“We are most alive when we’re in love”
Dr. Laura Bokar, LMFT, LCPC, ACS
“Life is Difficult” reads the opening line of Dr. M. Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled. As a marriage and family therapist, I wholeheartedly agree. In regards to relationships, I would add the phrases: messy and complicated. Yet a healthy relationship is worth enduring struggles and working through the complications.
Many experiences in our lives make us feel happy and sad. Our relationships have the ability to allow us to enjoy happiness and find fulfillment. With marriages being the most important relationship in our lives, we need to know more about how to design the relationships we desire and not solely rely on what we learned from our parents.
When we set about designing a beautiful home with our spouses, we discuss all the details. These details include the size, paint colors, floors, ceilings, rooms, stairs, entry ways, as well as windows, lighting, curtains, door knobs, hooks, furniture, and landscaping. We share with our partner, our desires, likes, and dislikes. We discuss each room, and the exact way we want it to look. We spend hours each day over the course of months creating our dream home. I mention this example, because I find that couples spend more time designing their homes, careers, and debating on the model of their cars than they do investing time into designing the marriages they desire.
There is a belief that a good marriage will fall into place “naturally”. Now if we believed that the homes we are designing would be created “naturally,” I don’t think many people would be pleased with the outcome. Guess what? Not many couples are happy when they think about the outcome of where their marriages are going. That is a good thing. When they take the time to recognize the marriage is not heading in the direction they’d like, they can decide to change it. When one decides it is time to make a change – that is the first step!
There is a plan one can follow when they decide they want to redesign their marriage. The next step is to make certain we are first taking care of ourselves. Yes, it may sound strange that we need to focus on ourselves first to improve our marriage, however it is true. To have an extraordinary and healthy marriage, it needs to start with two extraordinary and healthy individuals.
To start, one needs to assess five areas of their lives; health and fitness, emotional intelligence, intellectual growth, character, and spiritual development. In the assessment, one needs to honestly review each area and determine if changes need to be made. The main question should be – How do I want to be different in each area in order to be the person I know I can be. When we are feeling healthy, emotionally intelligent, learning new things, strong in our character, and feeling spiritually fit, we are in a better place and capable of being a better spouse.
After one has designed a plan for themselves, then the design for the marriage can occur. This would be the time to come together and decide what you want your marriage to look like in all areas. How do you want to grow as a couple? What are the things you want? What experiences do you want to share together? What type of environment do you strive to create? What is the vision of your marriage – romantically, intelligently, emotionally, physically, and spiritually? Start investing the time and energy designing the extraordinary relationship you know you want.
This may be the first time many start to think about designing their marriage. Yet, if we think about it, it does make sense. Initiate a conversation with your spouse about the desires you have for your marriage. It would be important to make this into a regular conversation each week and to create a Marriage Design Book. Add, change, and create more to your book each week. It keeps it fresh, alive, and in the forefront of your mind. By doing this, you will make your marriage YOUR design. Take the time to create the marriage you desire or life will do it for you!
Joe Dubowski, MS, LMFT
Joe is dedicated to helping people find relief from the pain and tumult resulting from traumatic losses, and to helping couples develop mature and loving relationships that can withstand the test of time and life’s ups and downs. Over the past seven years, he has been bringing his clinical training and life experience to bear in helping people restore faith and hope in a better tomorrow through personal and relational healing and change.
“I believe in meeting people where they are, accepting them and giving them a place to be heard, understood, and respected. I am not out to fix people; I am about helping them heal and grow.”
Joe is passionate about helping people process the grief stemming from the loss of a loved one, broken relationships, moves, job losses and transitions, as well as losses common to life transitions such as leaving home and the effects of aging. He also believes that a healthy marital/couple relationship is fundamental to the health of children and families. He is therefore committed to helping couples strengthen their relationships, helping individuals and couples with everything from pre-marital counseling to dealing with the trauma of infidelity. His strengths are empathy, humor and compassion.
Joe is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a graduate of Northern Illinois University where he received his master’s degree in Applied Family and Child Studies with a specialization in marriage & family therapy. He is Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, with nearly eight years experience helping people in group and individual settings recover from losses of many kinds. He has received formal training in Gottman Couples Therapy (level 1), Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, Pragmatic/Experiential Therapy for Couples, and Collaborative Couples Therapy. He has also undergone training as a Disaster Case Manager with Catholic Charities.
He is also author of the book Cartwheels in the Rain: Finding Faith in the Wake of the Unthinkable, and has other book projects (on worry and on relationships) and articles in the works. He has appeared as a guest on Windy City Live (talking about the power of forgiveness), was featured on Dateline NBC (episode entitled Columbine: The Road Home), and has been a guest on over a dozen Christian talk radio programs. He is also a past president for a corporate-sponsored Toastmaster’s International club.
Joe works with individuals (12 years and older), couples, and families, and also helps people with:
- Adolescent & Adult ADHD
- Aging-related Issues
- Anger Management
- Career Planning and Decisions
- Couples & Dating
- Faith Issues, including Loss of Trust & Hope
- Family Counseling
- Group Counseling
- Infidelity & Betrayal of Trust
- Job Loss and Career Transitions
- Mood Disorders (12 years and above)
- Parenting Skills
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Stress Management
Joe can be reached by phone at 630.718.0717
HOW A THERAPIST CAN HELP MANAGE CONFLICT AND EMOTIONS DURING A DIVORCE – ESPECIALLY WHEN THERE ARE CHILDREN INVOLVED
By: Dr. Laura Bokar, LMFT, LCPC, ACS & Cheryl Frommelt, LCPC, LMFT
Sometimes, marriages do not succeed. The end of a marriage can be a relief to some people, but it can also be an extremely stressful event. Even the partner who chooses to leave may experience a wide range of emotions and intense feelings that may be painful or difficult, such as grief, guilt, anger, confusion, fear, and anxiety. If children are involved, the stress level within a divorcing family is likely to be even higher.
Children will directly benefit from the divorce therapy their parents receive. Parents may often be consumed with their own feelings during a divorce, they might overlook the emotional state of their children, who may be confused by the divorce or feel guilt, loss, pain, or abandonment. Children may not be sure which parent they should “choose,” or be loyal to, and they might also worry that they are the cause of the divorce. When parents are in high conflict with each other, a child may feel even more fearful, and a child who often hears his or her parents argue about custody arrangements might feel as if he or she is unwanted by either parent, or as if he or she is to blame for the separation.
Although not the intention of most parents, putting children in the middle of conflict is particularly harmful. Examples of this are: asking children to carry messages between parents, grilling children about the other parent’s activities, telling children the other parent does not love them, and putting the other parent down in front of the children. Poorly managed conflict between parents increases children’s risk of behavior problems, depression, substance abuse and dependence, poor social skills, and poor academic performance.
Parents want the best for their children. Yet, high conflict can overshadow this desire and pull parents’ energy away from promoting their children’s best interests. Fortunately, there are approaches by which divorce professionals can help parents reduce conflict. Options include mediation, collaborative divorce, parenting/ co-parent counseling, and relationship counseling.
ROLE OF A THERAPIST
When a people separate or divorce but continue to struggle with communication and making decisions with one another, a clinical therapist who has experience working with families can help improve communication skills, design strategies for preventing and reducing conflict, bring understanding about the grief/loss process of ending the relationship and guide them through the journey of building a new life.
Divorce therapy is a type of therapy which allows couples to better achieve the dissolution of the marriage in a healthy, constructive fashion. An experienced therapist can act as a sort of mediator and set guidelines to ensure that the divorce is achieved with minimal hostility and emotional damage. Therapists can also help address pertinent issues, such as living arrangements, financial obligations, and parenting responsibilities.
Getting Apart Together: The Couple’s Guide to a Fair Divorce Or Separation
Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way
by M. Gary Neuman, Patricia Romanowski, Sandra Blakeslee, Judith S. Wallerstein
Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce
by JoAnne Pedro-Carroll
WHAT IS DIVORCE MEDIATION
Divorce Mediation provides dispute resolution via a neutral third-party mediator. The mediator will help the divorcing couple reach a fair and equitable settlement.
- Client-driven, not court-driven and will allow both you and your spouse to make your own decisions on what is best for you and your future.
- An amicable negotiation process in which spouses are assisted in their communication styles to reach a resolution.
- A non-adversarial approach to reach financial and custody decisions. Easing the emotional distress frequently associated with divorce.
- Cost effective; the total cost of mediation is significantly less than the cost of litigation with attorneys.
Private and confidential; your personal details are kept private and confidential, not made public in court.
- Time effective; how long the process will take is completely controlled by you.
Fair and equitable because the terms are determined and reached by you and your spouse.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM YOUR MEDIATOR
A mediator is a neutral professional who will help you and your spouse conduct and negotiate your disputes to resolution in a fair and unbiased manner.
Your Mediator will:
- Listen to the wants, needs, and goals of both spouses.
- Not give advice
- Assist spouses, together in formulating ideas that can lead to long-standing agreements
ARE YOU A CANDIDATE FOR DIVORCE MEDIATION?
Candidates are considered good fits for divorce mediation when both spouses are:
- Willing to actively participate in mediation
- Willing to attend mediation voluntarily
- Capable of making their own decisions
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE PROCESS
Divorce Mediation will allow you and your spouse to reach a resolution on the points required by the court to obtain a divorce. These points include, but are not limited to:
- Custody and Parenting Time
- Equitable Distribution of Property (Assets & Liabilities)
- Child Support
- Spousal Support
You can also expect:
- Weekly, hourly sessions with your mediator.
- A Memorandum of Understanding will be drafted at the end of your process which is required of you to bring to court to obtain a divorce.
Please contact Jenna Fash to schedule your first mediation appointment at 630.718.0717 ext. 208
Join us for a day of healing!
Join with a community of suicide loss survivors to find comfort and gain understanding as we share stories of healing and hope.
International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is the one day a year when people who are affected by suicide loss gather around the world at events in their local communities for support, information and empowerment.
This year’s program includes a screening of Life Journeys: Reclaiming Life after Loss; a new AFSP-produced Survivor Day documentary that traces the grief and healing journey that follows a suicide loss over time. Drawing on stories and insights from long-term survivors, the file shows us that through resiliance and support we can achieve hope and understanding in our lives while celebrating the lives of those we lost.
When: Saturday November 19, 2016 11:30a-3:30p
Where: Community Career Center
1815 W. Diehl Road Suite 900 Naperville IL, 60563
Contact: Melissa at Fox Valley Insitute
firstname.lastname@example.org or 630.718.0717
Learn More and Register HERE
I tried to teach my child with books.
He gave me only puzzled looks.
I used clear words to discipline,
But I never seemed to win.
Despairingly, I turned aside.
“How shall I reach this child?” I cried.
Into my hand he put the key:
“Come,” he said, “Play with me.”
Author Unknown, adapted by Aletha Solter
Are you a parent looking to strengthen your relationship with your young child? If you are not getting along well with your child, the relationship with your child has been strained or you simply wish to enhance your a good bond, attachment based parenting tips can be helpful for you.
Attachment is the bond that children develop with their primary caregivers in the first few years of life. This will become your child’s first introduction to love, security and intimacy. A secure bond between parent and child is critical because it will assist your child in developing a healthy sense of self and emotional regulation when under stress. This attachment is said to heavily influence the type of attachment children will go on to have as adults; it can influence how they relate to others and how they view themselves.
Attachment parenting is an approach to childrearing that promotes a secure attachment bond between a parent and a child. According to Attachment Parenting International, how parents develop a secure attachment with their child lies in the parent’s ability to fulfill that child’s need for trust, empathy, and affection by providing consistent, loving, and responsive care. By demonstrating healthy and positive relationship skills, the parent provides critical emotional scaffolding for the child to learn essential self-regulatory skills.
If you have found your style to be that of attachment parenting, you will find the following tips helpful in strengthening your relationship with your child:
(1) Let your child explore- allow your child to explore the world around them. Let them ask questions and do your best to answer them all with patience.
(2) Allow your child to participate in decision making- ask your child what they want to wear and actually let them wear the outfit the pick. When you respect your child’s decision he/she will feel respect in return.
(3) Express love and emotion- daily and as much as you can! Always tell your child how you feel about them, even if you believe they have done something wrong. When everything is left said, as opposed to unsaid, relationship bonds are enhanced as trust and intimacy are built.
(4) Play! Have fun with your child. Play is one of the best ways to bond with your child. This can be a time to be silly with your child but there are also teachable moments in play.
(5) Eat your meals together- this is great bonding time with your child. Discuss your days and take time to connect.
(6) Find a fun class or activity to participate in together- this can allow you to have fun and strengthen your relationship at the same time. Allow your child to participate in choosing a class or outing they will enjoy.
(7) Mirror your child- this is a proven method to strengthen attachment. Mirror your child’s body movements, facial expressions or words. This will help your child to feel heard and validated.
(8) A ‘day at the spa’- spend time playing dress up, painting nails and doing each other’s hair.
(9) Read books and sing songs together, including an emphasis on games that enhance physical closeness such as Little Piggy or Thunder and Rainstorms on their back.
(10) Tactile and sensory activities can help strengthen bonds- for example playing with rice, shaving cream or finger paint.
(11) Provide a calm, structured and predictable environment
For more information on attachment parenting,
visit Attachment Parenting International HERE
During times of transition and change it is not uncommon to experience anxious feelings. This is especially true for teens returning to school. Anxiety about the start of the school year can begin weeks before school even starts. Not only do teens feel the effects of anxiety but, chances are, their parents and family system will be impacted by their symptoms as well.
Anxiety experienced by teens can vary from every day worries of what to wear and who their teachers will be to clinical diagnosis such as Generalized Anxiety, Panic Disorder or Social Phobia potentially resulting in school refusal, low self esteem or worsening of symptoms.
It is important to address school anxiety before it spirals for a teen. It is ideal to be preventative so the anxiety does not interfere with success at school or relationships. The result of early intervention could help your teen avoid the negative impacts of school avoidance such as missed school work, missed social opportunities or moments for praise and validation.
Effective strategies to combat anxiety will help teens learn how to manage it themselves. Additionally, the help of a good support system (parents, teachers, counselors) can only enhance the effects of these strategies.
Remember, everyone’s plan for coping will look different and will need to be tailored to the unique needs of your teen. In developing strategies, it is important to consider the teen’s age, gender, and personality traits.
Tips for Coping with Back to School Anxiety:
(1) Talk/Write Through Your Stress. Teens have the ability to think and reason in abstract terms. Therefore, they may benefit from being able to release their thoughts and feelings in the form of writing or talking. When a teen is allowed to tend to and nurture their emotions it can help combat the effects of anxiety.
(2) Predictable Routines. Many times this can go out the window during the summer, teens tend to fall off their schedules. It is critical to get back into a routine as soon as school starts if not before. Most importantly, incorporating a sleep/meal schedule into your teen’s daily routine is valuable.
(3) Problem-Solve the Concerns. Develop strategies to cope with the concerns. It is important to acknowledge that the anxiety is real and not something that will ‘just go away or get better.’ Come up with practical ideas to deal with the problem situations if they should occur.
(4) Role Play. Teens can ‘act out’ anxiety provoking situations with those they feel comfortable with; family, friends or a therapist for example.
(5) Focus on the Good. What could be exciting or positive about the upcoming school year? Often times teens will become so overwhelmed by anxiety they lose sight of what could potentially be good. Help them discover the positives.
(6) Manage the Inner Critic. What does your teen’s inner voice sound like? If they are struggling with anxiety, chances are their self talk is critical, overwhelming or negative. Help your teens speak calmer, kinder and fairer. Healthy self talk will help to build the confidence necessary to take on new challenges at school.
(7) Build or Enhance a Support System. Anxious teens benefit greatly from a healthy support system. The support system itself can be defined by the teen, which gives them the power in determining who they find helpful. A teens’s support system can consist of various people or groups. Some examples include, a parent, friend, school counselor, therapist, family member or support group could all be important people to help teens through anxiety.
And do not forget, reach out to our skilled therapists at FVI. We can help!
New technology is finding its way into therapy, and our clinic will be among the first in the area to use virtual reality as an option in treatment.
Watch our website in the near future for more information on how you can experience therapy augmented by virtual reality.
In the meantime enjoy this article where we were featured in the Daily Herald Business Ledger.
Click Here to View The Article
Are you looking for ways to feel closer to your partner? Intimacy between you and your partner is critical to keeping the bonds strong. It is always important to determine what may be causing the disconnect between you two and try to problem-solve around that issue as well. There are various reasons that can lead to a disconnect but many couples get ‘stuck in a rut’ and simply forget or lose sight of what makes them feel close to one another.
Intimacy is the feeling of being close to another and a sense of belonging together. Sustaining intimacy for a length of time requires both emotional and interpersonal awareness. Partners need to be able to exist both separate and together as participants in their intimate relationship.
It is important to know that intimacy in your relationship will naturally go through stages. There is no set course for these stages but it may be helpful to identify where you feel you may fall.
- Infatuation– the “I just met the love of my life” stage. Infatuation will ebb and flow during this stage but you may find that you just cannot get enough of each other.
- Landing– the “oh no, who did I marry?” stage. Landing is when infatuation lifts and clarity of every day living comes in. Landing can feel turbulent and at times glide smoothly but, at the end of the day, you come home to one another.
- Burying– the “did I even see you yesterday, I don’t remember?” stage. Burying is when the business of life takes over; kids, laundry, jobs, endless to do lists, home care, etc. Burying is good in that you are reminded your relationship is real but you will need to take some time to try to unbury and let intimacy resurface.
- Resurfacing– the “wow I forgot how much I love you! “ stage- in this stage your relationship can get a ‘jolt’ or ‘reality check’ that brings it back to life and makes it a priority again. Resurfacing allows you to resolve to one another to build closeness again.
- Love- the “I love you more then I every thought I could” stage- it is in this stage partners typically realize ‘how good they have it’ and ride the wave of love together.
Making a relationship work means just that, doing the ongoing work your relationship will demand.
The following are some tips to enhance closeness between you and your partner:
- Set goals together– no matter what the goal, working together as a team can strengthen love and closeness.
- Put the stuff away– technology, toys, television, etc. take some time to just be with one another instead of always having a third ‘person’ hanging out with you and your partner. This would give you both the opportunity to look at one another while having a discussion, what a great way to strength connection by looking into your partner’s eyes.
- Create a new tradition or rehab the old one- is there something that both always loved doing together that you can start back up again? Or perhaps a new tradition you can create together?
- Be spiritual together– praying or meditating together is an excellent way to build closeness.
- Check in with each other every day– make this a party of your daily schedule.
- Have a bed time routine you can stick to– this is especially helpful with children. Once you put the kids to bed set a routine that works for you both where you can build closeness.
- Have a date night– just you two giving focused attention to one another can be a great way to feel close and have fun!
- Look for the best– do not speak bad about your partner; find a way to focus on their strengths rather then their weakness.
And do not forget, you can go to therapy together! Do not hesitate to utilize the resource of having an objective person helping you both learn to communicate better, sort through the cause to the disconnect and determine how to build closeness again.
Dr. Sarah R Florence, MD
Dr. Florence was born and raised in Chicago on the north side of the city. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Classics at Washington University in St. Louis before attending medical school at Rosalind Franklin University in North Chicago, IL. She completed her adult psychiatry residency training at Rush University Medical Center. From there, she went on to do a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, where she served as chief fellow. Dr. Florence is board certified in both Adult Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Dr. Florence’s child and adolescent training has given her a thorough understanding of how specific developmental issues might affect a particular child’s mental health and treatment needs. Dr. Florence has experience treating a wide variety of conditions, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, ADHD, other behavior disorders, and autism spectrum disorders. She has a specialty interest area in eating disorders and has worked in various intensive care settings for eating disorders patients at Insight Behavioral Health Center in Chicago.
Dr. Florence can be reached by phone at 630.718.0717