julia

LifeTip: What do you mean I have to stop therapy?

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The therapist-client connection is a special one, and my clients are very, very important to me. There are a million reasons why goodbyes happen in therapy, but I have found that they all are painful on the surface, just in different degrees. Why? Most of the time, I run away from saying goodbye. My brain says, “but I don’t want to do it,” or, “I don’t like that!” in my most young, child-like voice, because the part of us that gets most affected by goodbyes is our very young self. The self that wants to be deeply connected to another person. Under the surface, however, goodbyes can provide healing and relief so it’s worth moving through the pain to get to that place.

There are two types of termination (a fancy word for goodbye) as I have come to experience and understand:

  1. When you (the client) decide to stop therapy (b/c of schedule changes, school ending, deciding you just want a break from all the talking)

  2. When your therapist makes the decision for whatever reason (schedule changes, decision to close their practice, a move, other life changes-having a baby, etc).

However the goodbye happens with your therapist, here are some general tips for handling this experience:

-Say all the things your brain is thinking to your therapist. I promise we can take it. It’s our job to hear all the things.

-Stick it out. Don’t run away. Come back. (I think that’s enough said, but I’ll clarify- goodbyes are super hard. Most humans have an instinct to run away from hard feelings, so your instinct will be to run away and never come back to another therapy session. Fight it. Come back so we can talk about it all).

-Make memories with your therapist. I know you have done incredible work together, even if you only saw your therapist for a few sessions. With my clients that I’ve seen for many months, we might make a memory book of things we have said to each other, we might make friendship bracelets, we might make a piece of art together.

-Ask as many questions as you need to ask. Ask some more. Cry. get angry. Yell. say that you feel nothing, and that you don’t care. Everything you say and do is normal.

-Clients have asked me, “why can’t we talk or communicate after our last session?” My answer is simply that it’s because sometimes relationships just have to end. The therapeutic relationship (I know, it sounds weird, but it just means-relationship between therapist and client) is a special one, one that is different than a parent-child, or friend-friend relationship, or even a teacher-child relationship. As a therapist, there are rules about communication afterwards for my license (kind of like rules for a doctor or a lawyer) that I have to follow.

In the end, I might not be able to fix every feeling about our goodbye, but I will always tell you this in our last session: “You matter to me. You are important to me. I will never forget you. I will never forget the unique person you are. I believe in you.”

When a goodbye happens that you weren’t expecting, it can feel like you don’t hold any of the cards, or you feel a bit powerless. But here’s a secret that I want to let you in on:

You are a powerful, magical being. You will survive this. You can tell me you won’t survive, and I’ll talk about that with you, but you are still a powerful, magical being through it all.

If your therapist needs to say goodbye for any reason, you’ll get the option to continue on your therapeutic journey with another therapist, or the option to take a break from therapy and rest a while. Maybe you go back, maybe you don’t. But a wise colleague said this to me, and I’m gifting it to you: the magic isn’t in the therapist, it’s in the therapy and the client itself.

I am not the secret ingredient (even though I am made of glitter and sparkles and I will always love you)- the work is. Your life is. Therapists are guides, we are listeners, we are helpers. And, you will find others who will listen, who will help and assist you in ways you never knew you needed. Carry me with you, be brave and go forth.

LoveTip: How to Be Silly (and How to Become a Rockstar Romantic Partner)

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Have you ever witnessed children in play? How easy it is for them to laugh, dance, sing, use silly voices, imagine they are dinosaurs, play dress up with their friends for hours? Children are so natural at play because they lack the restrictions and limitations that get layered on as life happens. But what happens when you grow up? Play becomes so much harder. We have work and find ourselves dealing with relationship and financial issues, and then we have to get the kids to school, soccer practice, ballet class, etc.

Much of the work I do with couples in couples therapy and parents in my parent coaching sessions is focused around learning how to be your true self around your partner, and how to be more spontaneous and silly as a couple. Being silly creates connection which cultivates intimacy, which generates trust. It’s a circular thing, because you have to trust your partner to be silly with them, and you have to feel safe that if you try out a silly or playful activity, they will respond with warmth and care. You could set the stage by speaking with your partner before these activities and say something like, “I love being silly! I think it might make us more connected, will you try out some of these things with me?” (Be brave here! Your inner heart might be saying, “I’m scared he/she won’t respond and he/she will think I’m weird” - but, remember, I’m weird. You’re weird. We’re all weird, and it’s so important to keep trying to stay connected to your partner). See how your partner responds.

10 ways to be silly with your partner:

  1. Spoil your dinner with ice cream. Talk about your favorite ice cream, and try out each other’s favorite.
  2. Buy temporary color hair spray and try out rainbow hair. Surprise each other with a new hairdo!
  3. Talk in a silly voice and make up a secret, inside joke that only the two of you know.
  4. Do artwork together and put it up on your fridge.
  5. Build a blanket fort and drink hot chocolate together.
  6. Make giant bubble solution and blow bubbles together (it’s relaxing!)
  7. Cut snowflakes together and hang them up on the windows in your bedroom.
  8. Play a couples version of Pictionary. Draw things that are special and unique to your relationship history - see if your partner can guess what you are drawing! The sillier the drawing better.
  9. Plan an activity with your partner that feels kid-like: go to the zoo, or climb trees, or to a kid’s movie! It can feel so nice to be reminded of our childhood experiences, and when we do this with our partners, it expands our interpersonal connection in a deep and meaningful way.
  10. Sing a song to your partner, even if you don’t like your voice. Ask them to sing one to you back. Oh, and dance. Dance to your favorite song.

Some things to remember are that not everyone responds to playfulness in the same way, and a lot of people need a bit of time to get comfortable with the outside-the-box activities. Try one activity, and then go onto the next one, if the first one doesn’t work! Give space to your partner if they don’t respond right away. And, don’t forget to say thank you to your partner for experiencing your activity. Verbal appreciation can be very helpful in reinforcing what we want to happen again.

As we move into the new year from this holiday season, it can be stressful to think about expectations related to your relationship and the ever important, “date night.”  But, try sitting down with your partner and taking just 10 minutes together to plan out some playful moments of connection, which don’t have to be limited to one specific night!  I would love to hear about your silliest moments with your partner. Share below!  

 

TeenTip: 8 Ways to Become Friends With Your Food on Thanksgiving

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“Hello, Thanksgiving. Hello, anxiety. Hello, fear foods. I will make friends with you so that I can become the rockin’ girl boss that I know I am inside!” (this is literally what I have written to myself on little post-it notes around my kitchen this Thanksgiving because that’s how I do it in my world). I make friends with fear foods, I say nice things to them, I welcome them into my life and into my fridge, because that’s the only way I can gain mastery over my worry thoughts. You could try this too.

Holidays that center around food can be a stressful time for anyone struggling with or working on recovery from an eating disorder. Here are a few tried and true tips for getting through the holidays:

  1. Check in with your therapist or a trusted friend before, during and after the holiday event. Don’t be afraid to text them what you are afraid of, and reach out for the support you need.
  2. Communicate about your triggers with your family. Remember that your family cannot read your mind, and they need tips on the types of comments that are unhelpful to you, as well as what is helpful for you. Remind family that comments about weight and appearance are not the best, and a good way to re-frame is to say something like “I’m glad to see you! How have you been doing? Watch any good Netflix recently?” - always a good conversation starter!  
  3. Go into holiday meals and events with a plan in place. What time will you leave? Who will be there? Can you plan your meal out ahead of time? Could be helpful to your treatment provider, dietician or parent.  (*You might say, “but Jules, there are a million parties at Thanksgiving, what if I can’t plan my meals out?” To that, I would say that you may not always be able to plan out your meal ahead of time, but working on flexibility is always useful, and can provide you with a way to challenge yourself.)
  4. Treat yo’ self. Leave time to take a bubble bath with a bath bomb, take a slow walk outside and look at the leaves (well, it’s Austin, so maybe not the leaves here…), paint your nails, start a knitting project, watch your favorite show. Taking care of yourself will make the extra stress that can arise feel more manageable.
  5. Distract, distract, distract! Play games with your younger siblings, cuddle your pets, talk to your grandparents, watch a few episodes of Stranger Things - your negative thoughts become less scary if you have people around to distract you.
  6. Try to celebrate small accomplishments. Did you try a few bites more than you were planning on? Did you engage socially when you could have isolated? That’s progress to be celebrated!
  7. Give yourself permission to eat the food you love. I’m going to write that again. In bold because I mean it. Give yourself permission to eat the food you love. Trust that your body will know when it is full.
  8. Take breaks from your family or friends when you need to. You will know when you need to, believe me. Listen to your instincts about needing some downtime, and remember that it’s ok to need a little quiet space to reflect or do some deep breathing.

Managing anything difficult during the holidays requires some extra self-compassion and understanding. A great website for more information is the National Eating Disorders Association. You’ve got this. Lean on anybody and anything that makes you feel comfy, cozy, strong, and connected.  I encourage you to leave open the possibility that it could be a great holiday!

TeenTip: The List

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Photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash

Oh, coping skills. The two words that you hear over and over again from your therapist, your teacher, your mom and dad, social media, self-help books… You get told to make lists of things to do when you get unhelpful urges, make a list of things to do when you feel angry, when you feel sad. If you are like me, these lists quickly get discarded or put in the bottom of your nightstand drawer, as another list of things that DON’T WORK.

Why?

Why do we have such difficulty finding coping skills that actually work for really intense urges or behaviors? My theory (and it’s a working one, only, I’m open to suggestions!) is that when we feel really sad, or mad, or feel like using an unhelpful behavior, our nervous system is on high alert. Meaning, we go “off-line” and super-quick. We get into our deep down protective states, and the only thing we can do is run, or hide, or cry, or yell, or use the behavior. That’s the fight or flight or freeze instinct that you might have heard about, and it happens when our nervous systems get overloaded by a trigger. That overload happens and the list of coping skills gets thrown out, because who has time to take a bubble bath, or play with putty when you just want to scream or punch a wall?

Your therapist is hoping to guide you to use a coping skill so as to help you get you back “on-line.” The goal with the skill is to help you gain 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute- that gain may help get your brain back into a space where you can make a more helpful decision.

The trick is that the coping skill has to match the intensity of the urge, or the intensity of the feeling.

The best coping skills are ones that involve a mix of intensities, that can flood your nervous system, but in a more positive/helpful way. Here’s my running list:

  • listen to any music that feels right, VERY LOUD and in your ears with headphones if possible (I love Eminem/the National/Brandi Carlile/Kesha for nervous system off-line moments)
  • go outside and run hard to the end of the block (with your parents permission if possible)
  • draw 10 flowers on your body. Draw 10 more.
  • take a warm shower (sometimes heat can be too much for your nervous system, so try warm at first)
  • lay under a tree and take 10 deep breaths
  • quickly look at pictures of the ocean, of trees, of mountains
  • watch a funny tv show. Wait 30 minutes before you take any action (tell yourself you have the option of doing the action, just wait 30 minutes at the end of the show and check back in with yourself). I like Parks and Rec, The Office and Seinfeld for this.
  • write in your journal (a tried and true method for many clients, this just seems to work for so many people!)
  • text a friend before you take action, and tell them that you want them to tell you it’s going to be ok
  • tell your parents you need help and a hug. Have them hug you hard. Let them stay with you.

There is freedom in knowing you have a choice. You have a choice of whether to act on unhelpful behaviors or not.

You have a choice of whether to use coping skills or not. You can try them a little bit, or a lot. Even trying them one time (even if the next time, you decide not to try it) is a success. You have to take small steps to get started in this life.

xo~Jules   

 

Meet Julia

Hi! I’m Julia Herman, but a lot of people call me Jules, so I’ll introduce myself that way.  I’m a therapist, an early childhood teacher, and a lover of wildflowers. I play the harmonium, I’m a YA book reader, and I believe that talking about your feelings is a pretty great thing.  

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Who do I work with in therapy? Well, I mostly work with kids and teens who are dealing with loneliness, sadness, being told they have “too many feelings” & so much more.  I’m also a parent coach, who loves working with parents who might need help building blended families, and who want to build warm and real relationships with their kids.

I’m fiercely passionate about helping clients feel understood, listened to, and accepted. That’s what we all want, right? To feel like the darkest or most secret parts of ourselves - the behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that we keep hidden - are seen and accepted by someone.  The truth is that I know what it’s like to feel that you have to keep certain parts of yourself secret or hidden, because you are afraid that your parents will stop loving you, or teachers or friends will not understand you. I know because I’ve experienced many of those feelings too, in my life.

The teens I work with come with questions like: if I lie to my parents am I a bad person? What do I do with my desire to do dangerous things? What if I’m not sure if I want to stay alive? Is it ok if I don’t want to stop my self-harm yet? Do I have too many emotions?

The parents I work with ask me questions like: “Does my kid like me?” “How can I learn to react differently when my child is angry?” “What if my partner parents differently than I do?” “What do I do if my teen self-harms?”

With the kids I see, play is the thing! I bring my sandtray, my miniature toys, we play games, read books, and we might even toss around my “ask me a question” soccer ball! Childhood is full of BIG emotions, wanting to belong, feeling afraid, learning to use your words, not knowing how to use them, being silly and wild and making a million mistakes. In the therapy room, I am non-directive & unconditionally accepting, and believe that through the power of play, so much can be done!

Wondering if you are lovable, feeling unsure of yourself, and struggling with decisions about life are at the center of most of my work with clients. I don’t run away from hard things, and you never have to act a certain way with me, or change any part of who you are.

What am I like as a therapist? Well, clients have said that my energy is gentle, calming, kind, “real”, and fun.  When you are in a session with me, I might bring out Bananagrams or Quirkle (my favorite), or you might share your favorite song (and I’ll share mine).  Or, maybe we’ll play with kinetic sand (it holds its shape!) and make flower mandalas. We can talk, too.  I think most of us hide like little bears, when we feel sad or unsafe, or scared. My ultimate goal as a therapist is to make it safe, even just for one session, to peek your head out of your little bear cave - to see the beauty that life can hold.

To learn more about me and how I approach my work, check out my website: https://therapywithjules.com and my page here.