Wednesday, December 28, 2016

NEW SERVICE: Distance Coaching

Readers of my blog frequently contact me for distance coaching from faraway lands (like Oklahoma and Texas, most recently). Historically, I've declined for a variety of reasons, but for 2017 I've decided to try it. 
SO! For those of you not in St Louis who still wish to receive coaching from me, I am adding a telephone option with a few variations on my usual style: 
1) These sessions will be slightly shorter and less costly than standard in-person sessions, but will not be subject to sliding fee scale. 
2) They also will be called "coaching" rather than "therapy" because I cannot adequately attend to your mental health needs from a distance; if you need what would traditionally be considered "therapy" for a mood disorder or other issue, please understand that I will not be a good fit for you to meet those needs. What I can help you with via telephone coaching are everyday problems, relationship issues, and what we might call "existential crises". 
3) The other significant difference is that rather than exchange credit card info via insecure means like email, I'll only accept payments via PayPal.  (COST: $75 for 45 minutes) 
Please email me with questions or to schedule a conversation. I look forward to connecting with you in 2017!  

Monday, December 19, 2016

UPDATED CLASS SCHEDULE!!!!!!!!!!

Regularly Scheduled Classes

Use Words (aka Say What The F*** You Mean)
Saturday, 3/4 1-3 p.m. 
Practical, real-life strategies for communicating more clearly and confidently 
The art of apologizing (and why it matters)
How to identify and avoid passive-aggressive behavior
Learning to name your feelings and ask for what you need 

How To Do Conflict Well (aka Don’t Be An A**hole)
Saturday, 3/25 1-3 p.m. 
Reframing conflict as a positive, healthy aspect of any relationship
Learning how to bypass defensiveness in yourself and others
How to engage in and resolve difficult conversations with kindness and respect
30+ useful tips and tools you can put into practice immediately 

Boundaries 
Saturday, 2/11 1-3 p.m. 
Defining boundaries: what are they and why are they important
What happens when we fail in setting boundaries 
Examining your own struggles to establish and maintain boundaries
Strategies for change 

Personality Types 101 
Saturday, 2/18 1-3 p.m. 
Introduction to Myers-Briggs Personality Type and Jungian temperament theory
Basic understanding of cognitive functions
How to type yourself and others accurately, why it’s useful, and its limitations
General overview of all 16 types and their frequency 

One-Time Bonus Classes/Workshops 

Communication for New and Expectant Parents 
Saturday, 3/11 1-3 p.m. 
Exploring common communication issues for couples 
Naming specific relationship stressors of pregnancy and childbirth
Strategies for navigating the unique challenges of new parenthood 
Tips and tools for handling conflict as it arises


Fine print: All classes are held at our offices in Webster Groves. Prices vary, but full payment is required for registration, via PayPal, check, cash, or credit/debit card. No refunds are offered once registration is complete, but class registration is always transferrable to another person, date, or class. 


Please email amy@millercounseling.org with any questions or to register.
www.millercounseling.org

Monday, December 5, 2016

Baby Blues

I loveloveLOVE being a mommy. I look at Zoe and my heart explodes with the kind of love I literally had no idea was possible. This may sound silly, but I am entirely certain that she was a meant-to-be addition to my life. I feel no ambivalence at all about the decision to have her, and I believe in my bones that she is perfect for me, for us, and for the world.

And
(Not but)

AND...

It's really hard. I've been struggling much more than I've shared publicly (because mom guilt.) But it's really important to me that I live authentically everywhere, even on social media and at work and on my counseling blog. So I'll admit that this hasn't been an entirely smooth transition for me, and that I routinely grieve the death of my independence and freedom. (I didn't want to admit this in particular because so many people annoyingly reminded me when I announced my pregnancy that "you know you can't just sleep whenever you want anymore!" and "you won't be able to go to breakfast and out for wine and travel all the time anymore!" and I was all confidently "it'll be fine" but turns out that part actually really sucks).

Hanging with the baby, I often get bored and lonely and overstimulated all at once. I cycle between feeling joyous and awed to feeling resentful and sad. I cry a lot, often for no reason I can adequately articulate. I probably frustrate Rodney (although he doesn't let on) because I move so quickly through my feelings and moods. The other day I literally googled "Postpartum cyclothymia" to see if that was a thing, because I felt myself cycling so rapidly between OMG THIS SUCKS and OMG I LOVE HER.

But then I had breakfast with a mom friend the other day who made me feel way better about this. She said she's pretty sure everybody feels some iteration of that cycle, but that some people don't talk about it and other people don't even recognize it. She said basically that it's impossible to feel like you have it all together all the time when you're raising little ones, especially when they're little tiny babies and can't say any words, and that it's unreasonable to expect that of yourself (myself).

Side note: hormones certainly play a role in all this too, but to greater or lesser degrees depending on your sensitivity to hormonal shifts.

So, with all that being said, I am working on some *intentional* shifts and changes; I offer them as suggestions for you as well if you're struggling with anything similar.

One shift is trying to mindfully, lovingly, gently remember that I am no longer in control of my life in the same way as I was. And being kind to myself when I remember that I spent 37 years being in charge of just myself and doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I mean, I had *decided* not to have children. Given that I took such an extreme turn on my planned trajectory, I'm trying to keep in mind that this is all pretty normal insofar as I am in a pretty predictable grieving process (for my old life) and it takes time to surrender to the new way things are. So I'm trying to be patient with myself and stop holding on so tightly to my freedom. To see this as a new kind of freedom. I'm raising this amazing, beautiful, hilarious baby with a wonderful partner (a partner who incidentally strongly encourages me to still "be a person"). While this life wasn't my "plan", I can't say it's not a pretty great accident. I can honestly say I would not change it, if I were given the option. So I have to constantly reframe, shift, let go. (I have control issues, so this is hard af).

Another shift is more self-care and working on not feeling badly when I prioritize self-care, especially since my partner is so supportive of me doing this. So I am going out of town this week for 2 days while Zoe hangs with her daddy (with his blessing). I'm going to sleep in and read books and drink wine and talk to my very wise mom friend Geneva and laze about. I will miss my family, but I *need* a small break where I'm far enough away that I can't feel guilty and come back. And, I think missing them will be good for me, to remind me what I have to come home to.

I've also been to yoga four days in a row; I realized that when I'm not moving my body regularly, I feel extra super terrible and have even less resilience to stress. Since Zoe was born, I haven't felt good in my body at all. In addition to the expected pain associated with C-section surgery, and even after that faded, I've felt stiff and sore and old and fat. I have joked that it feels like I got a body transplant from somebody's grandma. But I felt guilty (there's that theme again) prioritizing yoga when I could/should be spending time with Zoe or doing laundry or giving Rodney a break or developing a new money-making endeavor or whatever. It felt frivolous. But that's dumb because doing yoga at my beloved studio actually *makes me happy*; just one hour a day there has made a huge difference already.

I also reached out to a new therapist, because having somebody on deck who can give me perspective is helpful. I called my OB and got back on the antidepressant I was on before I got pregnant, because I believe that while medicine doesn't solve everything, it's a wonderful addition to a self-care regimen if/when you need it. Reminder: mental health is not separate from physical health, and requires the same attention and maintenance.

I intentionally go to bed super early, so that when the baby wakes up early and needs me I don't feel so irritated (because that makes me feel guilty too).

I am writing more and reaching out to friends more. I'm trying to make more plans with mom/dad friends who "get" it and won't be annoyed by the presence of a baby and/or the attending needs/unpredictability.

I am writing this and sharing it on my counseling blog in part because it helps me to process in writing, but also to offer support to other new parents who may be struggling with the transition or any part before or after. I personally found pregnancy challenging, childbirth traumatic, and the first months of parenting difficult. It's given me so much perspective I didn't have before, though! I will add to my list of services: Pregnancy, Postpartum, and Parenting Transition Struggles. I mean, I had opinions about parenthood and how to do it before I had Zoe, but I realize now that with all my good intentions, I had no idea what I was actually talking about from an 'in-the-trenches' perspective. Everything is new and different now. It takes time to adjust, and I'd be happy to help anyone else with their adjustment, in part for selfish reasons: because in helping others heal, I often end up healing myself.

If you're in a similar place, and don't have someone you trust to work through it with: http://millercounseling.blogspot.com/2016/12/new-service-distance-coaching.html

Monday, November 7, 2016

New Class Ideas....

I'm considering adding some new classes, as well as adding an online video option for the classes I already teach so that people can learn this stuff with me from a distance. Let me know if you'd be interested in that latter thing or in these classes (if you're in STL)! 

Email me at amy@Millercounseling.org 

The class ideas: 

1) Shame, Vulnerability, & Intimacy (using Brene' Brown as a jumping off point)

2) Talking To Anxiety: How To Get Your Brain to STFU (practical strategies rooted in CBT on how to deal with anxiety outside of meds/therapy)

How To Pick A Therapist

This content has moved to our new blog home! Please come with us! www.patreon.com/amymiller


Sunday, June 26, 2016

boundaries

This post has moved to its new home at: www.patreon.com/amymiller

Next class on BOUNDARIES: Saturday, May 6 from 1-3 p.m. $50 
Email me with questions or use this link to register: PayPal.me/millercounseling/55

the best words come from your mouth, not your fingers.

A client just informed me in no uncertain terms that Facebook is responsible for the downfall of human relationships. Agree or disagree?
Personally, I disagree, but then again, I don't use it for any drama-inducing and I don't carry on secret relationships with people I reconnected with on here. I think the real culprit is text messaging. It is virtually impossible to communicate clearly via text and yet we insist on carrying on deeply personal, important conversations this way. Text messaging allows us to heedlessly toss words at each other without taking proper time to craft what we are trying to say, as we would in a letter, and also costs us the option of managing our message in realtime as we see (or hear from inflection) how it is landing on the other person. There is so much room for error from both the sender and the receiver within the lack of nuance that I'm amazed any relationships survive that rely heavily on texting. I opine that the only real means to effectively communicate in a way that is productive, concise, and respectful is to speak to one another in real life. Preferably in person. One of my favorite quotes speaks to this notion: 

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” 
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

We will cover this and much more in the USE WORDS (aka Say What the F*** You Mean) class. Next session is Saturday, May 13th. Email me at amy@millercounseling.org for more information or to register.  

Monday, May 2, 2016

USE WORDS

It makes me sad when I have a couple that comes to me for counseling in crisis, when the relationship is already in its death throes. People come in seeking a panacea to all the years of damage to their relationship, but unfortunately, I am not a magician. Counseling cannot be a last ditch effort, because if one partner has already checked out, there are not enough hands on deck to do the work. 

The thing I can't really tell them, because it won't be helpful now, is this: your relationship probably could have been saved anytime before now, if only you had learned to really communicate with each other. Yes, I know that *everything* isn't about communication, but if you can't do that part, the other stuff is always going to fall apart. Conflict is a natural part of any intimate relationship, and to avoid it entirely is counterproductive. There will be times when you will be unhappy in your relationship or upset with something your partner is doing or not doing. But learning to do conflict well is a key function of communication. Being able to look at your partner's face and say "this is what I need" or "this is how i feel" is the fundamental building block of a strong relationship. This is a skill worth learning at any time; if nothing else, you'll know it for next time. 


So when a couple comes in and I can clearly see where their disconnect is and it is a glaring lack of understanding of one another's basic ways of being in the world, I will never tell them it's too late. Even while it's a long shot, I will take a deep breath and dive in and do my best. But to help them navigate the unfamiliar territories of vulnerability, honesty, intimacy, etc etc, when they've been living elsewhere for years, can be scary and difficult for them. It is amazing what people don't know about each other even after having been married for 5, 10, 15 years. So we start with communication. If I had a dollar for every time I say to a client "You have to actually USE WORDS", I would have enough dollars to go on a nice vacation. So my conclusion here is: learn to use words. If you're in a relationship, the best thing you can do is communicate authentically with your partner. If you're not in a relationship, practice with the other people in your life so that when you are, you will know how to do this. Relationships are always going to be challenging, but if you learn to communicate and to do conflict well, you're much better equipped to handle all the other stuff that will arise.


We will cover this and much more in the USE WORDS (aka Say What the F*** You Mean) class. Next session is Saturday, May 13th from 1-3 p.m.
 Email me at amy@millercounseling.org for more information or to register.  

Saturday, April 2, 2016

How To Do Conflict Well (aka Don't be an A-hole)

I've been teaching classes/mini workshops lately regarding communication, because I believe it's the #1 most important aspect of a healthy relationship. One of the things I focus on is how to do conflict well. I want to clarify some things that may be keeping you from thinking you will benefit from such content! Several people have asked me this question:
**What does it mean when you say you're going to teach us how to "Do Conflict Well"? Isn't conflict bad and something to be avoided?**
The short answer is: conflict is not bad, and it needn't be feared, much less avoided. The primary purpose of the class is to reframe "conflict", moving it from "something to be feared/avoided" to simply "an issue to be resolved". The secondary purpose is to give practical tips and strategies for how to handle conflict when it inevitably arises, or how to start the conversations you need to have without fear of the conflict escalating. "A resolution everyone can live with" is the ultimate goal of any conflict, whether that resolution means setting it aside for a moment (or forever), or finding complete agreement, or compromising.
It may sound counterintuitive, but in fact, many healthy relationships contain a great deal of conflict. Any time you put strong personalities together, you're likely to have disagreements and reach impasses. My goal is to teach you how to do that gracefully, with respect and love, in such a way that your relationship is not damaged by it. In other words, how to do conflict well, and not be an a-hole.
The classes are interactive, but if you're a shy person, you don't have to say anything if you don't want to. I'm (obviously) super informal, so you can kind of have an idea of what to expect based on how I write and speak in regular life. I have prepared a handout that we work from that includes 30 or so specific, practical tips & tools for fighting fairly.
Anyway, I just wanted to give some more background on that class because people who are unfamiliar with my counseling style may not be inclined to sign up for a class with me, but I promise you'll enjoy it and get something useful out of it. smile emoticon
Holler at me if you want more info or to enroll. Full pay required to hold spot, and class is capped at 8 people.

Email me at amy@millercounseling.org

If you found this post useful, please support the work at www.patreon.com/amymiller


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Thoughts about trust.

I've been thinking a lot about trust lately. It's come up in my sessions a lot as well as in conversations with my trusted advisors, so that's when I decide to write about it and process my feelings. 
I'm not talking about the kind of trust like "can you keep a secret?" because lord knows most people really *can't* keep a secret, and thankfully I've only had like one secret in my whole adult life and I ended up telling 14 of my closest friends anyway. So, that's not the kind of trust I'm talking about. I don't "trust" many people in this way, and I'm not even mad about it because I know how people are. I might be the only person you know who can *actually* keep other people's secrets. (Actually I probably know a lot of your secrets; don't worry, they'll go with me to the grave). 
I am referring to a more abstract sense of trust. The kind of trust that comes from knowing a person is "your people", and that you share basic values. The comfort of knowing that you're not going to suddenly discover something about them that completely disrupts your sense of them as a decent human being. 
People are complex, of course, so obviously you're never going to know everything about a person right away. It takes time and a great deal of exposure to deeply understand a person. And sometimes people are not going to be at their best and so you'll see a version that is tired, or cranky, or distracted, or rude. 
I do feel like I generally give people the benefit of the doubt. I assess people on an ongoing basis, as I get new information about them, I assimilate it into the old information so that at all times I have the most updated version of who/how I think they are. People I dislike or find off-putting at first pass rarely turn out to be great friends, and people I immediately feel drawn to often end up being important in my life in some way, but I am always cognizant of the idea that people are dynamic creatures who will grow and change over time. As I have experienced firsthand the frustration of people not allowing me to be a new or better version of myself, I realize how important it is to allow people this flexibility in my understanding of them. 
The issue of trust comes in when I think I have a good understanding of a person and they completely blindside me with some bullshit I can't reconcile. I don't know if I'm just not good at determining who I can trust in this way, or if people are just sneaky, but I feel like I've been duped a fair number of times. I've invested a great deal into friendships only to eventually reach an impasse where something imperceptibly shifts and I feel like I just don't **trust** this person on some level. This is the thing I've been talking to clients and friends about. This abstract idea of being able to "trust" people to be decent, to be consistent, to live in alignment with the values they profess to hold. 
People I thought were really "good" people I've observed doing and saying horrible things or responding callously when empathy was appropriate. A good example of this is all the people who turned out to be what I call "ever-so-slightly" racist, and then refused to reevaluate their understanding of what that means. But there's also the disruption of trust when I find out someone just isn't quite living in alignment with who and how I thought they were. And that doesn't necessarily mean they did something wrong or bad to me, it just means that this new information has rendered it impossible for me to organically feel trusting. 
So, how do we move forward in situations like this? Do we bring it to the person's attention or just slowly phase them out of our lives? Are there going to be times in which it is useful to have difficult conversations like "I just don't trust you and here's why"? How do we go about doing that?