Tomorrow is Veteran's Day across America. Thank you to all my family and friends that served or supported us while we served. There are almost 350,000 Veterans living in the state of Minnesota, and over 20 million across the country and its territories. Many organizations in my area are celebrating this special day today either by having Veterans Day programs or just giving their folks some time off. In an any case, Veterans Day has a lot meaning to a lot of different people. Most veterans that I know seem to make an effort to get together with other Veterans for at least part of the day. I've made an effort to get out and enjoy a meal with some of my veteran family and friends (graciously provided for free by some local businesses expressing their gratitude). We usually start out by checking in with each other to see how things have been going and the conversation somehow leads to stories from our past service together. There is a lot of laughing and loud voices, something we were much more accustomed to when serving. We end the time by quietly parting ways with our Minnesota grace of telling each other we should get together more often, but we don't and we know we likely won't until there is a funeral or until next Veteran's Day. I can't recall a single time when I've left those conversations feeling anything less than at least content, as if my cup is noticeably a little fuller than when I arrived. Perhaps you experience something similar on days that are more special to you? As a therapist, I've asked myself how getting together with those folks seems to have such a positive effect on my mood. The answer is simple, the bonds of service that were seemingly broken were quickly remade. These bonds are unlike any other that most people have ever experienced. They are not only unique, but entirely special. We know it when we get together and talk about old times, we feel it within our depths. When we tap into our depths, it is invigorating. This Veteran's Day, whether you're a Veteran, a family member of a Veteran, or you just want to remember the sacrifices of our country's Veterans, get out there and spend some time with them. If you know one is at home alone, go and visit them. Invigorate your soul or at least spend a little time with a Veteran.
People who are struggling to overcome the problems in their life often say things like, "No one understands". They often believe in this statement so much and have said it to themselves over and over so often that they now come to know it as a fact. My friends, a fact is an observable (to others also) provable action or thing. Just because you tell yourself something repeatedly does not make it a fact. To the person going through the struggle, every time they have tried to confront their problem by using their own devices or talking about it and it didn't go away, they chalk it up to more evidence that "no one understands because they don't know what I've been through". When you hear it as a friend, it's easy to tell them "it will get better" or "you just need to get out of the house more". However, when you are going through the struggle and others say these things to you, it's often interpreted as an empty encouragement, even insulting, and ultimately meaningless. So what do you say to them? "Tough love" or the "suck it up buttercup" approach will not work; giving "advice" (you're not Siggy Freud or Dr. Phil) will not work; comparing your experience (You are totally different than your loved one or friend) will not work. Instead, tell them you are here for them, you believe in them, ask what you can do to help them feel better, ask them what they think will make them feel better. Ask them about their feelings. Ask if they are thinking about wanting to die. Ask if they have been playing "Russian Roulette". What can you do with them? Remember this isn't about you. They aren't being selfish. Do not commiserate with them. Do not make ultimatums or make demands of them. Instead, offer to spend time with them and do it. Offer to drive them to their therapy appointment and do it. Cook them a meal to store in their fridge or freezer. Share the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) number with them. Take them to the Emergency Room if they are actively suicidal. If they are gun owners, offer to store their guns and do it. For historical and cultural perspective on Depression, see Dr. Neel Burton's Tedx Talk.
Counseling Couples is both a challenging and rewarding privilege. According to the Gottman's, most couples who seek counseling have a marriage that's been in trouble on average for SIX years! Many come with the idea that Couples Counseling is the last option to save what few threads may still be keeping them together. I hate to say it friends, but if that's your plan, you might be setting yourselves up to crash and burn! Look at it this way, if your vehicle started making an obnoxious grinding noise when you stepped on the brakes, you would know something is not right. Should you continue to ignore that noise and keep driving, eventually you'll notice the steering wheel starts to shake when you start to brake. Would you really keep waiting for the problem to work itself out? Sooner or later those brakes are gonna fail! You can fix them or risk the crash! Why not do some preventative maintenance? When you start to notice a friction in your marriage that sounds like that obnoxious grinding noise, why not consider a few sessions of Couples Counseling to prevent the noise, the shaking or even worse, the complete failure? Call me at 507-722-0753 to find out if Couples Counseling can help you.
This is my first blog related to my counseling business. I wasn't really sure what to start writing about. My first thought was to keep it simple and talk plainly about counseling and mental health therapy from my perspective.
So here it goes...
People who search for and are in need of the services I provide are most often experiencing problems. What kinds of problems? Just about anything; they are sick of being in a bad/sad mood, tired of worrying about everything, their children aren't doing what they are supposed to, they are re-thinking their marriage or relationship, they are trying to recover from some horrific life experience, or they have had it with things from their past dictating how they are living in the present. But they all share one thing in common. Their problems are life problems. Maybe they have their problem pinpointed or maybe they just aren't sure but know something is not right in their life. The people I work with have tools to solve problems like everyone else. They also have a tool that many people forget. That tool is courage. It takes courage to ask for help. It's not easy, but when they ask for help, they have just taken a GIANT step toward becoming the change they not only want to see in themselves, but in the rest of their lives!