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I’ve Been Certified in Discernment Counseling!

It’s been a long haul getting here – months and months of training, lots of cases, loads of reading, and plenty of constructive feedback from the experts at The Doherty Relationship Institute, but now I am officially certified as a Discernment Counselor!                                                                 (And, as far as I know, I’m also the only clinician in New Hampshire trained to do this delicate, important work).

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this type of treatment Discernment Counseling is a form of brief treatment specially designed for couples on the brink of divorce. These couples come into the work with “mixed agendas” – one spouse more hopeful about staying married, ready to do the work of repair, and the other spouse “leaning out,” not very hopeful, often feeling a high degree of ambivalence about moving forward together, and frequently feeling out of energy for “trying” anymore.

Discernment Counseling is a brief intervention for these couples, (one to five sessions only), with the goal of helping these spouses make a clear, confident decision about a direction for the relationship – either stay in the marriage as it is, move toward a divorce, or do the work of reconciliation and repair for a period of up to six months to get a sense of possibilities for the marriage.  Couples who participate in this process avoid the financial and time waste of engaging in a half-hearted couples therapy, which often happens when one spouse hasn’t yet decided if they “want to try.”

So, if you feel that this form of treatment may be suitable for you, go to the Discernment Counseling page of my website,  http://susanlager.com/discernment-counseling/‎,                                                           check it out, and call me at 603-431-7131 if you’d like to schedule a session.

The Winter Blues: Make Peace with the Season or Be Miserable!

IMG_8362.JPG Susan at Lincoln Woods, NH 1:15:17 with friends

This past weekend it was a balmy 24 degrees for the high on most of Saturday and Sunday here in the Northeast. Many of you might grimace at this information, especially if you live in Maine or New Hampshire and routinely experience a six month winter. You’re even more likely to look at this photo of me on the Lincoln Woods trail, deep in the heart of the mountains, and think I’m crazy, right? What you may not realize is that, along with some good friends and my husband I was practicing the art of making peace with the cold, given the fact that we can’t change it and would certainly get very depressed hanging around inside all winter. (What you can’t see in this particular photo is the fact that all four of us had just driven two hours North to see the Ice Castles, basically, an ambitious bunch of ice towers near Loon Mountain – all freezing stuff)!

But, there’s method to the madness: Get out in nature after you’ve sufficiently bundled up, experience it’s beauty, yield to it, and you’ll be taking a natural anti-depressant! So, whatever feels most comfortable to you – downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, ice skating, or just plain trail walking with your dog, if you have one – any of these activities will help you not only get through the very long New England winter, but will give you exercise, social contact, a happy dog and communion with nature. All very good things….

BlogTalk Radio episode about conflict in the workplace airing Wednesday, 9/23 8:30 PM

Due to technical issues with BlogTalk Radio, unfortunately last month’s episode, “Workplace Relationships: Dealing with the Dreaded Drama of Conflict” never aired, and has been rescheduled to Wednesday, September 23rd at 8:30 PM.  My apologies for any inconvenience.

DO tune in to the rescheduled episode if you’ve experienced conflict at work and have felt dread and indecision about what to do. Or, if you have a manager who doesn’t handle conflict productively, you end up getting the short end of the stick, and again, dread dealing with the issue, then this show is for you!

My co-host Pattie Porter, The Texas Conflict Coach, is an expert in the field of conflict management, and will share her insights about the issues, along with some critical tools you can use to manage these situations more confidently and effectively.

Call 877-497-9046 to join us live on the air with questions or comments. If you can’t make the live show you can listen to the recording afterward at your convenience at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

4 Tips for Effectively Pushing Yourself

When was the last time you got out of a warm bed at the crack of dawn to sweat on a treadmill – with eagerness? Or relinquished the beach on a gloriously sunny Saturday to do tax preparation? Or gladly put your openly introverted self in front of a group of 300 peers to give a lecture? You may have done all or any of these things, but chances are that you had to push yourself out of your comfort zone to do them in the name of some kind of benefit or reward. If, on the other hand, you’ve made a habit of staying in your womb-like routine without taking any risks into the unfamiliar, then you’ve probably missed out on some novel experiences, learning, excitement and rewards.

So, if you’d like to be less risk averse and get better at pushing yourself to do new things, here are a four of my seven tips and tools I’ve developed from my years of working with individuals and couples in therapy:

  1. Create a clear vision for your goal, defined specifically. (Ex: By tax time in April I will have all my financial data tabulated and formatted, ready for the accountant in Quickbooks).
  2. Identify your potential saboteurs and what your options are to head them off at the pass. (Ex: Self, wanting to do more fun stuff. Fix: Reward self with the fun stuff after I’ve done the work each week).
  3. Formulate a clear action plan for the “Push,” defining it specifically and behaviorally. (Ex: I will do two hours of Quickbooks entries every Saturday from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM regardless of the weather or invitations I’ve received to do fabulous things).
  4. Identify the intrinsic and concrete rewards to yourself / others in making this effort to move out of your comfort zone. (Ex: I will feel more organized, centered, and prepared for tax time. My accountant will appreciate the timely, orderly data. My friends and family will get to see a cheerier version of me more frequently on weekends).

For more free tools and tips about this and many other issues, subscribe to my list on the right. “Pushing Yourself” is the 92nd free article you will get about all kinds of issues related to the relationship with yourself and with others.

In addition, if you’d like individual help with self-motivation or any other dilemma, feel free to contact me at my Portsmouth, NH office anytime for an appointment at: 603-431-7131. I’d be glad to help!

Ashley Madison Hack: Divorce Not An Inevitable Outcome!

If you or your spouse has been exposed as using the Ashley Madison site to seek an affair, stop and take a deep breath! (Apparently thousands of people have already flocked to lawyers to pull the trigger on impulsively decided divorces).  Driven by the hurt and humiliation of public exposure and profound betrayal, as a discovering spouse you are understandably experiencing the first waves of trauma that this news usually brings. Vengeance and assuaging the broken trust through divorce may seem like the only solution to you at this point.

As the unfaithful spouse you are probably traumatized in different ways: what may have seemed like a discreet, compartmentalized adventure without victims now feels real in its damaging consequences. You are now either bathed in shame and fear, or furious that you can no longer “have your cake and eat it too.” However justified you may feel for your infidelity you know that your world is about to become unravelled. You are about to take the hit for everything wrong with the marriage, and cannot imagine ever being forgiven. If you stay married you imagine a lifetime in the “doghouse.” Whichever end you’re on, the impulse on both sides is often to give up and get a divorce, convinced that healing and reconciliation would be impossible.

As a couples therapist who, for many years has worked with thousands of couples reeling from infidelity, I have a few strong pieces of advice:

  • Slow down!
  • Take some deep breaths!
  • Don’t make any rash decisions now!
  • Don’t impulsively file for divorce!

Here are some things you may NOT be aware of:

  • Many marriages can not only be saved, but strengthened after the trauma of infidelity. It requires a lot of determination, hard work, vision, and a good couples therapist the spouses both trust.
  • Many couples who impulsively divorce deeply regret that decision later on.
  • Children are often the biggest victims, especially in a contentious divorce.
  • If you don’t know what direction to take regarding your damaged marriage there is an alternative to couples therapy called Discernment Counseling. This is a brief treatment designed for couples where one spouse is leaning toward a divorce and the other wants to stay married. It is not geared toward tools and skills for repair, but instead focuses on helping partners make a decision about a direction for the marriage. Only trained Discernment Counselors can provide this service.
  • There are terrific books and support groups for couples wrestling with infidelity.
  • If you do decide to get a divorce you can have a healing, constructive process through Collaborative Law. Divorce doesn’t have to be an impoverishing dog fight.
  • There may be hope. There is help.

Anyone in the greater Boston area wanting more information, feel free to contact me at The Couples Center PLLC, in Portsmouth, NH: 603-431-7131.

 

Wednesday, June 3rd 8:30 PM BlogTalk Radio episode “Life Your Way” – A Talk with Author Amy Wood”

Don’t miss my next 45 minute BlogTalk Radio episode, “Life Your Way” – A Talk with Author Amy Wood.” We’ll discuss this prize-winning, vital book which provides a compelling approach on how to manage the constant “Go! Do! Be Better!” stresses of 21st century American life.

Get some really useful insights on how you can use your instincts and intuition to find balance and confidence, and how to move more intentionally toward a happier, more fulfilling life.

Call toll-free 877-497-9046 to join us on the air with questions or comments, or to just listen and benefit from the conversation about such an important topic.

Can’t make the live show? Catch the recording afterward at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

“Healing Trauma Through Yoga – Hope for Survivors” BTR Show 2/5/15 8:30 PM EST

I’m very excited to announce this upcoming BlogTalk Radio episode about Trauma Sensitive Yoga with Lisa Boldin, a graduate of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, and specialist practitioner in this unique form of Yoga.

In this episode we’ll discuss the unique advantages of Trauma Sensitive Yoga for anyone who is struggling with anxiety, emotional stress, or trauma related to experiences such as sexual assault, military combat, or domestic violence.

Call in toll-free at 877-497-9046 to share comments or ask questions about this Yoga. Or, listen live streaming (or later to the recording) at www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager where you will learn more about how and why this practice offers unique benefits for coping with PTSD. You won’t want to miss this show!

Sex Therapy Online – Is It For You? Find Out on My Next BlogTalk Radio Episode Wed. 10/15 8:30 PM EST

I have a really exciting half hour BlogTalk Radio episode coming up this Wednesday, October 15th at 8:30 PM EST! The show title is “Sex Therapy Online – Is It For You”? My guest will be Rhiannon Beauregard, a certified sex therapist, who will be talking about online sex therapy, what it is, how it works, and when it might be the most useful form of treatment. Call in with questions or comments toll-free 877-497-9046, or if the lines are busy call 760-542-4114. Hope you can be there live! 

Discernment Counseling Update – Some Results and Impressions

I’ve been doing Discernment Counseling for several months at this point. (For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it’s a form of treatment specially designed for “mixed agenda” couples, where one person wants to continue the relationship and has hope for improving it, and the other person feels done and is “leaning out,” but hasn’t yet pulled the plug. It’s a one to five session form of treatment geared to help the couple move toward one of three choices:  stay in the status quo, or break up, or do the work of reconciliation. It’s a decisional therapy, not regular couples therapy which presumes mutual energy and commitment toward improving the relationship. It is designed to help “couples on the brink” avoid the time, expense and frustration of  half-hearted couples therapy). I can tell you right now that it works! I don’t yet have any hard statistics, but in my experience so far I’ve found that this way of working really resonates for couples in this dilemma for the following reasons, among many:

  1. Both partners tend to feel understood and honored, as nobody is being “sold” the continuation of the relationship. Instead, the three paths are intricately explored, with each partner exploring their own part in the negative history, as well as in possibilities for change of any kind.
  2. The “leaning out” partner doesn’t feel pursued or pressured to stay in the relationship by the therapist (who often in regular couples therapy would mirror the pursuit of the “leaning in” partner by encouraging strategies for improving things). Instead, they are given space to explore any ambivalence they may have about moving on, as well as space to look at their own contributions to the situation.
  3. The “leaning in” partner is helped to look at how to bring their best self to the work, and not humiliate themself in the process, as well as exploring their understanding and willingness to address their partner’s concerns.
  4. Clients report really appreciating the format, where we begin the session by meeting all together, then each is seen individually while the other leaves the room, ending with us all reconvening so partners can share their thoughts and feelings about what they have each gained or taken from their individual sessions. I get regular feedback about how each person feels safer having their own time with me to look at the issues, and what they want to convey to their partner about what they’ve learned.
  5. I observe a tremendous lessening of defensiveness and commotion without both partners in the room at all times, given free reign to talk at each other. There is very strict protocol for each segment of the sessions. This is not a free-for-all, duplicating the toxic dance the couple has already been doing. It’s a carefully guided exploration.
  6. So far, this form of treatment has moved most seemingly intractable couples toward a more solid, trusted decision about their future relationship.

I am in the process of pursuing advanced training in this work, so I can envision ironing out some of the kinks which come up, like the time management piece – (there’s lots to cover in a particular sequence each session, something a bit foreign to my more organic way of working). There are also unique dilemmas presented by each couple which require attention and sensitivity. We’re nowhere near perfect, but Discernment Counseling is experienced as a whole different thing by couples on the brink of a split.

For any “mixed agenda” couple interested in getting out of a stalemate around the direction of your relationship, feel free to contact me in my Portsmouth office to further discuss the possibility of doing Discernment Counseling with me. I have some openings at this point, but expect that as we move into the Fall my availability will be much more limited, as it usually is when Summer ends.

BlogTalk Radio Episode: “What’s Your Conflict Style?” Wednesday 5/28/14 8:30 PM EST

In this 45 minutes episode, Susan Lager co-hosts with Meredith Richardson, a collaborative lawyer, mediator and conflict coach on the Southern New England coast. Hosting other events together, such as couples retreats, the two women bring their own spin to the issue of conflict in marriage as well as in friendships and in the workplace. Lager and Richardson explore the different conflict styles, and explore how each of us learns to manage conflict based on earlier experiences and adaptations to those environments.

  • Find out what triggers you and why, and how you manage it well or badly.
  • Take one of the recommended Conflict Quizes to find out more about your own conflict style
  • Get some ideas for avoiding the “same old fight'” with your partner! Get a head’s up on getting along better with your spouse, friends, and co-workers!

Call in toll-free 877-497-9046 at 8:30 EST to just listen in, or to join the conversation on the air with questions or comments. Don’t miss this one – it should be lively!

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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