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So far Relationship Counseling Center of MD has created 66 blog entries.

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 admin@rccmaryland.com
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|

How to Successfully Love Yourself While Simultaneously Loving your Partner

by Jasmine Mauss, MS, LGMFT

January 15, 2020

Love can be (and often is) ultra-consuming. When we discover love, we often find ourselves immersing our time, happiness, emotions, spaces, and future into those of another. “Me” becomes “we”, as the equilibrium of our lives shifts for this new person and new relationship. As time progresses, a new foundation is created and an intricate series of changes occur. Our identities transform to accommodate the growth of our partner, shared rituals and pastimes are enjoyed together, and the future we create is influenced substantially by their presence in our lives. Too often in the midst of this beautiful creation, it becomes easy to lose important parts of ourselves. When we are in a deep-seated relationship, it becomes increasingly challenging to remember who we were, before this relationship, and who we are now, outside of it. If you are in a relationship, take a moment to reflect on the question, “Who am I, irrespective of my relationship?”

1. Identify what is important to you: What brings you authentic joy and happiness? What are the activities that make you, YOU? This could constitute a number of things: reading a book in your favorite armchair, meditating in the mornings before work, playing soccer with the boys on the weekend, painting when you feel inspired, hiking your favorite trail, traveling with your favorite friends, etc. Capitalize on your individual passions early on in your relationship and maintain consistency of them throughout its progression. These are parts of yourself that you can claim as your own and fall back on in times of need. You can also also share these parts of yourself with your partner as a way to connect and show them more of who you really are.

2. Revel in healthy “me time”: While it may seem counterintuitive to think that being away from your partner would be conducive towards connection, taking this time for yourself can actually be beneficial to the relationship. Taking some space away from your partner to center yourself in your passions, career, and family is not a selfish act! These micro-doses of distance can actually cultivate fondness and admiration for your partner, while simultaneously assisting you in tapping back into your inner self. Allow yourself to miss them in these moments and reflect on why you appreciate them. More importantly, take a moment to identify your individual strengths and foster your sense of agency outside of your relationship.

3. Put the “U” in “F(U)ture”: Self-love and self-identity should not be limited to just the past and present. Make sure to formulate concrete goals for yourself and your future. Ensure that these goals are somewhat independent of your relationship so that they put the focus on your personal growth as a person. This is a sound way to keep yourself preserved and allows you to flourish and transform as an individual. Always be mindful of your boundaries and what you are and are not willing to compromise for your relationship. Staying true to your unique goals and plans will allow you to stay tuned to the fabric of who you are.  Loving ourselves first provides a healthy avenue for loving our partner!

2020-04-13T11:08:18-04:00January 16th, 2020|

Looking Beyond the Corniness of Hallmark Christmas Movies

by Natalie Krenz, MS, LGMFT  

Monday, December 16

December is here, which means so are the Hallmark Christmas movies! These movies are frequently over-the-top, cliché, lack diversity, and can pull us into the same, recycled plots. Further, they are far from reality, in that they make difficult life situations look easily resolvable with just the help of ‘Christmas spirit and romance’. After watching way too many of these oversimplified movies, however, I have learned they do have a few productive takeaways:

1. Use your support system: Holidays can be a difficult time for many people. There are stressors from finances, to holiday commitments, to family issues. It is important that in times of stress you turn to your support system to help you cope. Hallmark characters are often discussing their difficulties with others whether it’s family, a romantic partner, an old friend, or a new, trustworthy person. This offers the ability to vent to an empathetic listener, hear a new perspective, and feel validated and encouraged.

2. Celebrate new traditions, in addition to old: In Hallmark movies, characters are often discovering new traditions that enhance their holiday season. When two people from different backgrounds come together, conflict can occur with which traditions should be celebrated. It is imperative for couples to learn how to integrate traditions from each of their families of origin to create new, shared rituals. This will bring you closer as a couple and create new and intimate moments.

3. Find a work-life balance: Hallmark characters often come to the realization that they have wasted their time in their work life and have been missing out on time with family and romantic partners. Work can often create distance in family relationships, and it is important that partners discuss how best to balance work and quality time. Individuals might not always have the privilege to take time off of work so creating dedicated family time is important. Some ways to do this are by setting up date nights, family game nights, even a family breakfast, if dinner is not possible.

2020-04-13T11:08:27-04:00December 17th, 2019|

Office Administrator Spotlight: Sarah A. Rose

Sarah Rose

Q: As Office Administrator, what advice or reassurance do you provide clients calling in to seek services?

A: I always empathize with an interested client and let them know they are not alone. Clients call in exasperated and without hope and it’s a joy to allow them to take a sigh of relief knowing that lots of people experience the same hardships, in the same way. I have heard every story at least once!

Q: What do you find most rewarding about the work you do and why? 

A: Being in the helping profession is rewarding in and of itself. Working with people and seeing them start with us with very little hope and grow to learn that this state of mind doesn’t last forever and that change is possible both in yourself and with your relationships, that is really rewarding.

Q: What pulled you into the mental health field and what keeps you going?

A: I have always been a curious person and my curiosity blossomed when I found psychology in college. I started to learn more about the most interesting organism on planet Earth – humans. Why they do what they do and how the brain is the human “control center.” How fascinating! And yet, we still don’t know enough about humans and the brain.

Q: Have you been to therapy yourself and has it been helpful? 

A: Yes, I find therapy a form of self-care. It’s a designated time and safe space for me to work through the past week and learn from my challenges to better move forward in my future. It has definitely been the best thing I have done for myself and I recommend it to anyone.

Q: What is your favorite rainy-day activity?

A: Rainy days make me more mindful of how I am spending my time. Instead of reheating a leftover and bingeing Netflix, I cook a meal, sit down to enjoy it, and then relax to a new film (foreign film, preferably). Just describing that makes me feel more relaxed!

Q: What is the most memorable place you’ve traveled to? 

A: I have definitely had my fair share of travel – Italy, Norway, South Korea, Peru, not to mention the vast United States! The travel that resonated with me the most has been to visit my best friend in Japan. Being able to live alongside her for a week was exactly how I like to experience a new country. I got to see the real Japan and I cannot wait to go back!

Q: What have you learned about people in general, from your role at RCC? 

A: I have learned that people are complex, but everyone wants to be loved, listened to, and respected. I think if we treated each moment and interaction with that in mind, our world would look differently.

2020-04-13T11:08:33-04:00November 14th, 2019|
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