mesmerizing.  I especially appreciate those times when there is a light rain and the fog rises gently off of the surface of the water.  Warm and cold come together to envelope me in the peace and quiet of nature’s simple wonders.  Serenity.

Times like this have been important to me as I have contemplated the failing health of my father and my mother’s efforts to love and care for him as he prepares to move through the veil.  It is a time to pray, to weep quietly and, through the tears, to observe God’s loving embrace through His creation.

I’m thankful for the hour or two that I get now and then to dress to stay warm and dry so that I can stand on the banks of the river and marvel at the wonder of God’s love and providence.   Lying behind it all is a quiet fantasy that maybe–just maybe–a fish will find my little nymph at the bottom of the stream and give me a few moments of intensity and joy.

Helping people overcome obstacles, manage transitions and reach potentials.