Celebrate Your ‘Social Brain’ with Group Therapy!

Recently, I spent some time talking about GROUPS with Katie K. May of Creative Healing Philly. Katie K. May is a DBT Certified, Licensed Therapist for Teens in Pennsylvania.  She specializes in running groups for teens who experience anxiety, depression and self-harm behaviors, with a passion in helping clients learn to express and cope with overwhelming emotions in healthy ways so that they can move forward in life EMPOWERED and able to create their own path to happiness.

In our discussion, Katie and I explored the ways that our group connections help us to build a life we want to celebrate. In fact, groups have helped people excel in work place dynamics, school related tasks, as well as family functions. Katie shares some top tips for connecting in group therapy, below, and debunks some myths about getting started with groups.

Katie’s Top Tips:

+Our interpersonal relationships are one of the most powerful predictors of both our mental and physical health.  People are happier and healthier, with lower rates of depression and greater overall happiness when they are connected socially.

+Take advantage of the “social brain!”  We are by nature social creatures and are strongly influenced by what happens around us in our world.  Be mindful of whom you surround yourself with and the choices these people are making as you are likely being swayed by their thoughts and behaviors too.

+Practicing gratitude for the people in your lives, how they have impacted you and why they are important to you can help you feel more connected and accepted socially.  Each day reflect on something you appreciate about your loved ones and what you appreciate about this person.  At the end of the week, find some way to connect face-to-face to express this gratitude and notice how your own mood improves as a result.

I would love to hear what thoughts you have about the ways groups can help you celebrate your life! In fact, I frequently hear from “graduates” of my groups that they have gone on to silence their inner critics and surrounded themselves with people who uplift them so that they can overcome anxious, debilitating thoughts and overwhelming depression and isolation. As a result, they’ve begun to reshape the celebratory lives they have been looking to build! Be sure to share with us your hopes and goals for groups in our social media communities listed below so we can celebrate with you!

Facebook: www.facebook.com/drsallynazari

Twitter: www.twitter.com/chrysalisdoc

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Assert Yourself – And Enhance Your Relationships

I recently connected with Dr. Julie Hanks for the “Beyond the Couch” podcast to talk about assertiveness tips. Dr. Hanks is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist specializing in women’s emotional health and relationships. She is the founder and director of Wasatch Family Therapy, author of The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide for Women, a blogger, a local and national media contributor, an online mental health influencer, a life coach and a private practice consultant, and an award-winning performing songwriter. To learn more visit DrJulieHanks.com or connect with @drjuliehanks on social media.

Dr. Hanks and I discussed the ways that our relationships can actually be strengthened with assertiveness so that we can go on to connect in more loving, fulfilled ways with our loved ones. She shared three top tips for asserting ourselves in relationships:

1) Before you can be assertive ask yourself these four questions about the situation:

  • What do I think?
  • What do I feel?
  • What do I want?
  • What do I need?

2) OSCAR Assertiveness Tool

  • O – Observe the Situation
  • S – Sort Thoughts and Feelings
  • C – Compassionately communicate
  • A – Ask Clarifying Questions
  • R – Request Directly

3) When Communicating Choose the “Lantern Stance”

There are three communication stances: doormat (passive), sword (aggressive or passive aggressive), and the lantern.Imagine yourself standing with your feet shoulder width apart, centered and balanced, holding up a lantern as high as you can reach illuminating the situation. Envision yourself standing up straight, feeling strong and not easily swayed. Imagine inviting the person you are interacting with to step into the lantern’s light with you and ask this person to describe his or her experience and perspective.

Dr. Hanks explains that many people fear that asserting their needs will jeopardize their relationships. She goes on to describe how the five steps in asserting ourselves actually serve to improve our relationships with our loved ones.

You can access a free chapter of Dr. Hanks’ Assertiveness Guide for Women at assertivenessguide.com.

You can also listen to our discussion here. Be sure to let me know what you discovered as you tried these tips.

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How Can You Connect More In Your Relationships?

Relationships can be some of the most incredible experiences of our lives. They can also be hard.

You want to feel connected to your partner, but it feels like there is a wall up between the two of you.

You want to understand your partner, but sometimes it feels like you’re speaking two different languages.

You have the same argument again and again. You can predict exactly how it will go, yet can never come to a resolution.

You may be facing a crisis, like infidelity, in your relationship and you’re trying to figure out if you even want to stay.

Maybe you find yourself listening to your partner, but focusing more on what you want to say next. And maybe you find yourself holding back on what you want to say out of a fear that it will cause a bigger issue.

One of the most important skills in relationships is effective communication. We may not ordinarily have trouble communicating and exchanging ideas or information with our partner, but find that when difficult situations come up, we can’t seem to get on the same page.

Most of us are guilty of these mistakes. In fact, these kinds of communication challenges can sometimes become so ingrained that many of us don’t even notice when we’re guilty of them. However, the consequences of ineffective communication take a toll. Feeling unheard can lead to resentment, frustration, and pain.

I want to point out that, sometimes, the best communication will still end with the acknowledgment: “We disagree.” But that’s OK‐it’s far better than the alternative: “I’m right, and you’re wrong.”

The ability to express your own ideas effectively is only half of what it takes to be a good communicator. Listening is the second half. This means more than simply hearing words. It means hearing, thinking, interpreting, and striving to understand. If we’re thinking about the next thing we want to say, we aren’t really listening. We’re just hearing.

Reflections are a powerful tool to improve communication between you and your partner. Using a technique called reflection can quickly help you become a better listener. When reflecting, you will repeat back what your partner has just said to you in your own words. Those who haven’t used reflections fear that it’ll seem like they’re just parroting the other person without contributing to the conversation. However, reflections typically result in a positive response.

Those who haven’t used reflections fear that it’ll seem like they’re just parroting the other person without contributing to the conversation. However, reflections typically result in a positive response.

So, what do reflections actually do? They act as confirmation that we heard, and more importantly, understand, what our partner has said. Reflections validate a person’s feelings by showing that we get it.

Often, a concern I hear is that it might seem like a reflection would kill a conversation ‐ there’s no new question to answer. Paradoxically, though, the opposite is generally true. Reflections encourage more sharing because our partner can trust that we are listening.

Learning to use reflections does take practice. As you first begin to practice it’s typical for reflections to feel a bit forced. But if you implement reflections regularly, they’ll quickly start to feel natural once you and your partner begin to notice how helpful the responses are. Oh, and start with less serious or neutral topics, at least in the beginning!

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