The Surprising Key to Creating an Unbreakable Family Bond

Ashley D. Cox
MA, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and
Family Therapist
LMFT 91052


It’s been one of those nightmare days from start to finish. Not only did you leave your presentation notes at home, but you hit every red light on the way back and now you have to deal with your son’s failing math grade.

Whatever caused your stress, it’s important to talk about it with loved ones instead of keeping your frustrations bottled inside. And what’s a better way to do this than around a dinner table with food? When you eat as a family, you can actually leave the table feeling more than just satiated: you can feel less stressed and tense, too.

Here are five expert-backed reasons you should gather around the table with your family more often.

EATING AS A FAMILY IMPROVES BRAIN STIMULATION.

Licensed marriage and family therapist Ashley Cox of The Center For Enriching Relationships (formerly Lighthouse Psychological Services) explains that sitting down for a meal with your family is great for the brain, body and spirit.

“Several studies have shown that family dinners boost mood, conversation, vocabulary and create positive feelings in children and teenagers,” she tells ENTITY. “Children who eat with the family engage in conversation and will learn more words than their peers that do not have a regular dinner. Scientists have found that children who have regular dinners know six times more words that are rare and show greater school performance.  Research has also shown that adolescents are two times more likely to get As when having a family meal five to seven times per week.”

 

 

This article was originally posted on Entity Magazine and was reposted with their permission.  The original article can be found here.

 

How to Deal with Your Partner's Faults

willawilliams

Willa Williams is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and serves at the Biola Center for Marriage and Relationships as a consulting therapist. She has been married for 30 years, and has two teenage children. Willa has a passion for healthy relationships, and enjoys working with couples as well as individuals. She has a Master of Arts in Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL), and a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Trinity International University (Deerfield, IL).


You’re doing it wrong!!!!

Have you ever found yourself thinking this about your partner? It’s amazing how many things they do the wrong way!  We may notice a few things when we are dating, but this revelation comes front and center once we are married and living with our spouse. They don’t do the small things the right way, like squeezing the toothpaste from the end, replacing the toilet paper roll with the end coming over the top, or making the bed with the fluffy pillows on top. They may also do the big things the wrong way, such as not calling us when they are going to be late, not inviting all of the extended family over for the holidays, or not appreciating our efforts to keep the insurance up to date. 

They do things the wrong way, and it can be very frustrating and aggravating!!

However, while this may be experientially true, have you ever considered that maybe there isn’t always a right way to do things? What if there are a few different ways to do things?

Actually, research has found this to be true. John Gottman, a leading, well-respected couples researcher, has found from his research that the majority of things that couples fight over have no right or wrong answer. For example, there is no set right or wrong amount of time that couples should spend with their extended families. There is no right or wrong way to load the dishwasher or clean the house. There is no right or wrong way to spend the holidays. There is no right or wrong way to entertain friends.

3 HELPFUL TIPS TO REMEMBER

1. Remember that your partner’s way of doing things is not right or wrong, but different.

We all grow up in families that have a certain way of doing things. Because we grow up doing these things this certain way, to us that way is the right way, the normal way. And when our partner does things differently, that just feels wrong. It is to our advantage to remember that it’s not right or wrong, but different. When we think something is wrong, we are much more apt to fight for what we think is right. But when it’s just different, then we can relax a bit, and we can work towards collaboration with our partner to find a way to do things in which we both can feel comfortable. We can collaborate to find the way that our family will do things from now on. 

2. Remember that these situations reveal underlying concerns.

When it comes to doing things the “right” way, people often joke about how couples fight over the little things like the toothpaste being squeezed from the bottom or the toilet seat being left up or the dishes being left in the sink. However, fights over those issues are not really about the toothpaste or the seat or the dishes. Those fights are about us feeling like our partner doesn’t really care about what we think or what we want. We fear that we, and our wants and needs, are just not that important to them, and that we will not be considered. And so we feel we have to fight for consideration. We fight so that we won’t be taken advantage of or run over. So then the dishes don’t seem like such a little thing anymore; we feel we are fighting for big things. 

3. Hold off on the fighting, and instead describe to your partner what you are feeling.

Describe how you feel when your ideas, wants, or needs are just not that important. Describe how you fear that you won’t be considered. Describe how you fear being run over or taken advantage of. When you describe what you are feeling, you will be less likely to criticize your partner, and so they will be better able to hear you. They likely will feel some compassion for you and will not think that you are truly being unreasonable about the dishes. 

When you can remember that there is no set right or wrong way to do many things, and when you can describe your underlying concerns to your partner, that paves the way for you and your partner to be able to collaborate together on how you want to do things in your home. Bickering over the little things will decrease. You will feel more considered, and you will be more able to extend consideration. You may be happy to see how many things your partner is actually doing “right!”

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” – Proverbs 17:9 (NLT)

This article was originally posted on the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships and was reposted with their permission.  The original article can be found here.

The Counseling Process

--Donald W. Welch Ph.D., LMFT

Dr. Welch left his full-time teaching post to move his family and Enriching Relationships, Inc. to California where he currently serves as Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Enriching Relationships™.


Christian counseling is a reconciliation process: a person seeking healing needs to be fully reconciled to God and others. Gary Collins describes it as “a long-term, in-depth helping process that attempts to bring fundamental changes in the counselee’s personality, spiritual values, and ways of thinking.”11 Although there are a myriad of areas important to the counseling process, there are three areas essential to successful Christian counseling: establishing confidentiality, building relationship, and creating awareness. 

The first area is confidentiality. The exchange of information shared during the counseling session must remain confidential, or the counselee may never feel secure enough to openly work through the presenting issues. Confidentiality produces confidence towards the minister or counselor. Confidentiality also serves to turn the counseling area into a secure and safe haven; the dark secrets will remain inside the walls. Unless the information is life threatening to the counselee or to someone else, the counselor must maintain a strict code of confidentiality.

One method to assist in the area of confidentiality is to provide an intake form describing the counselor’s mode of operation. On this form, the counselor would describe his or her counseling expertise, including degrees, ordination, licensure (including the state in which he or she received it), and years of counseling. Also included on this form would be the scope of the counselor’s limitations, meaning that the work with the counselee will need to operate within the counselor’s skill-level and area of expertise. For instance, if a person in the congregation with schizophrenia seeks out the pastor’s counsel, it would be well for the pastor to advise the person that his skill level precludes him from assisting with the disorder; however, he could assist the person with spiritual issues related to the disorder. A referral would take place depending upon the severity of the counselee’s problem. Assisting the person(s) under your care to know your skill-level limits will help him or her know the specific ways in which you may assist. The intake form should also include a description of the counselee’s understanding of the counselor’s role as a mandated reporter, meaning that a report to the local authorities would occur if the counselee is believed to be harmful to self or others or to have committed certain crimes. The counselee’s signature on this form, giving the counselor the privilege to provide counseling, is essential for establishing clear boundaries. 

A second area essential to the counseling process is relationship. Those in counseling need to know that they are not being judged or condemned. The counselee needs to sense early on that the counselor is an unbiased therapeutic listener. This is necessary to a healthy relationship. Michael Nichols says, “The real issue in listening isn’t whether we do or don’t give advice but whether or not our response is focused on reading and responding to the other person’s feelings or is simply a way of dealing with our own.”12 Focused listening has been referred to as “mirroring” or “attending.” Deciphering eye contact, hand gestures, and the differences between a closed or open stance on the part of the counselee may reveal nonverbal communication. This interpretation skill is a continual process as the counselor seeks to understand the developmental, social, environmental, economic, and overall functioning of the counselee. 

Ideally, the counselor should not attempt to counsel someone when he or she is also dealing with personal issues similar to those of the counselee (s). A professor of pastoral counseling illustrated this by saying, “If you are moving through some difficult times in your marriage, it is important to remember that you should not be attempting to help those who are also moving through a similar and difficult time in their marriage.” 13 It would be impossible to differentiate between the difficulties in your own marriage and those in the counselee’s marriage. This can produce “countertransference,” where the listener becomes the subject rather than the objective listener.14

Although listening is essential to providing an atmosphere whereby the counselee can feel safe and is able to work through life challenges, building rapport is also very critical. A person experiencing trauma is tentative and prone to withdraw. Determining the types of questions that probe the sensitive areas without being threatening will usually begin to soften the clenched heart. Permitting God’s compassion to flow through counseling is a tremendous gift to the person searching for health and wholeness. Martin Buber expressed this best by saying, “Relation is reciprocity.”15

If a person believes the counselor is sincerely interested, reciprocity will occur. And if a person feels cared for, hope may open the way for healing. As one put it, “The greatest gift I ever received was another person who believed in me.” Viktor Frankl learned a prevailing truth that revealed itself through his experiences in the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz and Dachau: “The truth— that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.”16 Since love is God’s greatest command, a Christian counselor will only be effective as his or her love relationship with God is extended to others in need. 

Awareness is a third area essential to Christian counseling. It is a catalyst for the healing process to begin. Viktor Frankl quotes Spinoza as saying: “Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.”17 Another way to look at this is to consider that we cannot change something of which we are not aware. In Mark 10:51 Jesus looked past the blind man’s eyes and into the man’s heart when he asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” This question revealed that there was more than just a physical need—there was a spiritual need as well. Until this question was asked, the blind man may have been unaware of the great chasm inside his heart. Jesus was giving him the opportunity for this realization. 

An ultimate concern for the counselor is helping people recognize the source of their personal pain. Once a counselee recognizes and embraces the pain, Christian counseling provides a safe place where the counselee can discover and implement more useful ways for confronting and dealing with the source of the pain. Defenses can often disable a person from facing threatening challenges. Henry Cloud suggests, “If people can’t admit their faults, they can’t bring their real self into a confessional relationship with God and others. They can never resolve their critical conscience, and they can never emotionally reach the state of ‘no condemnation.’”

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

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— by Daniel Jenkins, Ph.D.

Jenkins is a licensed clinical psychologist at The Center for Enriching Relationships in Mission Valley. He is also a professor at Point Loma Nazarene University. Learn more at www.enrichingrelationships.org.


“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” — Jesus

What if you could slow down the effects of stress and time on your body by taking a daily pill? There are no negative side effects. Would you take this pill? I bet you would.

Our fitness club offers a free body analysis to determine your health age compared to your chronological age. As it turns out, my wife is four years younger than her chronological age, while my health age is exactly the same as my chronological age.

Bummer! I thought I was doing better than that.

Although the trainer took into account things like body composition, amount of sleep, exercise, and diet, there is a very important component that seems to be missing in his analysis—thought life.

How important is your thought life in the aging process and the quality of your life? Research has shown that your mind and body are inexplicably intertwined and that your propensity to develop illnesses of aging and your ability to recover are directly tied to factors related to your mental state.

Stress accelerates biological aging, whether in the form of the “fight or flight response” or in the more subtle form of a negative attitude. It’s almost as if the cells in our bodies are listening when we experience suffering in the form of anxiety, trauma, depression, and the like.

In a nutshell, cellular reproduction is impacted while under psychological stress, including the chromosomal end caps (telomeres) that help keep the double helix chromosomes from unraveling. It is very clear now that telomere length reduction is directly related to aging.

This may sound like old news, but recent research continues to show that aging slows down when people take specific steps to change the focus of their thoughts.

Those of us who focus our thought life on anticipating danger are at risk for rapid cell degeneration. Perceived threats may come in the form of threats to our ego, our bank accounts, our jobs, or . . . the list is endless. We choose to focus on these potential threats, usually out of fear. Going from crisis to crisis is no way to live, and our cells seem to know this, too.

In addition to seeing danger and threats on a daily basis, ruminating about the past is linked to shorter telomeres. Do you carry around stressful thoughts long after the event has happened? If you live in the past by dwelling on previous stressful events, or if you anticipate bad things happening in the future, you are unknowingly doing damage to your health.

God’s Word is clear about how important it is to take a Sabbath rest from our work, but how often do you take a Sabbath rest from your worries? In Matthew 6:25, Jesus instructs us to set aside our worries and concerns about the future. Truth is, the vast majority of things we tend to worry about never really materialize.

The challenge is to be grounded in the present moment rather than time-traveling in our minds to the past or the future. Jesus points out that each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34), so adding all the past and potential future troubles only compounds our stress and our propensity to age and develop age-related illnesses.

OK, I’m not going to worry about my biological age and my chronological age being the same, but instead I’m going to focus on things I’m grateful for right now. In the big scheme of things, the battle is already over and God is the victor.

Everything else is small stuff.

Biblical Foundations of Counseling

--Donald W. Welch Ph.D., LMFT

Dr. Welch left his full-time teaching post to move his family and Enriching Relationships, Inc. to California where he currently serves as Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Enriching Relationships™.


Christian counseling, more than any other field of study, focuses on the very core of who we are as God’s creation. This helping ministry first attempts to assist people in their understanding of who they are in relationship to God their Creator. Second, Christian counseling assists those who are committed in applying their relationship with God to forming healthy relationships with those around them. Essentially, it applies God-ordained principles to relationships, recognizing “that the Scriptures are more than a description of human nature, a listing of moral principles, or a guidebook for behavior. The Bible calls for commitment and obedience.”4

The Bible contains numerous references to the importance of good counsel. From the very first days in the Garden of Eden when God counseled Adam and Eve, there was a need for objective counsel that would help people rise above their subjective outlook on life. Throughout its pages, the Bible continues to espouse the importance of wise counsel for abundant living. During the wilderness years, Moses sought God’s counsel and utilized this counsel as he led the children of Israel. Isaiah presented counsel through his prophetic announcements. Jesus, our supreme role model, frequently sought counsel from his heavenly Father throughout his earthly ministry (Luke 3:21; 6:12; 9:29). From the forty days in the wilderness to his grueling moments in Gethsemane, Jesus continued to seek his Father’s counsel. Jesus also prayed for his counselees; in John 17:21, Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one, as he was one with the Father. The apostle Paul provided counsel on a number of occasions. For example, he encouraged and admonished the young pastor Timothy.

17 Ways to Make Your Kid's Day

AlisaGrace

Alisa Grace ('92) serves as a consultant to the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships where she also co-teaches a class on Christian perspectives on marriage and relationships. While she speaks regularly on topics such as dating relationships, marriage and love, she also loves mentoring younger women and newly married couples, speaking at retreats and providing premarital counseling.


Raising children is a difficult, but rewarding task. As a parent, you already work hard and sacrifice much to care for your children. But in this culture of busyness, it is important to take the time to connect with your children and be intentional about building a relationship with them. Here are some simple but effective ways to express love to your kid and make him or her feel special on an ordinary day.

1. Do your kid’s chores for the day.

2. Plan a special day with your kids, but don’t tell them.

3. Surprise them with their favorite fast-food lunch at school.

4. Listen without judging or giving advice.

5. Buy their favorite snacks.

6. Prepare their favorite breakfast/dinner.

7. Snuggle with them as you put them to bed.

8. Let them pick out whatever treat they want for $1 at the mini-mart.

9. Read their favorite book series and discuss it with them.

10. Compliment them on a job well done.

11. Express appreciation for ordinary and routine things done well.

12. Hug them every morning when they get up and say, “I love you.”

13. Tell them, “I’m so glad you’re my kid and not someone else’s.”

14. Tell them, “If I was your age, I think we’d be good friends.”

15. Express your belief that God will do something great with them throughout their life.

16. Pray a blessing over them before they leave for school.

17. Create a fun family tradition like getting donuts on Saturday mornings.

 

This article was originally posted on the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships and was reposted with their permission.  The original article can be found here.

Selfie Ascension

— by Daniel Jenkins, Ph.D.

Jenkins is a licensed clinical psychologist at The Center for Enriching Relationships in Mission Valley. He is also a professor at Point Loma Nazarene University. Learn more at www.enrichingrelationships.org.


Over the holiday season we decided to visit Balboa Park with some relatives. As we were walking around I couldn’t help noticing the latest accessory to the ubiquitous mobile phone: The “Selfie Stick” attaches to your phone and allows you to take a picture of yourself by extending its telescopic arm to snap a picture with yourself in the foreground.

Selfie photos and videos can be immediately published for all to see on social media such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Once again we have confirmation that the world revolves around us, and we want the world to know it.

Self-aggrandizement in its extreme form is known as narcissism. Research, using objective personality inventories, has confirmed that narcissism rates have been rising over the past 30 years. There are many reasons for this significant uptick, but let me propose a reason that may surprise you.

The paradox is that deep inside a person who struggles with narcissism is an intense lack of self-acceptance. The outward expression of self-importance is really an indication of deeper insecurities. Like a pendulum, the insecurities are compensated for by the external appearance of arrogance.

Jesus had a lot to say about the arrogant nature of the Pharisees (Matthew 23). These religious leaders presented a façade of perfection while hiding their true sinful nature, and to make matters worse they also felt entitled to judge everyone else (Matthew 23:4).

Clearly, our worth as individuals does not come from being perfect, being the best, or fooling ourselves into thinking such things. Our worth is intrinsic to our creation in God’s image.

To accept our faults, weaknesses and shortcomings as reality, rather than to pretend that they don’t exist, is the first step in learning how to overcome them. Acceptance of our shortcomings also breeds humility and the ability to learn from our mistakes. So, reality is our friend when it comes to personal growth and maturity.

But the seemingly easier solution is to defend against the guilt or shame by distorting our reality. It appears so much easier to shift the blame onto others, or to justify our shameful actions, or to bury our secret pain where no one will find it.

But such attempts only delay that fateful day when reality will confront us, face to face.

 

False reality
The Selfie Stick gives its user the impression that they are in control. No longer do you rely upon someone else to snap that photograph. Likewise, self-promotion can seem like an answer to feeling less valuable than someone else. But maybe it is really an attempt to control reality, both our own and the image that others have of us.

In the age of PhotoShop, we have learned that photographs can indeed lie (just Google “Dove Evolution” for an example). People love to make themselves look better or more interesting than they really are. It is so much easier to take a few pounds off with some fancy software than to actually go on a diet, or use a photograph that is decades old to represent us on social media.

Easier, that is, until someone sees you face to face, sees you as you really are. Sadly, if you don’t accept yourself, warts and all, it will be hard to believe that others will accept you, too, including our Savior. Scripture tell us, Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13). To be intimately known and yet still accepted is the essence of unconditional love.

What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself. – Abraham Lincoln

Turning the Relational Battleship

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— by Daniel Jenkins, Ph.D.

Jenkins is a licensed clinical psychologist at The Center for Enriching Relationships in Mission Valley. He is also a professor at Point Loma Nazarene University. Learn more at www.enrichingrelationships.org.


Turning a battleship 180 degrees while moving ahead at 30 knots is no easy endeavor. The “turning circle” is the shortest distance that a warship can turn around without keeling over.

Some battleships are very maneuverable with an 800-yard turning circle, while larger ships take well over 1,000 yards to do an about face. The size of the ship and the speed it is moving forward must be taken into consideration in making the turning circle calculation.

Momentum carries objects forward in the direction that they have been going, and it takes a lot of force to make them change, according to Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion. For example, to stop a really large vessel, such as an oil supertanker, it takes 5.5 miles and the turning circle is over 2 miles.

Apparently this First Law of Motion applies to nonphysical things as well, such as trust levels in a relationship, reputations in a group or even our perspectives of reality.

For example, I once counseled a married couple who believed they knew each other very well, and yet how they saw each other was 180 degrees different from their own self-perceptions. Getting the couple back into alignment was like trying to turn a battleship—it took a lot of force.

According to the wife, her husband was a liar, and every word out of his mouth had to be questioned and closely examined. She knew that he had cheated on a previous spouse, and she knew that he had lied to her before, so everything he now said had to be questioned with skepticism.

The husband adopted a passive role in the relationship. He did not want to face conflict, so he rarely revealed his true motivations or intentions to his wife. However, the more he hid, the more she felt alienated, and so the problems only escalated.

To make matters even worse, the husband was passive-aggressive. The repressed anger he felt for his wife’s controlling and condescending behaviors seeped out in subtle and manipulative ways that were designed to infuriate her further. Like most passive-aggressive individuals, he was not fully conscious of how his actions provoked her anger.

But, once they started therapy and were instructed to focus more upon their own feelings and behaviors, things started to slowly change. He became more expressive of his anger in direct and appropriate ways. She began to feel like she was seeing the real person in her husband, rather than a factitious façade. There were many setbacks along the way, but like a turning battleship, trust slowly returned.

Changing one’s behavior to promote trust is hard work, but changing one’s mind about our partner is much more difficult. Even if a husband stops lying to his wife, there may be months or even years before she changes her mind about his integrity.

“He will never change.”

“She’s always been this way.”

These kinds of statements make the battleship of our mind move full steam ahead rather than turn in the direction of trust. If you refuse to see the good, even if it is an incremental change in the right direction, then you are the one who is subverting positive change.

Emotional pain creates a powerful momentum that slows down the process of forgiveness and the rebuilding of trust. By talking about the pain, in a safe and controlled environment, we can shorten that turning circle significantly. Conversely, if hurts and resentments are ignored or denied, then changing your perception of your partner will be very difficult.

It is so much easier to keep the status quo in our most important relationships. Trusting again means being vulnerable again, and probably suffering again. But what are the alternatives? They aren’t nearly as pleasant as repairing the relationship.

Changing the reality of your relationship is partly up to you. Change can and does happen, but you can only change yourself. Try disputing the negative beliefs you have about your partner and see if your feelings turn the corner in a more positive direction.

Why Adopt?

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Wendy Kaiser Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #LMFT 83952


Why Adopt? – by Wendy Kaiser

There is quite a variety of adoption scenarios.  The child might be an infant or a teenager or any age in between.  The prospective parents may have no children yet or 10 children already.  There could be a single child awaiting adoption or a sibling group hoping for a family to adopt them.  But the common theme in the adoption story is that there is a child in need of a family and a home, and there is a set of parents or a single parent with a desire to love and care for a child or children in need.

It seems like a perfect match.  What could go wrong?

Whatever the circumstances, another theme of adoption is that it represents enormous loss.  For the child of any age, adoption represents the loss of their original parents.  For an infertile couple, it represents the loss of the biological child they had hoped for.  So the prospective parents make a choice to adopt.  And generally, they bring to the story a tremendous amount of determination to love that child or children with all of their hearts, possibly with even more fervor than a biological child, because parents have to work so hard and jump through so many hoops to adopt.  But for the child, there is no choice about whether or not to lose the original parents. 

You may have heard, as I have, that the unborn child can hear the mother’s heart beating, hears and recognizes her voice.  Expectant mothers are encouraged to think positive and stay in an upbeat mood, because the unborn baby may even be able to pick up on negative emotions and feel the effects of cortisol if the mother is stressed.  I would guess that most expectant mothers who are contemplating relinquishing their baby for adoption have some difficult emotions to deal with, and feel some stress during the pregnancy.

So what may be considered the best of adoption circumstances?  A newborn baby is delivered, biological mom says goodbye, and the baby goes into the arms of eager, loving adoptive parents.  Even in this scenario, the baby feels the loss.  What happened to that familiar voice and heartbeat?

I remember bringing home my 10 week old baby.  He had lost not only his biological parents, but now was losing the foster mom who had cared for him for the last 10 weeks.  He cried a heartwrenching cry the entire 45 minute drive home, a memory that still brings tears to my eyes and an ache to my heart.  I loved him with all my heart, but everything he was experiencing then was unfamiliar.  The car felt and sounded unfamiliar and I sounded unfamiliar, no matter how soothingly I spoke to him.  Can you imagine how terrifying that must have been for a 10 week old infant?  Yes, he did come to know my and my husband’s voices and the sights and sounds of our home, but that familiarity did not erase the loss he had suffered.

So, why adopt?  Because there are and will always be children in need.  In this imperfect world, there will always be biological parents who, for whatever reason, are unable to provide the life they want for their child.  And so they make the excruciating choice to relinquish.  For adoptive parents who believe in God, they may feel that it is God’s call on their life to adopt a child or children.  And it is a blessed calling, to invest your life in another’s, especially in the treasured relationship of parent and child. There are ways for adoptive parents to help their adopted children process the loss of biological parents in a healthy way.  When they provide this kind of help, there is the added benefit of a deepened bond between the child and adoptive parents.  What a great opportunity!  For the adoptive parents, making this commitment to raise a child brings a richness and deeper meaning to life.  And for the child?  Astable, loving home is priceless!

I’ll be sharing more ideas for adoptive parents in future blogs.

Adoption is a beautiful way to have a family.  If it is something that you are considering, I'd love to have a free 15 minute phone consultation about adopting and the benefits of seeing a therapist for support along the way as you make the most of your unique family.  Click here to send me an email, or call the office anytime and ask for Wendy.

“When You are Considering Counseling”

By Diane Louise, MA, IMF Registered Intern #91995

Supervised by Donald W. Welch, Ph. D, LMFT, Lic. #MFC 50129

Those of us who have lost a loved one to suicide know first-hand how devastating this type of grief is. It was not a “natural” death. We were not prepared for it. It was most likely a violent death, yet there is no killer to blame, or prosecute and imprison. We experience a broad range of emotions which may include tremendous sorrow, disbelief, anger, guilt, shock, and even sometimes a sense of relief. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the feelings that we as survivors of suicide loss may experience.

Because of the unique nature of suicide grief, it is likely that the bereavement period and the work of healing will take longer than we would expect. Fortunately SOSL (Survivors of Suicide Loss, www.soslsd.org) and other organizations exist to provide support to those who are grieving a suicide death. For example, SOSL has a newsletter and several links on their website that direct people to resources for education, peer support, and weekly group meetings. Along with these resources, some people decide to seek professional counseling for additional support as they struggle with the intensity of their feelings. Survivors may be overwhelmed by grief or depression. Parents and other adults may not know how to talk to children about the death. Additionally, there may have been the traumatic experience of finding the body of the loved one who died by suicide. How does one go about choosing the right therapist at such a tender time?

A practical consideration is to be certain that the therapist has the proper credentials, including bereavement training and experience. Psychologists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), and Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT) are some of the most common types of mental health professionals in California who are qualified to treat bereaved individuals. When seeking a therapist, there are questions to first ask yourself, such as: Do I want to work with a male or female therapist? Does the therapist’s race, ethnicity, culture, or spiritual beliefs need to be the same as mine? Does it matter if the therapist is older or younger than me? Do I want to be seen for individual counseling, or as a couple or family? What are my goals for therapy?

When first calling a therapist, ask about his or her approach to treatment. Is psychotherapy (also known as “talk therapy”) the primary modality used, or does the therapist also incorporate creative expression such as art therapy, or play therapy for children? Ask about the fee schedule, and if the practice accepts insurance. One good way to find a therapist is to ask for referrals from people you know and trust. However, even then, you may or may not “click” with the therapist. It’s important to find a professional with whom you feel safe, and who provides empathy along with solid therapeutic support. When you connect with the therapist who is right for you, it is one more helpful resource to move you toward healing.

This “Little Piggy” Needs to be Fed!

Mary Beth Difley, CER Board Member

As all of you probably know nonprofits, including Center for Enriching Relationships (CER) have a financial struggle during the summer months. Typically, donations are down, yet clients who are in need of counseling, and the needs of the organization continue. So, the bottom line is that CER is in need of your financial support. We are asking you to financially support CER on a monthly basis or with a one-time gift. You can do this at www.cersandiego.org or on the CER Face Book page. You can also send your donation to 2525 Camino del Rio, Suite 315, San Diego, CA 92108 or call (619) 858-3105 and ask for Denise. We need to replenish CER’s scholarship/co-pay fund for the underserved clients throughout San Diego County. Watch the video to find out about CER and how we serve the local community.

We recently reviewed an article printed in Hillsdale College’s Imprimus publication. The article is taken from a talk by Karl Zinsmeister, who is the Vice President for publications at the Philanthropy Roundtable. His comments and interesting facts should spur us all on to give more to private non-profits.

“Our nonprofit sector now comprises eleven percent of the total United States workforce. It will contribute around six percent of gross domestic product this year. To put this in perspective, the charitable sector passed the national defense sector in size in 1993, and it continues to grow. So philanthropy is clearly a huge force in our society.”

“Only 14 percent of charitable giving in our country comes from foundations, and only five percent from corporations. The rest comes from individuals, and the bulk of it comes from small givers …” How does private philanthropy compare to government funding? Private philanthropy “is superior in its ability to be individual and pluralistic. As Mother Teresa used to say, ‘I never think in terms of a crowd, but of individual persons.’ Government programs, by necessity, focus on the crowd…but one-size- fits-all standardization is not really how humans thrive.” CER exists to serve individual and family needs!

“We humans are social animals, and we naturally become disturbed and want to help when we see fellow creatures in trouble. Early on, Americans discovered that voluntary action to lift others up is not only possible, it is superior to the kind of state paternalism that diminishes freedom. Private charitable giving and the spirit of volunteerism have been essential bulwarks of the American character, and they remain indispensable to our national success.”

For the complete article: Click Here

Get to Know: Jo A. Henry

Jo A. Henry MA, Intern
Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern #IMF 73203

 

1. How would your friends describe you?

My serious side: kind, forgiving, loving, caring, positive, giving, and compassionate
My casual side: gullible, fun / playful, silly, a lover of laughter, and a little spacy (at times)

2. Why did you want to become a therapist?

In my first years of marriage (it has now been 43 years), I went to a counselor whose wisdom helped and had a profound impact on my life. Since then I have sought out learning opportunities to become a people helper. The Lord used me for many years as a lay counselor: helping women in crisis pregnancies, helping teen girls struggling emotionally; and helping people in addiction toward recovery (even though I’m a “normy”). As a “late bloomer” God recently opened the door for continued education receiving my master’s degree in Marriage & Family Therapy. I consider being a therapist more than just a job; I consider being a therapist my calling from God with years of on the job training.

3. What's your favorite author and book?

“SOOOO many books & SOOOO little time” – I inherited my mother’s vast library of books. When people see them they ask if I’ve read them all. I usually say “they have all been read, just not all by me”. Suffice it to say; with such a rich collection I cannot narrow my preference down to one book or one author. Some of my favorite authors are: (Classic Authors) J. I. Packer, C. S. Lewis, J. Vernon McGee, A. W. Tozer, D. L. Moody, Andrew Murray, Paul Tournier, Adrian Rogers; (Contemporary Authors) Charles Swindoll, David Jeremiah, John Piper, Larry Crabb, Gary Collins, Henri Nouwen, and Philip Yancey; (IMPACTFUL BOOKS) Dietrich Bonhoeffer –The Cost of Discipleship; Charles Finney – Holy Spirit Revivals; Roy Hession – The Calvary Road; Brother Lawrence – The practice of the presence of God; Michael Yaconelli – Messy Spirituality; H. Norman Wright – Experiencing Grief; John Gottman – Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child; Irvin Yalom – The Gift of Therapy; and Robert McGee – The Search for Significance

4. Describe your perfect day.

On a perfect day I will wake up rested. I will spend time reading God’s Word and time in prayer. On a perfect day I will purposefully take time to eat, breathe deeply, and walk. On a perfect day I will accomplish the day’s plans including both tasks and something of eternal value. I will end my day reconnecting with my best friend (my husband – I don’t have a dog).

5. My favorite recreational activities are . . . 

I love spending time with my family. No matter how busy I am, I will always stop and take time when one of my kids or grandkids wants to spend time with me. Other activities that excite and/or sooth my soul include reading; my love of photography – taking pictures while watching sunsets, sunrises, humming birds and bees; while sitting at the beach watching, listening to and photographing the waves. AND – I love going on spontaneous “dates” with my hubby. Oh, and did I say reading?

Generosity in July

Mary Beth Difley, CER Board Member

As all of you probably know nonprofits, including Center for Enriching Relationships (CER) have a financial struggle during the summer months. Typically, donations are down, yet clients who are in need of counseling, and the needs of the organization continue. So, the bottom line is that CER is in need of your financial support. We are asking you to financially support CER on a monthly basis or with a one-time gift. You can do this at www.cersandiego.org or on the CER Face Book page. You can also send your donation to 2525 Camino del Rio, Suite 315, San Diego, CA 92108 or call (619) 858-3105 and ask for Denise. We need to replenish CER’s scholarship/co-pay fund for the underserved clients throughout San Diego County. Watch the video to find out about CER and how we serve the local community.

We recently reviewed an article printed in Hillsdale College’s Imprimus publication. The article is taken from a talk by Karl Zinsmeister, who is the Vice President for publications at the Philanthropy Roundtable. His comments and interesting facts should spur us all on to give more to private non-profits.

“Our nonprofit sector now comprises eleven percent of the total United States workforce. It will contribute around six percent of gross domestic product this year. To put this in perspective, the charitable sector passed the national defense sector in size in 1993, and it continues to grow. So philanthropy is clearly a huge force in our society.”

“Only 14 percent of charitable giving in our country comes from foundations, and only five percent from corporations. The rest comes from individuals, and the bulk of it comes from small givers …” How does private philanthropy compare to government funding? Private philanthropy “is superior in its ability to be individual and pluralistic. As Mother Teresa used to say, ‘I never think in terms of a crowd, but of individual persons.’ Government programs, by necessity, focus on the crowd…but one-size- fits-all standardization is not really how humans thrive.” CER exists to serve individual and family needs!

“We humans are social animals, and we naturally become disturbed and want to help when we see fellow creatures in trouble. Early on, Americans discovered that voluntary action to lift others up is not only possible, it is superior to the kind of state paternalism that diminishes freedom. Private charitable giving and the spirit of volunteerism have been essential bulwarks of the American character, and they remain indispensable to our national success.”

For the complete article: Click Here

The Art of Intimate Marriage

Jennifer Konzen, PSY.D., MS, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #51241

“Sex is going fine, but we have always wanted our intimacy to be great. We could use some help with how to get there.”

“We love each other, but it is so hard to talk about our sex life.”

“We have a happy marriage, but our intimate life is a source of pain, frustration, and disappointment.”

“We have had some physical challenges that have affected our sex lives, and we don’t know how to overcome them or talk about them.”

“There’s been a lot of damage that’s happened in our marriage, and we’re having a really difficult time being intimate with one another, not just in our sexual relationship, but overall as well.”

Maybe some of these words describe how you’re feeling about your marital sexual relationship. Or maybe you’re just looking for ways to make things more fun! You may be searching for answers. God’s plan for sexual intimacy in marriage is like the work of a Master artist and genuine intimacy is like a beautiful masterpiece. Like a fine artist, creating that kind of beauty in the marital relationship usually takes practice and dedication. Like many of you, we have struggled to create that work of art, to keep our marriage bed pure from anger, sexual sin, unfaithfulness, selfishness, worldliness, resentment, criticalness, and pride (Heb 13:4). There have been so many who have helped us along the way. We each have the opportunity to help one another make sure our marital sexual relationships bring glory to God and that sex is the life-giving joy that God intends it to be.

It’s been said that when sex is good, you might not notice as much how it affects your marital relationship, but when sex is not going well, it can affect how marriage is going significantly. This highlights the importance of dealing with the very real challenges that come up in the sexual relationship. In research and literature, intimacy has been divided into different levels, such as: clichés, facts, opinions, hopes/dreams, feelings, faults/fears/failures, and needs (see Kelly’s The Seven Levels of Intimacy). Most couples do not go below the first three levels.

Researchers found that only 15% of married couples experience these deeper levels of intimacy in their marriage. That leaves the majority of us sharing facts and opinions with our spouse but rarely sharing our fears, hurts, hopes, mistakes, and dreams. Couples are sometimes in danger of becoming like roommates or seeing their marriage disintegrate if they do not learn to stoke the fire in their marriage.

Over the years, we have talked with a lot of married couples in the ministries we have led about their sex lives, both about the fun and joy they are experiencing and the problems that have caused anxiety. Jennifer is also a marriage and family therapist and a sex therapist, so she regularly talks with couples about this part of their relationship. In both of these areas, in our ministry and professional lives, we have found that many couples are having challenges in their sexual relationship, but that the resources for help from a biblical view are scarce. The good news is that God has a beautiful plan for creating and maintaining a great sexual relationship in marriage.

One of the areas about sexuality that can be very confusing for Christians is how to fit God in the picture. For many of us, it seems that thoughts about sexuality have little connection to thoughts about God. Sex is over here on the far right, and God is over here on the far left, and they never interact. Even the two words, God and sex, in the same sentence seem kind of inappropriate. This is even truer for the words sex and Christ. When you think about it, really, Jesus never even had sex, so it seems so inappropriate or even sacrilegious to put sex and Christ in the same sentence, right? For some, part of improving the sexual relationship is a matter of learning God’s view of sex.

When we teach about God’s view of sex, we help couples understand that God designed sexuality in a way that would help us have a deeper knowledge and understanding of Him. Having an intimate knowing of God (John 10:14) helps us have a genuine depth of sexual intimacy in our marriage (Matt 1:25). It is our knowledge of who God is that can then guide and guard our sexuality. This knowledge and understanding of Him keeps us from doing what “ought not to be done” (Rom 1:24-25, 28). Sex, when it happens within marriage as God intended it, can draw us closer to God, closer to each other, and keep us away from the corruption of this world.

When you look at the Scriptures, the words God uses to describe sex include passion, burning, honor, pleasing, satisfying, and intoxicating (Prov 5:18-19, 1 Cor 7:9, 33-34, 1 Thes 4:4, Heb 13:4). God is very sex positive. The Bible shows us how to honor one another in the sexual relationship and how to enjoy the intoxicating pleasure of sexual intimacy. When we look deeply at the descriptions of the sensual relationship between the beloved and the lover in Song of Songs, we find a beautiful, romantic, and erotic picture of what God intends for our marriages.

Things may be going well in this part of your marriage. As a couple, you are a great intimate team. You may just want to explore new ways to deepen that intimacy. For others, you may look at the picture painted in Song of Songs and feel you are starving for that kind of intimacy—hungering for someone to hear you, to really know you, to want you, to touch you. A common refrain we hear is “We just aren’t close,” “My spouse doesn’t understand me,” and “We rarely touch.” As followers of Christ, you may have anticipated marital sexuality to bring great delight, but instead it has brought disappointment and conflict. You may have gone to multiple marriage classes or retreats and walked away feeling hopeless and left out of the picture every time someone taught about the sexual relationship. Our goal is that you may find here some resources to bring about hope and change.

Finding sexual fulfillment starts first with embracing a biblical view of intimacy and sexuality. When we work with couples, we focus on intimacy—the kind of intimacy God intends when two of His children marry. Yes, we teach a lot about sex, but sexual intimacy truly resides within the quality of overall intimacy in marriage. God created us to be intimately connected. In Psalm 139, God expresses His intimate knowledge of us, how He knows our thoughts, discerns when we lay down, and created our innermost parts. God also created us to be intimately connected with others and to enjoy sexual intimacy with our spouse. The reality is that people can have sex and not feel intimate. That is not God’s plan. Like we mentioned, the very words God uses in the Bible for sex connote a deep and intimate knowing of one another. God wants our sexual relationship to be so much more than an obligation. He desires for us to enjoy, to be intoxicated by, to be set on fire by, each other’s love and our sexual time together.

So where do you start when you want to make things better in your intimate relationship? Sometimes it helps to examine your background. There are many different things that can influence how sex is going in your marriage, and there is no question that what we experience in the area of sexuality during childhood and adolescence is a big part of that influence. Different experiences during childhood and adolescence can give us a skewed view of sexuality. These can be experiences such as a lack of openness in the family to talk about sex, lack of touch and affection, harsh, shaming responses to childhood sexual exploration, exposure to dehumanizing or exploitative sexuality (including pornography), harsh attitudes about the body, and sexual violations and abuse. Though understanding how your background is affecting your sex life now doesn’t necessarily fix the problems you are experiencing, it can definitely go a long way toward having a more understanding attitude with yourself, your spouse, and the way you both respond in the sexual relationship.

To improve intimacy, you may also need to examine and grown in your overall intimacy skills in both your emotional connection and your sexual relationship in order to reflect what is found in the Scriptures. This includes deepening your emotional and verbal connection and being intentional about having more fun together. Sexual intimacy has a much better chance of going well and being mutually satisfying when there is a foundation of strong friendship and emotional connection in marriage.

You may also need to find ways to resolve conflict and deepen connection in the midst of conflict. Conflict, when it is done right, can open the door to having that deeper connection in marriage. Learning to share how we are feeling without attacking and earning how to listen with understanding and empathy are cornerstones to good marital and sexual intimacy.

Some couples also need to grow in how to touch and be affectionate with one another. When a couple begins to improve the affection in their marriage, they are then in a much better place to explore sensual and sexual touch, the necessary ingredients to mutually intoxicating sexual satisfaction. Sensual touch and sensual talk is found all throughout Song of Songs. Both the Lover and the Beloved describe each other in sensual, poetic terms. Growing in sensuality has a significant influence on the quality of the sexual relationship.

There are other influences on sexual intimacy. Some couples have been involved in affairs and in using pornography, both of which can have an incredibly painful influence on how sex is going in marriage. It is vital that couples get help and healing with the spiritual, emotional, and relational issues that may be making the sexual relationship difficult. Other couples are dealing with medical challenges that affect sexuality. It is crucial to address the distress that is caused by the very real physical and medical issues that come up in the sex, such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, low sexual desire, sexual pain, difficulties with orgasm, and medical and age-related challenges.

Couples also need to learn practical and creative ways to make their sex life fun, romantic, and exciting. The bible describes the sexual relationship between the lover and his bride with words like flowing water, stream, river, and cistern (Prov 5:18, Songs of Songs 4:15). These moving water analogies help us understand how important it is to have an intentional focus of keeping the sexual relationship refreshed.

So here are a few steps to begin improving your sexual intimacy:

1) Read this article together. Highlight the parts that stand out to you; things you learn, what you feel is a strength in your relationship, what areas you think you could grow in.

2) Talk about your overall relationship first. Start first with having an honest but loving conversation about how it is going in your friendship and closeness. Make sure this conversation does not descend into accusations and blame, or demands and ultimatums. Listen, listen, listen.

3) Make a plan to grow in your relationship. What are the areas you need to change? Do you need to work on your date nights? Do you need to spend more time talking? Do you need more time together doing fun, recreational things together? Do you need to pray more together or share more what you’re learning in your quiet times?

4) Talk about how your touch and affection are doing. This could be a very sticky topic (pun intended), so be gentle in this conversation. What is going well? What isn’t?

5) Talk about how sensual touch is going. Is that only reserved for sex or are you enjoying it at other times? Does it happen much before having sex? How do you both feel about it?

6) Make a plan for spending more time together cuddling and touching sensually. Be intentional about this.

7) Share with each other the memories you have of good times together sexually. Then talk about the areas of your sexual relationship that are not going well. What are the challenges?

8) Make a plan for ways you can improve your sexual intimacy. Who can you talk to about it? What can you read? What scriptural passages should you study? Have you been praying about it? What areas of your relationship do you need to change in order for your sexual relationship to get better?

You might notice that the words talk, share, and conversation were used a lot in the above steps. That is because that is one of the most important places to start. Read the scriptures and learn God’s view of sexuality. Start talking about how things are going. Get another couple involved and share with them what you’re seeing. Pray together and pray specifically about your intimacy. As disciples of Jesus, we have the opportunity to have a deeper understanding of God’s loving heart through being deeply known and erotically bonded with our spouse. What God gives us is a road map to experience growth toward a more rewarding, spiritual sexual relationship.

Tim and Jennifer are the authors of The Art of Intimate Marriage, a Christian Couple’s Guide to Sexual Intimacy, available on Amazon and at theartofintimatemarriage.com. They serve in a married’s ministry in San Diego and they speak internationally. They have been married 23 years and have 4 wonderful children.

Get to Know: Wendy Kaiser

Wendy Kaiser, MA, LMFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
LMFT #83952

1. How would your friends describe you?

Genuine, warm, caring, positive, supportive, non-judgmental

2. Why did you want to become a therapist?

I saw the power of psychology to bring healing and hope. With newer approaches there is the opportunity to change not just the way people think, but how they feel. I also saw how the integration of faith in therapy can be powerful and an opportunity to affirm an individual’s God-given worth.

3.What's your favorite author and book? 

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

4. Describe your perfect day.

Working as a therapist! But if not that… a perfect day might include any of the following: being out in nature on a hike or a bike ride with my family or a friend, sharing a meal with family or friends, playing a game or watching a movie with my family, worshiping God through music with the body of Christ.

5. My favorite recreational activities are . . . 

Much like the description of my perfect day, hiking, bike riding, reading a good book, watching a good movie, sharing conversation with family and friends, praising God through music with other believers.

The Butterfly and the Torture Chamber

By Petrea Huynh, MA, IMF Registered Intern #90087

Supervised by Donald W. Welch, Ph. D, LMFT, Lic. #MFC 50129

There is a suffering inherent in being human. We know this when we grieve the loss of a dear one, when we feel injured or defeated by conflicts within our most beloved relationships, when we taste the mortality of our own flesh, or when our hard work seems to bear little fruit. And the Lord tells us the meaning behind our suffering: “…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…” (Romans 5:3-4 ESV).

We are like the caterpillar who must break free from her dark cocoon before she may be transformed in Light.  If she were to be ripped from the dark unknown prematurely, she would not have the strength to fly. Without her personal struggle to break free, she would die…for she would lack the endurance necessary to live as a butterfly. She could never have known this in her darkest moment: The suffering inherent in pushing her tiny fragile frame free of the rough cocoon was the most fruitful part of her journey forward.

But the butterfly might lack one quality that would make our journey even more challenging than hers: the power of self-recrimination. Sometimes when humans suffer, even (or maybe especially) those of us of Faith, we approach ourselves with shame, doubt, and blame. Perhaps we believe we are wrong to feel anything other than Love and Joy when we know a Lord such as ours. Or maybe the experiences of pain and struggle produce the interpretation that we have done something terribly wrong.

What would happen if we were to simply embrace the struggle? The Lord promised that "in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33 ESV). He has overcome this world so that it might not be our destroyer. He further proclaims, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2 ESV). Our Faith in Him, our personal relationship with our Lord, is our greatest weapon. Who could we be, even in our greatest state of human struggle, if we were trade any self-torture devices for that one all-powerful weapon?

Get to Know: Erin Cragin


Erin Cragin, MS, LMFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
#LMFT 84468

How would your friends describe you?

My friends would describe me as kind, funny, empathetic, reliable, caring, fun and clumsy.


Why did you want to become a therapist?

Im not really sure when I knew I wanted to become a therapist. I do know that my personal therapy experiences and  life struggles have led me naturally down this path of becoming a therapist.  I had a couple of amazing therapists who, because of their dedication to my wellbeing, influenced who I am today.  Plus, much of my healing and change came when I began helping others so being a therapist was/is a natural fit.  I truly get as much out as I put in. Clients ask me all the time if I get sick of hearing peoples stories and I honestly can say, “no.” I feel blessed and honored to hear the stories and humbled to be a part of the healing. 


What's your favorite author and book?

My favorite Author and book…I have had many favorites at different times in my life often related to where I was in my growth journey. A couple favorite authors are Brennan Manning, Brene Brown, John Cloud & Henry Townsend, Danny Silk and Geneen Roth.  A couple favorite books are Changes That Heal by Henry Cloud, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard and The Shack by Wm. Paul Young.


Describe your perfect day.

My perfect day includes a morning hike with good friends & my dog,  then a scenic drive & lunch with my family where we talk and connect, some kind of self care like massage or gentle yoga, game night with family and takeout.  End evening with whole family watching a movie together on the couch.


My favorite recreational activities are . . . 

My favorite recreational activities are Zumba (I teach it twice/week), hiking and walking with friends, creating Zumba routines, Thrift Store Shopping, watching old sitcoms.

Cracked Pots

By Jo A. Henry, M.A., MFTI, CADC II, IMF Registered Intern #73203

Supervised by Donald W. Welch, Ph.D., LMFT, License #LMFT 50129

CRACKED POTS
A Chinese Fable

A young water bearer in China carries two large pots, each hanging on ends of a pole resting across the back of his neck. One pot is cracked, while the other pot is perfect. Each day as the water bearer comes to the end of his long walk from the stream to his house, the pot with the crack arrives only half full while the perfect pot is perfectly full, delivering a full portion of water.

One beautiful spring day the young water bearer is strolling along the bubbling stream making his daily journey delivering only one and a half pots of water to his house. He notices a look of shame on the cracked pot and hears the downcast discouragement in its bitter complaints to the perfect pot about its perceived failures.

“I am so ashamed of my imperfections and poor performances day after day. I hear the praises, which you deserve, for your accomplishments because you are so perfect. Yet, I become more miserable realizing I will only ever accomplish half of what I am made to do. I will always be a failure.”

As the water bearer listens with compassion, the cracked pot says to the water bearer, "I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house."

The water bearer is not alarmed, nor is he endorsing the cracked pot’s perception of its crack as failure. Instead the water bearer says to the pot, "Do you see the flowers growing on only one side of the path? These flowers are on your side of the path on our way home. Do you also see there are no flowers on the other side, the side of the path on which the perfect pot hangs on our way home?” 

The cracked pot is perplexed wondering and asking what this means. The water bearer explains: “I know (and have always known) about your crack. You view the crack in your side as a flaw, a weakness, a failure. I see the crack in your side as an opportunity. I love flowers and I hate wasting water, so every spring I plant seeds along the path and I use your drippings to water the flowers on your side of the road. Every day you are watering these flowers that I use to decorate my table. These beautiful flowers brighten my home because of you and the crack in your side. Without you, I would not have this beauty to grace my house.


LESSONS from the CRACKED POT:

 The cracked pot’s view of his crack caused shame and discouragement that led to bitter sadness and a sense of failure and uselessness. This perception was colored with distortion and that distorted color influenced and distorted the pot’s belief system.

We all have unique flaws. We are all cracked pots. Do we believe that our view or our perceptions are facts? Do we view our flaws as failures? Do we give our distorted views influence over our beliefs about our self and about God?  What happens to our view of God or our view of God’s purpose for us when we believe our distorted perceptions?

How do we cracked pots prevent our flawed perceptions from becoming distorted beliefs?

1. FACTS: If facts are truth, then truth is factual.

How do we get down to ‘just the facts’? First we strip away all feelings, beliefs, and distorted views from the facts. This means eliminating all of our assumptions, opinions, and expectations. A true fact is agreed upon by all involved as true. Finding the fact is by far the most difficult task in dispelling false belief and distorted perceptions. We all find it difficult to give up our spin on things, our opinions about a situation, our assumptions especially about people, which are typically negative.

2. PERCEPTIONS: Perception is the lens through which we see life; a lens that colors our view.

Perceptions are not facts. Our perceptions are formed from all of our experiences. Therefore, each person’s perceptions are going to be unique to that person. Our experiences color our view of life in unique colors that make us who we are. However, they also can keep us from seeing things clearly. As we learn the color of our views, we are better able to change those colors. 

3. BELIEFS: Our beliefs are formed by our perceptions (the color of our view, our lens).

If we believe our perceptions are facts, we set ourselves up for error in our thinking. The cracked pot could only see (through its lens) the crack as failure, which influences the belief, “I will only ever … be a failure”.  When our beliefs do not line up with what God says about us, then we need to go back to the simple truth, the facts. The simple fact for the pot: there is a crack in the pot (period). Without the distortions, the fact stands alone without judgement or shame.

4. FEELINGS: Our feelings are fueled by our beliefs on our view of life.

I once heard that feelings are fickle, you can’t trust them. Feelings and emotions are fleeting like the wind. We can hear and feel the wind and sometimes see the influence of the wind, but we cannot catch or control the wind. So it is with our feelings. However, if feelings are fueled by our beliefs and our beliefs by our perception, then change must start with our beliefs and perceptions and feelings will follow.

 5. ACTIONS: Our actions, attitudes, thoughts, and words do not happen in a vacuum.  

What we do (action) is activated by how we feel. Actions are the visible part of the iceberg, with feelings, beliefs, and perceptions leading the way down to the facts, the truth. Most people want to change what is visible; theirs or someone else’s actions. However, our actions are not at the heart of most matters, our perceptions are at the heart. Simple change of our beliefs and perceptions can produce different actions. True and lasting change must get down to the heart of the actions.

FACTS are TRUTH
Facts and Truth are fixed, stable, secure, and unchanging. 
Our view of the facts is what constitutes change.

The FACTS are colored by our PERCEPTION
Our perceptions color the facts; however, perceptions are NOT facts. 
Our perceptions form the lens through which we view our life. 

Our PERCEPTIONS influence our BELIEFS
Our perceptions or lenses are colored or distorted by our experiences. 
Our lenses inform our beliefs. 

Our BELIEFS influence our FEELINGS
Our beliefs are colored or distorted by our lens.
Our beliefs fuel our feelings

AND
Our FEELINGS influence our ACTIONS
Our feelings erupt from our belief system igniting our actions.
Our feelings are catalysts to our actions.

Our ACTIONS are the result of our PERCEPTIONS, BELIEFS, and FEELINGS
First order change is simply changing what we do.
Second order change is in knowing why and knowing how change needs to happen, and then changing.


Written by - Jo A. Henry, M.A., MFTI, CADC II
Marriage & Family Therapist Registered Intern (IMF #73203)
Donald W. Welch, Ph.D., LMFT, License #LMFT 50129; Supervising Therapist
Center for Enriching Relationships, Inc. 619.858.3105

Will Therapy Work for Me?

Will Armentrout, MA, IMF Registered Intern #75851

Supervised by Donald W. Welch, Ph.D., LMFT, License #LMFT 50129

Before starting therapy, many people ask, "Will therapy work for me?" I believe that therapy can work for almost anyone, as long as four crucial components are in place. The following components are essential to achieving your goals:

1. Our relationship

Numerous studies show that a strong therapist-client connection predicts success in therapy more than the type of therapy used by the therapist. In other words, if we connect, we are likely to do some good work. I will do my best create an environment where you feel safe to express yourself without fear of rejection, judgment or condemnation.

2. Therapy designed for you

I consider you the expert on you. Only you can teach me about yourself and guide me into your world. I will strive to understand your view of the problem, your goals and expectations for therapy, how you think change will occur, and how fast you think the treatment should take. In this way, our work together will be tailored uniquely to you.

3. Your strengths and resources

Unfortunately, we are not always able to see ourselves as clearly or positively when we are struggling. I will help you to rediscover the resources that you have always had but might have overlooked. I will encourage you to consider your spiritual beliefs to discover your spiritual resources.

4. Your commitment

How committed are you to pursue healing? As we work together, I promise to invest my energy, insight, compassion and guidance to help you get what you seek. But I cannot do the work for you. All I ask is that you apply yourself. Change is only possible, if you pursue it. Only you can change you. Without you, nothing can happen.

The Hobbit

Kirk Miller, MA, IMF Registered Intern #72447

Supervised by Donald W. Welch, Ph.D., LMFT, License #LMFT 50129

Introduction of Cultural issue:

I can’t wait to see the Hobbit!  I mean I really, really can’t wait.  I am known to fall asleep at Transformers movies but I want to be there at midnight to see the Hobbit.  I absolutely love these stories.  I’ve been thinking; why is that?  Then a thought came to me, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy gives me a picture of what it means to be human.What does it mean to you to be human?  Why are we the way, well, that we are?  You know, messed up, courageous, beautiful and sometimes ugly.  What is the essence of being human?  When I read the Hobbit I am struck with many thoughts but the one that sticks out the most to me is the humanity that is displayed in these hobbits, elves, orcs, wizards and yes even bears!  (Gotta read the book to get the bear reference)

Before I get too far though, let me start with a caveat for all you L.O.T.R. nerds (which I am too), I don’t speak for Tolkien, these are my observations.  Tolkien was clear saying his story was NOT a spiritual allegory or hidden theology.  This theology soup is all my take.  Ok, are you calm now?  Good.

Theological tie:

What Tolkien does best in his amazing stories is tap into the essence of humanity, giving us a picture of ourselves at our best potential and worst.  Here is a definition of humanity that I’ve found to be true in Scripture.  I believe that the constitutional nature of humanity is Spiritual (Matt 10:28), Biological (1 Cor. 15:44) and Psychological (Matt. 22:37).  

Theological Breakdown:

We are spirit, we are physical and we are psychological in our nature.  All three of these aspects create one personality, connected instead of compartmentalized.  All three aspects of humanity are in need to be redeemed together not separately.  That’s why what we do with our bodies effects our spirit as well (1 Cor. 6:16-19).  If I have a physical need my spirit and psyche will need attending to as well.  This is what I love about Bilbo Baggins and really most of the Hobbits, they are fully aware of how their spiritual needs are attached to their physical and psychological needs.  In Fact a picture of our humanity, like in the Hobbit, gives us a picture of who our Creator is, since we are created in his image.  The image of God is something that humans are, not something humans attain; “A key expression is that God made the human in God’s own image and likeness” (Erickson, 1998, p. 518).  It is universal to all humankind and we all equally share in the image with no greater degree than anyone else, the image is the essence of ourselves that allows us to have relationships, free will, and thinking and reflecting as part of us (Erickson, p. 532). The communicable attributes of God which “are those qualities of God for which at least a partial counterpart can be found in His human creations” (Erickson, p. 533) make up the image of God that we all share together.  The implications of the image of God for us are that we are God’s creation (Gen. 9:6) and we belong to Him and we will only truly be human when we align ourselves with God becoming a follower of Jesus (2 Cor. 3:18).  David Benner (2004) describes the concept of self as directly tied to our knowledge of God.  In his book “The Gift of Being Yourself” he quotes John Calvin saying, “There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God” (p. 20).  This points to the fact that we are uniquely tied to God; in scripture he often talks of us being his children speaking again to our connection to Him.  We are designed in God’s image and our humanity reflects His greatness and creativity.  Knowing that each of us are created in the image of God allows me to see each person as special and unique, having insurmountable worth intrinsically.  No one is a mistake; no one is worthless or less valuable because we are all created by the One who has more worth than anything.  Nothing God puts his hands to or creates is bad and nothing He touches could be anything less than amazing.  Also to be human means we are designed for relationship, Seamands (2005) says “To be a person is to be made in the image of God: that is the heart of the matter.  If God is a communion of persons inseparably related, then…it is in our relatedness to others that our being human consists” (Seamands, p. 35).  I recognize that all humanity was created for relationship because we are created by a relational God.    

Cultural tie:

Like most good art, I believe the Hobbit connects to us because it reflects our humanity, the good bad and the ugly.  Tolkien’s genius was to “sub create” (a word he used for his creative works) a story where we can explore what it means to be human and how we relate to our world and others.  I love how art can do that!

Wrap up:

As you go to the movie or read the book try to see how the theology of humanity comes to life in this story.  Even though unintentionally, I believe Tolkien gave us a great theological picture of our humanity to explore.

Share your thoughts.