Couples Therapy as a First Resort

Couples often hurt…they have arguments that seem to last forever…maybe each argument reverts back to those old hurts that occurred months or even years ago. Many couples can relate to these arguments that never end and never resolve anything. Actually, these types of arguments usually just make the couple grow further and further apart.

Should you only change the oil in your car when the engine is about to lock up? Should you only go to the dentist when you fear you are about to get dentures? Why is it that couples often wait until they are on the brink of divorce to come to couples counseling? Don’t get me wrong, its great that there are many couples out there seeking help. It makes life so much harder on the couple (as well as the therapist) when the couple wants to address years of arguing and fighting in just a few sessions.

Couples really need to think about entering counseling as more of a preventative measure or “tune up,” instead of using it as a last resort. The cost of couples therapy is not cheap and it continues to get more and more expensive when it is used as the very last resort. My motivation to write this article is to help couples save time, money, and most importantly, heartache. Actually, if couples came to therapy sooner, I would have less business because visits would be much shorter, but my job would be much easier! 🙂

Am I Normal?

Given that people come to see me because there is something not quite right in their life (or so they think), I see a lot of people asking if they are “normal.” This is such an interesting question. Actually, I do not claim to know the definition of “normal” and I don’t think anyone does.

Most of us want to fit in. However, we all do things that are considered to be “abnormal.” So, I suppose that none of us are considered “normal,” for that matter. I certainly don’t consider myself “normal!”

Since everyone has his or her quirks, this is really a fantastic thing. Could you imagine if everyone was exactly the same? It would be a rather boring place and life’s goal post would be mighty crowded. For those who are really focused on trying to figure out if they are “normal” or how to be “normal,” I ask why this is so important to them. The answer to this question usually identifies the real struggle the person is having.

My take on human behavior is this: If your behavior is causing a problem, then it is a problem. If your behavior is different from many you know, but there is no obvious problem, then who cares? As a result of our society being so focused on fitting in, we often lose our individuality. This is a mighty sad thing. Just think how great diversity is. Dr. Alfred Kinsey, who many believe is the first person to scientifically study sex, emphasized how diversity is so important to every organism. He embraced the differences in human beings and did his best to encourage others to respect individual differences.

The next time you ask yourself if you are “normal” or if you should be “normal” or how you can be “normal,” Stop It! What good is “normal?” If you are enjoying yourself and not hurting anyone, then be who you are. Isn’t life much better when you are being yourself, instead of trying to just be like everyone else?

Depression and Trucking

A lot of truckers really love their jobs and never think depression is a hazard of the job. However, there are quite a few truckers out there who get stuck in their daily routine and become more and more unhappy. The longer they are on the road, the less interaction they have with their family and friends.

After a while, the lack of contact leaves the driver feeling empty and isolated. The more empty and isolated a person is, the easier it is to cut off contact with the outside world. I’m sure you can see how depression causes isolation and more isolation causes more depression.

What is depression?

Remember, it is human to have feelings of sadness from time to time. Depression is when you have feelings of sadness and it interferes with something—job, family, not having enough energy to function, or being tired all the time, just to name a few. Since depression often runs in families, pay close attention to your family history if you find yourself feeling depressed.

What can be done about depression?

Many people instantly think of medication when they think of depression. Depending on the situation, an antidepressant may be appropriate. However, I want people to realize that by changing thoughts and behaviors, depression can often be reduced or eliminated. If a person often thinks negative thoughts, surrounds themselves with negative people, or isolates themselves, it is much easier to become depressed. Many people don’t realize that excessive drinking (more than 3 drinks per day) or other drug use often leads to depression or worsens existing depression.

These behaviors cause a person to be more depressed:

  • Isolation
  • Focusing on negatives
  • Considering self disabled
  • Focusing on anger
  • Substance abuse

These behaviors will help you to feel better:

  • Exercise
  • Hobbies
  • Talking with someone you trust about stress, depression, and other feelings
  • Journaling
  • Interacting with friends, family and other drivers
  • Taking a vacation!


The ultimate consequence of depression is suicide. Usually, people commit or attempt suicide when they feel there is no hope of stopping the pain of depression or intense sadness. If someone reaches out to you in order to discuss their suicidal feelings, please take their concern seriously and talk with them. They usually need more of a listening ear, than a person to “fix” the problem. Listening is the best thing you can do. If you feel they are at risk of hurting themselves that day, see that they go to the nearest emergency room so they can get intensive services. If the suicidal person refuses help and you believe they are going to hurt themselves, call 9-1-1, so the police may help them get to the emergency room.

If you are suicidal and you are not willing to reach out to someone or go to the emergency room, these hotlines are available:

National Suicide Hotline (United States) at 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK. Additional phone numbers can be located at

If you have feelings of depression, sadness, or have some thoughts of hurting yourself, therapy often helps. Call a therapist or mental health center nearest you for an assessment. Once you are assessed, talk with your therapist to see if a referral for medication will be helpful.

What Gets You Motivated?

What do you have to look forward to? Where does your motivation come from? Many people get caught in the struggle to work, raise a family, and/or just simply survive.

I urge you to make a list of three goals that you want to accomplish by the end of this month and three more goals to accomplish within six months. Put these goals next to your bed so you see them when you wake up each morning. Next, detail how you will accomplish these goals and keep your family/friends updated on your progress. By writing your goals down, reviewing them daily, and sharing your goals with others, you are much more like to accomplish them!

Remember…there is much more to life than just surviving!

Anger as Energy

Anger is energy. Are you going to use your anger productively or destructively? You can do a lot of positive things with your anger…stand up for yourself, challenge unfair laws, or express your anger with a person/situation in a reasonable manner.

Do Disrespectful People Make You Angry?

The feeling of being disrespected is one of those things that often enrages people. Who has any tolerance for being disrespected? I hope no one does, actually. Willingly subjecting yourself to disrespectful people can cause plenty of problems, such as poor self esteem and bottled up anger.

However, jumping to conclusions that you are being disrespected (when you are not) can cause plenty more problems.

Here is my question: What does it mean to be disrespected? Many people have a variety of answers for this one. Therefore, I do not think there is any one consensus on this definition. It is a feeling that people get and they know it when they see it—at least that’s what they think. Since this feeling is rather subjective, I want to point out the great possibility that its the person’s thinking that is causing them to feel disrespected. This is often the case when the other person means no disrespect. Therefore, I urge everyone to step back and ask why they are having these feelings.

A person often feels disrespected when, for example, their child does not do as they are told. However, does the child say, “I want to disrespect my parent by not doing as I am told.”? I really doubt that. The problem here is the parent views the behavior as “disrespectful,” instead of seeing that there may be many reasons the child does not do as he/she is told (because they simply don’t want to do it, they have ADHD, they have some strong negative feeling and so on).

Another person might feel disrespected when she is cut- off in traffic. She might say, “I can’t believe how inconsiderate that idiot is!” This kind of thinking starts road rage incidents everyday. However, if she were to take a step back and think about the situation, there is a fair chance that he did not see her because of a blind spot in the mirror, or he was distracted by his young child. Yes, it is also possible that he cut her off on purpose, but this is rarely the case.

The number of explanations for “disrespectful” behaviors are numerous. everyone to look at the actions behind these behaviors. A lot of people behave in a “disrespectful” manner because they are scared, they are trying to look tough to cover insecurities, they are blind to their own behavior, or they are simply angry in general.

If you immediately tell yourself that you are being disrespected when a person does not behave the way you want them to, remind yourself that you are jumping to conclusions. Think about the alternative reasons the person is acting this way. Few people make it a goal to disrespect others.

Here are some quick one-liners that a person can ask themselves in order to reduce anger:

  • Will (whatever makes me angry) matter one year from now? Will it matter one week from now?
  • What right do I have that is being violated?
  • How would the average person respond to this?
  • How is getting angry about this really going to change anything?
  • Other than anger, what else am I feeling?
  • What belief do I have that is making me angry? Is that belief reasonable.
  • What is really causing this person to behave in a matter that makes me angry?

Am I Trying Too Hard?

Do this technique to stop depression. Do that technique to stop your panic attacks. Try this approach to calm your mind. Not only does there seem to be exercises to address all issues known to humanity, but there are several experts who write self help books to tell you what you are doing wrong.

Think about this. Maybe you are trying too hard. Maybe you are actually sabotaging yourself because you are trying so hard to “beat” the problem. The more you focus on that problem, the more you will experience it.

I urge my clients to “roll” with the problem they may be experiencing. Maybe say, “I have this problem and I’m going to live with it—its not the end of the world. Its not life threatening. What’s the worst that can happen.” No, you are not giving in. You are allowing the problem to have less weight. Now, it is more likely it will fade to the background because you are focused on better things in your life.

Here are a few things you can say to yourself to address anxiety. They are taken from REBT:

  • My anxiety is bad, but I’m not bad.
  • I don’t always have to feel comfortable, and it isn’t awful when I don’t.
  • I can bear—and bear with—anxiety: it won’t kill me.
  • It is not necessary to be in perfect control of my anxious moments. To demand that I be in control only multiplies my symptoms.
  • Others are not required to treat me with kid gloves when I feel uncomfortable.

Research ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) for more ideas.