Couplespeak™ Blog

Moving forward with therapy amidst Covid -19

To all current and prospective clients,
 
I hope you and your family are all well and managing this crisis reasonably well.
 
In the interest of safety and social responsibility I’m no longer seeing clients at the office, but instead via either
phone or video conferencing through Doxy.me, an easy to use, HIPAA compliant setup. 
All you’ll need to do is to wait for an email from Doxy.me/SusanLager telling you I’m ready to begin
your session, click on the link enclosed and you’ll be in my virtual “waiting room” until I let you into your session.
There’s no need for you to download any software or join anything. A Chrome or Firefox connection is best, but
Safari works as well. A laptop or iPad provides much better reception than an iPhone.
 
If you prefer, we can do a phone session if you don’t have access to a computer or would be more comfortable
with that. Just let me know what number you’d like me to call. 
 
*You will just need to call my VM at 603-431-7131 ahead of time to let me know your preference,
so we don’t take up your session time with these logistics.
 
I’m recommending that all clients who would be coming in for sessions under normal circumstances continue
their therapy this way, especially in these times of uncertainty, fear, anxiety, loss and isolation. All you’ll need
will be a private space and a laptop, iPad or phone for 50 minutes. This will allow you to continue our work in
the safety and comfort of your own home or private space.
 
If your are a current client I would expect us to maintain all sessions moving forward, especially in light of the
possibility that this crisis will persist for the next several months, according to infectious disease experts. Waiting
until this pandemic recedes to schedule a next session at the office may just be too ambiguous, creating a prolonged
limbo state for your relationship work. The same is true if you are a prospective client.
 
It’s of paramount importance to me that my clients have tools for support and continued growth during this highly
stressful time which challenges everyone’s fanciest coping skills, especially for couples who have already been
wrestling with relationship or family issues.
I hope you’ll avail yourself of this “new normal” way of working. 
 
Stay healthy and safe,
Susan

Rethinking Our Notions About “Productivity”

I’m sharing this beautifully written blogpost with you from Cindy Giovagnoli about expanding our definitions of “productivity.” This is a subject I find personally and professionally very relevant, and one that I think you may too, so I’m delighted that she gave me permission to reprint it here to share with you, my readers.

Cindy is a gifted photographer, artist, writer, podcaster, website developer, adventurer and nature lover whom I did a podcast with a few years ago about “Noticing.” She’s a funny, honest, wise old soul whose thoughts and ideas can be found at: StayCurious@CindyGiovagnoli.com.

Enjoy!                                                                                                                                                                                                      Susan

 

A few days ago, I took Chili Dog over to my favorite local running trails so that he and I could both stretch our legs and breathe in some wild air away from the sounds of cars and people and busy-ness.

It was drizzly and a little raw (Seattle winter, anyone?), but I actually love the woods in that weather- it feels extra quiet and mysterious and there tends to be fewer people on the trails.

As Chili and I began, I ran through my mental list of things “to do” while I was out there. I wanted to brainstorm a writing project and some website tweaks I’m making behind the scenes. I wanted to think about possible applications for some advice I’d heard on a podcast episode. Think through the structure of a class I’ll be offering locally in 2020.

I pulled up the “notes” app on my phone, ready to jot down what came to me. As I was looking down at my screen, a bigleaf maple leaf fell from the tree above me and landed across my phone.

How’s that for a sign from the universe?

As I peeled the enormous damp leaf from my phone, I realized that I’d fallen into a mindset trap that can sneak up on us without our noticing: the idea that “being productive” is the highest value on our time.
It was a Tuesday in the middle of the day- didn’t I have to justify my hours in the woods with some kind of work product?

There are two big problems with that idea:

(1) It defines “productive” as relating solely to work product, to tangible, measurable outcomes related to how I make my living. That’s a pretty narrow definition.

What about how I do my living? As in, the quality of my life? Of my days? They’re numbered, after all. Such is the reality of mortality.

So why wouldn’t my definition of “productive” include things that bring health, wellness, wonder, awe, peace, or simple joy to my days?

It should.

Walking in the woods, reading a novel, meeting a friend for great conversation over coffee, sketching in my journal, taking in an exhibit…even binge-watching Netflix in the right circumstances- these can all qualify as “productive” tasks when we broaden the definition to include the things that make our lives richer and more enjoyable.

(2) If we’ve decided that being “productive” (even in it’s broadened definition) is the absolute highest value we can place on our time, we’ve disregarded the power of blank space in our lives. And blank space is where a lot of magic happens.

Part of what led me to a “to do” list of brainstorming ideas while on a walk in the woods is the fact that I often have breakthroughs and game-changing ideas when I’m out on such an excursion.

But.

The reason that those breakthroughs and ideas happen is usually due to the fact that I’ve allowed my mind free time. I’ve allowed boredom and daydreaming and for my thoughts to wander where they will at random.

It’s amazing what can pop up when we allow our brains to do their own thing for a bit. It’s why so many ideas land on people while they’re in the shower.

Connections are made. Problems are solved. Ideas take shape.

But there’s no way to force this. There’s no way to prompt it.

We simply have to leave some blank space and then see what happens.

Sometimes that space will result in ideas or breakthroughs and sometimes it won’t. You never know.

At worst, we end up with a brain that got a bit of rest. Not such a bad deal, really.

So I invite you to broaden your definition of “productive” to include the things that add richness and meaning and joy to your life, regardless of whether they have a measurable outcome that makes money or not. And also to allow for some blank space for boredom and daydreaming and letting your mind wander at will.

I’d like to hear what that looks like for you, so hit reply and tell me- how do you define productive and where do you find some space in your days?

Stay curious out there!

P.S. I’m a little late this week, but I’ll be going live in The Curiosity Cabinet tomorrow at 12 noon EST. I hope you’ll join me for 10-15 minutes of talking a bit about embracing these ideas of re-defined productivity and the value of empty space in our lives!

Next 30 minute BlogTalk Radio podcast Wed., 1/30/19 at 8:30 PM: “How to Interrupt Frustrating Impasses and Standoffs with Your Spouse”

In this 30 minute episode I explore the frequently experienced issue of standoffs or impasses in marriage – those times when couples get “locked in” to a negative sequence when nobody feels heard or acknowledged, and nothing gets resolved. These “lock-in’s” can be about critical issues of importance or minor things, but the feelings of frustration, anger, and helplessness generally feel quite awful for each spouse.

Tune in to get some handy tools this couples therapist can teach you to interrupt the impasses, manage yourself more calmly, and move forward with your spouse in a more conciliatory manner.

Join me and have to option to be live on the air with questions or comments by calling toll-free 877-497-9046.

If you can’t make the live podcast you can stream it anytime at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager.

Living in Connection

I recently returned from a whirlwind vacation in Slovenia and Croatia, where my husband Thom and I not only had a terrific adventure, but also where the experience of living in connection was palpable. In the above picture I was having one of our daily Cappuccino’s at a riverfront cafe in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. Not only are their coffees terrific there, but most special was being immersed in a culture which seems to embrace connection. People there routinely sit outside together, young and old, regardless of the weather, enjoying coffees, wine, sweets, meals and good old conversation all day and night! We hardly saw anyone on their cellphones, ignoring the humans in their midst the way we routinely do in the USA. We were struck by how friendly and happy the people there seemed, and not just the tourists who were enjoying a vacation. We returned to the States convinced in a new way that the experience of daily human connection and personal happiness are intertwined.   So, when you’re not on vacation in a friendly spot what can you do in your daily life to promote connection?  
  1. Be intentional about engagement when you’re with other people. Maintain eye contact, listen, share, and most importantly, don’t confuse cellphone use with human socialization unless you’re sharing photos or anecdotes, and it’s not a solo, isolating activity.
  2. Take time each day to find people and places where you can have some meaningful conversation – whether it’s at the cooler, at lunch on a walk, or after work at a restaurant. If you’re a stay- at- home Mom join a mother’s group or a gym where you can find connection.
  3. Create small pockets of connection with your partner if you lack big expanses of time. Get away from an”all or nothing” frame. Share a glass of wine while cooking dinner, sit together and talk about the TV program you’re watching, share news about your day over dinner or walking the dog together. Plan your weekend and create something to look forward to.
  4. Use technology to let the people you care about know you’re thinking about them, then make a date. Don’t use technology as a substitute for the real thing, creating pseudo intimacy. Reach out and do stuff with the people you value.
  5. When you’ve experienced conflict in a relationship, (as you inevitably will in most normal relationships), don’t let it stew – instead, address it in whatever way the relationship will sustain, so it doesn’t become a barrier to connection. (The exception to this would be relationships which feel abusive, then boundaries are your best resource).
  6. When you’re alone find moments of connection with strangers who feel safe to you – talk with the supermarket clerk, start a conversation with the person next to you at a bar or restaurant, compare dog stories with other dog walkers. Engage!
However you do it, be intentional and creative about maximizing the experience of connection in your life. You’ll be happier, for sure.                                                          PS. If you need help with this issue feel free to contact me at my Portsmouth, NH office at 603-431-7131 for an appointment.

Wednesday 1/17/18 8:30 PM EST BlogTalk Radio Episode: “How Good a Partner are You? Take the Test”

In this half hour episode I explore the issues involved with being either a clueless spouse / partner, or one who has healthy, loving partnership skills. This episode taps into emotional intelligence, how highly you would rate yourself when examining your attitudes, knowledge and practices in your primary relationship, and identifying areas where you may need to improve to avoid misery, and to create more satisfaction for you and your partner / spouse. Tune in and take the 20 question test to get a better read on how the experts might score you, also to get a better sense of where you might be headed for avoidable trouble!

To join the conversation live with questions or comments call toll-free 877-497-9046.  If you can’t make the live show you can hear the recording anytime afterward at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

However you tune in, you won’t want to miss this episode! You’ll learn about relationship skills and practices essential to happiness and trust!

Blog Talk Radio Host

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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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