Tag Archives: acceptance

Returning to Therapy — A Profound Act of Self-care

returning to therapy
“Spiral” by Khairul Nizam, licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Cindy Trawinski, Psy.D., Dipl. PW & Rami Henrich, LCSW, Dipl. PW

“I can’t believe I’m here… again.”

Some people returning to therapy for the second, third, or fifth time often wonder “why do I need to go back to therapy?” “was there something I should have handled the last time around?” “maybe I am not really getting to my issues…is it me, my therapist, the approach, or the entire endeavor?”  

Some clients say they feel as though they’ve “failed,” that they weren’t “strong enough” to take care of themselves on their own.  Sinking into self-reproach, they feel wonder if they are somehow fated to repeat a cycle of false or temporary solutions to a problems that seem intractable. Maybe a previous, positive experience in therapy imparted a sense of resilience or well-being that now seems shockingly absent. “Didn’t I already go through this?” They ask themselves. “Isn’t that part of my life over?” 

For others, returning to therapy is a natural part of their self care and personal growth regiment as getting a haircut, going to the dentist or eating three meals a day.

Clients come back to therapy for many different reasons. Recent trauma, loss, or significant life events—such as a change of relationship, job, move, or other transition—can create inner disturbance or bring up patterns that have not been fully resolved.  Questions about one’s identity, sexuality, or spiritual beliefs can prompt deep-seated uncertainty. Relationship conflicts or disappointments can leave us feeling in need of support.  Ongoing issues like depression, anxiety, addiction, and self-harm can interfere with daily life and relationships. All of these difficulties, worries and questions can motivate a person to make a change and seek help.

This brings me to my main point: returning to therapy is a profound act of self-care—even if you don’t realize it at the time. If you are thinking of returning to therapy, consider the possibility that you are responding to a deep awareness that you want or would benefit from help, support or guidance to find or create a new sense of yourself.

In her article “Starting therapy, again…” San Francisco therapist, Carly Earnshaw, MFT, explains that “[r]egardless of whether your last therapy went great or awful, you have an advantage over the first time you tried therapy.” Here are the some of the reasons she gives for why:

  • You have a better idea of what therapy is about
  • You have a clearer understanding of what works and doesn’t work for you in therapy
  • You’re aware of the investment and the payoff

I encourage you to read her article in full, as it speaks to the different mindsets and assuages the fears I often see in clients who are returning to therapy.

Considering seeing a mental health professional again? Below are a few quick ways you can prepare to make the most out of your next time in therapy:

  1. Understand that you are not alone. It is not uncommon for clients to return to counseling when it has worked for them in the past, or out of a desire to find something that will work. Countless people come back to therapy throughout their lives, building on each experience. In fact, your therapist is likely one of those people!
  1. Take your time. If you have decided to seek help, you do not have to book an appointment immediately or stick with the first therapist you find. Allow yourself the time to research and explore your options—remember, you now have a stronger sense of what you’re looking for.
  1. Be mindful of your therapist’s responses and attitude. Whether calling to get in touch or engaging in your first session, pay attention to your intuition and comfort level, as well as how your therapist reacts to you. Listen to how she interprets your words and recognize that, while she intends to help, she doesn’t have all the answers. Again, take your time and be patient until you find someone who you feel hears and appreciates you on your terms.
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. If a certain approach works best for you, or you need to speak to someone who understands specific issues—such as PTSD, polyamory, kink/BDSM, the experiences of racial and/or gender minorities, or religious convictions—speak up. Your therapist may not be qualified to provide what you need, but chances are she can refer you to a colleague who can.

If you have been there before, what do you look for in a new therapeutic relationship? We would love to hear your thoughts, opinions, and stories. Feel free to leave a comment below, or reach out to us on TwitterFacebookTumblr, or LinkedIn.

Building Trust

building trust

by Julie Diamond, Ph.D.

Julie Diamond, Ph.D. is a colleague and former therapist, who has turned her attention to the issues facing organizations.  In the blog below she talks about a human dilemma that is not limited to work life – trust. As you read it, consider where in your life trust is missing and what you might do to build it or break it.

Last month, The World Summit on Organizational Development met here in Portland, Oregon, my home town. Among other things, I had the pleasure of attending this plenary session byAdam Kahane“Doing Organizational Development Beyond the Organization: What It Takes to Solve Today’s Toughest Problems.” 

I loved his talk. It was insightful and practical. And funny. Speaking of collaboration, Kahane put up a slide listing requirements for effective collaboration among diverse and even antagonistic stakeholders. The usual suspects were there: common vision, agreement on goals, trust, etc. And then one by one, he debunked them. The reality of what it means to collaborate in the 21st century is this: knowing how to have conflict, working without trust, and foregoing the luxury of shared goals and visions.

And then Kahane said this, a phrase I’ve used many times: trust is not a precondition to working together, it’s the result. Let me say it again: trust is not a precondition, it’s an outcome.

The assumption that we begin with trust, is not just naïve, it’s also not possible.

And yet, I hear it all the time with the teams and organizations I work in and with. When I ask what the problem is, people often say “We don’t trust each other,” or “we need more trust on this team.” I don’t get it. The lack of trust is the result, not the cause. How can there to be trust before teamwork?

When people speak about trust in this way, they’re not talking about building teamwork but guaranteeing it: “First create the conditions for perfect success by demonstrating you will never disappoint me, thus proving to me you are 100% trustworthy, and then we can work together.”

Life doesn’t work like that. We cannot place our capacity to act and succeed in the actions of another. We cannot mitigate risk. We cannot guarantee success at the outset. Not in the workplace, and not in relationships. We get involved with untested people. We commit, marry, sign a mortgage and have children with people who have not been vetted. Why? Because it takes a long time to really know someone.

And what about us? We’re also unproven. We don’t know ourselves fully either. We cannot know who we will be in five years. Life changes us. Loss, grief, financial and family struggles change our value systems and our outlook. Even moment to moment, we cannot be fully honest about our motivations and feelings. We have limits, conflicts, and stresses of which we know nothing.

And this brings me to the second problem with trust. If we do make the conceptual leap I’m describing, and see that trust has to be earned, the next misconception involves how to earn it.

How do we earn trust? By proving ourselves trustworthy of course.

But that’s impossible. No one is ever fully trustworthy. The dirty little secret behind the billion dollar “trust and teamwork” industry is that being fully trustworthy is not possible.

We’re going to disappoint people. We are going to prove ourselves untrustworthy. As long as there is some part of us of which we’re not fully aware, as long as we are growing beings, we will have blind spots. We will say one thing, feel another, and do yet another, without being cognizant of it.

  • We say yes, and override our exhaustion, because we don’t want to disappoint people, but we don’t have the energy to follow through.
  • We agree to help because we’re driven by a need to be useful, but we’re over-committed and drop the ball.
  • We are desperate for recognition so we join a team with a high profile but feel out of our depths and can’t really deliver what we’ve said we would.
  • We get hurt when our idea is rejected, and then become unconsciously obstructionist and difficult to work with

There are a million reasons why, in any given moment, our behavior undermines our trustworthiness.

So, how do we build trust? Whom do I trust, if no one is fully trustworthy?

I trust people who make mistakes, fail to meet their goals, let me down, and can admit it, apologize, and be honest about their shortcomings.

Trust is developed not by avoiding mistakes and conflicts, but by making and repairing them. Trust is not developed by making good on your word, but on what you do after you break it.

Here’s what builds trust, in my experience:

  1. Stop measuring trust as an all or nothing deal. I can be trusted for some things, but not others. Know what you can’t be trusted on, and make sure people know that. Befriend the fact that people are inherently unreliable, and learn to work with it, instead of pretending you can prevent it.
  2. Learn how to identify and admit your shortcomings. The more we know our limits, and can discuss them with others, the more forewarned and thus forearmed everyone is. Our desire to be perfect makes us hide our shortcomings, and this makes us untrustworthy.
  3. Master the art of apology. People who cannot apologize are protecting themselves at the expense of the teamwork. Apologies are not just admitting wrongdoing, and saying you’re sorry. Apologies must also include understanding, and expressing your empathy over the discomfort or difficulty that the other person experienced as the result of your actions. Unless you know and feel what your actions resulted in, you’re not really apologizing.

We will disappoint each other. But it’s what happens afterwards that builds trust. If you can have an honest conversation about your own and the others’ limitations and issues, the things that make you both untrustworthy, then you have just put into place the foundation for trust.

8 Ways to Take Action Against Islamophobia

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by Cindy Trawinski, Psy.D.

Prejudice, stereotyping, bias—however we understand these tendencies and attitudes, we can learn to identify, confront, wrestle with, accept, and change them within ourselves. Sometimes, however, doing so is possible only with great difficulty.

Discrimination takes many forms, including harassment, bullying, hate speech, and scapegoating. Such behaviors put others at risk, cause harm and—at times—may even threaten lives. Given our current national and global tensions, what can an ordinary person do to reduce Islamophobia and the threat it poses to us all?

Shortly before the holidays, Gary Reiss, Ph.D., a process worker and LifeWorks colleague in Portland, OR, sent an email to our community about curbing Islamophobia wherever we encounter it. Gary’s email referenced Huffington Post article written by Manal Omar, Associate Vice-President of Middle East and Africa Center at the United States Institute of Peace. In that article, Omar shares eight actions anyone can take to help concretely reduce the threat Islamic Americans may feel in the our nation’s current political climate.

I am reposting the actions that Omar enumerated.  You may want to think about and consider using some or all of these in your daily life.

Tangible actions anyone can take to reduce Islamophobia in their community:

  • If you see a Muslim or someone who might be identified as Muslim being harassed, stop, say something, intervene, and call for help. If you see people abusing authority, stand firm against profiling.
  • If you ride public transportation, sit next to the hijabi (head scarf) woman and greet her. The fear of being in public for women in particular is increasing every day. A small act of kindness can have a transformative impact.
  • Engage the Muslims in your life. Make sure you really feel comfortable standing for and with your Muslim friends, neighbors, coworkers. If you have a Muslim work colleague, check in. Tell them that the news is horrifying and you want them to know you’re there for them. The concern and support I have received my colleagues is heartwarming and reminds me of my place here in the US.
  • If you have neighbors who are Muslim, keep an eye out for them. If you’re walking your kids home from the bus stop, invite their kids to walk with you.
  • Talk to your kids. They’re picking up on the anti-Muslim message. Make sure they know how you feel and talk to them about what they can do when they see bullying or hear hate speech at school.
  • Help fill the public space with positive messaging over the hate. Write letters to the editors and be aware of your social media posts.
  • Call your state and local representatives, let them know that you are concerned about hate speech against your Muslim friends and neighbors in politics and the media. Ask your representatives to be aware of new laws on visas and other issues that would create second class citizens.
  • Out yourself as someone who rejects Islamophobia and discrimination of any kind.

Click here to read Manal Omar’s article, “As a Muslim, My Heart Freezes with Fear,” in its entirety.

Omar ends his article with the following words (emphasis mine):

“Terror is fear-inspiring. Fear is paralyzing. Let’s stand up, stand tall, stand strong.”

If you or someone you care about has experienced Islamophobia or any kind of bias based on a negative attitude toward a certain religious, cultural, or spiritual belief or expression of identity, know that you are not alone. Religious and spiritual minorities often face harassment, prejudice, and stereotyping, sometimes on a daily basis. Whether this treatment arises from ignorance or malicious intent, it frequently leads to feelings of frustration, isolation, depression, ostracism, anger, self-hatred, and hopelessness—feelings your aggressor may, in fact, be tangling with themselves.

As each of us travels on our own journey of self exploration, only you can determine which spiritual path you choose to follow or disregard. However, as Manal Omar makes clear, there are some simple steps all of us can take to challenge discrimination, comfort those who are hurt, and seek help when we need it. Making the corner of the world where we live a safer place is something each of us can do.

Becoming a Poly Ally: How to Start

poly ally
Photo: Alex Cook, via Google Creative Commons

by Cindy Trawinski, Psy.D.

This blog was inspired by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) blog How to Be a LGBTQ Ally.  I am grateful to HRC for their groundbreaking leadership in the fight for the rights of LGBT people in US and around the world.  To read the original HRC blog, click http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/how-to-be-an-lgbt-ally

For a lot of people, learning that someone you know and care about is non-monogamous, polyamorous, opening up their marriage or charting their own course in the relationship world can be frightening, confusing and challenging.  If you are a parents, sibling, friend, co-worker who cares and means well, you may find you have unexpectedly strong emotional reactions to hearing the news.  You may feel confused, stunned, perplexed, worried, shy, excited, jealous, annoyed, curious, awkward or embarrassed.  This news may bring up old relationship wounds or conflicts.  And, at times, it may be hard to know how to interact with your friend or loved one. What to say? What not to say? How to talk about being polyamorous or non-monogamous?  How to be supportive? How to get comfortable with something that you may have never thought about before? — How to become a poly ally?

An “ally” is a term used to describe someone who is supportive of a marginalized person or group.  Allies are found inside and outside of the poly community. Allies can be heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer.  Allies can be monogamous, divorced, separated, partnered, married, non-monogamous, open, poly or swingers.   Allies don’t have to give up their identities to support others in finding and living a poly or non-monogamous relationship.

The Human Rights Campaign identified 5 ways to be an LGBT ally and I would like to expand their suggestions to readers who are developing an alliance with non-monogamous or poly individuals.

  1. Be honest:  It’s important to be honest with yourself — acknowledging your feelings, your judgements and maybe even your biases towards relationships. Coming to terms with your feelings and reactions may take time. Sometimes seeking out a poly-friendly therapist or counselor helps. And being honest means being honest with the person who came out in your life — acknowledging you aren’t an expert, asking them what’s important to them, seeking resources to better understand the realities of being a non-monogamous individual so that you can be truly informed and supportive.
  2. Send gentle signals:Showing and sharing your acceptance and support can be very easy. Many people often don’t realize that non-monogamous people keep watch for signs from their friends, family and acquaintances about whether it is safe to be open with them.
  3. Have courage:Just as it takes courage for people exploring non-monogamy to be open and honest about who they are, it also takes courage to support them. We live in a society where prejudice still exists and where discrimination is still far too common. The strong bias towards monogamous heterosexual coupling leading to marriage is very much alive and often unrecognized. Even imagining for a moment what your friend or love one is facing is coming out to you and giving your support to them will take your relationship to a higher level and is a small, but important step toward a better and more accepting world.
  4. Be reassuring:If it is true for you, let your friend or loved one know that the relationship constellation they are in or exploring does not change how you feel about them, but it might take a little while for you to digest what they have told you. Let them know you still care for and respect them as much as you ever have or more. And if it is right for you tell them that you want to do right by them and that you welcome them telling you if anything you say or do is upsetting.
  5. Let your support inform your decisions:Being an ally is about developing and deepening understanding of what it means to be open, poly or non-monogamous.  Developing an authentically supportive stance is a journey and a process in yourself and in your relationship with your friend or loved one as well as in your relationship with the world — which often is not so welcoming of diversity in relationship constellations.

Communication Challenges: Yes, That Again!!

communication challenges

by Rami Henrich, LCSW, Dipl. PW

Have you ever fallen into the pit of communication challenges? Or should I say miscommunication? What an interesting phenomena it can be, if and when you have the detachment to notice you are in the pit and are able to name it as interesting!

More often it is experienced as a quagmire, an endless spiral into the depths of frustration and at times hopelessness.

Here are a few tips to keep from falling, or at least to catch yourself when falling, into the pit.

1. First, tell the person you’d like to talk.  Ask if now is a good time, or set up a time that isn’t rushed to have a chat. Don’t just launch into your frustration or complaint without the agreement of the other person.

2. Begin your interaction by bringing forth good will. Start by letting them know your big picture intention.  Hopefully, you want to work through the current issue to improve the relationship, or to expand the feelings of closeness between you.  Say something like, “I’m bringing this up because I really care about you and would like to get closer.”

3. Agree together that one person will be the speaker and one will be the listener. And that you will switch back and forth so each will have a chance to speak and be heard.

4.  Speaker take your side fully…by that I mean say all you need and want to say.

5. Listener tell the speaker what you’ve heard them say. You can ask for short communications as too much can feel overwhelming. This is an incredibly important step as we all, at least the all that I know, crave being heard and understood.

5. In addition to hearing what the other has said, the listening partner tries to express back to the speaker what you’ve heard, venture a guess as to how the speaker is feeling. Being vulnerable, sharing yourself deeply, calls for feeling responses too. Not just the “I heard you say” responses. Both very important.

6. Then switch. Speaker become listener, listener become speaker.

Keep going until you feel a shift in the atmosphere between the two of you. I know the pit can feel bottomless but there really is hope!

How To Be a LGBT Ally

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by Hayley Miller

This post originally appeared on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) blog on October 5, 2015,  in advance of National Coming Out Day.  It was written by Hayley Miller, Senior Digital Media Associate.  We think it contains valuable information for anyone wanting to become more affirming and supportive to LGBT friends and family members.

For a lot of people, learning that someone they know and care about is LGBT can open a range of emotions, from confused to concerned, awkward to honored. It may be hard to know how to react, leaving you with questions about what to say, how to talk about being LGBT and wanting to know what you can do to be supportive.

An “ally” is a term used to describe someone who is supportive of LGBT people. It encompasses non-LGBT allies as well as those within the LGBT community who support each other, e.g. a lesbian who is an ally to the bisexual community.

Here are five ways you can be an LGBT ally:

  1. Be honest:  It’s important to be honest with yourself — acknowledging your feelings and coming to terms with them. And it means being honest with the person who came out in your life — acknowledging you aren’t an expert, asking them what’s important to them, seeking resources to better understand the realities of being an LGBT individual so that you can be truly informed and supportive.
  2. Send gentle signals: Showing and sharing your acceptance and support can be very easy. Many people often don’t realize that LGBT people keep watch for signs from their friends, family and acquaintances about whether it is safe to be open with them. It can be as subtle as having an LGBT-themed book on your coffee table.
  3. Have courage: Just as it takes courage for LGBT people to be open and honest about who they are, it also takes courage to support your LGBT friends or loved ones. We live in a society where prejudice still exists and where discrimination is still far too common. Recognizing these facts and giving your support to that person will take your relationship to a higher level and is a small step toward a better and more accepting world.
  4. Be reassuring: Explain to a someone who came out to you that their sexual orientation or gender identity has not changed how you feel about them, but it might take a little while for you to digest what they have told you. You still care for and respect them as much as you ever have or more. And that you want to do right by them and that you welcome them telling you if anything you say or do is upsetting.
  5. Let your support inform your decisions: It’s about working to develop a true understanding of what it means to be LGBT in America and trying to do your part to help break down the walls of prejudice and discrimination that still exist — for example, by supporting businesses with appropriate anti-discrimination policies, saying you don’t appreciate “humor” that demeans LGBT people when it happens or learning about where political candidates stand on issues that have an impact on the LGBT community.

HRC’s Coming Out as a Supporter resource, made in partnership with Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National, is intended to be a welcoming guide for supporters to build bridges of understanding when someone they know comes out to them as LGBT. The guide answers initial questions and shares facts, strategies, and ways to show your support as an ally in the fight for LGBT equality.

Read the guide in full here.

Real Life in a Polyamorous Family — The Long Haul

polyamorous family
Photo: Robert Ashworth, Flickr Creative Commons

by Rami Henrich, LCSW

The following is an excerpt from an article that I wrote for Elizabeth Sheff’s book, Stories from the Polycule: Real Life in Polyamorous Families. The first of its kind, this anthology collects stories and essays written by and about real people living in “polycules”: the networks between people in polyamorous relationships.

One afternoon when my son was six, he was playing with a friend in the front yard. It was a beautiful fall day and the boys were doing what many boys do on a beautiful fall day: collecting leaves into huge piles and jumping headlong into them. It’s amazing how many piles kids can make and how many hours they can entertain themselves doing that!

Who’s the Mama?
My partner, Cindy, and I were a few feet away cleaning out the garage, when my son  and his friend, Matt, sauntered into the garage covered with leaves from head to toe. My son said, “Matt wants to know who is the mama? Who is she?” he said pointing at Cindy. I replied, “Well, just tell him that I’m your mom.” My son  turned to Matt, “That’s my mom”, he said, pointing to me. A moment later he returned, “Mom, Matt wants to know who Cindy is.” “Just tell her she is part of our family,” I said. “She’s part of our family,” he said to Matt as they ran into another crackling pile of leaves.

At age six, that answer sufficed, but as my son  got older it became more and more difficult for him to come up with an answer that would not only satisfy others but also himself. At the time, there were no easy answers to these seemingly easy questions, no role models or words to describe Cindy’s role in our family configuration.

Me in Common
Before going any further, perhaps it would be useful to explain our family’s relationship dynamic. Tom and I are  legally married. In fact, we were married twice: once in Bombay, India in 1976 while living in an ashram, and a second time in a Jewish ceremony in my parents’ apartment with a handful of family members in attendance. We have two biological children (a daughter born in 1978 and a son born in 1990). Cindy and I have been partners in a relationship since 1983, and we have lived together  since 1992.

Cindy and Tom have a close, supportive relationship that involves more than friendship, in part, because they have me in common. They have travelled together, and supported one another when either one of them was in relationship turmoil with me. As a result, there is a closeness between them that differs from other friendships.  They do not have an intimate sexual relationship, yet they are closely related. If asked if they are polyamorous, both Tom and Cindy would say that they are in a polyamorous relationship but that they do not identify as polyamorous. This is because they are not in love with two people; each of them loves me, and I am the one who has multiple loves. I deeply love both Tom and Cindy, and feel fortunate to have had so much love in my life.

As for myself, I am not entirely sure of how I identify. It is still an unfolding question and answer for me, but for the purposes of this inquiry, I will refer to myself as polyamorous. Hearing  the word for the first time in the mid 90s and calling myself a polyamorist felt like a bit of a retro-fit; giving myself an established name and identity where once there was none. I didn’t have a problem with the word, but it felt a bit like a suit of clothing that didn’t quite yet fit or like a wool sweater that caused my skin to itch. Regardless of whether it fit perfectly or not, polyamory does describe a life relationship pattern that is meaningful to me and, I have found, to others.

Loving more than one person is not always a walk in the park. Much of my work, as a psychotherapist, focuses on the challenges facing people in polyamorous relationships. It has been a difficult undertaking for my family to carve its own path in the world, and by bringing forth parts of our story here, I hope to articulate some of the difficulties and joys of living an unconventional lifestyle that is still in the margins of today’s mainstream culture. When Cindy, Tom and I decided to live together as a family, we hadn’t thought it out, we didn’t have a plan or a map, and we didn’t know anyone else living like this. We just thought we’d give it a go and try it out, telling ourselves, “How difficult could it be?” Not only were there no role models or advisers, but we hardly had the courage to speak with anyone in our community for fear of how they might react to our lifestyle.

To read more of Rami’s chapter, please check out a copy of Elizabeth Sheff’s Stories from the Polycule, available on Amazon.

Longing for Belonging

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by Rami Henrich, LCSW

The Chicago Polyamory Support Group is now into its 6th year. The group has welcomed hundreds of people through its doors. Being an open support group, anyone can come at any time. Each month a topic is selected and each time the discussion flows — both on and off topic as the group process unfolds.

A recent topic was “Telling Our Stories,” — sharing ourselves and listening with hearts open and attentive minds. Thirty people gathered and each person had the opportunity (if they so chose) to tell their story — embracing an in-the-moment, impromptu telling. Nothing prepackaged or prepared ahead of time. What happened was moving, touching, inspiring, brought tears to my eyes and smiles to my lips for 2 hours.

Whether 30 seconds or 3 minutes in duration, each story spoke to the depths of each person who shared…stories of sadness, endurance, strength, tenderness, upbringings filled with love and caring, pain and sorrow. One theme that echoed throughout the room was that of feeling “weird, an outsider, of not belonging” both in families of origin and over the course of time in the world. The feeling of not belonging mirrored the experiences I have written about in a paper on the concerns and issues unique to polyamorous clients who seek psychotherapy. Interesting!

The Chicago Poly Support Group has grown into a community of people who provide a home where those of us who feel on the fringes of mainstream society can bring our “outsiderness” in and feel inside, where we, who feel weird, can feel normal in our weirdness, where those of us who feel like we don’t belong, do belong.

Longing for belonging, so personal, and so universal — especially for those of us who may feel that we don’t.

Meditation on Weathering: The Inevitability of Aging

weatheringWeathering
by Fleur Adcock

My face catches the wind
from the snow line
and flushes with a flush

that will never wholly settle.
Well, that was a metropolitan vanity,
wanting to look young forever, to pass.
I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
and only pretty enough to be seen
with a man who wanted to be seen
with a passable woman.

But now that I am in love
with a place that doesn’t care
how I look and if I am happy,
happy is how I look and that’s all.
My hair will grow grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake,
my waist thicken, and the years
work all their usual changes.

If my face is to be weather beaten as well,
it’s little enough lost
for a year among the lakes and vales
where simply to look out my window
at the high pass
makes me indifferent to mirrors
and to what my soul may wear
over its new complexion.

I have a favorite bench that overlooks Lake Michigan here in Evanston, IL. I call it my “eternity bench” due to an experience, I frequently have when looking at the beach, lake and horizon from there. I often sense something that exists throughout and beyond space and time. However esoteric that may sound, that has been and is my experience there.

Reading the poem, Weathering, I am in touch by something similar  — the inevitability of aging, and the something that connects me to everything over all time and to all of us who have the privilege of aging. Like the author, Fleur Adcock, I look less in my bathroom mirror to find beauty or lack thereof, and look more within to find it.

As I live with my own aging process and that of aging clients, I appreciate our weathering, our regrets and joys, as we sometimes fight against and sometimes drop deeply into the eldership of weathering.

About 30 years ago, I knew a woman who had her face lifted and tucked, implanted, slimmed down, puffed up and pulled so tightly that she had a slightly permanent smile. But she couldn’t laugh because her face couldn’t move. At 75, her face showed no signs of having lived.  It was actually quite sad.

I grow to appreciate my wrinkles, and sun spots, and even a little sagging here and there. Those spots tell me how much pleasure I have had walking the lakefront and the seashore, face up to the elements — wind, rain, snow, sunshine. Ahhh, weathering!

 

Therapist Bias

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by Cindy Trawinski, Psy.D. & Rami Henrich, LCSW

Bias influences all of us — even therapists.

In fact, one 2011 study indicates that as many as 50% of clients identifying as polyamorous had seen therapists that they felt lacked cultural competency or were biased.

Meanwhile, a 2006 study by Drs. Keely Kolmes, Wendy Stock, and Charles Moser found that 67% of therapeutic relationships with kink/BDSM-identified clients studied included instances of biased care, such as…

  • considering BDSM to be unhealthy,
  • requiring a client to give up BDSM activity in order to continue treatment,
  • confusing BDSM with abuse,
  • the client having to educate the therapist about BDSM,
  • assuming that BDSM interests are evidence of past family/spousal abuse, and
  • therapists misrepresenting their expertise by stating that they are BDSM-positive when they are not actually knowledgeable about BDSM practices.

What can clinicians do to detect and reduce bias within themselves? How can therapists avoid issues like the above in order to better serve BDSM-, LGBTQ-, poly-, and kink-identified clients, as well as other marginalized individuals?

2015 Alternative Sexualities Conference in Chicago

Join us later this month as we explore these topics and more at the 7th Alternative Sexualities Conference (ASC), where we will present “Working with Therapist Bias: A Lifelong Approach.” Hosted by our friends and colleagues at the Center on Halsted, the ASC is produced by the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) and the Projects Advancing Sexual Diversity (PASD).  Read on for details about the conference and our presentation.

Alternative Sexualities Conference

When: Friday, May 22nd, 9am–6pm
Where: The Center on Halsted, 3656 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60613

Description from the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities website (CARAS):

Leather, kink, BDSM, polyamory, alt sex… Non-traditional sexual practices, lifestyles, and identities have become increasingly visible in recent years. With more portrayals on television and in movies, as well as in literature and music, clients are feeling increasingly comfortable about bringing “forbidden” sexual issues to psychotherapy.

The ASC has been designed to provide clinical perspectives, empirical data and opportunities to discuss the challenges encountered in clinical work and research in the alternative sexuality communities. Our seventh conference includes individual, panel and poster presentations featuring professionals from across the United States, London, and Australia.

ASC is produced by the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) based in San Francisco and Projects Advancing Sexual Diversity (PASD) centered in Chicago. This year we are happy to partner with Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Institute (SOGI) at the Center on Halsted for our largest conference ever.

Therapist Bias: A Lifelong Approach

We define bias as anything that limits one’s capacity to relate to the other as a whole, or that which creates a tendency to marginalize aspects of another’s experiences. The facts are evident: every therapist, no matter their identity or background, has bias. Some bias is easy to recognize, but some remains unknown or hidden from us.

In this presentation, we will explore ways clinicians can detect, identify, and work on their own assumptions and prejudices towards clients. We’ll approach bias from within, viewing it as a reflection or expression of a tendency to marginalize or overemphasize something or some quality within ourselves. Through lecture, group exercise, and guided debriefing, participants will gain perspectives and tools to serve clients, and integrate insights into their own experience of  bias, regardless of the individual’s orientation, gender, cultural heritage, practices, or relationship status.

Interested in this topic but can’t attend the ASC? You can catch us June 6th, at theHazelden Betty Ford Clinic in Chicago where we will be offering a three-hour, CEU bearing course on therapist bias. Find more information here.

We would love to hear from you. How does bias impact you?

You can also leave a comment here, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, orLinkedIn with your thoughts.

Visit our therapist events page for a listing of upcoming seminars, workshops, groups, and classes, including details about our next KPACT (Kink Poly Aware Chicago Therapists) event.