Relationship Counseling Center of MD

About Relationship Counseling Center of MD

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Relationship Counseling Center of MD has created 68 blog entries.

New Year, New Me: Navigating Family Boundaries

By Wilson A. Llerena, LGMFT

January 1st, 2021

Well… that was an interesting year. If you’re like me, you probably had high expectations for yourself on January 1st of 2020. What this pandemic has done for most of us is provide a different perspective on our lives, as well as make room to re-evaluate our relationships in life. Some of us may have found that our family members have become a little too involved in our personal lives. As we hope the start of 2021 will be better than 2020, now may be a good time to set reasonable expectations and boundaries with those family members who care a lot about us.

Go to therapy. When family conflict arises, it can be difficult to address your concerns out of  fear of not being heard. What can be more frustrating is confiding in another family member about your struggles and having your feelings invalidated or dismissed. This happens quite often because of the nature of your relationship with them as well as their familiarity with your personality. They are not fully aware of the amount of growth and change you may have made or are currently making. Having a non-judgmental third party like a therapist can be incredibly beneficial when trying to process family conflict and establish boundaries in your relationships. A therapist will not only provide a space to have your feelings validated but can also help you to prepare and cope with difficult family conversations and reactions.

It’s all about you. I can’t be a good therapist if I don’t get my first cup of coffee in the morning. I can’t bring my best self to the room if I don’t take care of myself first. To bring your best self to all of your relationships, your self-care needs to be a priority. Take some time to explore the things that bring you joy. Finding a way to introduce that joy weekly in a structured way will be incredibly beneficial to your overall stress level. With family, tell yourself it’s okay to take breaks when you’ve had too much family time. Maybe let that phone call go to voicemail. Schedule alone time in which you can focus on your own joy. If you’re not bringing your best self to your family, you put yourself at risk of damaging those relationships. We all need a break sometimes.

Acknowledge and be soft. When family members consistently cross boundaries, they usually don’t recognize their behavior as inappropriate. They may justify it by saying, “I’m just trying to help.” This is valid. Your family members care about you and want to see you happy. This is where you should start. Acknowledge that your family member cares about you and recognize that they have good intentions. Then, follow through with setting your boundary by expressing a vulnerable emotion such as overwhelm, embarrassment or hurt. There are some key things to be aware of. Prepare them by saying “I need to talk to you about something”, so that you don’t catch them off-guard. Avoid using “but” when setting the boundary because your family member will most likely tune you out. Use “we” language instead of “you” language. This helps to avoid defensiveness and blaming. These conversations are always best to have privately to avoid embarrassing them in front of other family members or increasing tension. Remember that deep down, your family loves you and wants the best for you too. Sometimes they just do not know how to express that in a way that also respects your individuality and your boundaries.



2021-01-04T13:28:44-05:00January 4th, 2021|

What Are Holidays in 2020?

by Jasmine Mauss, LGMFT

December 1st 2020

As the holidays approach we are presented with a set of questions and challenges that may seem unfathomable. Our world has been turned upside down by the fear and burden of a long-lasting, global pandemic. What is holiday cheer during the times of COVID-19? How do we balance family tradition with safety and consideration? Now more than ever, it will be important to go into the next few months with mindfulness and care. While many things are out of our control, we still have the ability to shift our focus into reflection and gratitude. Set an intention to preserve joy and holiday magic during these times!

Manage your Expectations – This year will be different, and that’s that. It is easy to sit in a space where we are focused on things that will NOT be happening this year. No family gatherings, no getaway vacations, no catching up with friends at our local hot spots? Frequenting with our favorite people and places may seem elusive at this time. Try to look at what is right in front of you and find appreciation for the things that are within reach. Perhaps it is just you and your partner this year! Lean into that relationship and learn more about him or her. Maybe it is just you this year. Finish that book that’s on your shelf or learn a new recipe. Practice being present in every moment. Take your focus away from the deficits of this year and tune in to the abundance right in front of you.

Cultivate Creativity – Maybe it is time to think of some new traditions and rituals that can be incorporated into your holiday season! There is something habitual about the holidays. We fall into the flow of what is expected and required of us. And then oftentimes, we repeat those traditions each year. Change it up! What do YOU want to do with your time? We have a unique opportunity to strip ourselves of certain obligations, and have a unique sense of agency with what we can do with our own time. Whether it is being alone or with an accessible family member, spend time creating one new tradition or ritual for this year. For example, send anonymous care packages to family members and hop on Zoom to play a game of Clue to see who sent what!

Sit in Stillness – It is perfectly okay to be still, especially this year. If you do anything during this time, take a second to pause and tune into your emotional needs. It has been  10 months since the start of this pandemic. Ten months of Zoom meetings, 10 months of forced isolation, and 10 months of global uncertainty. Don’t go into 2021 in full burnout mode, if you can help it. Pause, relax, and attend to yourself! Instead of planning your next year or scrambling to find a new year resolution, just identify five things that will make you feel happy in the next week. Set smaller goals, self-reflect quietly, and make recharging for 2021 your priority.

2020-12-02T12:20:13-05:00December 2nd, 2020|

Do You Have COVID-19 Fatigue?

by Meg Tenny, LCMFT

November 3rd 2020

2020 has been an interesting year. Many momentous things have occurred, resulting in a piling up of stressors. Have you settled into the “new normal” after nine months of dealing with COVID-19? Preliminary studies are showing that depression and anxiety are at an all-time high during the pandemic. Many families are facing difficult mental health challenges that worsen as we experience a resurgence of the pandemic, which now includes fatigue. What is COVID-19 fatigue? It is feelings of exhaustion and helplessness brought about by the continuation of short-term and long-term stressors resulting from the virus. It is the feeling that we are hitting a wall in coping and have grown tired. Many of the coping strategies we used to employ can no longer be our go-to activities. How can we persist through COVID-19 fatigue to help ourselves and our family members continue to cope and stay safe from the virus?

  1. Good Old Exercise – As the season turns and winter approaches, come up with a plan to exercise indoors. The irony of depressive symptoms is that they don’t motivate you to want to do much of anything, but exercise is the most effective way to improve your physical and mental health. Even if you only exercise a little bit every day, it will improve your mood. You may have gotten more creative about how you exercise in 2020, but try out something new and fun – yoga classes online, walking with a neighbor, or a subscription workout live streaming service.
  2. Break It Down – Looking at the entire timeline of the virus can cause anxiety, due to the remaining uncertainty about the future. Similarly, taking on a huge home or family project can feel like biting off more than you can chew right now. Break things down into smaller pieces, live day to day, and don’t live too far into the past or into the future. Break projects down into smaller steps and deal with one small step first. Bring expectations down to a more realistic place. You may have to lower your expectations of yourself and family members. Remember that we are all dealing with unprecedented stressors and changes. Although it doesn’t always feel like it, you are resilient and you may be dealing with fatigue better than you think you are. You are building resiliency as we speak.

    3. Talk To Somebody – Processing your feelings aloud with a mental health professional or a therapy group can be helpful. Giving your feelings a voice and some space to be aired can give your mental health a much-needed boost. It can help rebuild compassion for yourself and for your family members. Psychotherapy can also combat feelings of isolation, even if it is through virtual therapy. Contact us at RCC to set up a virtual session with a therapist. We want you to feel better too!

2020-11-05T11:09:15-05:00November 5th, 2020|

Politics Will Not Break Us Apart! Or Will It?

by John Hart, PhD, LCMFT

October 12th 2020

The year 2020 has been a difficult and strenuous year for us all for various reasons. Marriage and Family Therapists around the DC-Metropolitan area have seen their clientele numbers increase. Couples are not only battling the regular relationship dynamics issues (e.g., communication, problem-solving and intimacy problems), but also experiencing a growing concern about managing political differences between partners. This year is an election year and with the election scheduled in a little less than a month, it is important to brace couples with a few pointers on how to manage conversations or dynamics regarding political differences/philosophies. Below are a few tips to follow. I also highly recommend this book, I Love You But I Hate Your Politics: How to Protect Your Intimate Relationships in a Poisonous Partisan World by Jeanne Safer.

1. List Hot Topics: Couples may react differently to emotionally-charged topics in society. I recommend that the couple write a list of all topics that each partner feels is important to them. Next, work with your partner to rate the level of emotional reactivity each topic holds for each person (e.g., on a scale from 1-10, 1 = no reaction versus 10 = very reactive). Lastly, create healthy boundaries for handling conversations around said topics. For instance, either decide to avoid certain topics because they are too emotionally charged, such as conversations around race. Alternatively, you can also decide to set a time marker. For example, “we are going to talk about the most recent racial incident for fifteen minutes and we will use a safe word to stop the conversation if one of us becomes reactive.”

2. Don’t Focus on Changing Minds: Conversations around politics become volatile when there is too much energy invested in convincing the other to change his or her viewpoint. If only it was that easy, right? Marriage Therapists truly believe that, regardless of the topic, healthy communication is about the approach. It is important when discussing political differences to mutually agree to listen, understand and reflect what your partner is saying. Listening allows the conversation to flow at a reasonable pace (fast conversations can go “off the rails” quickly). Reflecting back what you heard your partner say allows them to feel heard and validated. NOTE: Validation does not mean that you agree with your partner’s point of view. Receiving this validation allows there to be a mutual understanding that “we can hear each other.”

3. Always End with Reconciliation: There will likely be some passionate conversations between you and your partner. Passion is not the enemy here; some passion in a marriage is a very good thing. However, volatility is not ideal. Before ending the conversation, do a quick emotional “check-in” (e.g., “Wow, that was intense, how are you feeling right now? How are you feeling about me?”) Be open and honest and allow space for reconciliation. Find a ritual that you can do together as a gesture of repair. Examples might include going for a walk together, grabbing a cold beverage and chatting about safer topics, taking a limited break and reconnecting, etc. Couples sometimes make a mistake in believing that resolution is the same as reconciliation. You don’t need a resolution or an agreement to reconcile. Politics are a great example of a topic that mandates reconciliation after conversation.

2020-10-13T11:11:16-04:00October 13th, 2020|

Surviving a Virtual School Year

by Diamond Greene, MS, LGMFT

September 25th, 2020

With another school year starting, many parents are now faced with the additional stress of helping their children navigate the nuances of virtual learning. This is not only a stressful experience for parents, but for children as well. Here are a few tips to help alleviate some of the stress and have a successful school year:

  1. Create a positive learning environment

If you have not done so already, your child should have a designated space to complete their school work. It will be helpful to encourage your child to keep this space clean and free of clutter as this can be very distracting. If possible, noise cancelling headphones can be helpful to eliminate any extra distractions as well. If your child has a phone, they should not have access to it during instruction time.

  1. Encouraging motivation for online learning

Encouragement and praise go a long way! When your child finishes a difficult task, gets a good grade, or completes notable work, consider offering some sort of reward. Rewards do not have to be a physical item or time on a device, but an opportunity for your child to spend quality time with you or make a fun decision for the family like choosing a board game for a family game night. Scheduling in time for fun throughout the day can also be a helpful tool for encouraging motivation. Setting aside time to take a walk outside, do a physical activity, or a creative activity can provide a needed break for your child during the day.

  1. Help your child maintain social connections

One major thing that kids are missing about school is seeing their friends! The social learning that a school setting provides is pertinent to your child’s development. Encouraging your child to maintain communication with their friends can also be very helpful during this time. Planning virtual play dates with your child can help them maintain their friendships and fulfill social needs.

2020-09-28T12:04:08-04:00September 28th, 2020|

Therapist Spotlight: Jannel Thomas, MS, LGMFT

JANNEL THOMAS, MS, LGMFTSeptember 4th, 2020

Q: On behalf of the Relationship Counseling Center of Maryland (RCC), thank you for being on staff as a therapist! What has been the most exciting part in working with RCC and its clients?

A: Thank you to RCC for such a warm welcome aboard. RCC staff has truly been amazing in welcoming me onto the team. The most exciting part in working as a therapist at RCC has been working alongside a diverse, talented team of therapists to provide help to the local community. Clients at RCC have been very motivated to change their lives for the better and it has been an honor so far to help in that process.

Q: In your style of therapy, do you like to tackle the main issue head-on, or focus on the deeper issues first?

A: I think it depends on what the issue itself is. Sometimes, it can be difficult to tackle the main issue head-on if the deeper issues are not attended to first. For instance, the main issue can be the result of deeper unresolved issues. Therefore, the main issue cannot be tackled until the deeper issues are first addressed or else the main issue will continue to find different ways to present itself. On the other hand, sometimes the main issue needs to be tackled head-on to alleviate the stress it brings so that a person can get to a good space to address deeper issues.

Q: Have you yourself been to therapy?

A: Yes, during my graduate school experience I went to individual therapy. It was important for me to experience what it would be like to be a client in session. I was able to experience what it was like for a therapist to ask a client to share and be vulnerable, but from the client’s perspective. It was a great experience for me and I truly recommend everyone to go to therapy at least once in their life.

Q: What was the moment you realized you wanted to be a marriage and family therapist?

A: I realized I wanted to be a marriage and family therapist after I took a helping skills course during my undergraduate career at UMD. I actually enjoyed reading the textbook and I connected with the content. As a result, I began volunteering at a local 24-hour crisis hotline and at a local hospice organization. Both of my experiences volunteering confirmed for me that I was in the right profession and after researching, I found the marriage and family therapy program at UMD. The rest was history! ☺

Q: What do you like most about working with people?

A: I enjoy making connections with people and helping people. It is rewarding to help people work through their past and present struggles and to help them achieve the future they desire.

Q: Outside of being a therapist, what are some of your hobbies?

A: My hobbies include watching my favorite TV shows, Zumba, word searches, and hiking.

Q: What do you do for self-care?

A: For self-care I enjoy dancing, playing card and board games, hanging out with friends, taking naps, hiking, and watching dog videos.

Q: In your experience, what is the most important thing that can strengthen a relationship?

A: This is a difficult question to answer because there are many important things that can strengthen a relationship. No two relationships are the same and each relationship comes with its own strengths already. However, no matter how long you have been in a relationship or how long you have known someone, take the time to slow down and listen to your partner. Truly listen to the message they are trying to express to you, even if you disagree. Active listening is a key component in building a strong, deep emotional connection with someone which in return strengthens the relationship. So I would say open your mind, heart, and ears to the person you care about and love.

2020-09-04T18:20:15-04:00September 4th, 2020|

Let’s Fight Stigma Together

by Jannel Thomas, MS, LGMFT

July 31st, 2020

There are many harmful stigmas towards individuals with mental health disorders and toward mental health services in general. Stigma refers to the shame that many with mental health disorders or those who seek mental health services deal with on a consistent basis which can lead to stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. These stigmas can range from “only crazy people go to therapy” to “people with mental health disorders are dangerous or threatening” to “people with mental health disorders have the inability to function in a healthy or competent manner.” Yet, regardless of the stigma, they all have the same disheartening impact of preventing people from getting the help they need or being shunned from friends, family, loved ones, and society. While there has been some improvement in the fight against stigma in the mental health community, there is still much more work to be done. Here’s what you can do to help fight stigma:

  1. Education is key! Awareness is the first step in fighting mental health stigma. Educate yourself and others about the truths regarding mental health disorders and mental health services. Do not believe the myths. Familiarize yourself with mental health advocate organizations such as National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Be intentional and conscientious about the words you choose when speaking about mental health concerns. Language matters. Words matter.
  2. Speak up! Talk openly about mental health. The more people talk about mental health, the less stigmatized it is likely to become. Talking openly about mental health normalizes mental health and helps people feel less alone. Plus, talking openly about mental health can empower those with mental health disorders by owning their story and taking away the power from the stigma associated with mental health disorders.
  3. Have an open mind! Listen to other people’s stories about their mental health journey. Do not judge or criticize them. Instead be an advocate and show you support them. Advocacy can take many different forms such as openly criticizing negative comments about mental health disorders to encouraging someone to seek mental health services. Be a part of the change.

Every single person is responsible and must play a role in the fight against stigma toward mental health. Will you join the fight against stigma?

2020-07-31T12:44:45-04:00July 31st, 2020|

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

by Natalie Krenz, MS, LGMFT

April 11, 2020

The recommendation for containing the COVID-19 virus has been to implement “social distancing,” a term described by deliberate physical space between people, in this case, six feet. However, this practice  does not include those we live with. Being quarantined with your partner can cause a lot of tension, but can also be an opportunity to grow closer. These three tips can help keep the peace, while also coping with the current, global pandemic.

  1. Acknowledge & communicate: COVID-19 is causing most individuals stress and anxiety which can often lead to irritability – snapping at loved ones – and poor communication. Rather than allowing the current pandemic to be an unspoken enemy between you and your partner, acknowledge the issues the virus is causing. It is imperative to communicate with your partner about how the stress is impacting you and support one another as a team. 
  1. Create space: Staying in the same place can drive people stir-crazy. It is important for each partner to have their own place in the house, not only for teleworking, but for pursuing personal interests and hobbies. When frictions arise, this can be the safe space each partner needs to collect themselves, de-escalating the situation. Once you are able, return to your partner ready to listen.
  2. Get creative: Amidst the guidance to stay inside to comply with social distancing requirements, it does not mean date night should be neglected. Now is the time to focus on being light-hearted with your partner to de-stress. Some fun suggestions include board games, puzzles, movies, having a spa night, and building a pillow fort with one another. Do you both like to cook? Why not challenge each other to a cook-off? Now is the time to get creative and plan activities that may not be your norm to help lighten the mood together. 
NEW! Group Therapy Opportunity
Coping with COVID-19 and the “new normal” has been stressful for everyone. In response, therapist Natalie Krenz, LGMFT has created a virtual Emotional Support Group at RCC.

Location: Zoom (Video Session)
Date: Every Sunday, starting April 19th
Time: 2:00-3:00pm
Cost: $50 per group member per session
Topics Covered: Coping with anxiety, mindfulness, productivity versus relaxation, managing family relationships, gratitude, and acceptance of negative feelings
How to Join: Contact RCC at (240) 295-3116 or [email protected]
2020-04-15T12:05:32-04:00April 15th, 2020|

Teletherapy Announcement

Meg Tenny, LCMFT

March 19, 2020

If you are like me, you are probably sick of hearing about all of the changes made after COVID-19 descended upon us, so I will make this quick!

Relationship Counseling Center of Maryland has made the choice to switch ALL client psychotherapy sessions to teletherapy (video) sessions from Monday, 3/23-Sunday, 3/29, with the option of extending the time period. The spread of Coronavirus has been exponential and our client and therapist safety matters greatly to us. It is difficult to ask everyone to make this change, especially with all the uncertainty already created by the virus.
I want to assure you that teletherapy sessions, while not the same as in-person sessions, are an excellent back-up tool to use in times of need. I urge you to consider that likely by next week the virus will not be resolved, if not for weeks or even months. We would like you to be able to safely see your therapist in the interim and to continue to work on your relationship and your personal growth rather than to “wait out” the pandemic.
RCC uses a HIPAA-compliant platform called Zoom. Many people are already familiar with Zoom from their workplace video meetings. Your therapist will email you a link to the video session meeting a few minutes before your scheduled appointment. It is very user-friendly and easy to navigate. Best of all, it keeps you safe from the virus! If you have an appointment scheduled at RCC in the next few weeks, our admin team and your therapist will reach out to you about the change.
We look forward to serving you in our ever-changing world and to providing some stability and comfort to you through your enduring relationship with your therapist. We will “see” you online soon!

2020-04-01T11:22:43-04:00March 23rd, 2020|

Myths of Couple Therapy

by Wilson A. Llerena, MS, LGMFT

February 27, 2020

The initial thoughts and feelings when entering couple therapy are usually the same: “I hope this works” or “How can this stranger help me?” Most individuals experience great anxiety in response to the sense of the unknown and the vagueness of the therapeutic process. You are betting on your relationship without a clear idea about what the odds are. By exploring the myths associated with therapy, the hope is that your fears will be alleviated and the benefits of the process will be highlighted. 

Myth #1: Couple therapy is for people with serious relationship problems or for “crazy” people.

Closer to the truth: While some seek couple therapy to deal with very serious problems in their relationships, others simply don’t see eye-to-eye on a specific issue and need help navigating that. Some couples even come to therapy as a proactive measure and are quite happy in their relationship! The therapist’s role is to be a guide for the couple and help each partner assess what they want in their relationship. The role of a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, like all our therapists at the RCC, is to focus on the relationship process, rather than on the content. Therapists pay close attention to the interactional patterns between partners, suggesting ways to interrupt cycles of negative interaction and how to create positive ones. Treating underlying mental health issues, such as severe clinical depression and anxiety may be coordinated with a concurrent psychiatrist and individual therapist referral, in order to ensure the most effective treatment for the couple unit.

Myth #2: The couple therapist will just tell us to break up.

Closer to the truth: Sometimes couples will ask things like, “Can our relationship be saved?” or “Do you think that our relationship should end?” The therapist should never decide the fate of a couple. There is always the risk that attending therapy will speed up the trajectory that the relationship may already be on. There may be times where conversations traverse very difficult topics and emotions get heated, but a therapist helps each partner work through this in a healthy way, communicating in ways that allows both partners to feel validated and secure in their relationship. The goal of couple therapy is to create healthy, working dynamics between partners that serve them well outside of the therapy room during arguments or difficult circumstances. The therapist will go through your options in your relationship to help you explore and decide what is best for you and your partner. Couples who are committed to positive changes and to their relationships often do very well in implementing those changes through the therapeutic process.

Myth #3: The therapist will just dig up our emotions and not actually solve any problems.

Closer to the truth: Therapy is difficult work and is not a complete science – session length and treatment goals vary from couple to couple. While you will be trusting a trained stranger (i.e., the therapist) with topics you may not have even discussed with your partner, the therapist’s role is to create a safe, non-judgmental environment for you to process your emotions in a healthy way. This may make you feel very vulnerable. But vulnerability can be powerful and by taking the risk to share it, you create opportunities for emotional intimacy to blossom, thereby strengthening your relationship. Being emotionally present and connected with your partner is a good first step to solving your relationship problems together.

2020-04-13T11:08:12-04:00March 3rd, 2020|
Go to Top