Fireworks, picnics, red, white, and blue… so many things come to mind when we think about the 4th of July. It is a day of great celebration and joy as we commemorate our country's history and the freedom that was sacrificially won. This freedom has allowed us to not only declare independence but also to declare a new way of life.
Our forefathers chose not to suffer under evil, instead they chose to "right themselves by abolishing" their connection to the tyrannical powers of the king. It took great courage for our forefathers to choose to no longer suffer. It takes great courage in our own lives to choose to no longer suffer. Sometimes the suffering we experience is at the hands of someone else and we need to seek help or justice to right the situation. However, it is more often the case that we suffer because of ourselves. Perhaps we are so used to our struggles that we just accept them as part of our lives, or perhaps we fear the pain or the whiplash that might come if we choose to do things differently.
Our forefathers were willing to pledge their "lives," "fortunes," and "sacred honor" to uphold their declaration of independence. They were not focused, however, on what they might need to give up, they were focused on that which they valued and wanted to protect… "the truth that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." If we merely focus on the pain or the sacrifice required we will not be inclined to make the necessary changes. Instead we need to focus on that which we value and long to protect.
What is it that you need to be freed from? Where in your life do you need to stop waving the white flag and start raising a flag of freedom? Perhaps this year, on July 4th, you will not just celebrate the choice of our forefathers but you will celebrate your own choice to begin making changes and pursue freedom in your own life.
July 4th is not merely a day to celebrate and remember, it is a day to act. Act in the truth of our unalienable rights as persons created equal by God treating one another with love and respect, all the while being willing and courageous to stand up against that which causes us to "suffer."
Let Freedom Ring!
Submitted by Sarah E. Loew, MS
Therapists quite commonly use the picture of an iceberg to depict the depth of someone's heart, mind, and soul. Most of us spend our relationships talking about what lies above the water line but ultimately we experience connection and intimacy when we can start talking about what lies below the water line. For some, weekly therapy is the only place where they experience someone connecting with them more deeply. Various things can make it hard to have relationships that truly connect and deepen over time. One of the main reasons we don't deepen our relationships by pursuing each other's hearts, minds, and souls is because we don't know how to do so or we fail to make the effort.
Here are some guidelines for asking questions that deepen relationships:
Avoid Asking "Why?"
Questions that begin with "why" can tend to put us on the defensive and more likely than not tend to shut down the conversation.
Ask Open Questions
Open questions encourage a response besides "yes" or "no." Instead of asking questions that start with "did" or "can" try asking questions that start with "how" or "what." (i.e. How did your day go? v. Did you have a good day?)
Ask "Meaning" Questions:
"What did it mean to you that they selected you for the promotion?" This question can be a little tricky but when people are able to respond it can be profoundly impactful and connecting.
Ask Explorative Questions:
What was that like for you? How did that impact you? These questions allow someone to share more than just the facts of a story - it creates opportunity to share their emotional experience.
Submitted by Sarah E. Loew, MS
As I’m preparing my seedlings to be transplanted to my outside garden I have been learning much about the process. One of the most important things I’m learning is that once mature enough the plants must go through a process of hardening if their transfer to the garden is going to be successful. Hardening requires that I slowly leave the growing plants outside for increased increments of time until they’re ready to take on the heat of the sun and the coolness of the night. This process got me thinking once again about what takes place in therapy.
As I wrote last week, often times in therapy it takes time and hard work until we start to see change. We first learn to make these changes with the help of a counselor in the safety of a confidential space; however, if we are to continue to grow we have to make a conscious effort to transfer the things we learn and the ways we grow into everyday life. This process of “hardening” is usually slow and gradual but very important.
Sometimes the process of taking new skills, habits, and perspectives into relationships outside of therapy is relatively easy and it quickly leads to increased freedom and joy. Sometimes; however, the process is more difficult and takes a bit more time. The key to doing this part of therapy well is to slowly increase the risks you’re willing to take. Just like the plants spend 2 hours in the sun, then four, then six, it is important for you to start small but continue to push yourself. Perhaps it is easier to start practicing your new habits around your friends first, your co-workers second, and your family last. Your counselor can help you determine new areas where you need to start putting your growth into practice but remember that this process make take some time, patience, and perseverance.
Healthy change means something different for everyone, but the overall goal is the same. For my plants, my hope is that they become strong enough to continue to grow independently in the garden and produce much fruit. The goal in therapy is similar. We are here to help you plant seeds for change, grow in that change, and then take the things you are learning outside of the therapy office. We will help you transition, step by step, through the discomfort until you are ready to do it on your own. It’s a bit of a journey but the rewards are great.
Tips to Keep Growing:
Talk to your counselor.
If you are feeling discouraged or scared to practice the new things you are learning it is important for your therapist to know. Being able to share these feelings will help them to subside more easily.
2) Make a list of the rewards!
Working towards any goal it is important to keep in mind the rewards that will come at the end of all the hard work. Is it healthier relationships? More balanced emotions? Feeling better about yourself or your future?
3) Embrace discomfort.
Just because something is uncomfortable does not mean that it is not good for you. Accept the discomfort as part of the growth process and trust that it will subside in time.
4) Be Proud of the hard work.
Look back at all the work you’ve done so far. Try to remember your first day of therapy and things about the ways that you have changed since then. Ask your therapist for their insight, it is likely that they are seeing things that you are not.
Submitted by Sarah E. Loew, MS
I decided this year to try and plant a vegetable garden and I’m working hard to get the plants strong and ready to be transferred outside. I took care to mix the soil, scoop it into tiny cups, and gently place the seeds down into the soil. I watered them carefully, covered them, and then placed them in an area where they will get plenty of sunlight. I check on my little seedlings each day noticing that some of the seeds have germinated quickly while others have yet to make an appearance.
When my friend had told me how quickly tomato and zucchini seeds usually sprout I began to wonder why mine hadn’t yet come up. I considered starting over again but I figured I would adjust a few things and wait just a bit longer. The next day I had 7 little plants pushing through the dirt. I then began waiting on the peppers to sprout, wondering if any adjustments might help them grow.
Part of the difficulty of planting a garden from seeds is getting them to start growing in the first place. Similarly, in counseling, sometimes the hard work is just getting the “seeds” to germinate. We’ve got to work hard to plant the seeds of change and then keep attending to them until we start to see growth. We have to keep practicing new ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It requires a lot of mental and emotional effort and sometimes it can feel exhausting or even hopeless.
Perhaps you’re working hard and
not yet seeing the full rewards of your labor. Like myself, you’re staring at
the “dirt” and wondering why there is no growth. Sometimes when we are working
hard and not seeing growth we need to learn a few more things or try things a
little differently. Sometimes, however, we just need to give it more time. Keep
working hard; keep tending to your heart and the new things you are learning. The
point that you may be ready to give up may be the exact moment when new life begins
to push its way through.
Submitted by Sarah E. Loew, MS
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
When I was about 8-years-old my family and I went on a horseback-riding outing. Due to my age and the difficulty of the trek, I had to ride a horse with my mom. The horse that we were given had recently had a young foul that was left behind in the stables. As you can imagine this new mom was not very happy about leaving her foul and she made that quite evident. Her stubbornness unnerved my own mother who then decided that the best option was to grab my arms that were wrapped around her waist and hurl us both off the horse and into the bushes. Perhaps I would have been okay with this if I had had some fair warning (okay, realistically probably not) but being hurled from a horse with no preparation was a bit traumatic for my 8-year-old self. I did not want to get back on the horse and neither did my mother. We waited in the stables while the rest of the family finished the ride. Although it had been my idea and although it was something I was very excited to do, the experience of being hurled from a horse was enough to keep me from getting back on a horse for quite some time.
Life works a lot like this. We go out into the world excited for new things and new relationships; when we find the experience to be enjoyable we want to do it again, but if the experience is filled with pain or fear most of us learn to avoid it at all costs. When it comes to literally “riding a horse” your life may not suffer much should you choose to not try again, but what if the pain you are avoiding keeps you from enjoying family and friends, a successful career, or the realization of your dreams? When we strive to live our lives in order to avoid pain we usually end up experiencing more pain and missing out on opportune moments of joy. We are robbed of the fullness life has to offer.
Sometimes therapy can be difficult and painful. Why? Because as therapists it is our job to care and to bring comfort but most of all it is our job to help you face the pain in order to find freedom, healing, and joy. It is our job to encourage you to get back on the horse and give you the tools you need to do so successfully. It requires courage, strength, and perseverance but doing so will lead to life experienced at its fullest.
Submitted by Sarah E. Loew, M
“For we believe that jesus died and rose again,
and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him…
and so we will be with the Lord forever.”
Paraphrased, 1 Thess. 4: 14,& 17
Easter is here. Kids are looking forward to the Easter Bunny and parents are working hard to prepare for meals and traditions with family and friends. Although Easter is a joyous holiday it is preceded by a more solemn day, Good Friday. Perhaps beneath the joy of the holiday your heart is feeling solemn as well. I know many people and have heard of others who are grieving at this time. Even for those who are not mourning a recent loss, the holidays always seem to bring back thoughts of family members or friends that we are separated from by death, distance, or perhaps even significant disagreements.
Good Friday, 2,000+ years ago, Jesus’ friends were mourning too. Their friend, teacher, and LORD had died and they did not have any hope of seeing Him again. Imagine the surprise and joy they experienced when his grave was found empty and he returned to them. (Seriously, try to imagine it!) They probably didn’t comprehend the fullness of what his resurrection meant for them, but I imagine they were overjoyed to see His face and touch his nail-pierced hands. Jesus returned because he had conquered sin and he therefore had conquered death. He tells us that if we believe this and believe that he can conquer sin for us, then we can live eternally with Him. We no longer need to fear death or the frailty of our bodies. We can have hope that sin, brokenness, and disagreements will not separate us forever.
As a colleague recently reminded me, these bodies we walk around in are merely the shell that encases our soul. Who we are and what we have come to know and love about those we have lost will live on, eternally. The pain, brokenness, and burdens our bodies carry on this Earth will not pass on with us to our Heavenly home.
We Can Have Hope
Through Christ’s resurrection we have the assurance that we will live eternally; through Christ’s resurrection we can be reconnected to those who have died before us. Through Christ’s resurrection we can be encouraged to reconcile broken relationships; through Christ’s resurrection we can have hope for newness, redemption, and peace
as we live out the rest of our days on this Earth.
Submitted by Sarah E. Loew, MS
“For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.”
of Solomon 2:11-12
The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and the temperature is finally rising. Spring is here!! Soon we will begin to see little buds growing on the trees and brightly colored flowers pushing through the dirt. These signs of spring are perhaps what make it my favorite season. The sun and warmth are amazing, but I think what makes spring so wonderful is the joy of watching life return after the deadness of the winter.
Each budding blossom reminds me of the newness that God can and will bring into our lives if we seek him. Each budding blossom gives me hope that what is past is dead and gone and something beautiful is coming. The most amazing thing about our God is that He is a God who is faithful to restore, rebuild, and make new. If He begins a work He will bring it to completion, and any work He completes will in some way be for our good and for His glory. His character and power are truly “something beautiful” and we get a glimpse of this in the way that he has designed our seasons.
Have you been longing for some kind of newness, healing or restoration? Is there something in your life you need to let die in order that something beautiful might be able to grow? Are you longing for springtime in your heart? Let your hearts be encouraged by the newness that surrounds you, let your mind be filled with the truth that our God is a God who makes things beautiful – not only in the world around us but also in the deepest places of our hearts. He does not always do so in the way we might hope or expect but he does so in the most perfect way.
Submitted by Sarah E. Loew, MS
Although Spring is just around the corner, it’s still not quite here. At this time of year, when it’s still frigidly cold and the snow just keeps on falling, it is easy to let ourselves go. Instead of maintaining a social life, we become cooped up in the house. Instead of feeling motivated and getting tasks accomplished, we may slump onto the couch and watch hours of Netflix or Sports Center. The laundry piles up, the dishes overflow; the new years resolution work out routines come to a halt. We may even find ourselves fighting the winter blues and struggling to get out of bed each day. Do any of these things sound familiar? Perhaps this doesn’t describe you – GOOD! Consider it a blessing. For many of us, however, the LONG winter takes its toll on us socially, mentally, physically, and sometimes even spiritually.
Although the first day of Spring is just a few weeks away (whoohooo!) it is important to practice good self-care throughout the remaining weeks of winter. It’s good to practice self-care all year round, but what better time to take a personal inventory than when we are may be struggling most? The web is filled with various self-care tools and tips but I thought a Self-Care Assessment would be the most profitable first step as it will help to identify areas that need some attention. Consider it a “spring cleaning” for your body, mind, and soul.
1) scroll down to the Assessment
2) Read the directions & numerically rate
(you may want to write it down your answers on another piece of paper or copy and paste it to your home computer.)
3) Talk it over with your therapist or a friend
4) Make the necessary changes
Don’t wait for Spring to recharge, get a head start; begin today!
Submitted by Sarah E. Loew, MS
When you are finished, look for patterns in your responses. Are you more active in some areas of self-care but ignore others? Are there items on the list that make you think, "I would never do that"? Listen to your inner responses, your internal dialogue about self-care and making yourself a priority. Take particular note of anything you would like to include more in your life.
Rate the following areas according to how well you think you are doing:
3 = I do this well (e.g., frequently)
2 = I do this OK (e.g., occasionally)
1 = I barely or rarely do this
0 = I never do this
? = This never occurred to me
____ Eat regularly (e.g. breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
____ Eat healthily
____ Get regular medical care for prevention
____ Get medical care when needed
____ Take time off when sick
____ Get massages
____ Dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, or do some other fun physical activity
____ Get enough sleep
____ Wear clothes I like
____ Take vacations
____ Take day trips or mini-vacations
____ Make time away from telephones, email, and the Internet
____ Make time for self-reflection
____ Notice my inner experience - listen to my thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, feelings
____ Have my own personal psychotherapy
____ Write in a journal
____ Read literature that is unrelated to work
____ Do something at which I am not expert or in charge
____ Attend to minimizing stress in my life
____ Engage my intelligence in a new area, e.g., go to an art show, sports event, theatre
____ Be curious
____ Say no to extra responsibilities sometimes
____ Spend time with others whose company I enjoy
____ Stay in contact with important people in my life
____ Give myself affirmations, praise myself
____ Love myself
____ Re-read favorite books, re-view favorite movies
____ Identify comforting activities, objects, people, places and seek them out
____ Allow myself to cry
____ Find things that make me laugh
____ Express my outrage in social action, letters, donations, marches, protests
____ Make time for reflection
____ Spend time in nature
____ Find a spiritual connection or community
____ Be open to inspiration
____ Cherish my optimism and hope
____ Be aware of non-material aspects of life
____ Try at times not to be in charge or the expert
____ Be open to not knowing
____ Identify what is meaningful to me and notice its place in my life
____ Have experiences of awe
____ Contribute to causes in which I believe
____ Read inspirational literature or listen to inspirational talks, music
____ Schedule regular dates with my partner or spouse
____ Schedule regular activities with my children
____ Make time to see friends
____ Call, check on, or see my relatives
____ Stay in contact with faraway friends
____ Make time to reply to personal emails and letters; send holiday cards
____ Allow others to do things for me
____ Enlarge my social circle
____ Ask for help when I need it
____ Share a fear, hope, or secret with someone I trust
Workplace or Professional Self-Care
____ Take a break during the workday (e.g., lunch)
____ Take time to chat with co-workers
____ Make quiet time to complete tasks
____ Identify projects or tasks that are exciting and rewarding
____ Set appropriate limits
____ Balance my caseload so that no one day or part of a day is “too much”
____ Arrange work space so it is comfortable and comforting
____ Ask for help when needed
____ Negotiate for my needs (benefits, pay raise)
____ Have a peer support group
____ Strive for balance within my work-life and work day
____ Strive for balance among work, family, relationships, play, and rest
Other Areas of Self-Care that are Relevant to You
(Retrieved 8/6/2010 from http://www.ballarat.edu.au/aasp/student/sds/self_care_assess.shtml and adapted by Lisa D. Butler, Ph.D.)
Valentine’s Day Continued…
When I was in Elementary School, Valentine’s Day was always something to look forward to. The classrooms would be decorated with pink and red hearts and each desk was adorned with brown paper bags that had been creatively turned into Valentine’s “mailboxes.” The week or two leading up to Valentine’s Day everyone went to the store to pick out cards for their classmates. As was the rule, everyone received a Valentine – no one was to be left out.
As you get older, Valentine’s Day tends to lose some of its magic. Some still get excited about little gifts, notes, and surprises that might come up throughout the day but others tend to find it to be a disappointing or lonely day. Still others may just see it as a “Hallmark” Holiday and begrudgingly buy the card or gift just because someone might be expecting it.
When it comes down to it, Valentine’s Day is a day
to share and show love. It is a day to take our attention away from ourselves
and focus on ways to show love to others. Valentine’s Day doesn’t need to be a
day to focus on only one person, however. While it is good to take a day to
remember the significant other that may be in your life it is also important to
take time to consider how to show love to your friends, acquaintances, or perhaps
even strangers that you meet. Obviously some chocolates and a kiss would be a
bad idea for the guy standing in the Starbucks line behind you but why not
offer to pay for their coffee?
There are many things you can do to show love to those around you:
· write a note
· make a call
· offer assistance
· give up your chair
· say a kind word
Valentine’s Day doesn’t need to be tied to romantic love and it also doesn’t need to be bound to just one day. Of course we should show love every day but perhaps we can start with trying to show one act of love every day for the rest of the month. That is my challenge to you (and to myself). There may not be brown paper bag mailboxes and rules that everyone gets something special, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to spread some love.
Submitted by Sarah E. Loew, MS
Check Out Our Second Location!
2014 was a big year for GCC. We expanded our team by adding a new therapist, Jessica Milosky. We also began the process of considering options to expand our presence beyond our Newtown location. Now, at the start of 2015, we are seeing the fruits of our labor; our second location is ready to be opened! GCC will now be able to help an even larger community pursue greater health and joy. We will continue to be in Newtown at our current office while we also begin seeing clients at our second location in Wrightstown.
The new building is located less than a minute from
the intersection of 232 and Swamp Rd.
It is perched high on a hill with a beautiful view of the surrounding Wrightstown area.
In a restored farmhouse, GCC is going to be working alongside several other therapists and medical professionals at Wrightstown Family Medicine and Medical Center. We will be in the same facility as Wrightstown Family Medicine, St. Mary’s, a nutritionist, an ophthalmologist, Choice One Pregnancy Center and a few other mental health therapists.
It is our vision that we will be able to collaborate with the professionals around us to coordinate what is our H.O.P.E. Initiative. Stay tuned for future blogs as Dr. Ganey will be giving us a more in depth update on the H.O.P.E. Initiative.
Also, check out our website as we will be adding additional pages in the coming weeks that will give more information about Wrightstown location.
Submitted by: Sarah (White) Loew, MS