Pride Month: How to Support Someone Coming Out

Pride Month: How to Support Someone Coming Out

June is Pride Month, so let’s take this opportunity to go over some ways you can support the LGBTQ+ folks in your life if they choose to share their experience with you. Your response should vary based on your relationship dynamic, but in general, these are some rules to follow: 

 

Listen and don’t assume: Every person’s experience is different, so be careful not to assume anything about their experience, needs, or preferences based on what you’ve seen other people do or examples in media. If you don’t know what questions to ask, a simple “tell me more about this” or “what has that been like for you” is a good way to signal you are open to more information and that you want to know their experience. 

 

Ask questions, but don’t expect to be educated: Ask questions about their experience, but if you are not familiar with the LGBTQ+ issues or terminology, be prepared to do some research instead of asking satisfying your curiosity at the expense of your loved one. Have questions related to the specifics of laws, family planning, brain chemistry, etc.? There are so many resources online that you can use instead of placing that burden on a singular person.

 

Don’t center the conversation on yourself: Many people respond with a well-meaning, “you could have told me” or “why didn’t you tell me sooner?”, usually intending to confirm to the person that they would have been open and supportive. Unfortunately, this changes the focus of the conversation to the person needing to apologize or manage your relationship instead of sharing their experience. They are telling you now, and that’s all that matters. 

 

Manage your fears and expectations on your own: Many people, especially parents, immediately start to think about the future when someone comes out to them, and this often focuses on safety and future expectations. Well-meaning people will often say that they are “just worried about how the world will treat you”, or that they “hate that this will make your life harder. LGBTQ+ folks are acutely aware of the discrimination they will face and do not need to be reminded of that. Respond to them the way you wish the world would. 

 

Resist the urge to make a “big deal”: While some folks love the idea of a celebration when they come out, most are just looking to know that your feelings toward them are no different than they were before you knew this part of their identity and that you will support them. While some outward demonstrations of support can be appropriate (things like putting up a pride flag, making requested changes to displayed pictures or items personalized with names, or sending care packages), make sure you also engage in the same things, conversations, and activities you used to do before they came out, remember they are still the same person! 

 

Acknowledge your gratitude: Trusting someone with this information is a huge deal, so be sure to communicate your gratitude that they told you, even if was later than you would have wanted or expected. 

 

Respect their privacy: This information is not yours to share unless you have explicit permission from your loved one. It is theirs to tell on their own, how they want to. So if you’re chatting with extended family members or friends, don’t bring it up (even in a positive light!) unless that person has given their consent. There may be reasons they are not wanting to share this information with certain people, and it undermines their trust in you. 

 

Commit to using correct terminology: If you haven’t had much exposure to LGBTQ+ folks or the community, it might feel like you are overwhelmed with new terminology and “rules”. No one will expect you to get it right all the time at first, but they will expect you to be actively learning and trying. Commit to asking what identifiers your loved one uses, and be willing to correct yourself when you make a mistake. If you do mess up, simply correct yourself and move on. Long, belabored apologies are unnecessary and again put the focus on you and your loved one having to manage your emotions. Here is a resource of common terms to get familiar with: https://www.hrc.org/resources/glossary-of-terms 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Get the Most Out of Counseling

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After School Connection: Let’s Find A Better Option Than “How Was Your Day”

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You’re with your kids at the end of the day and you want to connect with them, hear about their day, and be a resource for anything they’re struggling with. For most people, the question that slips out almost automatically is “how was your day?”. What comes next is usually some mixture of “fine” or a general shoulder shrug, then silence. Your kid is feeling unsure of how to proceed or what to say, and you’re left feeling frustrated that your connection attempt hasn’t worked. Here are some options to replace that age-old question. See which ones your kid responds to, and get ready for some authentic, connective conversation!

 

What made you laugh today?

 

Did you feel (nervous, angry, sad, etc.) at any point today?

 

Did you help anyone today? Did anyone help you?

 

How did you feel loved today?

 

What interesting questions did you ask today?

 

What does your body need for the rest of the day?

 

What do you wish people at school knew about you?

 

Can you tell me about an adult at school you like (or don’t like)? 

 

Is there anyone at school you want to get to know better?

 

What do you hope happens tomorrow?

 

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the question “how was your day?” it can be overwhelming and some kids struggle to know where to start because of how general it is. More specific questions give them a starting place, and if you can tailor them to something specific you know about their day (ex: an assignment they were worried about, a lunch item they were excited to try, a friend they hoped to play with), those small details signal to your child how important you think their experiences are. 

 

Pick one or a few questions each day, but try not to make it feel like a pop quiz. Some kids respond well to knowing exactly what questions are coming, and others like the novelty of new ones, so experiment with switching between these two options. Timing and delivery can also be important here; imagine you came home from work and the second you opened the door, someone was requiring you to recount the details of your day. Sound stressful or overwhelming? We often do that to kids when they get off the bus or slide into the car. Try a warm greeting to let them know you’re excited to see them, but pause until they’re settled before you ask anything. Try the phrasing “I was thinking about you today and I wondered….” It’s a gentle lead-in but also clues them in that you thought their day was important enough that you thought of it while they were gone. 

 

If you’re still not getting much engagement, don’t be discouraged. You can always flip the roles and model for them by telling them about your day instead. Remember, the goal here is not to get your child to talk to you, it’s to connect with them in a way that’s engaging and comfortable for them, and some days or for some kids, that can be as simple as silence while they decompress from the day or listening to their choice of music. 

 

 

 

 

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When you think of couples therapy, most people conjure images of two people on a couch, angry and distant, trying to find a way to reconnect and “save” their marriage.  Sometimes that’s exactly what it looks like, but there are so many other situations where couples therapy can be beneficial. 

Below are some common reasons people seek (or should seek!) relational therapy:

 

  • Grief
    • Many people seek individual counseling when experiencing grief, but often this can be supplemented by couples therapy, especially if the grief is shared. The loss of a child, close family friend, or parent/in-law can all take a toll on the couple’s relational dynamic. 

 

  • Parenting differences
    • No two people have the exact same parenting style, and while hopefully you are generally on the same page as your co-parent, this doesn’t always happen. Even the smallest of parenting differences can cause friction and lead to disconnection or communication challenges. Some co-parents come to therapy together when they aren’t in a romantic relationship and have no plans to be. A healthy co-parenting relationship is so beneficial for the children involved, and therapy can help people seeking to repair communication, set boundaries, and heal wounds so they can be present for their children. 

 

  • Extended Family
    • Successfully navigating relationships with both sides of extended family is a common goal of couples therapy. Tension between a spouse and a family of origin can wreak havoc on a relationship, and can lead to challenging conversations with loyalties feeling pulled in all directions. 

 

  • Infertility
    • Often a grief process of its own, infertility can put a strain on a couple’s dynamic. The rollercoaster of emotions, changed expectations, and physical and financial hardships are incredibly challenging and many couples find it difficult to reconnect to one another through it all. 

 

  • Discernment 
    • Some couples come to therapy to decide if they want to put time and effort into repairing their relationship or separate, weighing all options. For those who decide they do want to remain together, more traditional couples therapy is then recommended. 

 

  • Intimacy
    • Intimacy changes for most couples as they navigate different seasons of their relationship, as well as outside influences/stressors. Identifying and expressing needs and reconnecting in this way is often a challenge, and this opportunity for connection can suffer when other communication challenges are present. 

 

  • Finances
    • When the stakes are high, tensions can be too. People approach finances in many different ways, but when there is a perceived threat to either your security (if your partner is more of a spender) or quality of life (if your partner is more of a saver), conflict and communication errors ensue. 

 

  • Acute and Chronic Illness
    • Many couples come in when navigating an acute or chronic illness. Acute illness often leads to shock, grief, and an immediate change in daily life. Chronic illnesses can bring a need for increased understanding and patience, and a change in labor division or a potential caretaking dynamic. 

 

  • Division of Labor
    • A major tenant of relationship well-being for many couples boils down to the basics of living in harmony, without either partner feeling they are taking on an unfair share of the domestic labor– things like laundry, dishes, keeping track of family events, even keeping toilet paper stocked in the house. These might seem inconsequential, but we all take cues about how we’re viewed and valued through these day-to-day experiences. 

 

While plenty of couples do come into therapy at a time of intense conflict and anger, there are many other reasons for seeking therapy with a partner (past or current). If you find yourself feeling disconnected, unsure of how to proceed or communicate successfully with your partner, now is the time to seek couples counseling! A skilled clinician can help you and your partner navigate the situations listed above (and so many others!) in a way that helps both people feel heard and secure as you work toward your goals.

 

 

 

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Be a Better Mental Health Ally: 7 Stigmatizing Phrases and What To Say Instead

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Chances are, you’ve either said or heard each of these phrases. While not typically used with ill-intent, imagine for a moment being someone who experiences the mental health challenges described, and how you might interpret these statements. Small, intentional changes to the words we use can have a huge impact on others, so let’s go through some common phrases, why they might be harmful or contribute to stigma, and an easy alternative for each. 

 

  1. I’m so OCD about _____.

 

We all have things we like a particular way, or feel some level of discomfort with if they are not done “properly”. However, OCD is a debilitating disorder that goes way beyond preferences or a bit of discomfort. While some people with OCD have obsessions and compulsions related to cleanliness and organization, there are many different themes, and reducing OCD to fixations on cleanliness dismisses these. 

 

Instead try: It’s really important to me that the kitchen be clean, I feel uncomfortable when it’s messy!

 

  1. Everyone is a little ADD/ADHD.

 

Everyone is forgetful sometimes, struggles to focus on tasks sometimes, and struggles to find motivation sometimes. However, people with ADHD experience symptoms like these (along with many others) every single day, to a level that interferes with their functioning. Again, saying that “we all” have some level of this downplays the challenges people with ADHD face.  

 

Instead try: Wow, I am so forgetful today!

 

  1. They’re so crazy/psycho!

 

People often use these terms to refer to someone displaying erratic or concerning behavior, whether or not it is related to a mental health diagnosis. It’s even used to refer to behavior we just don’t like, or to discredit someone. It is rarely, if ever, used with compassion, and if we are referring to people who are experiencing psychosis, delusions, mania, etc. it’s dismissive of the very real and terrifying experiences these people are going through. 

Instead try: They seem to be struggling to stay connected to reality, I wonder if we can connect them to support?

 

  1. I also experienced ______ and I’m fine!

Trauma affects everyone differently, and we do not get to decide what is traumatic to someone. Research has shown that two people experiencing the same event (car crash, natural disaster, etc.) can have wildly different responses. Your brain’s response does not negate another brain’s different response.

 

Instead try: That sounds like it was terrifying for you, how can I support you?

 

  1. It’s been _____ months/years, you’re not over that yet?

 

Trauma also has no timeline, and isn’t something we “get over”.  With help from tools like therapy, medication, and peer support many people can make incredible strides in healing from what happened to them, but trauma has lasting effects on the brain and nervous system. 

 

This also applies to knowing someone has been managing a mental health diagnosis (OCD, Depression, Anxiety, etc.) long-term. Many people do experience significant improvements to a level where they no longer meet diagnostic criteria or identify previous challenges as a concern, but many people experience chronic mental health challenges that require lifelong management. 

 

Instead try: I know this has been hard, let’s talk about how we continue supporting you. 

 

  1. That person/the weather here is so bipolar!

 

While there are scientific uses for the term bipolar, most people more commonly use this term to casually refer to something/someone that changes rapidly and without warning. Again, speaking this way is dismissive of the intense and terrifying experience of shifting between manic and depressive episodes. 

 

Instead try: The weather changes so quickly here!

 

  1. Kill me/I wanted to die!

 

For people who have experienced suicidal ideation or attempts, hearing other people casually or jokingly say things like this can contribute to the stigma that often stops people from seeking help. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts (even passive ones!) it’s important to mention them so you can find help, but if you’re trying to find an impactful way to describe frustration, embarrassment, or shame, there are better options. Suicidal thoughts are more prevalent than you might think, and shouldn’t be the punchline in a joke. 

 

 Instead try: That was so embarrassing I wanted to run out of the room!

Now that you’re aware of the potentially harmful effects of these phrases, you might be surprised to notice how often you hear them used. To be a better mental health ally, first start but just noticing when you use them or when they come up for you, then try to consciously replace or correct yourself with something like the alternatives listed. Small changes make a big impact!

 

 

 

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When is the Right Time to Try Couple’s Counseling?

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For better or worse. Those words seem easy to say at the time, but when worse gets really bad, many couples are ready to throw in the towel. Here are some things to consider that might indicate that your relationship is ready for a tune-up.

The Stigma of Counseling

It can be hard to make the decision to go to couples counseling because it means you have to face your problems and admit you and your partner are on shaky ground. That can be incredibly scary to admit. It’s not dissimilar to thinking something may be wrong with your health, but you’re too scared to face the music and so you ignore the issue until it gets way too big.

Beyond having to admit you and your partner have problems, there’s also the discomfort of not being familiar with therapy. It can definitely feel a bit mysterious and scary sitting down with a total stranger and sharing personal information about your relationship.

For these reasons, far too many couples let their marriage issues sit on the back burner, percolating. But the better option is to nip an issue in the bud as soon as it rears its ugly head.

To save you some confusion, here are some of the most common relationship issues that typically require some time in couples counseling.

Broken Trust

Whenever there is a major breach of trust, such as an extramarital affair, there is usually a need for couples counseling. A therapist can help you both rebuild the foundation of trust.

More Frequent Arguments

To each relationship, a little rain must fall. But when you start having frequent torrential downpours, it’s time to ask for help. An increase in fighting and intensity of fighting often means significant problems under the surface.

Stonewalling

If you and your partner aren’t talking at all about important matters, this too can erode a relationship. Feelings of resentment can build up and be difficult to address if left to fester for too long.

You’ve Experienced a Devastating Event

Life throws us events in our lives that are hard to rebound from. Whether it’s a financial loss or the loss of a loved one, as in the loss of a child, the trauma can change the way you and your partner relate to one another.

These are just a few of the reasons you and your partner should consider exploring couples counseling. It’s always better to seek help than try and go it alone.

If you are interested in treatment options, please be in touch with us. We have a licensed marriage and family therapist now accepting new clients.

3 Ways to Kindly Say “No” to Invites for Introverts

3 Ways to Kindly Say “No” to Invites for Introverts

Life is challenging when you’re an introvert. What are simple interactions for many people can feel anxious and uncomfortable to you. The mere idea of taking part in certain social events can be exhausting and emotionally draining to an introvert.

While some social functions, such as business meetings, cannot be missed, there are social gatherings that can be, and it is totally okay for you to say no. This may feel almost as uncomfortable to you as actually attending the party or event, but it’s important to put your own needs ahead of others in times like these.

If you are an introvert that generally has a hard time saying no to invites, here are some ways you can do it kindly:

 

Be Honest-ish

We tend to feel a lot of pressure to give myriad details on why we can’t accept an invite to an event. If we don’t have a “good enough” excuse, some of us will blatantly lie, which then makes us feel bad.

There is no need to lie and no need to give more details than necessary. You can simply say, “Thanks so much but I already have plans.” We all have plans all of the time. You may plan on doing the laundry that night or watching Game of Thrones while eating pistachio ice cream (which is a great plan, BTW). That is the truth but it is no one else’s business but yours.

 

Be Gracious

Before saying “no,” be gracious and thank the person very much for inviting you in the first place. It will make the other person feel good that they made you feel good by thinking of you.

 

Practice What to Say

It’s easy to say no in a text or email, but when you will see that person in person, saying no can feel incredibly awkward. The best thing to do is just practice saying, “Thank you so much for asking but I already have plans that day/evening,” so that it comes out naturally and so that you feel at ease saying it.

I would like to suggest that, before saying no to an invite, you really weigh the pros and cons. I know being introverted can be challenging, but I also know that it can get pretty lonely at times. Saying yes once in a while may not be as bad as you think. While saying no to a huge, loud party may make sense for you, be open-minded and look for those new social situations you actually might be able to handle and enjoy. You never know the kind of fun you could have or new friends you could make.

 

Introversion vs. Social Anxiety

Introverts tend to feel exhausted after social interactions, but so do people with social anxiety symptoms.

How can you tell the difference between the two? Be curious about why you’re avoiding social interaction.

  • If you’re worried about what other people think about you, that is likely social anxiety.
  • If you feel nervous, worrying about the “right” thing to say, that’s probably social anxiety.
  • If you ruminate about or replay a social experience on repeat after the fact, that’s probably social anxiety.

 

A person can be an introvert AND have social anxiety. A therapist can help you honor your introversion needs, while working to overcome social fears.

 

 

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