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Anissa Howard Counseling & Psychotherapy Services

This blog site is dedicated to various sub-topics related to the counseling profession. Topics include: general counseling, play therapy, marital/couples counseling, and family counseling. This blog is designed for consumers, practitioners, and students.

Single Lady Blues: What Being Single Really Means When You’re 30+

Singlehood 101: How to Know If Your Significant Other Is Really Into You

Human relationships are the mirror image of our complexity as beings. Of the many questions that I have received over the course of my time as a therapist, the one question that I get most frequently from friends and clients alike is one that is related to the title of this blog post.   It usually goes a little something like this: "How do I know if he is in to me?" or "Does she really like me, or is this just a thing?"  While there are countless movies and articles on the subject already, many still ask the question. So how do you really know if someone is into you? The general question I pose is simply this: Does your significant other treat you like someone significant? I propose 5 questions to help you explore for sure just how interested your beau or belle may be. 

1) Have your verbalizations or efforts towards expressing your desired treatment gone ignored? Usually when a person is into you, they take your perspective on important matters seriously. There is nothing more serious than having a serious conversation with someone about your expectations within the relationship. This includes family members. Individuals who value your opinion and appreciate you as a person will make no qualms about hearing you out. More importantly, those individual will show how much they value you by modifying their behavior. Especially when you have voiced that their behavior is off-putting or offensive.  If that individual puts forth an effort at fixing the situation that at least shows that they are trying to improve the relationship. 

2) Do you find yourself expelling a lot of energy and effort at maintaining reasonably frequent communication with your significant other?  There is nothing more time consuming and energy draining than unrequited affection and interest. Reasonable and frequent communication simply means that it's okay to expect for someone to portray their interest through efforts at communication.  It's important for you to recognize however, that your communication preference  (i.e. text, voice, etc) may influence the frequency of your communication.  This  could pose a hindrance to the process of relating with your companion of interest. Especially when the two of you are not on the same page about what acceptable communication looks like. On the other hand, interest in your belle or beau does not constitute a right to exorbitant demands on their availability.  In other words, you should not expect for your significant other to be available and at your disposal 24-7. Yes. It's probably a bad idea to send more than two text messages (or direct messages on social media) without a return contact. On the other hand, it's definitely not a good look if  your belle or beau disappears weeks and days on end and/or may only contact you during specific times of the day (with the exception of certain occupations). 

3) Does your significant other avoid introducing you to the 3Fs? Friends, family, and fun. Usually, interested parties almost always introduce at least two of the aforementioned elements at some point in time with intention. Maybe not during week 1, but definitely by month 6. I'm not talking about incidentally "running into" friends and family while at the grocery store or at one of your hookup spots. I'm talking about a "hey my family/friend is having a get together and I wanted to know if you would be available to come" type deal. As it pertains to fun, I'm simply referring to an act that involves a planned  outing in the public sphere (a.k.a. "date.") It would be even nicer if that planned, public outing involved friends or family at some point in your relationship. 

4) Does your significant other intentionally avoid labels? You know exactly what I am talking about and there is no need to be embarrassed!! Maybe you've asked, "So what is this?" or "Where do you see us going?" You've probably convinced yourself that it's too soon, or that maybe this person just does not know how to express themselves.  Ehh...wrong!!!! What about you? Why is it up to the other person to define and decide what happens in the relationship? This is definitely a problem if you have been dating someone for 6 months and that individual can't provide you with an answer to those questions. It's even more troublesome if your belle or beau describes the relationship in colloquial phrases such as "just chilling," " we're cool," or "we're just doing us." This is a sure give-away to your relationship's destination-- a one-way trip to Nowheresville, USA. 

5) Is your significant other disrespectful of your time? I was always told that if a person respects your time, they respect you. I know the relationship between the two terms isn't perfectly linear, but humor me for a second. When a person values your time, they place value on the life space you have created for them and will honor you by creating that same space for you in their lives. Including you in their life space is not another "to do" list item, nor should it be cumbersome. Interested parties will be intentional about the time they spend with you (i.e. planning dates, weekend getaways, etc) and will be the least bit inconvenienced by the idea of having to be intentional about their time with you. Be cautious of individuals who either a) work all the time and never seem to have free time b) are always on the "go" and only stop by for minutes at a time c) do not engage in actions (key word here is action) that rectify time issues or  d) deny that time issues exist altogether. 

If you answered yes to one or more of the questions posed, it's likely that you are dealing with someone who may not be as into you as you would hope. Hopefully, you will take these pointers along with your personal experience to help you make the right decision about your relationship. 

* Disclaimer: This post may be a little more heteronormative than what may be preferred however, the experiences of this writer with this particular topic has been limited to heterosexual individuals and is not intended to bring offense to others who subscribe to other orientations. 

 


 

 

Play Therapy Life Hacks 0001: Emotion Boards

   

Ages: Pre-K thru 3rd grade  (May also be appropriate for individuals who suffer from intellectual disability and/or social skill deficits)

The purpose of this activity is to help clients associate emotions with colors and to help clients identify emotions as they are depicted in nonverbal expressions.

Materials:

  • Velcro strips or Glue Dots
  • 4 sheets of colored construction paper or card stock (* I used yellow, black, red, and blue to symbolize colors of emotions),
  • Pictures of faces or groups of people showing various emotions (4-6 pics for each emotion).

Instructions:

  1. Label each of the 4 sheets of paper with an emotion. (I chose the 4 basic emotions of happy, sad, angry, and scared). It may be a good idea to laminate your 4 pages so that they are more durable.
  2.  Place glue dots or Velcro strips on the back of each picture and on the emotion board of choice. I chose to use Velcro strips because this allows the therapist to remove the pictures once the activity is completed. 
  3. Instruct client to match pictures with the emotion. 

Possible Processing Questions:

  1. Why do you think this person or those people are happy, angry, scared, or sad?
  2. How do you show others that you are happy, angry, scared, or sad?
  3. How do you know when people at school are happy, angry, scared, or sad?
  4. How does Mom and Dad (or any guardian of significance) show that they are happy, angry, scared, or sad?

 

Why Counseling Won't Work For You

If you’ve ever been the least bit curious about counseling, this piece is for you. I aim to provide a general overview of the counseling process and ways that the reality of counseling is different from the myth of counseling.

If you are anything like me, you probably won’t go to the doctor unless you have reached the point where none of your home remedies work.  Maybe the symptoms have lingered around long enough to where you are exhausted or just plain ready to get well. So what happens next? You schedule an appointment with your physician or make a visit to the neighboring emergency medical services center. See the doctor. Get a diagnosis and a prescription. Boom! As you head out the door on your way to wellness, the following words echo in your ear, “Be sure to follow-up in two-weeks or as needed.” You nod as an act of compliance and as you walk out of the door, a sigh of relief hits you.  You went seeking answers… and…for the most part… you got them.  In the medical model, and as described in the example above, the physician uses a problem-solving method to focus on whatever may be causing physical/biological distress, dysfunction, or defect in a person.

At this point, I know you are probably thinking, “How is this relevant to counseling?” You’re right to ask that question. As a licensed professional counselor, I always take care to explain how counseling works because I don’t feel good about assuming that most people know what counseling is really about. After all, on average, about 60% of people in the US with a mental illness actually go and seek treatment compared to 70% adults who seek medical treatment. Essentially, I see both medical and mental illnesses as being two prongs in the holistic approach to health however, I also understand that some individuals don’t think of mental health in that regard. So, as I am meeting with clients for their initial appointments, I always ask what they know about counseling and if they’ve ever experienced it before. That makes it a lot easier for me to talk about the counseling relationship and expectations.  Let’s discuss a few things that make the counseling relationship unique.

There are some instances when I find that my clients have the same expectations of my services that they have of their family doctors.   There is a lingering issue (i.e. broken relationship, unruly teenagers, substance dependence, etc.) that is in need of some resolve. Unfortunately, this “problem-solution” mindset does not translate over well to therapy/counseling. Mental health problems don’t manifest in the way that physiological problem do and therefore are complex and take more time to understand and properly diagnose. Some emotional and behavioral problems are neatly nestled in other problems which mean that we have to tease out one related issue before we can fully address another.

  In other words, ONE visit won’t do.  Yes, this means that if you are expecting for all of your problems to be resolved after meeting your therapist/counselor for one, two, or three sessions, then you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.  A general rule of thumb for me is to assess for the continuation of the counseling relationship so that I am better able to understand problem dynamics and how they interfere with a person or family’s normal functioning. It is equally important for me to establish a relationship with you that will engender your trust and comfort with me. This may take some time depending on how comfortable you are with the counseling process and whether you are willing to invest your time and energy in the relationship.

The second thing that I think is important for you to know about the counseling relationship is that you, alongside with your therapist, will chart the course of your mental health wellness journey.  In counseling, I like for my clients to share their preferences and goals for counseling. Together, we work towards tracking your progress and helping you be the best you that you can be. Your willingness to partake in the goal setting process is what makes it easy for you to stick with the process. Think of it as a counselor helping you to meet your own personal agenda. We are trained to help you address deep psychological pain and have knowledge of skills and techniques that are research proved to help you become the person you want to be. We can help you change behaviors and teach you healthy skills.

The third thing that I want you to know about the counseling relationship is that it will only work if you allow it to work. Your level of commitment towards the achievement of your counseling goals will determine your success and is the most important component of the counseling process. Remember, it is not ideal to be a time limit on your healing process or on the amount of time it will take for you to “get better.” Trust me. I understand that it’s our natural inclination as humans to gauge how long something will take. I understand that most of us are uncomfortable with the unknown. I get it. No, I am not asking for you to give 10 years of your life to counseling either. What I am saying is that if you want to achieve results, you are going to have to accept that counseling is most beneficial for those who really dive into the process. That means if your counselor assigns homework, do it. If you have an appointment, try your best to keep it. Counselors are facilitators and companions along the journey of change and can be really powerful allies in the process of change. How committed are you to the process of change?

The purpose of this article is to help those of you who are unfamiliar with the counseling process in gaining some insights into the process.  As you reflect on the aforementioned pointers, ask yourself, “What have I heard about counseling?” “Is it consistent with what I now know to be true about the process? If you are contemplating counseling, I hope this article provided you with some insightful information regarding the process. If you have tried counseling before and was either disappointed or unsatisfied with the services provided, I hope there was something written in this article that will encourage you to try it again.

Cheers to a healthier, happier, you!

 

Singlehood 101: How to Know If Your Significant Other Is Really Into You

Human relationships are the mirror image of our complexity as beings. Of the many questions that I have received over the course of my time as a therapist, the one question that I get most frequently from friends and clients alike is one that is related to the title of this blog post.   It usually goes a little something like this: "How do I know if he is in to me?" or "Does she really like me, or is this just a thing?"  While there are countless movies and articles on the subject already, many still ask the question. So how do you really know if someone is into you? The general question I pose is simply this: Does your significant other treat you like someone significant? I propose 5 questions to help you explore for sure just how interested your beau or belle may be. 

1) Have your verbalizations or efforts towards expressing your desired treatment gone ignored? Usually when a person is into you, they take your perspective on important matters seriously. There is nothing more serious than having a serious conversation with someone about your expectations within the relationship. This includes family members. Individuals who value your opinion and appreciate you as a person will make no qualms about hearing you out. More importantly, those individual will show how much they value you by modifying their behavior. Especially when you have voiced that their behavior is off-putting or offensive.  If that individual puts forth an effort at fixing the situation that at least shows that they are trying to improve the relationship. 

2) Do you find yourself expelling a lot of energy and effort at maintaining reasonably frequent communication with your significant other?  There is nothing more time consuming and energy draining than unrequited affection and interest. Reasonable and frequent communication simply means that it's okay to expect for someone to portray their interest through efforts at communication.  It's important for you to recognize however, that your communication preference  (i.e. text, voice, etc) may influence the frequency of your communication.  This  could pose a hindrance to the process of relating with your companion of interest. Especially when the two of you are not on the same page about what acceptable communication looks like. On the other hand, interest in your belle or beau does not constitute a right to exorbitant demands on their availability.  In other words, you should not expect for your significant other to be available and at your disposal 24-7. Yes. It's probably a bad idea to send more than two text messages (or direct messages on social media) without a return contact. On the other hand, it's definitely not a good look if  your belle or beau disappears weeks and days on end and/or may only contact you during specific times of the day (with the exception of certain occupations). 

3) Does your significant other avoid introducing you to the 3Fs? Friends, family, and fun. Usually, interested parties almost always introduce at least two of the aforementioned elements at some point in time with intention. Maybe not during week 1, but definitely by month 6. I'm not talking about incidentally "running into" friends and family while at the grocery store or at one of your hookup spots. I'm talking about a "hey my family/friend is having a get together and I wanted to know if you would be available to come" type deal. As it pertains to fun, I'm simply referring to an act that involves a planned  outing in the public sphere (a.k.a. "date.") It would be even nicer if that planned, public outing involved friends or family at some point in your relationship. 

4) Does your significant other intentionally avoid labels? You know exactly what I am talking about and there is no need to be embarrassed!! Maybe you've asked, "So what is this?" or "Where do you see us going?" You've probably convinced yourself that it's too soon, or that maybe this person just does not know how to express themselves.  Ehh...wrong!!!! What about you? Why is it up to the other person to define and decide what happens in the relationship? This is definitely a problem if you have been dating someone for 6 months and that individual can't provide you with an answer to those questions. It's even more troublesome if your belle or beau describes the relationship in colloquial phrases such as "just chilling," " we're cool," or "we're just doing us." This is a sure give-away to your relationship's destination-- a one-way trip to Nowheresville, USA. 

5) Is your significant other disrespectful of your time? I was always told that if a person respects your time, they respect you. I know the relationship between the two terms isn't perfectly linear, but humor me for a second. When a person values your time, they place value on the life space you have created for them and will honor you by creating that same space for you in their lives. Including you in their life space is not another "to do" list item, nor should it be cumbersome. Interested parties will be intentional about the time they spend with you (i.e. planning dates, weekend getaways, etc) and will be the least bit inconvenienced by the idea of having to be intentional about their time with you. Be cautious of individuals who either a) work all the time and never seem to have free time b) are always on the "go" and only stop by for minutes at a time c) do not engage in actions (key word here is action) that rectify time issues or  d) deny that time issues exist altogether. 

If you answered yes to one or more of the questions posed, it's likely that you are dealing with someone who may not be as into you as you would hope. Hopefully, you will take these pointers along with your personal experience to help you make the right decision about your relationship. 

* Disclaimer: This post may be a little more heteronormative than what may be preferred however, the experiences of this writer with this particular topic has been limited to heterosexual individuals and is not intended to bring offense to others who subscribe to other orientations. 

 


 

 

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