On The Other Side Of The Fence

o-CS-LEWIS-570Several of my friends have asked me to write about growing old gracefully. I’m not sure if I can. At 66 I am no longer ‘cute’. I was never described as beautiful, but always as cute. How can one be over 65 and still be cute? What’s the word that replaces cute? I certainly don’t know. Physical attributes aside, I am so fortunate to be surrounded by a circle of friends, all older than me, who live each day with a sense of joy and a positive attitude. I am also aware that it’s not true for all of the  baby boomers as we enter our Medicare years. I think it’s important to explore the differences.

Eric Patterson wrote an interesting article about aging and depression (http://depression.newlifeoutlook.com/aging-and-depression). I was delighted to find this blog. As I was researching this topic I found most of the writings to be condescending and insulting! Patterson suggests that retirement looks idyllic and growing older is an accomplishment. I agree, I never thought I would reach this age. I have survived all the trials and tribulations of life and I have gained some wisdom along the way. For many growing older is not so ideal. Aging brings a host of new challenges, some physical, some social, and some psychological. If these transformations cannot be managed effectively, depression can rear its  ugly head. Can you cope with the grey hairs, the memory changes, the loss of hearing, and how fast can you find strategies to deal with these changes? Are you prepared for the loss of identity that often accompanies retiring from your life’s work? Are we ever prepared to face the death of a loved one or close friend? The answers to these questions are extremely personal and you are the only one that can answer them. Here are my strategies: I color my hair every 3 months, fortunately my hearing is great, I wear designer glasses (I think this is a fashion statement), I work part time and  volunteer, and I  have told all my friends they have to live 5 more years because I’m going to have a blow out 50th wedding anniversary. That maybe a joke but I have finally decided it’s good to have something to look forward to. Aside from these strategies I also take poetry classes and try to keep this body as healthy as I  can. I recognize that not everyone is as fortunate as I am. I get to live my life exactly as I want to with the love and support of my family and friends. Nevertheless, each of us have choices about how we respond to the challenges of growing older. Your responses are your power and for now no one can take that away from you.

I will continue writing on this theme in my next blog. If you have questions or comments please let me know! I would love to hear from you.

5 Myths About Therapy

Psychotherapy Session

by Marla Chalnick

I read the blogs on the PsychCentral website and one of my favorite bloggers is Margarita Tartakovsky. She recently interviewed many therapists and blogged about myths that prevent people from seeking help when they need it. One might wait to get help until their concerns have deepened, when it’s harder to intervene. Or they might not go at all, suffering in silence.

Here are just five of the many myths that prevent people from entering therapy.

Myth: Going to therapy means there’s something wrong with you. Carla Naumberg, Ph.D. suggests that attending therapy means that, like every other human being on the planet, you have come up against challenges in life, and you could use some support from  a safe, impartial person. I believe that going to therapy means you are interested in solving problems you may be experiencing and understanding yourself better.

Myth: Therapy is for crazy people. Many people seek therapy as a last result because of this myth. By this time their problems have amplified. Thinking therapy is only for people out of touch with reality or psychotic is an idea that may get passed down through generations in your family. Really, therapy is effective and helpful not only for people who suffer with severe clinical issues, but anyone who  feels stuck and needs help finding a change in perspective. Clair Mellenthin, Licensed Clinical Social Worker says: “The truth is, all of us are human and each of us goes through a very personal journey in life that is ful of both joy and pain.”

Myth: The therapist is going to fix you. Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D. tells us therapy is a partnership and when both parties do their part,  change is the result. The therapist offers the tools and the client implements them in his or her life. That’s what therapy is about.

Myth: Real change will be sudden and striking. “Many people seek ‘aha’ moments and can fail to see the gradual progress they are making. Lasting and meaningful change happens bit by bit, step by step, not all at once.” Janice Webb, Ph.D.

Myth: Therapy isn’t fun. Elizabeth Sullivan MFT finds therapy fun because we are often able to laugh at ourselves, increase our perspective and gratitude, and see the absurdity in this life!

Resources: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/04/07/the-biggest-myths-about-therapy/?all=1

Have You Ever Considered The Benefits Of Telephone Counseling?

by Marla Chalnickclipart0141

As a recipient and a provider of telephone counseling I find it to be a very effective way to work. For me it began when my best friend suggested I try her therapist. The problem-her therapist worked in Baltimore and I lived in Charlotte. That’s how my experience with telephone counseling began. I followed Linda, my new therapist as she moved from Baltimore to Vermont and finally to Florida. My best friend was right, Linda was the right therapist for me.

Research shows that telephone counseling is beneficial and participants report specific improvements on the issue that led them to telephone counseling and a global improvement in their emotional state. I wonder why?

Telephone counseling is convenient: We are all busy people.Telephone counseling allows us the freedom to schedule appointments at times that work in our schedules. You don’t have to get in the car and drive across town, losing valuable time. You can just pick up the phone. You can even have your session in your pajamas!

Telephone counseling assures your privacy: Of course your confidentiality is a given in any counseling relationship, but telephone counseling assures an even greater level of anonymity. You don’t have to be concerned about who you might run into in the waiting room!

Telephone counseling provides a unique relationship: Many clients prefer not to work in the traditional face to face format.  The privacy of a voice on the phone provides more comfort and allows for a more trusting relationship. Many clients seek out the very best therapist to deal with their specific issues. For example, I specialize in working with individuals and families dealing with chronic illness, more specifically autoimmune and neurological conditions. If a family is not geographically convenient to my office, they can still benefit from working with a specialist. Just like looking for the best doctor to treat your problem, you can work with the best therapist to treat your problem. This sets the relationship up for success.

Telephone Counseling is well suited for a variety of issues: Depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, eating and food issues are just some is the problems that are effectively treated. Distance therapy is not appropriate for people who are homicidal, suicidal, self injuring, or those requiring more intensive intervention.

In summary, telephone counseling is convenient and the anonymity of the service may provide clients with a greater sense of control. For clients who do not have access to mental health services it is a viable option. Without an office, clothes and physical appearance distractions, clients being counseled via phone may be inclined to better focus on what the therapist is offering.

Resources: http://www.apa.rg/monitor/apr02/studyshows.aspx


Changing the Dance: Dealing With An Uncooperative “Ex”

by Marla Chalnick

You may not have realized it, but you and your “ex” have been dancing the same dance forever. It’s not a graceful dance. It’s clumsy, people’s toes get stepped on, but you kept on dancing hoping it would improve. It didn’t!  You want a different partner. You divorced but now you’re still dancing when it comes to raising your kids. What can you do?


Change the Dance: If you change the dance  (that translates to changing your words and behavior) your ‘ex’ partner will be thrown off balance.. Changing the dance means breaking out of old patterns so that you can achieve different results.

 Choose your battles wisely: This sage advice not only works with your 2 year old, it works with your ‘ex’ too. Before arming yourself for battle, make sure this is a skirmish worth fighting for. Think about whether this is a battle that can be won, or if it will be a draw and end in a stalemate. Save your energy for the important stuff.

Think of your new relationship with your ‘ex’ as a business relationship, not a personal one. The business relates only to the children. Choose your words carefully and respectfully and keep your emotions out of it. If your lonely or anxious, talk to a friend or to your therapist, not to your ‘ex’.

Limit contact with your ‘ex’; it’s just as simple as that.

Give yourself an ‘out’. Not all conversations are planned. If your ‘ex’ springs something on you that you’re not prepared for and you need time to think about it you might want to respond with ‘This is not a good time for me to talk. I’ll get back to you on that” and schedule a time to talk when you are better prepared.

Never let your children hear you argue with your ‘ex’. They experience a conflict of loyalties when you are yelling and speaking disrespectfully to each other. Your kids will feel the need to take a side and this is a lose-lose for everyone. Please don’t make your children uncomfortable. They don’t come equipped for this situation so protect them as best you can!

Resources: http://www.parentinghorizons.com


Cooperative Parenting After Divorce

by Marla Chalnick

Parenting after separation and divorce can be challenging. Conflicts, hostilities and differing points of view regarding how your children should be raised can leave you frustrated and angry. Disagreements can crop up about scheduling, extra-curricular activities, medical care, schoolwork and almost anything else. While you two may no longer be partners in marriage, you are still partners in raising your children.

Your children deserve the love and support of both their parents and Co-Parenting Counseling can help you navigate the creation of a new two household family.  I have worked with many families that find a greater level of compromise and are able to create healthy environments for their children in both their parent’s homes.

Co-parenting is a relatively new term to describe roles that have been around as long as couples have separated and divorced. After separation you continue to co-parent your children, providing for homes and meeting their everyday needs. You will always be linked to the person who helped you create your most precious asset. Sometimes bitterness, hostilities and different points of view can make the task of co-parenting difficult and cause significant harm to your children. You are the two people your children love the most and they are hurt every time there’s a conflict between you. And even more important, they feel responsible for the negativity. As a result your children will suffer and their relationship with you will suffer.

While you may not feel hopeful about improving the communication and cooperation with the other parent, it is important that you are willing to take positive steps to improve the quality of your co-parenting. Co-parenting counseling is not marital therapy. It is not mediation. It is not arbitration. It is not legal representation. Co-parenting counseling is an opportunity for parents to look at their communication styles, their beliefs about what’s best for their children and their ability to cooperate in the work of raising their children.

The focus of co-parenting coaching is to create benefits to your children because you are able to interact in more positive constructive ways. Parents are supported, not judged, to try new ways of interacting with each other and with their children. It will keep your children from feeling torn because they are in the middle. If you find that your feelings are directing your interactions, that co-parenting has become a ‘turf’ war and that you are keeping score, then co-parenting counseling is for you.

Co-parenting counseling is  a service designed to increase your knowledge and understanding of your child custody situation and to define specific strategies and techniques for improving your resourcefulness, confidence and readiness to move forward.