Cheers to Healthy Relationships

Date: February 12th, 2018

Filed under: Relationships

February is the month of love. Valentine’s Day marks the middle of the month, bringing social pressures of gifting flowers, chocolates, and meaningful gifts. In turn, another broader social pressure is also present – being in love. Don’t get us wrong, we love love! With one condition. That it is healthy, consensual love.

What does a healthy, consensual love look like? Let us lay out a few key points to a healthy relationship, followed by a few steps forward if your relationship doesn’t live up to your standards.

Communication

Communication is an essential part of all relationships, romantic or not. Clear communication strengthens trust and eliminates doubts. Strong communication involves more than just talking to each other. Partners who are strong communicators allow space for both parties to talk, be listened to intently, and find common ground. Often, talking is easier than listening. In fact, active listening is a skill that many adults have not finely tuned. If this is not your strong suite, there are plenty of techniques to practice.

Respect

Couples don’t have to agree on everything to be healthy, but they do have to be respectful of the other’s thoughts, feelings, and viewpoints. Respecting your partner comes in many forms and will be unique to your relationship. Recognizing and appreciating each other’s differences, communicating well, and showing your genuine care for the other person are great places to start.

Security

When you and your partner trust each other, you will share information that you might not tell someone else. If your partner is your go-to person to talk about life’s ups and downs with, you will be vulnerable with each other from time to time. This vulnerability allows trust to be built. What a wonderful thing to have – trust and security in another person! However, if one person is unwilling to be open or tends to play with power dynamics by withholding their vulnerable side, this is an unhealthy atmosphere.

At this point, we hope that you have concluded your relationship is happy and healthy. If however, your relationship isn’t thriving, you do have options.

Let’s Talk

Does your relationship feel almost perfect but falls short sometimes? Talk to your partner! Placing blame isn’t going to be effective but bringing up parts of your relationship you would like to work on can be all you need to start moving forward. Be clear with your message and your intention. Be open to your partner’s response and work together to make each other happy.

Walk Away

Knowing when to talk away from a relationship that is not bringing you love and happiness is no easy task. This often involves disrupting the comfortable pattern you have established with your partner, but if the effort you are putting into the relationship is more than the happiness you are receiving, it may be time to part ways.

You Have Power

Finally, you are never helpless. Your choices may feel limited, but you are not stuck. If you feel that you need to move on from your current relationship, you can. If you feel unsafe in any way, people will help you. Turn to your friends and loved ones for support, and there will always be a professional a phone call away. Hotlines are available 24/7 to talk to someone if you are concerned for your safety or wellbeing. http://www.thehotline.org/

Making Resolutions and Sticking to Them

Date: January 12th, 2018

Filed under: Tips

It is the second week of 2018 and that means two weeks of potential productivity. Often the first of the new year is seen as a time to make a fresh start. The symbolic changing of the calendar also seems to signify a changing of habits – habits that you may have been telling yourself that you will “start tomorrow” for a long time. But for those of us who have set a New Year’s Resolution, it is often harder than it seems. Here are the things that most often deter people from continuing their “New year, new me” habits, and the actions that can be taken to make it easier.

1. Be realistic

This doesn’t mean you should set your goals low. It means that starting small and working your way up is an effective way of reaching your ultimate goals. If you haven’t seen running shoes since 2016, chances are you won’t be running five miles a day on the first day of the year. Redefine what success will be for you, and do that.

2. Care about it

It takes energy to create new habits, and it’s a lot easier to give energy towards something you care about. If you find your motivation dwindling, ask yourself why you are working towards the goal you are. The only goals worth pursuing are the ones that you are doing for you.

3. Balance, balance, balance

No matter how hard we wish it to be true, there really is no way to add more hours to the day. If your goal is to spend more time doing x (being at the gym, with family, or meditating, for example) then your goal must also include spending less time doing y. Determine your priorities and balance your time accordingly. Picking up a new habit doesn’t mean you have to eliminate another, but expecting to maintain your current schedule may not be advantageous.

4. Allow time

It takes roughly two months to make a new habit automatic. That differs based on the person and the complexity of the new habit, but that’s a good point to start with. Change takes time. Set a time to check-in with yourself and reflect on what you did change and what you want to change in the future.

5. Forgive

“Ah man, it’s the second week of January and I already messed up!” If you are still committed to your goal, your response to this should not be to give up and try again next year. Recognize what happened and what you want to do differently, and start again.

Men and Emotions Series (Part 2)

Date: December 20th, 2017

Filed under: Mental Health

In my previous post, I talked about how socialization can create unattainable standards of masculinity that often result in men making efforts to suppress emotions and/or only express emotions that have been considered “acceptable” such as anger and aggression. Many men may attempt to ignore their emotions in hopes that their feelings of hurt, pain, sadness, etc. will go away. The reality is that our efforts to ignore emotions do not make them go away. These emotions that are being ignored begin to stack and grow over time. Though it may initially seem that the emotions have gone away, as this pile of emotions grows larger, they may begin to show up in ways that may make them more difficult to manage. Because of this, it is important to develop skills to identify emotions as they are experienced and learn ways to manage these feelings.

Identifying emotions can be difficult, especially if emotions were not explicitly discussed while growing up. Just like other skills, this is something that can be developed over time. Remaining patient and reducing self-judgment throughout this process will go a long way. Many clients might not have the language to describe what they are feeling. In therapy, handouts with facial expressions and/ or lists of emotions may help clients put words to what they may be experiencing. Journaling is also a helpful tool to track what emotions and thoughts come up throughout the day/week. Because of socialization, men may be hesitant to journal. I believe it is important to do something that feels natural, but also be willing to challenge yourself. Journaling does not have to be in a notebook of some kind. Typing thoughts into the notes app on a phone or recording voice memos are creative ways to track thoughts and emotions. These methods allow you to return to the experiences and reflect on underlying emotions. Being able to recognize the emotions that you are experiencing will be incredibly helpful as you work to manage these emotions.

In the next post, I will discuss ways to manage emotions now that you have been able to recognize them.

Men and Emotions Series (Part 1)

Date: December 18th, 2017

Filed under: Mental Health

This series will discuss men’s emotional expression as well as help seeking behavior. Through four posts, we will explore factors that contribute an often restrictive emotional expression among men, ways in which men can begin to identify and express emotions, as well as strategies to manage these emotions. It is important to acknowledge the intersection of social and cultural identities and how these interplay with socialization. In this first post, I briefly discuss the impact of gender socialization on emotional expression among men.

Society places high demands on men to display lower emotional expression and more emotional control. Throughout the lifespan, boys and men receive messages such as “man up,” “boys don’t cry” and about which emotions are “okay” to express and how to express these emotions. This can lead to standards of masculinity that may be hard to reach. Because of socialization, men may not be able to identify and describe their emotions, which can lead to emotional suppression, and/or only expressing emotions that have been communicated to be “acceptable.” Boys and men more often show emotions and behaviors such as anger and aggression, and may not know how to communicate other vulnerable emotions, such as sadness, embarrassment, or fear. This socialization along with a general stigma associated with mental health can lead to hesitance from men to seek help.

Therapy can become a space where men are able to identify and express emotions that may be tucked away. Through discussion and working to identify strategies, men can learn ways to mange emotions and cope with them in healthy ways.

In the next post, I will offer ways in which men can begin to identify and express their emotions.

This Year's Eugene Therapy Scholarship Winner Is...

Date: December 6th, 2017

Filed under: News

We are pleased to announce that Laura Gutierrez has been named as the 2017-2018 Eugene Therapy scholarship winner!

Laura is currently enrolled at the University of Oregon's Couples & Family Therapy Program in The College of Education where she is due to receive her Masters In Couples & Family Therapy in 2019. After she graduates, Laura is planning on a career serving the deaf and Spanish speaking community.

We are pleased to support her education and the Couples & Family Therapy Program.

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