Family Vs. “Family”: Tip #2 for the Upcoming Holidays

Alright, as promised, here is tip #2 in the continuing series for the the LGBT community regarding the holiday season that is fast approaching.

Tip #1 was about creating a detailed picture of how you hope the holidays will look, both for the purpose of getting on the same page with your spouse, (if applicable), as well as creating a clear destination to measure forward movement. 

So, moving in order, once you’ve done that first step, next I would advise you do this:

2. Recognize Past, & Current Progress:

As I was talking with that couple last year, I asked them to put things on a scale of 0-10, where 10 = the picture we’d just spent most of the session creating.

Well, to my surprise, they said, even with the current difficulties, they’d put things at about a 4. I immediately asked them what was happening that was contributing to things being at a 4, rather than a 3 or lower, & the answer came quickly and confidently.  They told me that the mother of the family they were concerned about, had gradually moved from an unaccepting and judgmental place where she wouldn’t even acknowledge her son’s spouse, to a place of complete acceptance.  Over the last few years she started to hug her son’s spouse when they saw each other, and they even started to talk on the phone regularly, just as she might with her other son-in-law.  It was a complete turnaround from where it started a few years before.

With some purposeful questions on my part, this couple was then able to pull some useful information from that story about what they did to contribute to this success, and it helped them make an action plan for helping other family members move a bit closer to acceptance as well. 

So remember: Recognize progress, because at the very least you will be able to realize that some things have gotten better, and you might even be able to develop a plan for continuing in that direction by repeating what’s worked already. 

Tip #3 on Friday, until then, give some credit where it’s due.

Rebekka Ouer, LCSW

@LGBT_Counselor on Twitter

& on FB: 


Accidentally Solution-Focused

Before I became a solution-focused therapist, I was unintentionally doing some very solution-focused things in my personal life.

For example, when I was in my undergrad program, I experienced my first real heartbreak, and it was incredibly tough for me to get through that time, I was feeling incredibly insecure and sad. I found myself thinking that I simply wasn’t good enough for the amazing girl who broke up with me, and therefore how could I ever be good enough for any great girl in the future. I was real down on myself for several weeks.

So when I finally got sick of feeling that way, what I did to help myself was to make a list of the reasons I had to be confidant in my life thus far, a list that included my accomplishments, my seemingly desirable attributes, and things that were in my life that I liked and hoped would stay around. Then, I made a list of the things I had to look forward to in the near and distant future. That list included things like small fun events coming up, time with friends I had planned, as well as classes I was taking and jobs I hoped to have as a professional. 

Making those lists, immediately gave me several good things to think about.

The first one provided me with some much needed & undeniable evidence of my strengths, and the good things I had going for me, which helped me to realize that I had reason to feel happy & proud of myself, and to carry some swagger as I moved through the day.

The second list served to provide me with some much needed hope for what was to come in my life professionally and personally. 

Little did I know that doing that exercise as a means of coping with a tough situation, was direct practice for the kinds of questions I would later ask my amazing clients as a professional psychotherapist. 

Hmm…maybe…in the grand scheme of things…it wasn’t really accidental after-all.

With hope, confidence, and a bit of faith,

Rebekka Ouer, LCSW

@LGBT_Counselor on Twitter 

The Solution Blueprint

When you and your loved one’s are not getting along so well, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to pull out a blueprint for how to get things back on track? 

I mean, we all know each other’s buttons right? The folks you love MOST in this world all know exactly what to do that sends you flying off the handle. They have THAT blueprint ready at a moment’s notice, yeah? Well I’m gonna tell you how you can have the opposite blueprint ready too. 

Ready for the secret to that? 

1. Begin a daily habit of noticing & telling each other every single time things are done that you like & appreciate, & then telling each other why you like and appreciated it. 

2. Remember what they tell you cause THAT is your blueprint.

It sounds simple, but it is absolutely effective.

A couple of weeks ago, my fiancee told me that when I get home, she loves it when I immediately give her a kiss on the cheek. To her, that little kiss says “Hi, I love you, & I’m glad to be home with you.” Even if I’m on the phone when I give it to her, (which I frequently am.)

So now, no matter what kind of day we’ve both had, or how much I still have to do when I get home, I have a tiny little piece of ammo ready every single day, that is sure to help us both be in a better place with each other. And I only have it, because she told me what it means to her. 

So go…share the good stuff, tell your loved one’s what they do well to feed your relationship, and ask them for that info too. 

Then you’ll have your blueprint, ready for even the toughest road ahead. 

No hardhat needed, 

Rebekka Ouer, LCSW

Amplifying Hope

I was recently talking to new a client who wanted nothing more than to feel happier again. She had been to counselor after counselor throughout her adult life, not really feeling helped in the way she hoped to, and so a few weeks ago she started looking for something different. She saw my website, saw that I was gay-friendly, and that I did a kind of therapy called Solution-Focused Therapy, (something she hadn’t experienced before) and so she called me to set up an appointment. 

When she came in the following week, she told me that her previous therapists were unintentionally making her feel worse. She mentioned that they seemed smart and well meaning, but that the sessions were just not as helpful to her as she hoped they would be.  She would go into the session with them feeling hopeful about change, and subsequently spend an hour being asked to explain and amplify descriptions about her depressed mood and the anxiety she felt about things throughout the previous week. She noticed that after an hour of these difficult conversations, she would leave those sessions feeling sad and anxious all over again. 

Our session took a different route, and when she left our conversation she was smiling, and seemingly excited for the week ahead. 

What did I do differently?

I simply asked her to describe a day filled with her best hopes being realized, and we spent most of that hour talking about a future where she was feeling happier, calmer and more able to be her best self at home, work and in social situations. And the last thing I did was to warn her that the next time we met, the very first question I am going to ask her is “What’s been better?” Thus preparing her to notice the instances of happy, calm, smiling, socialization, and other positive things that she is sure to encounter in the coming days. 

This woman, and others like her, are the reason I do this type of therapy. There are a hundred thousand brilliant therapists in this world that help by talking about problems, but that avenue never made much sense to me in the way that this Solution-Focused approach did. 

So my little thought challenge for you guys tonight is this:

If you think about anxiety a lot, instead of that, imagine a day where you feel totally calm and confident, if you think a lot about sadness, imagine instead, an entire day where you feel happy and carefree, and think in detail about how feeling those positive things would make a difference in your day at home, work, school, & wherever else your life happens. And then notice the feelings you come out of that detailed image with…

As usual, email me or comment below with any questions or thoughts this brings up.

Feeling more hopeful all the time,

Rebekka Ouer, LCSW

Mining For Good

Which 5 living beings know you best? I say living beings, because I mean for you to consider your pets as well, if you think they are candidates. 

So, think for a minute about the one that knows you best in this world, and then decide on the next few as well.

I wonder, if you were to ask them a couple of simple questions, what you might learn about how they see you, and what they notice about you. I wonder if some of the answers might surprise you. 

Here are a few questions to try, the next time you’re hanging out with them: (If you enjoy this sort of thing, answer these questions for them too, I think it could be both fun and full of good information)

(If you did list an animal that can’t answer, guess some of  their answers, it may be just as, or even more valuable for you to do so.)

1. How do you know when I’m at my absolute best? (ask them to give you several clues they notice about you)
   *Always answer with the presence of something, not the absence of something, i.e. “you’re smiling” is better than “you’re not pouting”

2. What would you say are my 6 biggest strengths?

3. The last time I was going through a tough time, what did you notice me say or do that gave you some clues that I was dealing with it ok, and eventually coming out of it?

4. When you’re going through a tough time, what are some things that I do that really help, even just a little bit?

5. When you’re at your best, what do I do to contribute to that, and help keep it around longer?


OK, I know that this might seem really self serving, but if you also answer it for them, it can really be a beneficial exercise in learning some things to look out for in the future to help build solutions and stay at your best longer. 

If you do this exercise, please give me some feedback about it, and if you think of any questions to add, shoot me an email or comment below. 

Happy Mining,

Rebekka Ouer, LCSW

@LGBT_Counselor on Twitter 

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