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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|

Setting Boundaries: Do Not Cross

by Rolonda Williams, LGMFT

October 22, 2019

What are boundaries and why do we need them? Boundaries can be best explained as a means of creating a balance between social connection and personal limitations. Setting boundaries can be seen as a means of self-care and is often exhibited through positive, assertive language and behavior. When contemplating about boundary-setting, ask yourself if you can do what is asked of you, without it negatively impacting you, draining your energy, time and/or finances. The best way to use boundaries appropriately is to challenge common misconceptions about boundary-setting and to use positive language to set boundaries with others.

1. Misconception #1: “Boundaries make me seem like a mean person.” Setting boundaries are healthy and creates a more positive experience for yourself and others. It is about knowing your limits and not pouring from an empty cup. Others may perceive you to be “mean” when, in fact, they may be upset that you are no longer overextending yourself to meet their needs. This is especially problematic if the effort is not reciprocated. Having limits does not equate to being an aggressive person.

2. Misconception #2: “If I set boundaries, I will lose friends or family.” While setting boundaries may create rifts in relationships, what happens most often is that there is only a temporary period of shock and disapproval from the person who is on the receiving end of the boundary. Although it is not uncommon to lose friends or family, most people find there are more benefits to productively changing these relationships. Boundaries are most difficult to set with those who are closest to us. However, those who care for you and are close to you will eventually respect and follow the boundaries that you have set.

3. Use Appropriate Language: It is essential to use respectful and appropriate language to set boundaries and learn how to say “no.” Here are some suggestions for how to phrase boundary-setting with others in a way that they can better hear it:

“I would love to do this for you, but…”
“I am happy to know that I can be the person you count on to do this, however, this time…”
“I care about our friendship/relationship, however I cannot …”
 
It is important to remember that the key to setting boundaries is really setting them with yourself and not necessarily with others. Set good boundaries and respect the boundaries of others.



2020-04-13T11:08:39-04:00October 23rd, 2019|

Meet RCC Owner, Meg Tenny!

Meg Tenny

Q: As the owner of the Relationship Counseling Center of Maryland (RCC), you just successfully passed ten years of being in business! What has been the most fulfilling? 

A: Thank you! We are really excited about reaching that milestone last year. The most fulfilling part is to watch the growth and progress of our clients. It is very rewarding to see individuals, couples, and families doing well in their relationships.

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

A: I volunteered for a domestic violence shelter when I was in college and I enjoyed talking to the women and children who lived in the shelter and understanding their life experiences.

Q: For anyone seeking therapy, what is essential to having a successful experience? 

A: Client readiness (that is, the client’s readiness to do the necessary and difficult emotional work in therapy) is a big factor. The couples who do well are also the ones who are committed to their relationships and are open to some of the suggestions for trying new modes of engagement. They work hard to make positive efforts at home and to be vulnerable with their partners in session. These couples take responsibility for themselves and their actions.

Q: In your experience, what have been the most common issues couples face?

A: Many couples experience communication problems, such as verbal conflict and invalidation of one another’s feelings. Couples also commonly deal with issues around infidelity, finances, and emotional and physical intimacy.

Q: When you have issues in your own relationships, do you utilize any of the techniques from therapy, and, do they work? 

A: They work! I take a deep breath, stop, and listen. I also explain my side from an emotional (feelings) standpoint and take responsibility for my part in the misunderstanding or issue that was created.

Q: Are there times when the work becomes too overwhelming and if so, what do you do to manage?

A: I am a strong believer in self-care, particularly for our therapists, and that includes myself. I do deep breathing exercises and try to stay current with yoga, exercise, and social activities. I also see my own therapist to process my own emotions.

Q: Is there a secret ingredient you look for when hiring associates to be a part of RCC?

A: We look for a good team member, warmth in personality, responsiveness, and excellent clinical skill. We choose therapists who are passionate about their work and love what they do, and are interested in always improving and growing. We have added many fantastic therapists to the RCC team and they have added wonderful new elements to the RCC family. We are very fortunate to have our therapists and because of them, our practice is growing every day!

Q: If you could give an aspiring therapist advice, what would it be?

A: One of the most important things you can do as an aspiring therapist is to do the personal work on yourself. Go to individual therapy and explore who you are and what makes you tick. Resolve any past emotional issues and work on healthy boundaries with others. You will also experience therapy from the client’s point of view, and that is valuable information. These things all translate to the therapy room when you are finally sitting in the therapist’s seat.

2020-04-13T11:08:48-04:00September 11th, 2019|

Can People Really Change?

by Meg Tenny, MS, LCMFT

Monday, August 12

The therapeutic process is about change. A key element in achieving change in yourself or in your relationship is effort. When couples start therapy, they ask, “Do people really change?” What they are really asking is, “Will my partner be willing and able to meet my needs?” The short answer is yes, people can change, but you have to want to change. The old adage, “Where there is a will, there is a way,” accurately describes change momentum. Here are some tips about how to succeed in your transformation.

1. Share Responsibility: Change starts with taking personal responsibility. No one can make change happen for you, including your partner and your therapist, so focus on what you do have control over – yourself. Couples may consider asking themselves, “What am I contributing to the positive and negative issues in my relationship?” Take an honest inventory. Even if you believe your partner is responsible for creating most of the strife in your relationship, you still carry some responsibility here. Verbalize your thoughts to your partner and hold yourself accountable for any issues you have created, compounded, or aggravated.

2. Take Action: Change occurs in two steps: awareness and action. If you committed to making efforts towards change, what would it look like? What are some smaller concrete steps you can take to achieve change? Your list may include making commitments to being more positive or patient with your partner, eliminating criticism and verbal interruptions in your relationship communication pattern, or resolving to avoid verbal escalation with your partner. Steps could also be addressing your own mental health and self-care by scheduling an appointment with an individual therapist or a psychiatrist to manage depression, anxiety, and stress, starting an exercise regime, taking a mental health day, or starting treatment for substance use concerns.

3. Take Stock of Desire: Once you have identified the problems you are contributing to your relationship and have a plan, it is time to truthfully assess your desire to implement changes. Change, for most people, is challenging and anxiety-provoking. As human beings, we prefer maintaining homeostasis; that is, keeping things the same even if they are not the healthiest situations because it feels familiar and safe. For true change to occur, you will need to take stock of whether you really want to make changes. Ask yourself, “Do I want to continue my relationship?” “Do I see value in making a reinvestment of time, love, and energy to my partner?” “What is my motivation to improve my relationship?” If the will to improve yourself or your relationship is missing, it will be difficult to muster the momentum to realize change. Don’t underestimate the power of hope and the willingness to try. A positive attitude and hopefulness about the future can be the strongest driving forces in helping you accomplish the change you desire in your life.

2020-04-13T11:08:54-04:00August 23rd, 2019|

Therapist Spotlight: John Hart, PhD, LCMFT

John Hart, PhD, LCMFT

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: The most exciting part about working at RCC is that we are very collaborative here as staff and with our clients. I have been a part of this practice for 5 years now and I appreciate the spirit of working together as a family with our staff and how we make it clear to our clients that the therapy process is a collaborative process as well. This makes everyone feel that they have agency and our clients always seem empowered knowing that we value their efforts, thoughts, and growth in their treatment. 

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

A: Clinically, it is helpful to start understanding the main issue first. Clients need answers or insight about their issues quickly. My style is to understand the presenting problem first and start to explore the deeper issues over time. Tackling the main issue head on also gives clients reassurance that you understand their concerns and that you are dedicated to addressing their problems. But, my current clients will tell you – I give a lot of attention to the deeper issues for the majority of the treatment because we need to “treat the wounds” and not just apply band-aids.  

Q: Have you yourself been to therapy?

A: Yes, I have been to therapy myself. I was in therapy for about 2.5 years and I wrapped up my treatment a couple of months ago. Going to therapy is one of the most important decisions I have made in my life both personally and professionally. In fact, going to therapy and working out my own inter- and intrapersonal issues has made me stronger as a person and a therapist. The best reward is seeing how my clients are getting the best version of myself. I honestly feel that you cannot be a therapist and not go to therapy yourself at some point – practice what you preach!

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

A: I always knew that I wanted to be a clinician but I realized that I wanted to be a marriage and family therapist when I was in college and I took a class on couples’ relationships my senior year. There, I started to understand romantic relationships and divorce better. I did not understand how complicated relationships were when I was younger and so I was curious to go into a field that allowed me to understand relational dynamics in a clear and effective way. 

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

A: Getting to know them – hands down! My clients and I have a strong connection. This strong bond exists because it is important to take the time to get to know them outside of their presenting problems. My clients are amazing people and my job is to keep reminding them that they are not their problems and there are strengths and endearing qualities about them. This therapeutic relationship provides the trust that keeps them secure during the treatment process.  

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

A: I like to travel domestically and internationally, work out (I do a lot of cardio throughout the week), play video games, try different restaurants and watch movies with my fiancée. I am a very busy person so most of my hobbies are predicated on me relaxing and having a great time with my fiancée and friends. 

Q: What do you do for self-care?

A: I do a couple things for self-care – I work out, watch my favorite shows, and laugh. Anyone who knows me knows that I believe that laughing is the best self-care tool because it is the cheapest and easiest way to stay healthy and sane!

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

A: Being non-judgmental. In my opinion, we live in a society that is so polarized and judgmental that it inhibits folks from truly being themselves. I see it play out in couples’ relationships where partners feel that they cannot always be who they are, in fear that their partner will either judge them or not want to be with them. That is a shame. Not judging your partner allows for more emotional intimacy, it fosters a deeper level of trust, and it honestly makes things much more relaxed. I always want my couples to be clear with their partner; it is preferred to be your true self (whatever that may look like) and love yourself because authenticity without judgments allows for the best version of the relationship to surface. 

2020-04-13T11:08:58-04:00July 24th, 2019|