About Sue Diamond

Sue Diamond, M.A., is the Founder and Clinical Director of the Good Life Therapy Centre which focuses on helping couples and individuals create loving relationships in the aftermath of addiction and relationship trauma.
If you would like help, please call our office to set up a time to meet with one of our outstanding therapists @ 604-682-1484 or Click Here to Contact Us.

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Do You Have the Roadmap for Being an Exceptional Couples Therapist?

If not, I’d like to share some tips with you today.  But first, let me tell you a little about my journey.

I used to think that my many years in practice seeing individuals had provided me with the tools for couples therapy, but I was wrong. I was a seasoned therapist, treating individuals with big problems – like addiction, early childhood abuse, neglect, or even war trauma.  Yet, if you put two people in a room with me who had ‘lost the love’ they once had together, I did not know how to manage the reactivity or move them towards a happier relationship.

Yet now I’m seeing couples, many of whom are on the brink of separation or divorce – with big problems like infidelity, active addiction or chronic hostility and I’m handling them with care, compassion and most importantly, confidence.  I went from being primarily an individual therapist, to seeing mostly couples. On top of that –  I have a full wait list of people who want to see if they can create something together that they are longing for.

So how did I get from not knowing anything to being so confident and having that translate into real change with couples – and a full practice?

The Road Map

Simply put – with sound theory and good guidance. I began learning the Bader-Pearson Developmental Model of couples therapy.  For nearly a decade now I have been studying and integrating this comprehensive road map to creating real and permanent change with couples. I love the approach so much that I’ve been training therapists in this Model for the last 5 years – and we’re building a community – a community of like-minded, exceptional couples therapists.

This roadmap is a framework for treatment that is composed of three equally important overlapping components.

  1. The Stages of Couples Development and integration of attachment styles.
  2. Differentiation as the key feature in creating a secure & lasting bond.
  3. The practical use of the latest neuroscientific research to promote both autonomy and connectedness.

This expansive template will give you a clear way to assess your couple, and reduce the number of times you ask yourself: “What do I do now?” or, “Where is this couple stuck?”

It will reduce the anxiety you feel with difficult couples by recognizing, “I can handle this – I’m one step ahead.”

Stages of Couple Development

Today I’ll share the first aspect of this 3-part model – along with some tips on how to intervene with your couples. There are 6 Stages of Couples Development in the Bader-Pearson Model. I’m going to focus here on the first few stages as that is where most couples get stuck.

Symbiosis

The first stage of ‘falling love’ is commonly known as the honeymoon period, where partners focus on what they have in common and ignore or overlook things that irritate them. It’s a state of “temporary psychosis,” fuelled by internal ‘feel good’ neurochemicals.  It is an important stage in laying a strong foundation of love and bonding as a couple. This stage is known as ‘symbiosis’ because of the enmeshed nature of the two “I’s” forming a “we.” Symbiotic statements from partners include: “We love everything about each other” or “He completes me.”

Failed Differentiation

But this stage doesn’t last! Between the first and second year couples will move into the next stage – ‘differentiation.’ Many of the couples that come into therapy are stuck here and are unable to successfully differentiate. It’s a like a child who can crawl but is not able to get up and walk. It’s a painful place that many partners endure for many years. I’ve seen couples who have been married 30+ years and have never made it past the first stage. According to Bader-Pearson, it’s known as “the dark side of the honeymoon.”   By the time we see them in our offices, these couples will have well entrenched patterns of either fighting or avoiding that challenge even the best trained couples therapists.  At this stage partners will say: “If he really loved me, he’d give me what I want without me having to ask,” or “We have nothing in common so I don’t know why we’re together.”

Attachment Styles

To make matters worse, when a partner has an anxious-clingy insecure attachment, he will often put up with a lot of bad behaviour from his partner and collapse too easily rather than stand up for himself.  This helps him defend against the mounting anxiety at the thought of separation.  If a partner has an anxious-angry insecure attachment style, she will get mad at every little thing, especially when she wants nurturing.  If a partner has an avoidant insecure attachment style, he will not make the effort necessary to demonstrate the ongoing importance of their close bond and of feeling loved.  He will have no internal template for that.

Your Transformation 

These factors can feel like a tornado ripping through your office or like the tense calm before a big storm, if you are unprepared and lack the skills to manage and direct couples towards healthier interactions. That’s what I’m hoping I can help you with. I want you to be successful in your pursuits with couples. I want you to know exactly what to do to ease a lot of unwanted suffering for them and unnecessary anxiety for you –  and generate more income at the same time.

If I can do it, so can you!

3 Tips for Interrupting Symbiosis

  1. If you suspect a partner is stuck in symbiosis, reassure him or her that feeling disillusioned with their partner is normal and is signaling them to move on to the next stage of development. By helping them own their disappointment at the loss of the fantasy partner, you are assisting them in building emotional muscle.
  2. Reframe their differences as a source for being curious rather than furious.  Help them recognize that it is the intolerance of differences that lead to problems, and that they can begin to value what each person is bringing to their lives that is unique.
  3. Help them begin to get comfortable with the tension necessary for growth – without allowing either nastiness or stonewalling.  Too often partners react badly to the tension by either attacking or withdrawing. By doing so they never get know and express themselves clearly, nor do they build the resilience necessary to form a long-term secure bond.

A Mission of Love

Let’s face it, with the divorce rate hovering around 50%, I believe that whatever we can do to lessen unnecessary separations is a worthy pursuit. I personally want to do whatever I can to bring more love into people’s lives. It’s what we all want.  With effective couples interventions, I believe I’m leading a group of therapists who are changing the world, one couple at a time.  I hope you’ll join us one day. So many therapists that have trained in this model continue to meet in my advanced group year after year.  Many have been trained in other couple therapy models but say that something seemed to be missing. They have found that the Developmental Model, with its comprehensive scope, fills in the gaps and enhances their work considerably.

In my next blog I will explore the concept of differentiation, and how you can begin to push for it in your sessions with couples.  Then I will follow up with a 3rd blog on how to integrate neuroscience into your work with couples.

I hope you have found this helpful and I will be back with part 2 in the next week.

The 4 Agreements for Peace of Mind

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Going on Retreat

At the end of August each year I attend a 2-week meditation retreat. This is an important time for me to exit from my busy life and look inward and upward for direction in my life.  There is a large group of us who congregate at these events and we generally like each other’s company a lot.  We have time to socialize in the morning over coffee (@ 5:30 am) prior to practice, and we work together during the daytime breaks, creating a sense of community and personal usefulness for being of service.

But the most important part takes place during the 3 meditation sessions each day, which can last from 2 – 5 hours in length. As we are guided by our Guru to connect more and more with the power, peace and knowledge that exists within, all sorts of insights, memories, insecurities and competencies are revealed. Studying ancient Eastern spirituality gives a refreshing perspective that can provide a rudder and a search light in life.  It allows each of us to recognize we are much more than our physical self or our so-called material or professional success. This opens up new ways of being in the world that for me, are much more meaningful.

Life comes with a healthy dose of suffering for most of us. Survival often means putting up our guards and moving on, never really resolving or making peace with the hurt and/or anger. During meditation I get an uninterrupted opportunity to pull down the zipper on my defenses and begin to embrace parts of myself that are normally drowned out by the noise of everyday life.

heart-864114_1920Taking Time to Look Within

Growing up I learned not think too highly of myself because it was considered arrogant – “full of myself”.  I learned that any real success came with a price tag – the danger of losing those who could not or would not dare to risk, like I was willing to. The benefit of looking within is the opportunity to heal old messages that can damage self esteem and cripple our significant relationships.  I had one such message surface, totally unexpectedly one day.

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-6-43-12-pmHere’s what happened.  My mind began to wander onto a presentation I was planning for my Master Mentoring group, based on something I was “proud” of.  I knew what I wanted to do and I was letting myself play with some ideas about it. Then, suddenly – like a great white shark torpedoing out of the depths of the darkness – came this immense sorrow. I was crying as I “remembered” how embarrassed I was made to feel for being “too big for my britches”.  As hard as it is to make sense of, it was not ok to be too happy, too smart or too proud of my accomplishments.  An environment where achieving 98% on a test was not enough, leaves little room for feeling good about one’s self or for building on one’s success. I know I’m not alone when I talk about the shaming I endured for wanting more from life. I’ve talked to so many others who have had similar experiences to this.

 

Transforming Pain

I embraced this ‘feeling memory’ that surfaced and created a loving acceptance that despite all the years of therapy I have done, there was still residual pain around this issue. Transforming pain begins with the conscious awareness that it exists.  Only then can we pledge to disentangle the pain of the past from the life we chose in the present.  Our present can be full of success and proud and grateful moments – only if we can allow it. We can only allow it if we are not running on old limiting beliefs about our worthiness.

The greatest gift we get from creating time and space to go inward is the ability to access the wisdom that is already there – to “know” that we really do have everything we are seeking externally, within ourselves. That’s why I love “The 4 Agreements” – that small but powerful book written by Don Miguel Ruiz.  He has summed up how to keep our focus on what matters – bringing our best qualities forward. By developing this awareness, we can live a good life based on sound principles. 

I think when Ruiz wrote his book, he was offering us a recipe for accessing the best of ourselves that is lying dormant within.

The 4 Agreements are:51mfvdolekl

  1. Be impeccable with you word.  This means to speak truthfully but also do so in a way that does not hurt others.
  2. Don’t take anything personally. This means that you begin to separate yourself out from what others say and do and recognize that it is a projection of their inner world.  As Ruiz says, “when you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
  3. Don’t make assumptions. This means that we have to develop a curiosity about others that allows us to ask good questions and get to know someone without believing that we can or should know. If you think about, the only way you would know is by ‘assuming’ the other was ‘just like you’ as you are your only point of reference.
  4. Always do your best. This means you accept that on any given day all you can and must ask of yourself is to show up and make an effort. It doesn’t mean you are always going to be “on” and in fact, the real test comes when you can allow the flow of energy within to guide you.  Some days you may have tons of energy and others very little. In the former, you get a lot done, in the latter, you learn to take time to rest. This is what it means to be your best.

 

Putting it in Practice

If this is important to you, see if you can make some time and space in your busy life to challenge yourself to apply one of the 4 agreements each day.  Put your focus on this task without being hard on yourself in any way, or setting your expectations too high. Know that if you begin to bring awareness to how you are being more of who you aspire to be; this is who you will become. Feel free to leave a comment letting us know about your success. 

Next time, I’ll send out a follow up that focuses on how we can use the 4 agreements in our relationships.

Until then, I wish all the best in you from the best in me,

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Did You Know…Chronic Fatigue, Frequent Confusion and High Anxiety Can Be A Direct Result of Unresolved Trauma?

 According to healthline.com,

 ‘A traumatic event is an incident that causes physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological harm. The person experiencing the distressing event may feel threatened, anxious, or frightened as a result. In some cases, they may not know how to respond, or may be in denial about the effect such an event has had.’

When most of us hear the word trauma, we may assume it is caused by dramatic life events such as a car accident, war, sudden death, addiction, physical abuse. While most of this is true, trauma can also be caused by subtle events seeming so insignificant, we may be tempted to deny their effect on us, or we simply may not even be aware how they’ve affected us.

Regardless of what events caused it, living with unresolved trauma is not benign. Chronic trauma -wether we are aware of it or not- interferes with our automatic responses to potential threats. These reactions are most often known as the three F’s, or our fight/flight/freeze instincts.

Problems with processing the fight, flight and freeze responses is sometimes compared to a vehicle with the accelerator fully engaged, while also having the brakes fully engaged. Obviously, a vehicle would not hold up for very long under that amount stress and conflicting forces.

This is also true for the human body. Confusion and the inability to properly process traumatic situations cause extreme stress. If this continues for prolonged periods, eventually even the smallest amount of stress will become too difficult to handle. Common issues like being caught in heavy traffic or even small adjustments needed in your daily routine, will become overwhelming and the stress levels will feel severe.

How Do I Know If I Need Trauma Therapy?

You may need trauma therapy services if:

  • – You seem to repeat the same pattern of becoming involved with traumatic relationships and situations
  • – You feel exhausted and have a difficult time relaxing or getting rest
  • – You experience frequent periods of depression and have feelings of constant anxiety without any relief
  • – You use substances for self-medication and have dependency issues with alcohol, drugs, a shopping addiction, sexual addictions or other extreme behaviour
  • – You experience constant pain, chronic exhaustion, insomnia or other physical issues as a result of difficulties with processing trauma

The good news is, the brain is a very powerful organ, and possesses the ability to re-organize itself to new thoughts, patterns and neuro-pathways. With the help of trauma therapy, you can overcome trauma by learning new skills.

You can begin to feel more complete and whole by both making sense of your experience while working out the stress caught in your body memory. This will “quench” the kindled nervous system. That means you can slowly and effectively reduce the amount of stress you are carrying inside and replace it with a sense of your own resiliency (inner strength).

If you or someone you know or love is struggling with addiction, trauma or relationship problems don’t hesitate to contact us.  We are here to help you and your loved ones recover and find inner peace.

Please feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

7

 

3 Steps Towards An Addiction Free Life

 

Despite its negative consequences, most people initially start to use drugs and/or alcohol to relax or to escape a painful reality, but it can quickly turn into an addiction that changes the personality and makes the struggle to cope with real problems harder.

Those who have lived with it, know that addiction is the farthest thing from being free; it pulls you in and makes you believe that you can’t live without certain things. The good news is, freedom from these addicting substances/behaviours that are taking over your life and separating you from loved ones IS possible.

Overcoming addiction can seem like a daunting task, but these steps can help you start working toward an alcohol-free or drug-free life today:

1. Make a Plan

Being inconsistent about your plans to quit drinking alcohol or taking drugs or thinking you can somehow manage it when you cannot will only make it more difficult to stop. Make a decision to get clean, set a date, and develop a plan. Many believe that “hitting bottom” is a spontaneous event but that is not necessarily true.  Most addicts/alcoholics have thought a lot about stopping but can’t control the urges to continue their use.  Surrendering to the fact that you are beat – and knowing that it’s not your fault, can turn your thoughts about stopping into a positive reality. Preparing to quit within the next couple of weeks enables you to be physically, mentally, and emotionally ready for the big changes.

2. Write Down Everything

Write down your commitment to quitting and cite solid reasons that are more important than taking the substances you are addicted to. Make a list of all the positive changes that will take place in your life as well as all the damaging effects of your addiction. This will give you a clearer picture of how things will improve once you’ve removed your bad habits. Taking time to explore deeply the benefits for you and your loved ones of being free from your addiction can increase your motivation to strive to be your best self.  Weighing that against the harsh reality of continuing down the path of destruction (addiction always gets worse – never better), can make your choice much clearer.

Having a list will also help explain your thoughts and feelings once you’ve sought addiction counselling.  Never try to do this alone – it will set you up for failure.  The more you surround yourself with understanding people, some of whom have been there themselves, the more likely you are to succeed. They will become your ‘safety net’ to catch you if you stumble and fall.

3. Find Support

Finding professional and personal support can make a big difference in your fight against addiction. Having a consistent support system will keep you encouraged and motivated. Therapists that provide addiction counselling in Vancouver, such as The Good Life Therapy Centre, can provide a welcoming environment where you can explore your addiction triggers, determine your goals for recovery and engage in a process to continuously decrease your addictive habit. 

You will be shown how to establish your own self-care plan, clearing your home of addictive substances and recognizing and avoiding enablers. In the end, only you can free yourself from addiction so addiction counselling is a collaborative process that involves you every step of the way.

As you stabilize in your recovery, you can work through any underlying traumas and/or losses that make you vulnerable to relapse, thereby strengthening your foundation for the future.  And lastly, relationship counselling will provide security to your marriage throughout the process of recovery and help you create and acquire the love you are longing for with your partner.

If you or someone you know or love is struggling with addiction, trauma or relationship problems don’t hesitate to contact us.  We are here for you.

Please feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Wishing you all the best,

7

Source: “12 Ways to Beat Addiction”, Psychcentral.com

Did You Know… When It Comes To Couples Therapy, Timing Matters – Part 2

 

On our last post, we touched on the fact many couples wait until after they are married or until their relationship is falling apart to seek help. In fact, according to Dr. John Gottman, many couples wait an average of six years of being unhappy before they seek help.

Marriage counselling can be an asset to most couples, especially very early on in your relationship.

For those wondering if they should be seeking help, but are not ready to reach out to a professional yet, we recommended spending time asking each other some important questions from Eleanor Standford’s ’13 Questions To Ask Before Getting Married’ (as published in The New York Times on March 24, 2016).

We hope you enjoyed asking each other the first three questions and finding more about each other.

And now, here are the last 10: 

24Marriage-Questions-slide-2VOM-slide

4. How important is religion? How will we celebrate religious holidays, if at all?

If two people come from different religious backgrounds, is each going to pursue his or her own religious affiliation? Dr. Scuka has worked with couples on encouraging honest discussion around this issue as the executive director of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement. What is more, spouses are especially likely to experience conflict over religious traditions when children are added to the mix, according to Dr. Wilcox. If the couple decide to have children, they must ask how thechildren’s religious education will be handled. It is better to have a plan, he said.

 

24Marriage-Questions-slide-BKJD-slide 5. Is my debt your debt? Would you be willing to bail me out?

It’s important to know how your partner feels about financial self-sufficiency and whether he or she expects you to keep your resources separate, said Frederick Hertz, a divorce lawyer. Disclosing debts is very important. Equally, if there is a serious discrepancy between your incomeand your partner’s, Dr. Scuka recommended creating a basic budget according to proportional incomes. Many couples fail to discuss sharing finances, though it is crucial, he said.

 

24Marriage-Questions-slide-FDIR-slide 6. What’s the most you would be willing to spend on a car, a couch, shoes?

Couples should make sure they are on the same page in terms of financial caution or recklessness. Buying a car is a great indicator, according to Mr. Hertz. Couples can also frame this question around what they spend reckless amounts of money on, he said.

 

24Marriage-Questions-slide-9X0J-slide 7. Can you deal with my doing things without you?

Going into marriage, many people hope to keep their autonomy in certain areas of their life at the same time they are building a partnership with their spouse, according to Seth Eisenberg, the president of Pairs (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills). This means they may be unwilling to share hobbies or friends, and this can lead to tension and feelings of rejection if it isn’t discussed. Couples may also have different expectations as to what “privacy” means, added Dr. Klein, and that should be discussed, too. Dr. Wilcox suggested asking your partner when he or shemost needs to be alone.

 

24Marriage-Questions-slide-P39A-slide8. Do welike each other’s parents?

As long as you and your partner present a united front, having a bad relationship with your in-laws can be manageable, Dr. Scuka said. But if a spouse is not willing to address the issue with his or her parents, it can bode very poorly for the long-term health of the relationship, he said. At the same time, Dr. Pearson said, considering the strengths and weaknesses of your parents can illuminate future patterns of attachment or distancing in your own relationship.

 

24Marriage-Questions-slide-9S4X-slide 9. How important is sex to you?

Couples today expect to remain sexually excited by their spouse, anexpectation that did not exist in the past, according to Mr. Eisenberg. A healthy relationship will include discussion of what partners enjoy about sex as well as how often they expect to have it, Dr. Klein said. If people are looking to experience different things through sex — pleasure versus feeling young, for example — some negotiation may be required to ensure both partners remain satisfied.

 

24Marriage-Questions-slide-QB21-slide 10. How far should we take flirting with other people? Is watching pornography O.K.?

Dr. Klein said couples should discuss their attitudes about pornography,flirting and expectations for sexual exclusivity. A couple’s agreement on behavior in this area can, and most likely will, change down the line, he said, but it is good to set the tone early on so both partners are comfortable discussing it. Ideally, sexual exclusivity should be talked about in the same way as other day-to-day concerns, so that problems can be dealt withbefore a partner becomes angry, he said. Dr. Pearson suggested asking your partner outright for his or her views on pornography. Couples are often too scared to ask about this early in the relationship, but he has frequently seen it become a point of tension down the line, he said.

 

24Marriage-Questions-slide-W10I-slide11. Do you know all the ways I say “I love you”?

Gary Chapman’s 1992 book, “The 5 Love Languages,” introduced this means of categorizing expressions of love to strengthen a marriage. Ms. Martinez hands her premarriage clients a list of the five love languages: affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. She asks them to mark their primary and secondary languages and what they think is their partner’s, and discuss them. Mr. Eisenberg said that a couple needs to work out how to nurture the relationship, in a way specific to them.

 

24Marriage-Questions-slide-0Y0K-slide 12. What do you admire about me, and what are your pet peeves?

Can you imagine the challenges ever outweighing the admiration? If so, what would you do? Anne Klaeysen, a leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, said that couples rarely consider that second question. Ideally, marriage is a life commitment, she said, and it’s not enough to just “click together,” as many couples describe their relationship. A marriage must go deeper than that original “click.”

24Marriage-Questions-slide-I769-slide

13. How do you see us 10 years from now?

Keeping the answer to this question in mind can help a couple deal with current conflict as they work toward their ultimate relationship goals, according to Mr. Eisenberg.

Dr. Wilcox said this discussion could also be an opportunity to raise the question of whether each partner will consider divorce if the relationship deteriorates, or whether they expect marriage to be for life, come what may.

Let us know what you discover after discussing the last questions. We look forward to know what you think!

As always, if you or anyone you know is struggling in their relationship and are ready to take action towards transforming pain and discomfort into joyful curiosity, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here to help.

Wishing you all the best,

7

References: https://www.gottman.com/
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/03/23/fashion/weddings/marriage-questions.html?_r=0

Illustrations:
Julia Rottman for The New York Times