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Therapist Notes Blog

Announcing LoveAndLifeToolbox.com: Tools for emotional and relationship health.

Posted by on Nov 14th, 2013 in News | 0 comments

Along with my therapy practice and this site, MarinTherapyAndCounseling.com, I have maintained another emotional and relationship health resources site with articles by me and other therapy and counseling related professionals for over 10 years.

LoveAndLifeToolbox.comLove and Life Toolbox

I invite you to look around in the areas that interest you.  Here are a few options:

Marriage and Relationship Tools

Emotional Health Tools

Therapy Tools

If you could use a little more help individually or in your relationship than a website can provide, please contact me about the possibility of scheduling an appointment.

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Relationship Minute: What are you doing with your choice points?

Posted by on Oct 17th, 2013 in Relationship Minute | 0 comments

Considering your relationship, think about the countless choice points there are in a single day.  We all have those moments where we can choose to act in one way orRelationship Minute another, choose to say one thing vs another…

What are you doing with your choice points?  Do they support or degrade your relationship?  Or perhaps they are neutral.  The important thing to keep in mind that those moments take you down one of those three roads.

What are you doing with your choice points?

Couples can get in cycles where they don’t choose very wisely or perhaps they are so activated that their emotions drive the direction.  When there is resentment or unexpressed frustration it can be challenging to behave in a relationship enhancing way when you’d rather say:

“Screw you!”

I help couples remember that they are responsible for how they act with each other.  If there is a lot of conflict, sometimes getting really clear on what that’s about (often not what it appears to be) is a good first step, followed by communicating in a way that encourages the other in rather than push them away.  At the end of the day, we all want to feel emotionally safe with each other.

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Relationship Minute: You are not your partner.

Posted by on Sep 25th, 2013 in Relationship Minute | 0 comments

Because we all look at the world through our own pair of unique eyes, it’s not uncommon to have totally different experiences and perceptions of life.  This is a result of manyRelationship Minute:  You are not your partner. things but particularly the totality of our prior experiences.  We learn and assign meaning to things as we go.  The meaning might serve us well and sometimes it might not.

In your relationship, it’s important to remember that your partner is not you.  People can have expectations that the other should view life in the same way they do and often get frustrated if they don’t.

“How could he think like that??”

“How could she not have prioritized that?  Isn’t it clear??”

Those who have worked with me before have heard me say, “Let each other BE.”  Partially what I mean is to allow room and compassion for the way you each see the world.  In my couples therapy practice, I help couples make space for each other in this way.  In some cases, it’s very difficult for people to really let that sink in.  But it’s an important lesson in the health of your relationship.

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Emotional Health Minute: Are your automatic thoughts friend or foe?

Posted by on Sep 5th, 2013 in Emotional Health Minute | 0 comments

We all have an inner voice that chimes in, chirps, directs and processes experiences.  An often times damaging aspect of our inner voice are the automatic thoughts Emotional Health Minute(thought+assessment+emotional reaction) that can race by without us being completely aware of them (or their consequences).  The problem is, for those who struggle with excessive worry or poor self concept, these thoughts can be toxic and perpetuate unproductive ways of thinking.  Keep in mind how often your emotional reaction comes on the heels of a thought.

Here are some examples of these types of automatic thoughts and how they can ding you:

  • “I forgot my purse, I’m such an idiot.” (reinforce poor self concept)
  • “She is late, something bad must have happened to her.”  (reinforce general worry/fear)

Automatic thinking is usually shaped by core belief systems and narratives about self, others and the world.  It tends to reinforce the story.  But what if the story is inaccurate?  What if the experiences you had in your family of origin (trauma, quality of parent attachment, criticism, neglect, etc) led to a misunderstanding by your child brain about what it all meant?

In my therapy practice, I help people unpack their pasts to help talk back to and shift unhelpful automatic thinking patterns.  Neuroscience has shown us that just because you were “wired” to react in the way you were, doesn’t mean it can’t be changed.  I teach clients how to do just that.

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Skype sessions also available in some cases (CA residents).

 

Relationship Minute: Trust is the single most important element in your relationship.

Posted by on Aug 1st, 2013 in Relationship Minute | 0 comments

Consider how much the presence of absence of trust can impact your relationship?  It’s a critical element of what I often refer to as “emotional safety,” that which ideallyRelationship Minute
allows for a safe haven in each other.  John Gottman, PhD recently completed another in a long line of books about the research behind what makes or breaks couples.  It’s called, What Makes Love Last?  How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal in which he speaks to the importance of attunement in building trust.

How is attunement broken down into behaviors?  Here is one helpful acronym:

ATTUNE

Awareness of your partner’s emotion

Turning towards the emotion

Tolerance of two different viewpoints

Trying to understand your partner

Non-defensive responses to your partner

and responding with Empathy

Obviously there is more to trust than attunement.  For example, if the trust has been broken in your relationship (infidelity, hiding behaviors, failure to support on important areas, etc) then work needs to be done to repair this.  Without trust, what do you really have?

In my couples therapy practice I help couples find ways to reconnect after trust violations and behave in a more “attuned” way towards each other moving forward.

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Emotional Health Minute: Being able to ask for help is a show of strength, not weakness.

Posted by on Jul 15th, 2013 in Emotional Health Minute | 0 comments

Vulnerability is scary and for many, it’s easier to go it alone than reach out to others.  In fact, the ability to build a support team and use it, is a hallmark of resilience.  Your Emotional Health Minute“team” could be one person or it could be a slew.  In my work, I’ve experienced men and women (it’s not just the men) who have rigid beliefs around what asking for help means.  Often those who believe it is a sign of weakness learned early on that they couldn’t rely on others so it makes sense that they might turn inside vs outside to cope!

And yes, there can be male/female differences in social conditioning around “asking for help” that might need to be challenged a little.

If you tend not to ask for help, I encourage you to try.  If you practice this new skill and get positive reinforcement from it, neuroscience has demonstrated these new experiences have the power to mute out old and unhelpful beliefs about what is possible.

If asking for help is still something you struggle to do and you feel it’s impacting your emotional health (and possibly relationships), I’ve assisted many people wanting to break the unhealthy belief patterns negatively impacting their lives.

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Skype sessions also available in some cases (CA residents).

 

Relationship Minute: Don’t forget to “spring clean” your relationship.

Posted by on Jul 10th, 2013 in Relationship Minute | 0 comments

Marriages and relationships can sometimes drift off to sleep.  This can happen when things start to get taken for granted, partners stop prioritizing each other and showing appreciation. Relationship Minute  I think the concept of spring cleaning can apply here too as just like your closets, windows or children’s toy boxes need periodic attention, your relationship garden needs care too.

Here are a few things you can do: 

  • Get back to checking in.  At one time you likely talked a lot, especially in the early stages of your relationship.  As time goes on and life gets peppered with kid related responsibilities, family, social obligations and work, it’s easy to let the communication between you and your spouse get tossed out the window.  Re-prioritize a daily relationship check-in, even if brief.
  • Look under the carpet for hidden resentments.  One problem I often see in my practice is the build-up of negative emotions towards each other.  If anger, disappointment or sadness go unchecked they can become toxic.  Resentment can undermine the very fabric of the relationship.  If there is something bothering you, bring it up.  It’s useful to begin with “I statements” rather than using attacking language.

There are other ways couples can dust off the cobwebs in their relationship.  Sometimes it’s nothing more than a tuneup if your relationship foundation is inherently strong.  If you could use additional help, my private practice is located in downtown Larkspur, Marin County, CA.

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Emotional Health Minute: Combat stress by releasing oxytocin (the hormone of calm) in yourself.

Posted by on Apr 29th, 2013 in Emotional Health Minute | 0 comments

Oxytocin is an antidote to cortisol (hormone of stress).  If you have a tendency to easily get emotionally dysregulated (really angry, really sad, really tense…) – or if you know someone else who does – this is for you.

Neuroscience has shown us that oxytocin puts the brakes on cortisol.  In my Marin couples therapy work, I often educate people around the power of a 20 second full body contact in its potential to release oxytocin in both partners which can create a sense of connection, attachment and good feelings (a great tool to de-escalate conflict).

The great news is that you can release oxytocin on your own via a powerful, “Hand on the Heart” exercise:

This is what you do:

  • Begin by placing your hand on your heart, feeling the warmth of your own touch. Breathe gently and deeply into your heart center.  Breathing in a sense of contentment and well-being.
  • Call to mind a moment of being with someone who loves you unconditionally, someone you feel completely safe with like a beloved partner, child or parent,  friend, a trusted teacher – a moment when you felt seen and accepted, loved and cherished.  It could be a beloved pet.
  • As you remember feeling safe and loved, savor the feeling of warmth, safety, trust, and love in your body.
  • When that feeling is steady, let go of the image and simply bathe in the feeling itself for 30 seconds.

In my Marin individual therapy practice, I teach people other ways to build resilience and decrease the presence of the uncomfortable emotions that might inhibit you.

SCHEDULE AN INDIVIDUAL THERAPY APPOINTMENT

Skype sessions also available in some cases (CA residents).

 

Relationship Minute: Bring back the spark by changing your routine.

Posted by on Mar 29th, 2013 in Relationship Minute | 0 comments

I see many couples who are in a rut.  They are buried by the chaos of life, family, work, social obligations, kids, school sports and taking care of the dog  (or cat, or goldfish).  The bottom line is that many of us are struggling with monotony and expected routines.  As important as structure is to keep the cogs in the wheel moving, this can lead to relationship “blahs” for the couple.

This is what you can do:  Consider doing something totally different with your partner.  Look through the “deals” we all get online for a new adventure or plan a date afternoon exploring a new neighborhood in San Francisco.  If you have kids (and a place they can be for the night), plan a picnic at home and spread out on the floor of your living room or in the yard if you have one.  Whatever you do, just mix it up.  Inject new experiences and joy into your relationship.

The latest in neuroscience tell us that having new, positive and unique experiences with your partner will help shift away from any negativity bias that may be occurring between you.  If there are other issues at hand that may require more than just a change of routine, I help couples reconnect and strengthen their relationship foundation.

My private practice is located in downtown Larkspur, Marin County, CA.

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Emotional Health Minute: Much can change when you examine the meaning you’ve attached to things.

Posted by on Mar 1st, 2013 in Emotional Health Minute | 0 comments

Why is there such a range in the way people react to events and situations?  How is that one person can take things as they come while the other gets emotionally dysregulated and goes into a tailspin?  Much in the way we respond comes from earlier experiences but if you break it all down, it’s about the meaning we attach in that moment.

For example, let’s say Susan and Jill are two people who don’t know each other but both have a similar experience of interviewing for a job and not getting it.  Susan feels rejected, like she’s “not good enough” and worries incessantly.  Jill is disappointed but considers the possible reasons why this happened (having nothing to do with her personally) like there were many applicants, it just wasn’t the right fit for her skill set – and she does not internalize it negatively as Susan had.  Susan has a much more difficult time brushing it off and moving forward.  Jill accepts the situation and moves on, continuing to look for other employment options.  It appears that Jill is more resilient than Susan – but the good news Susan can learn to “dust herself off” too.

This is what you can do:  People who react more negatively than others to things often have good reason.  There is likely a history including self doubt and possible family of origin or other emotional wounds.  Get familiar with your vulnerabilities and strive to make change.  In situations where you are triggered like this, stop and do the following:  1) Get grounded by breathing slowly and focusing on the air moving in and out of your lungs, 2)  Remind yourself that you have a sensitivity and practice self-compassion, 3) Explore other possible reasons for things turning out in the way they did.

In my Marin therapy practice, I help people understand why they react the way they do – and collaborate in making lifelong change.

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