Life provides you with a blueprint of what works specifically for you, every time things move towards ‘better’. When you pay very close attention to those upswings, and remember the valuable information they provide you with, you are more armed and ready for the next challenge life may bring.
– Rebekka Ouer
Sometimes clients come in expecting me, as the “expert”, to give them some specific advice about their particular conundrums.
However, one thing that makes me quite different than some other therapists, is that I do NOT see myself as the expert in the room. I think that you, my client, are the expert here. You are the one in the room that knows you best, and no amount of training on my part, or getting to know you, will ever change that fact. Therefore, my expertise is in finding the right questions to ask, such that you don’t really need my advice, because the answers you give, provide you with the direction you seek.
It’s probably the toughest task that a therapist can be charged with, refraining from offering their opinions or ‘expertise’ to a client that’s having a hard time. But with the right questions, the client gets to figure things out on their own, and then they get to have ownership of the next right steps they will take.
I sometimes tell my clients that I have the dumbest business plan ever. My job, if done well enough, is to weed myself out of your life so that you can get back to the business of living it successfully.
Rebekka Ouer, LCSW
I am naturally a very passionate and excitable person. As a result of this, I use superlatives on a regular basis, to the point where my closest friends can predict what I’m about to say when I try something new (like food) that I really enjoy. Whenever I’m eating at a new place, and my food is incredibly good, what typically comes out of my mouth is some form of…”Wow…that’s the best __________ I’ve EVER had!”.
Now, in my defense, whenever I say something like that, I TOTALLY believe it at the time…I’m being as genuine and in-the-moment as possible. Another example of this personality trait that I have, is that if I am feeling some extreme way, like really really cold, to the point of not being able to get warm, I literally, in that moment, CANNOT remember ever feeling hot. Even though I live in Dallas, where the average temp in the summer is 100+ degrees.
The funny thing about the information you’ve just learned about me is this….as a therapist, whenever my clients use superlatives, such as “I NEVER feel happy”, or “He NEVER says nice things to me”, I make it a point to not believe them, and typically, after a superlative like that, my very next question makes my disbelief respectfully clear.
For example, just this week, I had a therapy session with a couple who wanted to find a way to communicate more effectively without blowing up and arguing for hours whenever they had a disagreement. One of the partners said that they ALWAYS argue in that way whenever they disagree. So what was my VERY next question?
“When was the last time you had an opportunity for a huge blowout, but instead, argued in a more productive, calm, and respectful way?”
In that example…I just purposefully, but respectfully, took that superlative statement, and challenged it with a question making a HUGE assumption, that my client didn’t really mean what she just said.
The reason that I did that, is because I believe the next sentence in this blog is ALWAYS true:
No problem happens all of the time.
And in the case of that couple, even though I could tell that client felt like her statement was true when she said it, after I asked them that question…they were IMMEDIATELY able to remember a time in the very recent past, when they had an opportunity for a blowout argument, but instead had a very productive and respectful conversation. And the example that they gave me, offered us all some extremely useful information for what they can look out for as they continue to evolve their conversations around disagreements.
So, my challenge for you today is this:
The next time your feeling upset or frustrated with something that needs to get better fast, challenge yourself to remember the last time it was even just a LITTLE bit better…and refuse to believe that it has always been that bad, because there is TONS of useful & impactful information in your recent successes, (and you HAVE had recent successes!).
This blog was the MOST fun yet….
Rebekka Ouer, LCSW
So, here is the last tip for the LGBT community, regarding the upcoming holidays. If you’ve followed the previous 3 tips, then you’ve now got an idea of how you would like things to be, you’ve recognized what’s going well and how you will notice things getting better, and you’ve communicated your hopes to family members whom you trust.
Now, if you’re still finding some difficulty my last piece of advice around the holidays is this:
4. If you are forced into a tough decision, make it consciously and openly:
Sometimes for very valid reasons, you are just going to have to make a tough choice. The choice might be whether to spend the holidays with your family of origin or your spouse/chosen family. It might be whether to bring your spouse to the holidays as your ‘roommate’ or as your significant other. Or maybe whether to play it straight, or finally come out.
So, my advice here is simple: If you do end up in a situation where you are forced to make a tough choice, make it consciously, and then be honest with yourself about it.
Take the pressure off of yourself by recognizing that it doesn’t always have to be the same every year, and remember to talk with your spouse about it, and if possible, also talk with your family.
As always, feel free to comment here or email me at the address below.
Rebekka Ouer, LCSW
Alright, so this is the 2nd to the last tip for the upcoming holiday season for my LGBT family. Tip #1 was about detailing your very best hopes for the season ahead, & tip #2 was about recognizing both past and current progress. So, once you’ve done those things here’s the next step you can take.
Tip #3. Communicate Your Hopes:
Going back to that same couple I worked with last year, after they shared their combined vision of their preferred future, and recognized that they are already taking some steps toward it, I asked them what they thought the next small step might be. Both of them agreed that they wanted to communicate their vision for what they hoped would be different this holiday season, with other trusted members of their family. They surmised together, that to have the best chance of moving forward, they should share these hopes in an open and honest way.
So, if you have even a little bit of hope that some of your family members might work with you around this issue, than your job becomes to communicate to them what you’d like to have happen instead of what’s currently happening. If you can do so in an open, honest and positive way, you might gain some allies, that can help as you continue moving towards that future together.
Here’s to those who work well with others.
Rebekka Ouer, LCSW