Managing Conflict With Your Teen

I want you to take a moment to recall your teenage years. Were they generally positive? Negative? Somewhere in between?

One view of adolescence, originally coined by G. Stanley Hall, is Storm and Stress. According to the theory, adolescence is characterized by:

  • Increased mood disruptions
  • Increased involvement in risky behavior
  • Increased conflict with parents

Although these components of storm and stress do not generalize to all teenagers, most parents may recognize degrees of each in their teenagers.

One reason that parents experience more conflict with their teens during this period is due to an adolescent’s growing need for independence, and parents pacing the amount of appropriate autonomy.

What do you and your teen argue about? Curfew? Clothes? Where and who they spend their time with?

The common denominator here is independence. Conflict emerges when adolescents want more autonomy than age-appropriate, and you as a parent must set limits.

Parents need to set limits, but allow teenagers autonomy within these limits. Allowing a teen to practice independent decision-making within a set of rules or guidelines will keep them on track to becoming a mature, self-reliant adult.


The Benefits of Phone Therapy

Typically, when one thinks about therapy, an office outfitted with couch and chairs comes to mind.

A new, emerging trend is phone therapy. Some might dismiss the idea, but studies are showing that telephone therapy can be just as effective as face-to-face counseling sessions.

In a New York Times article, telephone therapy  clients are far more likely to continue with psychotherapy compared to face-to-face counterparts.

One major reason is that there are less barriers to receiving counseling by phone if you consider traffic, location, and transportation as contributing factors to dropout.

Also, although some need counseling, the problem experienced is impeding the person’s ability to begin or continue with therapy. For example, one of the clinical features of depression is lack of motivation. For some depressed individuals, getting to therapy is quite daunting. Phone therapy and online therapy can help resolve these issues.

Phone therapy is also beneficial for clients who live in rural locations, or frequently travel for work. At Good Life Psychotherapy, I have been using phone and skype counseling with clients and seeing positive results.

Phone and online therapy are promising alternatives to face-to-face counseling.

Engage: Get Ready for Marriage! Part 2

This is a two-part series, and you can read Part 1 here.

I know that a majority of you reading this are seeking pre-marital counseling. Kudos!! However, some of you are avoiding or deciding against pre-marital counseling. If you are not seeking pre-marital counseling or actively working to improve your relationship than you’re not meeting the overall objective of being engaged.

Dr. John Gottman, a leading expert on marriage and divorce, has identified four problematic areas in relationships that are risk factors for divorce. These areas are referred to as the Four Horseman. Using the Four Horseman, Gottman can predict the likelihood of divorce with 96% accuracy. Yes, you read that correctly. Here are the Four Horseman:

  • Criticism– Attacking “faulty”  personality characteristics rather than making general complaints
  • Contempt– The best predictor of the demise of a relationship, contempt includes making partner feel inferior through  insults and other tactics
  • Defensiveness– Deflecting one’s role in a problem
  • Stonewalling– Tuning out or shutting down

Here is a video clip of Dr. Gottman discussing the Four Horseman:

So, what if you see yourself or your partner in one or more of the Four Horseman? I encourage you to consider exploring pre-marital counseling. Again, identifying and working to improve these relational problems can reduce your relationship’s vulnerability for divorce.

I congratulate you on your recent or upcoming engagement. Remember, planning the wedding is necessary, but one aspect of a greater objective. Engage in your relationship as you get ready for marriage!

Good Life Psychotherapy website unveiled!!

I am happy to announce that the Good Life Psychotherapy website is live!

I specialize in counseling services via telephone and Skype for women, and I meet with clients living in Austin, TX.

There is a lot of great information on the website, so please check it out!

Some of the common issues I see women for are:

~relationship concerns

~establishing boundaries and assertiveness

~depression and/or anxiety

~family conflict

~grief and loss (including pet loss)

~self-confidence, self-esteem


Seasonal Affective Disorder

For some of us, dreary weather drains our energy and leaves us feeling lethargic. Other folks are unable to function at work, or within close relationships due to seasonal weather patterns. Here is what you should know about SAD:

  • Form of depression starting in fall/winter
  • Decreased energy
  • Decreased concentration
  • Lack of energy
  • Increased sleep

The National Alliance on Mental Illness gives a general overview of Seasonal Affective Disorder:

The “winter blues” are not the same as Seasonal Affective Disorder. The “winter blues” only mildly influences our daily living, but can still curb our energy and productivity. Here are some tips that help combat both the “winter blues” and Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • light therapy
  • spend more time outdoors in the winter
  • add additional bright lights in your home

Remember, consult a professional if you are concerned about the above mentioned symptoms. If you suspect that you might have SAD, a self-assessment is available at The Center for Environmental Therapeutics.

The Case for Only Children

In the past, only children have received a bad wrap, and are usually an anomaly to the 2.3 children-per-household convention. In the midst of the recession, a new emerging trend suggests that only children are on the rise, and the benefits of having an only are outweighing the drawbacks. Given the recent change in trends, it’s time to debunk some of the myths regarding only children.

As discussed in Time Magazine, there are several false, yet persistent myths perpetuated about only children:

  • Only children are socially awkward: Research shows that only children tend to spend more time with adults; therefore, they are likely to learn social skills that exceed their level of maturity. Also, with the advent of the”play date” the parent’s of only children have plenty of opportunity to coordinate experiences to foster social skills.
  • Only children are maladjusted. The evidence is unable to distinguish between only children and multi-children families; however, research suggests that a marriage will be strained with the addition of a second child. Typically, a couple has their first child to enhance the relationship, and a second child to enhance the first child’s upbringing.

Across cultures it is assumed that being an only child is a burden to bear. In our current economic climate, it costs close to $300,000 to raise a child. If financial incentive isn’t enough, here are some additional advantages of having one child:

  • Higher scores of intelligence and achievement. Parents have more energy and time to invest in one child versus two or three. We are likely to see higher expectations for academic performance when parents are able to invest themselves in their child’s schooling.
  • An only child doesn’t have to “compete” for resources. With several children, resources including parent’s money, time, and energy are divided amongst children. Some parents are opting for a one-child household in order to give that child undivided attention and opportunity.

As you consider to what extent you want to grow your family, consider not only the financial incentives for an only, but the implications for the well-being of the parent’s relationship as well.

Engage: Get Ready for Marriage! Part 1

December is a popular time for marriage proposals. When most American couples think about getting engaged, thoughts automatically turn to the logistics of planning a wedding. The priorities include setting a date, finding a dress, and crafting a guest list.

In addition to planning the dream wedding, couples should also consider identifying and working on areas of the relationship that need improvement. Chances are these “sticking-points” will continue to reemerge throughout the duration of your marriage. After all, the term engagement isn’t just a promise to get married. The verb engage also means to employ or enter into conflict with. In other words, when you’re engaged you should be working on your relationship (especially the sticking-points) as well as working on your wedding.

Now, I know some of you do not want to think about dredging up the past or confronting your fiance about a hot-button issue; I understand. We are a culture driven by romantic love, and who wants to take the magic out of the engagement period? More importantly, who wants a lasting relationship? A relationship where you and your partner can co-exist together over time?

You can find Part 2 here.