Author Archives: FireSpike

Report: Women May Get More Depressed as Romantic Relationships Progress

Women’s self-esteem suffers more than men’s as romantic relationships progress

study finds women more depressed as relationship progresses

For people in romantic relationships, how do their feelings about themselves and their lives change over time? If their romantic relationship is a marriage, do they really live happily ever after? What if they are just dating or cohabiting? Suppose the partnership is a new one, formed after a previous one ended—do coupled people do better at relationships over time, after they’ve had some previous romantic relationship experience? Women are supposed to be the romantic relationship specialists, according to our stereotypes. Compared to men, they supposedly feel more and more satisfied with their lives as their relationships progress, and they supposedly enjoy greater boosts to their self-esteem, too. But do they really?

All of those questions and more were addressed in “Subjective well-being across partnerships,” a report published in the June 2021 issue of the Journal of Family Psychology. Matthew D. Johnson of the University of Alberta and two colleagues from Germany, Franz J. Neyer and Christine Finn, analyzed data from a longitudinal study of a nationally representative sample of Germans. For this investigation, the social scientists focused on 554 people who were in two romantic partnerships over the course of the study.

Continue reading at Psychology Today.

Make a telehealth appointment if you live in Washington and are looking for therapy help.

Relationship Tips Using the Gottman Couples Therapy Method

4 Tips You Need to Know in Your First Year of a Relationship

Gottman method couples therapy tips.

This June 2021, my partner and I celebrate our 16th anniversary together.

That’s no small feat today. The even wilder part about our relationship is that we met on social media. We didn’t meet on Tinder. There was no “swiping right” in 2005. We didn’t meet on Facebook or even MySpace.

I met my partner when internet dating was brand new. We met on a site called “Friendster.” It was one of the first social media sites with profiles and photos, but not much else.

Here’s how it happened for me. A guy named Alapaki messaged me. He had gorgeous photos and a cool job (as a symphony percussionist). I was a music major in undergrad, so we had that in common.

I took a chance and here we are, still together, 16 years later. We’ve really learned a thing or two about relationships—mainly what it takes to make it past the tumultuous first year.

Here I’m sharing four tips we had to learn (the hard way) in the first year of our relationship so that you might not have to.

Continue reading at The Gottman Institute.

If you are looking for someone to help you through your relationship, contact me to schedule a telehealth appointment.

Telehealth Therapy for Understanding the Fantasy to Get Your Relationship Back on Track

Understand the Effect of Fear on Your Relationship With Telehealth Therapy

How telehealth therapy can help with fear in your relationship

Many of us are in the process of recovering from the last year of living under the threat of Covid-19; we are vaccinated, pulling off our masks, and moving in to hug the people we have missed. We are venturing out into the world, whether that means visiting friends’ homes, dining in restaurants, or shopping in stores. Now that some of our fear is lifting and our focus is not solely on our survival and the safety of others, we are going about getting our lives back into balance.

This means looking at the ways that our relationship might have been knocked off-kilter during the pandemic and getting it on track again. It is an unfortunate reality that when we are operating in survival mode, we stop paying attention to other aspects of our life. Chief among these is our personal relationships. It is very likely that, with our hardly noticing it, the undercurrent of tension/alarm during the pandemic has had an impact on the way we relate to our partner. Prolonged stress has that kind of effect.

Fear has been a dominant emotion for all of us over the past year. It has affected every one of us, regardless of whether you are unaware, partially aware, or fully aware of having felt it. Fear is an appropriate reaction to danger. We need to feel it; it keeps us safe. But it can also make us self-protective and distrustful. Then we shut down emotionally, which causes us to stop being vulnerable and available to others, especially our partner. Fear can also leave us feeling overwhelmed and powerless. This may make us desperate to be helped or saved by someone else, and during the pandemic, often the only person to turn to for this would have been — you guessed it — our partner. So, we have conflicting reactions: We want to push away our partner, while at the same time, we feel an intense need for them. We often resolve this dilemma by forming a fantasy bond in our relationship. This is a largely unconscious, defensive strategy that we originally developed in early childhood to deal with pain and frustration.

The fantasy bond offers an illusion of being merged with and connected to another person. When we become fearful and self-protective, we withdraw from the emotional give-and-take of interpersonal exchanges to a fantasy of love. When we become anxious and alarmed, we forfeit our independence to maintain this imagination of being one with our partner. However, the fantasy bond eventually takes a toll as it replaces the actual love and intimacy between two people.

Continue reading at Psychology Today.

Make an online telehealth appointment for residents of Washington, Oregon and Florida.

3 Gottman Method Ways to Make a Better Bid for Couples Connection

Tips to Understand Dr. John Gottman’s Couples Bids

Dr. John Gottman calls bids the “fundamental unit of emotional connection.” They are the gestures between a couple that signal a need for attention. Bids can be verbal or nonverbal and include asking for anything from physical affection to help with a project.

Gottman Therapy Method for understanding couples bids

How to make a bid
The person who sends the bid desires to connect. Some bids are overt and obvious to the receiver. For example, if Sam tells Charlie, “Do you have a second? I need to run something by you,” that’s a clear bid. When Charlie initiates sex by winking and lightly massaging Sam’s thigh, that’s a very clear bid.

The more they both turn towards each other and respond to those bids, the more likely they are to send bids in the future. It’s a cyclical pattern that, when done correctly, makes the relationship happy and healthy.

Fuzzy bidding
Unfortunately, not all bids are created equal, and often the receiver will miss them by no fault of their own. If a bid is difficult to decipher, it may not elicit the response you want, because your partner does not understand what you’re asking for. Dr. John Gottman calls it “fuzzy bidding.”

There are ways to make a better bid for connection. Here are three tips that will clear up the fuzziness and get you and your partner to understand each other.

Continue reading at The Gottman Institute.

If you are interested in learning more about the Gottman Method-contact me for more info on couples therapy in Washington, Oregon and Florida.

What to Do When Your Partner Won’t Take Your Advice

Why it hurts when your partner won’t take your advice and what to do about it.

LGBT couples therapy for when your partner won't take your advice.

People give advice to each other all the time in all kinds of relationships. Whether it’s with your closest romantic partner, a family member, or a co-worker, it’s likely that advice-giving is a frequent aspect of your many interactions. Your partner asks, “Should I wear this outfit today?” You suggest something else you consider more attractive. Much to your surprise, your partner responds, “That’s okay, I’ll stick with my original choice.” Inwardly, you feel annoyed, but you decide to let it go as it’s not that important. But what if this is a regular pattern? What if your partner never listens to you, on matters small or large?

Perhaps the person who ignores your advice isn’t as close to you as your romantic partner, but is an important individual in your life, nonetheless. You might have a relative who asks you for advice in planning a (socially distanced) family picnic. You spend several hours researching various potential sites, putting together a menu, and coming up with some activities. To your annoyance, however, the relative thanks you but then goes in a completely different set of directions. All of your efforts were a total waste of time.

When people ask for advice, but then don’t take it, you can be left feeling either irrelevant or, even worse, snubbed. If it’s the same person over and over who puts you in this position, you may start to ask yourself the classic question, “Is it me, or is it you?” Maybe your advice isn’t that bad but this person is just essentially “unadvisable.”

Continue reading at Psychology Today.

If you and your partner are looking for LGBT couples therapy, I am licensed in Florida, Washington and Oregon.

Telehealth Therapy Tips: Listing to Your Future Self

Oregon Runner Considers Therapy of Listening to Self

Oregon Runner Contemplates Therapy of Listening to Self

I went running today. I would not consider myself a runner yet I do run. I picked it up after adopting my son and I stopped going to the gym. I needed the exercise for my general well being and I feel better when I get my heart rate up. I stopped after a knee injury and then picked it up again once in the pandemic. So this go around I have been running for almost a year, so really I think I can call myself a runner.

How do we characterize ourselves? What labels do we own or push away. What do others put on us that we accept or reject. Sometimes these labels can be helpful and sometimes limiting.

I would not say I like running. Often times I choose to push myself to go because I really don’t want to. Pick the excuse: it is hard, it is rainy and cold, it is not a good time, maybe the rain will stop, I can do it later. And I learned years ago after going to gym classes regularly that I always felt better after. I used to have a chat with my future self when I didn’t want to go. And she always said, “You will feel better. Go. Talk to me after. Move it. Just go.” She gave me a gentle shove out. And I have learned to listen to her. And to be honest, I did sometimes have this conversation out loud. Now I just experience a deep down knowing to go now; if I wait too long  the inaction will become the decision of not going because there isn’t enough time.

Can we all check in with our future selves and see what may be something that would be beneficial in the future that we may not see or know now? How often do we listen to this? How often do we choose the easy instead of the hard, and choose not to push ourselves?

I do not run for speed. Or for distance. I do not compete yet. I do compete against myself. I push myself to go a little harder in the big picture. And I also listen to my body when it says it needs something easier. Better, faster, harder is not always better. I have good days and bad days; days when I need some slow gentle run and days when I need to push hard.

Can we give ourselves compassion and listen to what we need? And to be okay with what we need changing?

Just a few thoughts running through my head (no pun intended, yet a good one).

Take care, Caroline
If you or someone you know is interested in Oregon telehealth therapy, contact me to make an appointment.

Benefits of Personal or Mutual Couple Growth on a Marriage Relationship

Does Personal Growth Benefit a Relationship?

New research examines the potential impact of shared and unshared experiences.

  • Recent studies showed an association between experiences of personal growth on a given day and the passion individuals felt in their relationship.
  • The studies also add to the evidence that growth experiences shared by a couple can strengthen a relationship.
  • Chronically high individual growth, however, may be associated with lower feelings of passion in one’s relationship.

There’s some truth to the old proverb that “familiarity breeds contempt.” When we first enter into an intimate relationship, everything is exciting because everything is new. You’re getting to know your partner, and they’re getting to know you. On top of that, each of you is also changing as you adapt to the new relationship.

Over the years, we get to know our intimate partner better than any other person, and this is when the excitement in the relationship often starts to wane. What was once new and exciting can become old and boring.

But this doesn’t mean that romantic passion is destined to fizzle out over time. Plenty of research shows that couples can maintain excitement in their relationship by jointly engaging in novel experiences that promote personal growth. This could be taking a ballroom dance class, traveling, gardening—really any activity that the couple enjoys doing together and that entails some sort of novelty or challenge to overcome.

Continue reading at Psychology Today.

If you are interested in online marriage counseling, contact me or make an appointment.

Is Your Telehealth Therapist Licensed for Your State?

Therapy Licensing for Oregon, Washington & Florida

telehealth therapy licensing explainedYou may think that telehealth allows you to see any clinician anywhere. This makes logical sense. You are on video. Your therapist is on video. Why would it matter where you are located?

It does matter where you are located. Legally you need to be in the state where the therapist is licensed.

When I had an office where people came to see me in person, we were all located in the same place. It was never an issue. Easy peasy, it was not an issue. People came in or cancelled.  We didn’t typically just switch venues to video or phone because of a cancellation.

Telehealth changes everything because you and the therapist can be located anywhere. Yet legally, your therapist needs to be licensed in the state where you are in when you are having the session. I will state psychologists may be able to cross state lines. Other types of mental health practitioners are trying to gain access to be able to cross state lines with the change to video sessions. That is not yet the case.

As an LCSW, I am licensed in Oregon and Washington State. I am also able to practice in Florida. Some states have an easier system to be able to get a temporary license or to get permission to provide therapy to people in their state. Other states require you to go through more paperwork as if you were getting licensed.

This is something to consider when thinking about seeing a clinician.

Take care, Caroline

If you have more questions about Oregon, Washington or Florida state therapy licensing, contact me or make an appointment.

Science of Romance & Couples Counseling

The Kissing Brain: Investigating the Neuroscience of Romantic Couples

The kissing brain couples counseling.

New study uses mobile EEG to investigate real-life emotions in romantic couples.

Think about the last situation in which you experienced an intense positive emotion.

Did it involve another person?

The answer to this question is highly likely to be “Yes.” While negative emotions like sadness are often experienced when we are lonely, positive emotions often (but not always) occur while we interact with other people, like family, friends, or romantic partners. Despite this, neuroscientific studies aimed at investigating human emotions often involve people sitting in a laboratory alone while looking at pictures of emotional scenes. While this highly controlled environment has several benefits when conducting psychological experiments, it has one big drawback: Pretty much anyone can tell that looking at a picture of two people kissing is not the same as passionately kissing another person yourself.

Continue reading at Psychology Today.

If you and your partner need help, I offer online couples counseling for Oregon clients. Contact me and find out how I can help.

Seasonal Winter Mood Therapy

The Neuroscience of Springtime Bliss & Wintertime Doldrums

Seasonal rhythms may affect our mood via mu-opioid receptor (MOR) availability.

“We were shining our light into the days of blooming wonder. On and on and on, we kept singing our song. It’s easy to describe leaves in the autumn. And it’s oh so easy in the spring. But down through January and February, it’s a very different thing. On and on and on, through the winter of our discontent. When the wind blows up your collar and the ears are frostbitten, too.”
—from “A Sense of Wonder” by Van Morrison

Seasonal Affective Disorder’s acronym, SAD, sums up how many of us in the Northern Hemisphere feel during this time of year—when the days tend to be shorter and colder. February is one of Americans’ least favorite months, Gallup Polls have found.

Long before SAD was included in the DSM-IV in 1994, William Shakespeare summed up the seasonal pattern of recurrent depressive symptoms that usually begin in late autumn and continue through early spring in the opening line of William III: “Now is the winter of our discontent.”

In 1985, this age-old phrase was repurposed by Van Morrison in “Sense of Wonder” to juxtapose how the song’s protagonist feels in January and February compared to the spring and summer months. The Winter of Our Discontent is also the title of John Steinbeck’s final novel, which has been described as a “tale of spiritual crisis.”

When it comes to seasonal variations of mood, humans since de temps immémorial seem to grow increasingly happy and contented as the days get warmer and longer, which happens in opposite months for those living in Northern vs. Southern Hemispheres. (December to February is summer in Australia, for example.) Literally and figuratively, the transition from spring to summer is generally considered a hopeful and regenerative time of growth or rebirth.

Continue reading at Psychology Today.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact me about telehealth Therapy in Oregon.