Life lessons you need to learn.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Learning lifes lessons

Life lessons you need to learn.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

What life lessons do you need to learn?

You probably went to school for a while or you wouldn’t be reading this. You learned your alphabet, reading and some math. Maybe a little history, very little history if you are typical. What most of us missed out on were the lessons about the required emotional skills. How you get through this life in one piece.

By life lessons, I am not necessarily talking about how to cook a meal or wash some clothes, though those are useful skills. What I am talking about is how to go about really “living” this thing we call a life. What do you do to create a happy life out of the raw material that will be thrown at you?

Below are some of the life lessons you may not have gotten enough training in. There are things counselors work on with their clients all the time. If you see any of these life lessons you feel you need to work on, consider some therapy or a good book on self-improvement that covers the part you still need to learn.

Stress reduction will keep you from stressing out.

Life is stressful. There is good stress and bad stress. Much of this thing we call stress is the result of our anticipating what will happen, not the actual happening. In another post about stress, I wrote about how people who are going through a really difficult time can be less stressed out than those who are afraid they will have to have that experience.  Accept that stress is a required part of living.  Learn to reduce the impact of that stress on your life.

Emotional Regulation is a skill that will keep you out of trouble.

It comes as a surprise to many people that they can regulate their emotions.  Most of us started out having feelings and then either getting in trouble for those feelings or being told we shouldn’t feel the way we were feeling.  Turns out that learning to regulate your emotions is an important life skill.

Many people end up having to take anger management classes where they learned that it is not other people who are “making them angry” but it is the way they view the situation that creates their anger.  Anger is not the only emotion you need to learn to regulate.  You will feel sadness and emotional pain. People who are good and regulating these emotions feel them but don’t get carried away.

Interpersonal communication is a make or break life skill.

Interpersonal communication is a skill that many people need to work on.  Some people get this skill wrong and develop the belief that interpersonal communication means learning how to tell other people things.  The biggest part of the interpersonal communications consists of learning how to accurately listen to others.  When you get a clear picture of what other people are saying you will discover that there are far fewer things you need to argue with.

Developing a support system isn’t always an easy skill to develop.

Having the support of people in your life makes life a whole lot easier.  For most people, friends were something that just happened.  In the early school grades, anyone that you spend time with could easily become your friend.  As we get older it becomes harder and harder to make real lasting friends.

When you are too close to things you miss the big picture.

One important life skill that an adult may still need to develop is the ability to look at things from different perspectives.  Often when people are caught up in the moment things look a very set way.  Learning to step back and analyze situations from other perspectives can help you solve life’s problems.

You can’t be objective about you.

People often work with coaches. counselors and therapists, because they can’t see their own behavior.  Even when it’s painful, it can be really helpful to have someone who will give you an honest version of what they see about you and your behavior.

Encouragement helps you change.

To really grow and progress people need positive reinforcement.  Many people grew up experiencing mostly negative feedback.  The belief in the past was that in order to get people to do better it was necessary to point out every single one of their flaws.  We’ve since learned that if you never hear anything positive it is easy to become discouraged and give up trying.

You need to learn being real can be scary.

Really young kids find it easy to be real.  Young people find it easy to spot people who are being fake.  As we get older, more and more we are likely to hide our real selves.  Often it’s easier to present a false image to others in the hope of being liked.  People who are able to be real have to take risks.  While being real involves taking some scary risks it also results in people being a lot happier.

Are any of these life lessons that you still need to learn?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Advertisements

Should you tell that to a friend or a therapist? – Part 2

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Therapist

Therapist.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Talking to a Friend or therapist – part 2.

I think I misread this question the first time. My first thought after reading the question was:

“Why should a client go to a therapist they have to pay rather than just talking to a friend?” That is from the client’s point of view and describes why a client would be better off getting a professional therapist rather than relying on a friend.

I wrote a blog post about “Therapist of Friend” which is up at counselorssoapbox.com. That post got some really good comments from readers and they suggested some additional reasons they found going to a professional therapist helpful.

After rereading the question I think they were asking:

“What if your friend is also a therapist? Or as a therapist what do I say, to my friend. Do I set boundaries and keep my roles as friend and therapist separate?”

Remember some of the readers of this blog are consumers but some of the readers are professionals or aspiring professionals.

Here is my opinion of what an ethical therapist should do.

The law’s that created LMFT’s and some other therapist and counselor professions defined what professionals do as “applied psychotherapy.” We are able to bill for services provided to a client’s medical insurance. We have to keep the practice of our medical specialty separate from what we do on a non-professional friend basis.

Consider a doctor and his wife, a therapist; who go to dinner at the house of a couple who are casual friends. The friends proceed to describe some chest pains the husband has been having.

The doctor could ask a couple of follow-up questions, make a diagnosis and whip out his prescription pad and write out a prescription. But should he? Most likely he will tell his friend you should see a doctor. That needs to be checked out and you need some tests and lab work.

Now the wife changes the subject and tells this couple all about the problems they have been having with their teenage son. What should the therapist do? Listen empathically? Ask more questions to define a diagnosis? Suggest some interventions that the parents could try? Or should this therapist, for the same reasons as the doctor, suggest politely that lots of kids these days have problems and the family might want to consider getting him some counseling? Counseling doesn’t mean he is crazy, just he may need help with some of the growing up tasks that he needs to do. And often it is hard to listen to suggestions from family members whom you want to please and you have a history with.

But wait a minute, aren’t those also reasons why the couple may not be totally honest with their therapist friend? And could you make things worse if you suggested interventions or treatment and you had an incomplete diagnosis because your “friend” left out some embarrassing details in front of their spouse and guests?

Once you learn a skill it is hard to unlearn it or know when to put it aside. If the friend had a heart attack the doctor would most likely intervene and do some emergency procedure or he might call an ambulance. The therapist would do the same if the person was suicidal. But beyond emergency situations, therapists need to put their therapist hats by the door and just be friends.

Remember no one likes a car salesman who comes to your house for dinner and spends the whole meal trying to sell them a car. No one likes a psychotherapist who is trying to psychoanalyze everyone they meet.

The difference in the relationship between a friend and a professional therapist lies in the professional’s ability to diagnose or define the problem and then institute interventions to make a change. Even professional coaches are allowed to make criticisms of the client that a friend would not be permitted.

In a past blog post, I wrote about reasons a client might want to see a professional for therapy rather than just talk to a friend. Now, look at those same reasons from the therapist’s point of view. Your liability insurance won’t cover you. They get no confidentiality or privilege. You may need to make a child protective service report on your friend. And most importantly because of dual relationships, you lose a friend.

Here is what I suggest you tell your friends who bring up problems that are in a therapist scope of practice.

1. This sounds like something that a counselor could help you with.

2 I make it a rule not to do therapy with friends.

3. We are not supposed to have a second relationship like friend, with our clients and I would hate to lose you as a friend.

4. I can give you the names of some therapists who could see you if you like.

If you do other things such as coaching or teaching there is no problem in having a friend attend your class or coaching them on more effective communication but be sure that this is a separate activity from your therapy or counseling practice. And remember, in coaching or teaching you never ever give a diagnosis or conduct an intervention designed to treat a mental, emotional or behavioural problem.

Hope that clarified the issue from the therapist’s perspective.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

When you were born did you get your instruction book?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Books for sale

Books.
Photo courtesy of pixabay.

Did you get your life’s instruction book?

With most important things, when you make the purchase you get an instruction book. When you buy a new mower, you get a book.  When you buy a barbecue, you get a book. When I came home from the hospital I don’t think I got a book.

It would have been nice to get an instruction manual for life when I was born. How about you? Did you get an instruction book that told you what to do and where to go? Wouldn’t that have been helpful?

Such a book should include warnings – don’t do that with your life, it can be painful.

So often I feel like I am making this life up as I go along. You would think the instructions would have been clearer. Should I move here or there? Which relationships should I get into and which should I avoid. It would be nice to have instructions to known about the warnings without having to make the mistakes and suffer the pain of yet another learning experience.

Some hospitals used to give out books to new parents, what to do and not do to be a good parent. Most of those books described the “typical” child and the “average” parent. “Typical” and “average” are rare things – almost as rare as those elusive “normal” people.

People who were given those baby raising books, or bought one, report that the books were only marginally helpful. Not that you should do without one. If by some chance of luck you get a book that tells you how to raise a child and the system works, cherish that book. Just most of the time the book describes things that don’t happen, and your child is doing things that don’t sound like anything in the book.

Think of those baby raising books more like field guides to the fauna of childhood than any accurate plan for raising your child right.  Books that describe developmentally appropriate parenting and life stages give you a guide to things some or many children a certain age do or should be able to do. As for your child, the writer of that book knows no more than the child does about how he may act tomorrow.

Which should you spring for, sports equipment, music lessons or tutoring in algebra? Do everything right and your child may become famous for something you forgot to provide for him and may fail at the thing you put all that time and effort into. Kids are like that, so are adults.

The older the child gets, the less helpful the book becomes. Give that child a year, and just as you get them figured out they will have changed.

By the time your child is grown the book is hopelessly out of date, or the child is.

Most of the people who come to see me for counseling report they not only didn’t they get a book on how to be a parent they got even less information on how to grow up. So we teach our kids the lessons we learned from them about being a parent and leave the how to grow up and have a happy life for them to figure out.

Despite all the books out there on how to live and how to have a happy life we still all need to live, make choices and learn from our mistakes as well as our successes.

So consider all those self-help books – mine included, as books of suggestions. Try on the things that are suggested but feel free to discard anything that doesn’t work.

So many of my plans for a great life didn’t work out the way I planned them. I think that may be why the hospital neglected to give me that instruction book for my life. The full instructions are still being tested and improved.

Hope you are successful at designing and constructing a happy life for yourself. Remember there is time to write another chapter right up till the Great Editor adds the “The end.”

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.