The Connections Blog

How to Change your brain

how to change your brain

This time of year, many of us are wondering how to change bad habits.  Others plan out ways to accomplish big goals for the year.  We may take big ideas and break them down into small steps or we may subscribe to a “Guru’s” fool proof way to “rock out 2019”. I recently read a book that argued the way to change yourself is to change your brain.  What?  Change my brain how does this work?  Would I have to crack my head open and perform a lobotomy?  Well, no. Curt Thompson in his book “Anatomy of the Soul” outlines the ways in which we change our relationships by changing our brain. 

How to change your brain:

Neuroscientists say that the brain is “plastic” meaning it can change and grow over the entire lifespan. So, Thompson states that we can use the “neuro-plastic triad” to change the way that we function in the relationships, ourself, and the world.  He argues that we increase our functioning in relationships, emotion, and memory through aerobic activity, focused attention exercises and novel learning experiences. 

Aerobic Activity:

We have always known that exercise is good for us.  Most however tend to think of physical exercise as something that changes only our body. We may lose a few pounds, gain more physical strength, or fit into the clothes we wore in our younger days. Thompson argues however that regular vigorous activity actually changes our brain and makes it more responsive for our lives.  We may become more able to regulate emotions, handle disappointment or connect with loved ones.  

Focused attention exercises:

Changing the brain has to do with creating new “wiring” or, neuro-networks as the scientists call them. Focused attention is how this wiring is created. Some call this type of attention mindfulness.  I have written HERE about how to teach your child to be more mindful.  Others practice prayer or meditation to accomplish similar purposes.  Focused attention allows us to become more aware of what happens inside of us at any particular moment.  This awareness creates deeper understanding of ourselves and others.  This new understanding allows for more connection to ourselves and the people that matter in our lives.  

Novel learning experiences:

Thompson then challenges us to engage in novel learning experiences.  These activities should include activities that one is passionate about or things that contain deep meaning for the individual.  Memorizing the phone book doesn’t count but such things as art, music, dance, drawing or working with your hands may.  Learning something new stretches our neural connections. It causes us to use parts of our brains that we may not have used in a while.  This new learning opens up possibilities for learning in other areas and experiences.  

So what?

How is the “neuro-plastic triad” helpful for us?  Change can be difficult and many of us have experienced failure in our attempts to change. But approaching change from a brain-based perspective allows us to lay the ground work in our mind and body before attempting to change outward behavior.  So, start with a short walk while mindfully paying attention to your surroundings or praying.  As you gain confidence and traction in that area try something new like playing the ukulele or sketching in a notebook.  Take it slow and give yourself grace.  You will not be perfect but you will be changing.


Thompson, C (2010) Anatomy of the Soul: Surprising connections between neuroscience and spiritual practices that can transform your life and relationships.

Video Game Addiction: Is my child addicted?

Video Game Addiction

I often talk with parents who are concerned about video game addiction.  They tell me about the games their children play online, the amount of time spent, the disagreements, behavior change and struggles of navigating the new frontier of technology.  

Video Game Addiction:

Recent studies have raised concerns about the impact that online gaming has on adolescents.  Other studies have found links between social media use and adolescent depression.  In fact the world health organization (WHO) recently defined “gaming disorder”as an official disorder in the international classification of diseases (ICD-11). Gaming disorder is defined as “a pattern of gaming behavior characterized by impaired control over gaming increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences”. 

Author Jean Twengehas described “Igen”, the current generation of highly connected students, as the most unprepared for adulthood in history.  Understandably parents are concerned and want to know “how much is OK”?

Warning Signs:

I often advise parents to respond but not overreact.  The WHO indicates that only a small percentage of those engaged in gaming reach the level of being addicted.  I encourage parents to observe their child and assess if they are showing any of the signs of addiction.  

  1. Does your child’s participation in gaming take priority (for your child) over other important daily activities and has it continued to escalate despite negative consequences?
  2. Has your child’s level of gaming caused significant impairment in several of the following areas: Personal, Family, Social, Educational, Occupational, Other important area
  3. Has the impairment been present for at least 12 months.

Finding Balance:

If you are concerned that you child spends too much time playing video games and may become addicted or is missing out on other experiences, I recommend establishing a balance between other activities and video gaming.  I challenged parents to set reasonable limits on the amount of time spent using screens.  Some parents allow for short periods of time each day after homework and other responsibilities are completed.  While other parents only allow screen time or game play on weekends.  

No matter what you decide as a parent the most important factor for maintaining balance is consistency.  Children will push back and ask for more time or exceptions to be made but especially when starting out it is important to remain consistent. Parents can practice this by setting the limits with empathy and then engaging with their child in different activity that involves face to face interaction and is enjoyable for the whole family.  

Getting help:

If you are struggling with how to set limits, remaining consistent, or are concerned that your child may be addicted reach out to us, we would be honored to support you and your child through the process of reconnecting with family and friends. Call 217-231-1413 to schedule an appointment.

Read More about connecting with your child HERE

Read about how counseling works HERE

Check out the link below where I talk with KHQA news about how to find the balance between Video games and In real life interactions.

Marriage Therapist: the Four Horsemen antidotes

Marriage Therapist

In my previous post entitled Marriage Therapy: The Four Horsemen I introduced you to the work of marriage therapist couple John and Julie Gottman regarding the four communication patterns that are strongly correlated with divorce.  These four horsemen are Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.  Thankfully the Gottmans have also identified the antidotes to the four horsemen.  These antidotes provide alternative strategies that if implemented can heal wounds and restore connection in the marriage relationship. 

Antidote to Criticism = The Gentle Start Up:

Criticism is more than a complaint it is an attack on your partners character or personality.  The antidote is the gentle start up.  When you are frustrated with your partner’s behavior focus on yourself rather than them. What are you feeling in this moment?  Strong emotion can drive the behavior of criticism.  Focus on identifying your feeling, expressing it directly by saying “I feel…”  and then communicate what you need from your partner. “I feel hurt and I need to connect with you by talking about my day”.  Using the “I feel…I need” approach helps your partner to know what is going on inside you and allows for more understanding and intimacy.

Antidote to Contempt = Build a Culture of Appreciation

The second horseman of contempt involves putting your partner down through name-calling or insults.  Contempt can be avoided by building a culture of appreciation. This time rather than focusing on self I challenge you to focus on the positive qualities of your partner.  What are her/his strengths? How has your partner served you this week? What positive quality attracted you to him/her in the first place?  Focus on these qualities and verbalize your appreciation.  Appreciation must be honest and specific but there is always something positive to appreciate.

Antidote to Defensiveness = Take responsibility

Defensiveness stems from the first two horsemen and is a basic attempt to protect ones sense of wellbeing.  The antidote to defensiveness is taking responsibility.  We all make mistakes, and making a mistake does not mean we are “bad” it means we are human. So, seeking to understand how your partner views a situation and admitting where you fell short can disarm criticism and lead to deeper connection.

Antidote to Stonewalling = Physiological Self-soothing

Stonewalling is an exhausted partners attempt at coping with strong emotions and hurt, from which, there seem to be no escape.   The antidote to stonewalling is to take a break with the intent of caring for self and managing the difficult feelings.  You may like to read a book, take a walk, listen to music or have a snack.  No matter what it is do something that allows you to calm your nerves so you can return to your partner more available for openness and communication.

Marriage therapist: The Antidote

These antidotes to the four horsemen of the marriage apocalypse can begin the process of healing from pain and disconnection.  This process will take time and a lot of work but it is worth it to obtain reconciliation and growth.  If you would like more information about couples counseling you can read more here or call 217-231-1413 to set up an appointment with a marriage therapist.

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Marriage Therapy: The Four Horsemen

marriage therapy

Marriage therapy is focused on helping couples heal the hurts that have accrued over the years in a relationship.   It is common for couples to enter marriage therapy deeply hurt, angry, and frustrated.  It is also common for couples to have a hard time articulating exactly what it is that brought them to such a place.  Many cite infidelity, money issues, or stress at work.  Others describe fighting about the same thing over and over with difficulty avoiding the constant battles. 

Renowned marriage therapists John and Julie Gottman use a metaphor to describe the communication patterns that predict divorce.   They describe the four horseman of the marriage apocalypse as criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. 


Criticism occurs when a partner attacks the character of their spouse.  It is more than communicating disagreement or dislike for a specific behavior.  Criticism is more generally and attacks the person.  Leaving ones clothes on the bathroom floor may evoke a comment stating,  “you are selfish and don’t think of how this impacts me” as opposed to a more specific comment like “leaving your clothes on the bathroom floor bothers me”.  When unchecked criticism tends to increase over time and can lead to the second horseman of contempt.


Contempt goes even further than criticism and seems to have roots in feelings of anger.  A spouse communicates contempt through the use of sarcasm, name-calling, put downs and negative body language.  Contempt may cause the target to feel despised or worthless. 


Criticism and contempt can result in defensiveness. When one is feeling attacked it is common to defend as a way to protect against blame or hurt. This approach however tends to make things worse as the critical partner views the defense as excuses and may feel unvalued and ignored.  John Gottman suggests apologizing and taking ownership for ones actions in place of defensiveness as a way to disarm criticism and contempt.


Stonewalling occurs when one partner has had all they can handle of the first three horsemen and builds a wall to protect from the onslaught.  Couples often refer to stonewalling as shutting down or checking out.  The stonewalling partner is overwhelmed and does not know how to get unstuck and so becomes passive as a last resort.  This may include distracting oneself with work, outside interests, or busy activities. 

The solution: Marriage Therapy

So what can a couple do?  For many working with a licensed counselor can help to overcome the four horseman and learn more adaptive communication strategies that lead to connection and reconciliation.  If you are interested in marriage therapy give us a call at 217-231-1413 to get started. If you have more questions go here to read more about my approach to couples counseling and subscribe to the blog below to get our next post on the the four antidotes to the four horsemen.

How can I help my stressed child

Stressed childI am often asked, How can I help my stressed child? We live in a culture full of stress. There is pressure to be involved, pressure to be the best, and pressure to fit in. Some claim that the current generation is exposed to more stress than any previous generation.

Psychologists define stress as “the demand made on an organism to adapt, cope, or adjust.”

When we think about stress in this way it is easy to see that since we live in an ever-changing world and culture the ability to adapt at a young age may be more important than ever.

Psychologists also acknowledge that not all stress is bad and actually claim that some stress (Eustress) is good. Eustress is the type of stress that propels one forward to accomplish the next stage of development or to learn a new and exciting skill. Eustress can be exciting and motivating where as stress can be overwhelming, debilitating and pervasive. So what can be done to help a child that is experiencing the negative type of stress? Researchers have discovered a number of things that when practiced on consistent basis moderate the level of stress that one is experiencing. That is these things help to reduce the negative impacts of ongoing stressful situations.

Self-efficacy expectations:

When one believes that they can, they can. We can instill in our children a sense of “you can do it”. This can be done by supporting them through the learning and development of a new skill or hobby. (Check out this post on Self esteem to learn more)

Psychological Hardiness:

Hardiness is comprised of the characteristics of commitment, challenge and control. According to research people who are strongly committed to their activities, view challenges as a part of life to spur personal growth, and those that believe they have control over their lives were more hardy and resistant to stress.


Researchers found truth in the biblical saying “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” Proverbs 17:22.   One study found that those with an ability to see humor in a stressful situation were less impacted by that stressful situation.

 Emotional support:

Research has also found that support from trusted family members and friends, decreases the level of stress and depression that people report experiencing in the last month.

How to help your stressed child?

Believe in your stressed child so they can believe in themselves. Provide unique challenges for them and support them in accomplishing these things to build that sense of “I can do it”. Encourage your child to see challenges as opportunities for growth and view them that way for yourself and your family. Laugh at yourself, keep a light heart, and share the connection of humor. Lastly, be there with a listening ear and word of encouragement when the road gets tough. They may act like they don’t need you but we all need the support of our family and friends.


If your child may need the assistance of a professional counselor call 217-231-1413 to talk with Brandy


How to build your child’s self-esteem?

self-esteemSelf-esteem is a concept that is regularly discussed in our culture. Many parents fill their child’s life with activities, play dates, and positive affirmations in the hopes of creating greater confidence. In many cases however, it does not seem to work. The harder we work to build our kids up the lower their self-regard. This post is intended to give you a framework for how to build your child’s self-esteem.

What is Self-esteem?

Self-esteem is made up of a child’s academic and non-academic self-concept, that is, how the child views himself in those two domains. Each domain is broken down further into more specific areas. Academic self-concept is divided into the subjects of math, science, english, and social studies. Non-academic self-concept includes the areas of social, emotional, and physical self-concepts. Global self-esteem is a combination of how the child experiences himself in these areas combined.

What makes Self-esteem?

We know what self-esteem is but what makes one child have more than another. Researchers have found

“The greater the discrepancy between adequacy in some domain and importance of that domain, the greater the negative impact on self-esteem” (Broderick & Blewitt, 2015).  

 In other words children grow in self confidence when they experience success in a domain that is highly important to them.

Support and Competence

The role of parents then, is to discover which domain is most important to their child and to support it. Does your child love math but hate soccer? Then, practicing soccer with them may not be the most important thing on the list. You may want to spend more time doing math together and joining them in that love. Discover what is important to your child and support them in that area.

Support from parents is a key way to build self-confidence and so is competence. When a child feels competent in an area that is important to them, their confidence is enhanced. So, focus on providing lessons, activities, and competence building experiences in the areas that are important to your child. As they build competence in these areas they will grow in confidence. If we focus too much energy on too many areas the child may be overwhelmed and tired.

Get help building your child’s self-esteem by talking with Brandy Kruse

Learn about counseling for children HERE

If you are looking for help call 217-231-1413 today

How Porn Addiction Hurts

Porn AddictionI was watching my son’s baseball game the other day and happened to overhear an exchange between two parents and their two sons that compelled me to write this post.

The two boys were joking and laughing with one another through out the game. One of the boys joked with his mother sitting near by and goaded her to ask the other boy why he had been grounded from his smart phone. The second boys father walked up and jokingly gave the reason by saying, “somebody likes the P-O-R-N a little too much”. The father, his son, and the other boy laughed and continued on with their activities.

I began to think through some of what I had been learning from the book Wired for intimacy: How pornography hijacks the male brain written by William M. Struthers. I missed my opportunity to share with this father how pornography hurts his son. But, will share with you now what I have learned about the impact of pornography on boys.

Porn Addiction Corrupts Intimacy

We all, boys included have a built in need for connection with other people. We are driven to seek relationship, closeness and safety with those we love. Pornography corrupts this desire by making intimacy all about the physical act of sex rather than vulnerability, and emotional connection. Struthers states it this way,

“pornography corrupts the ability to be intimate. It pulls consumers and producers in with the promise of intimacy, but fails to deliver the connection between two human beings”.

Sex is a part of deep intimacy but it is not the whole picture. Pornography promises the connection that boys long for but delivers shame, guilt, secrecy and pain.

Porn Addiction Consumes the Brain

New brain research demonstrates that experience changes the brain. The viewing of pornography and the subsequent acting out is no different. The more pornography is consumed the greater the impact it has on the brain. Again Struthers describes it well by saying,

“As men [boys] fall deeper into the mental habit of fixating on these images, the exposure to them creates neural pathways. Like a path is created in the woods with each successive hiker, so do the neural paths set the course for the next time an erotic image is viewed… with each lingering stare, pornography deepens a Grand Canyon-like gorge in the brain through which images of women are destined to flow”.

The more pornography that is consumed and the younger the age of exposure the more significant the impact will be on the brain.

Thankfully brain research also demonstrates that the brain is plastic. This means that it changes through out the entire course of ones life. So, the neuro-pathways developed in response to viewing pornography can be rewritten over the course of life. So what can you do to help your son?


What Can Parents Do?

Build Emotional Mastery

For those dealing with porn addiction the viewing of pornography and sexual acting out often become the primary way they deal with stress and overwhelming emotions. They never learned how to adaptively regulate emotions and pornography has become the only strategy that works.

“emotional mastery is important because it teaches boys how to regulate and control their feelings. As a father pushes and challenges, he offers an opportunity for his son to experience these human emotions in a safe place.” (pg. 141)

 Connect in Relationship

As stated before we all need connection to other people for survival. Struthers says that the depth of porn addiction is correlated with a boys unmet emotional and relational needs. If you are concerned that your son is addicted to porn it may be tempting to avoid discussing it or to distance yourself from him in anger. What he needs however is more connection with you. His needs for connection and intimacy will never be met through pornography. Those needs are only met in genuine connection with you or other loved ones. Move toward your son in relationship communicate compassion and love in the midst of your heart break.

Get Help

It can be difficult to reach out for help when struggling with pornography. Our culture tends to view porn addiction as one of the things that cannot be talked about. Reach out to trusted friends, a pastor or professional counselor to walk with you and your son through the struggle.

If you, your son, or someone you know struggles with porn addiction and you are ready to get help please call me at 217-231-1413 and I will help you build the emotional mastery and connection you both need.

Learn more from William Struthers by Watching this Helpful Video.

Service through Presence

service through presence

I graduated with my PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision on May 12, 2018.  I was privileged to be the commencement speaker for Adams State University’s graduate school ceremony.  Below is the text of my Address:

Great Accomplishment

Graduates!! Is this a great day or what?!!

If you are like me, there were moments in the last several years when you thought this moment would never get here. You are relieved, thankful, and excited to walk across that stage. Today is a GREAT DAY!

Family members, friends, and supporters this is a great day!

This is the day you get your loved one back. It is as though they have been on a long journey and today you pick them up at the airport! Hopefully they have not lost their luggage.

Adams State Administration, Faculty, and Staff today is the culmination of years of planning and hard work. It is a birthday of sorts. You celebrate and honor a new crop of graduates poised to enter their respective fields with energy, excitement, and passion. Today is a Great Day!

I have been thinking a lot about the meaning of this moment and the degrees we receive today. For us graduates these robes, hats, and diplomas represent a pinnacle of academic success. We have spent countless hours, immeasurable amounts of energy, and years of disciplined focus to accomplish what is awarded in this commencement. Only about 8% of people earn a graduate degree. There are a lot of really smart and hard working people in this room. It is incredible to have done this it is a rare accomplishment. It is as though we have scaled Mt. Everest.

This is a historic moment for Adams State University. It is the first time that the university has awarded the degree of Ph.D. Conversations and plans for this moment began to take shape in 2009. 5 years later the counselor education department enrolled its first group of Doctoral students. Now, 4 years after our initial interviews, “cohort 1” will be awarded our degrees. We have often discussed how thankful we are to have been members of this first cohort. First, we are thankful because we have grown close and could not have done it with out one another. Second, we are thankful because of the level of commitment, support, and excellence demonstrated by the counselor education department and Adams State University. The awarding of these first Ph.D. degrees is truly a huge accomplishment.

A great accomplishment is that the ultimate meaning to be found in awarding and earning these degrees? Did we do all this work and sacrifice all that time, just so we could say, “I did it”? We have reached a “Mt. Everest” moment.   Here we are sitting on the summit soaking in the beautiful view, but Why? Why in the world would we go through all that we have gone through for (a piece of paper, a funny hat, and a fancy robe) this?

Did you know that 30% of the deaths on Mt. Everest over the last 100 years have occurred while descending from the summit? These men and women made it all the way to the top but never made it home to share the experience with their loved ones and communities.

Service Through Presence

Fellow graduates, administration, faculty, and staff I don’t seek to minimize the accomplishments of the day. I have come to believe, however, that in my journey, and I think maybe in yours the ascent to great accomplishment is meaningless without a descent into a life of service.

If the accomplishment is to be meaningful then it has to be more than the paper, the hat, and the robe. I think the best way to make these things more than just accomplishment is to take what we have learned, return home (descend) and serve those we love and our communities.

I confess that I am not good at this. I began this doctoral program hoping that more experience and education would create a safe distance between the most difficult people in my community and myself. I think I hoped for more peace of mind, safety, and something easier. It is tempting to return home and live in this distance. I am convicted, however, that just the opposite is needed.

Henri Nouwen, a 20th century theologian, professor, and author describes in his book, “The Wounded Healer” what the most difficult people in our communities need, he says,

“The emptiness of the past and the future can never be filled with words, but only by the presence of a human being”

Our accomplishments are made meaningful when they compel us to be PRESENT with those we love and our community. Nouwen goes on to explain what this life of service through presence may cost us.

He says, “Who can save a child from a burning house without taking the risk of being hurt by the flames? Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in their own heart and even losing their precious peace of mind? In short, who can take away suffering without entering it?”

Our descent into a life of service through PRESENCE will require suffering. Suffering? I was hoping for less stress and less chaos. I was thinking about a more sanitized version of “helping others”. Something, where I equip others to get dirty while remaining at a safe distance.

I have come to realize that “safe distance” is not part of the servants vocabulary. Service through presence is a dangerous endeavor.

Mahatma Ghandi said, “ The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service of others”

John Maxwell said, “leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.

The bible uses a farming analogy to equate service with death,

“I tell you the truth unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” John 12:23.

I am so sorry to be such a downer, This is a GREAT DAY after all

Yet, I believe that today is made even greater when we consider it a commissioning for service.

May we relish our time at the summit today. Take a moment to enjoy the view and celebrate the obstacles overcome.

Then, tomorrow may we descend into our communities to serve through presence. It will not be easy, it may come at incredible cost, BUT it will be MEANINGFUL

Check out my blog Parenting Boys Raising Men

Read about my approach to counseling




Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical Behavior TherapyDialectical Behavior Therapy is an evidence-based form of counseling that was developed for the treatment of borderline personality disorder (BPD). Marsha Linehan developed the model by combining the commonly used concepts of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with mindfulness and meditation practices. Research has demonstrated that dialectical behavior therapy is an effective treatment for BPD and has contributed to improvement in overall functioning for adolescents.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy – Four Phases

DBT consists of four phases and four modules of treatment. Each phase is focused on a specific area of treatment with the overall goal of decreasing self-harm, improving compliance with counseling, and reducing other high risk behaviors.

Phase one of treatment focuses on establishing safety by reducing self-harm behaviors. Self-harm is viewed as the culmination of a chain of events that begin with powerful emotions. Emotional dis-regulation stemming from an internal or external trigger overwhelms the client leading toward the use of self-harm to stop the unbearable feelings. DBT assists clients in learning to tolerate the overwhelming emotions through the use of more adaptive and less harmful coping strategies.

Phase two of treatment is focused on desensitization of past traumatic experiences and events. Unresolved traumatic experiences and messages are susceptible to present triggers leading toward overwhelming emotions. Once safety has been established and the clients window of emotional tolerance has been widened they are ready to process the experience at the core of the issue.

Phase three of Dialectical Behavior Therapy centers around building everyday life skills and behaviors. This phase focuses on self-respect, individual goals, and the application of new learning to future endeavors.

Phase four of the treatment plan involves the integration of spirituality, acceptance of self, individual goals, coping skills, and future planning. This phase seeks to apply the newly acquired skills to a broader context and looks toward future growth and achievement.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy – Four Modules

The four modules of DBT are interspersed through out the four phases of treatment. These modules are core mindfulness, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance.

Mindfulness is the practice of  “Paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” Jon Kabat-Zinn.

DBT assists the client in focusing on the experience of all five senses in the present moment. The counselor might ask the client to notice 5 colors, 4 sounds, 3 smells, and 1 taste right at this time. This focus on the present pulls the client out of the overwhelming emotions and into the safety of the therapy room. Mindfulness can be used to increase emotion tolerance and ground oneself in reality when experiencing difficult flashbacks or negative thoughts.

Emotion regulation enhances the client’s ability to regulate oneself in the moment. It focuses on adaptive coping strategies rather than harmful ones. These strategies may involve understanding and labeling emotions, increasing positive emotional experiences to counterbalance negative experiences, and decreasing emotional pain by letting go and taking the opposite action.

Interpersonal effectiveness focuses on enhancing the client’s communication and relationship skills. The main objective is to enhance one’s ability to ask for what is needed and to say no when appropriate.

The fourth module of Dialectical Behavior Therapy is distress tolerance. Sometimes people avoid uncomfortable feelings, in DBT however, the goal is to understand that negative feelings are a normal part of life. Since negative feelings are normal it is helpful to learn to accept these feelings.  DBT teaches adaptive ways of coping with the difficulty in the moment. Distress tolerance skills are distract, self-sooth, improve the moment, and focus on the pros and cons.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy – What next?

DBT is a well researched treatment model that helps adolescents and adults struggling with emotion regulation, self-harm, depression, or anxiety.  If you are looking for a therapist trained to provide DBT go HERE to meet Danielle. If you have questions about getting started in DBT treatment or would like to schedule an appointment Call 217-231-1413.

Additional Links:

Boys and Mindfulness articles on DBT:

Distress Tolerance,

Interpersonal Effectiveness


Underwood, L.A. & Dailey, F. L. (2017). Counseling Adolescents Competently. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Seligman, L. & Reichenberg, L.W. (2014). Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: Systems, Strategies, and Skills (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Forgiveness in Marriage

forgiveness in marriageSometimes in marriage counseling we encounter couples that overcome their demon dialogues, create a new dance of intimacy, and rewrite the story of their marriage. Yet, just when it appears they will move to a deeper level of connection one partner brings up a seminal incident that they just can’t seem to “let go”. Susan Johnson describes these hard to let go moments as “relationship traumas” and states that many times they include one partner feeling a profound sense of abandonment. Such incidents may include an overwhelmed husband isolating in his bedroom just after learning about his wife’s cancer diagnosis. Or maybe it involved a wife’s difficulty in showing empathy for the death of her husbands father.

Susan Johnson offers six steps to forgiveness in marriage for relational traumas.

The hurt partner speaks his/her hurt

The hurt partner describes the wound without attacking the other. The partner may use words like “I felt…alone, abandoned”. This communication is not about the details of the incident but the feelings and experience of the one hurt. The pain, which in the past had been covered with anger and criticism, is now revealed in honesty and vulnerability.

Presence and Acknowledgement

The injuring partner remains emotionally present as the hurt partner shares their experience. The injuring partner now more fully understands how their actions hurt the other. This new understanding leads to an acknowledgment of hurt and creates the safety needed to move forward.

Risk and Vulnerability

Both partners soften towards the other moving from the defensiveness of “you will never hurt me again” to “I think I can trust you now”. The new position of trust and openness allows for both partners to express emotion surrounding the incident leading to deeper understanding and connection.

Owning the Mistake

The injuring partner is now able to take full responsibility for how their actions impacted the hurting partner. This probably includes a heartfelt apology. The injuring partner is able to communicate deep regret, empathy, validation, and a commitment to “being there” in the future.

Verbalizing Needs

The next step is for partners to communicate with one another what they need in the present. This will most likely include presence, touch, responsiveness, awareness, and connection.

Rewriting the story

The couple is now ready to create a new story surrounding the incident. The new story describes how the incident damaged trust in the relationship. It also highlights what led to the demon dialogues. But, the resolution of the story is shaped by how the couple confronted the pain of the incident and was able to heal through the process of openness, vulnerability, risk, and connection.


Johnson, S. & Sanderfer, K (2016). Created for connection: The “hold me tight” guide for Christian couples. New York, NY: Little Brown and Company.

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