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What Your Therapist Won’t Tell You: WSJ Marketwatch Interview

If you’re considering therapy, this is an interesting read. I share a few insights for this Marketwatch piece by Quentin Fottrell about some things that you may want to be aware of before you enter therapy. For example, therapy is costly but effective, coaches are different than licensed therapists, not all therapists have taken their turn on “the couch” as a client in therapy. Here are a few…

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5 Expectations To Let Go

We’re giving you permission to let yourself off the hook. Let go of unrealistic expectations and live a happier, more satisfying life. Therapist, Julie Hanks has the top 5 expectations every woman should let go.

 

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Making Sense of Senseless Tragedy: Studio 5

The details of the bombings in Boston continue to unfold. As news outlets scramble for the facts, we struggle to make sense of what happened: to make sense of the senseless.

Accept uncertainty

Acknowledge tragedy but don’t dwell on it

Take positive Action

Ask Julie: Who Can I Tell About My Depression and Cutting?

Q: I’m pretty sure I have depression, I mean I have most of the symptoms. But I have nobody to talk to me and my mum aren’t close. I cant see a doctor without my mum finding out. So I think I should go to one of my teachers but I don’t know how to start the conversation and what to say. I think I really need help because I’ve been self harming for over 2-3 months now. Please help. (13 year old girl)

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Ask Julie: My Best Friend Is Suicidal

Q: My best friend is suicidal and I want to know if there is anything I can do to help her. She has already told her parents but they really aren’t doing anything to stop her. I have told a teacher at our school and the counselor but all they do is recommend seeing a psychiatrist. I am really worried about her she almost always has cuts all over her body arms, legs, and stomach. Her mother has been in and out of prison even before she was born. Her mother is also in right now and has been since she was 7. In the past few years she has had a lot happen, she lost her grandmother on her dad’s side two days before Christmas in 2008. Right after that she moved from a big house to a small one and in the process lost connection with her former best friend. Many of her animals outside died and she sat with one of her cats and had to watch it die after it got attacked by a dog. This past year she had her aunt on her dad’s side die and lost a lot of her friends. She also found out that her mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by four different psychiatrists and borderline personality disorder by one or two. We were in seventh grade this year and for most of the second semester she was labeled a whore because of how she dresses and who hangs out with. This past summer is also when the cutting started it started off pretty bad but not frequent. It then went to minor burns and small scratches and then blew up again to bad cuts and they were very frequent. At the current moment she only has scars but is thinking about cutting herself again. I would just like an idea of what I could say to her to get her not to cut anymore. Thank you for taking the time to read this (and respond if you do).

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Ask Julie: I’m Sexually Attracted To My Therapist

Okay, so recently I started getting therapy for a few issues in my life and I have this therapist. Obviously, it’s their job to listen and what not, but it’s such a new thing for me to have someone listen and understand!! I have normal relationships and what not, but I don’t talk about what’s going on in my life. And well, like I said, this therapist, he listens!! And I don’t know how it started, but now I’m attracted to him and think about him all the time. Yikes! And I had therapy the other day and I was feeling a bit awkward sometimes because in my head I was thinking about him sexually!! And he was right there in front of me. Not good but so good at the same time! But yeah nothing will happen anyway because 1. he’s my therapist and that goes against code and 2. he’s married anyway. But it doesn’t stop me from thinking about him that way. I don’t know if I have control over my actions but don’t want to lose him as a therapist! And if I ask him for help about it, I guess I probably will. I can’t ask anyway… too awkward. And I don’t want to start again with a new therapist. So please give me some ideas! Oh, and if this helps in anyway, I have bipolar…. but I guess I’m not the first person in the world to be attracted to my therapist so maybe it doesn’t! (18 year old female who recently started therapy)

A: How wonderful that you are able to open up to your therapist and feel listened to. You are not alone in having a sexual attraction to your therapist and there’s a name for it — erotic transference — and it’s actually a quite common experience in therapy.  Transference can be worked through in the therapeutic relationship and that process can help you experience and resolve the deeper issues in your life. I hear that you are afraid of losing this relationship if you disclose your feelings to your therapist and that you’ll have to start all over.  Assuming your therapist is skilled and experienced, he will be able to help you work through this attraction.  Start slow in sharing your feelings. Let him know that you’re scared to share these feelings and that you want help to understand what they really mean.  When sharing your transference with your therapist, remember that your feelings are information about your deeper emotional longings, wounds, and needs, and are not about your actual relationship with your therapist. You’ll get through this. Thanks again for having the courage to write to “Ask the Therapist.”

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Incentive For Premarriage Counseling: KSL TV News

A new bill introduced in the UT House during the current legislative session proposes a discounted marriage license rate to couples who’ve gone to 3 hours of premarriage counseling. What do you think about the bill? Listen to my advice to engaged couples…

Ask Julie: My Therapist Looks Like A Skeleton

Q: I don’t know what to do. I have been seeing my therapist for 3 years. I suffer with body image issues and distorted eating. My therapist has always been thin/healthy. Sometimes her weight drops and I am very sensitive to it. We have talked about it before and I am very open with it if I feel triggered by her. I saw her today and she looks like an eating disordered patient. She said she is aware of it and working on it. She said she has medical issues that make her body do things if she’s not careful and stress plays a part. I believe she is OK and she will work at getting back up to a healthy weight, but its really hard for me to make sense of. Why can she look like that but I have to work to keep myself healthy? Why are such high expectations put on me that she doesn’t live up to? She is my biggest role model, and all I can think of at this moment is starving myself until I look like her. She is happy, successful, smart, has a family and is pretty. She said, “I hope you’re not jealous of this (her body)” and she said that she wished she was in a different place. I just can’t get the picture of her out of my mind. Oh and she’s been getting sick a lot recently. It scares me. I want her to be healthy. She’s MY motivation to be healthy. But when she’s not…my motivation goes away and I want to restrict. How do I make sense of this?

A: Wow. What a tough situation! I want to validate your confusion about how to make sense of your therapist’s weight loss. It sounds like you’ve handled this things well so far by being open with your concern for her health, and talking about how her weight loss is impacting your recovery process. It’s scary when someone close to you is obviously ill and I’m glad that you are asking for help to deal with your concerns.

I can hear that on one level you trust that your therapist is addressing the problem, and on another level you’re angry about the double standard — she can be at a seemingly unhealthy weight and you’re expected to be at a healthy weight. While it is normal to be concerned about your therapist, I think there may be more for you to learn about yourself and your relationship patterns.

Your comment that you can’t get the picture of her out of your mind may be a sign that you’re too focused on her. I’m curious, have you had other close relationships where you’ve focused on their problems or issues in a way that negatively impacted you? Core relationship patterns and emotional wounds often replay themselves in clients’ feelings and thoughts about their therapist. You may want to explore these patterns with your therapist.

Just like children who idealize their parents eventually come to realize that their parents aren’t perfect, it sounds like you are experiencing a similar realization with your therapist. Instead of seeing her as the epitome of health, her drastic weight loss has knocked her off of the pedestal of perfection in your eyes.  There may be some grieving that goes along with acknowledging that your role model isn’t everything you hoped she’d be.

It’s time for you to work toward developing an internal source of motivation for health and recovery instead of relying solely on your therapist for your motivation. Ultimately, who you are and who you want to become are defined and chosen by you, not by any external source. You are stronger than you think you are.

Keep the dialogue with your therapist focused on you and trust that she’s aware and taking care of her own struggles. If after a few months she’s not improving and you are still frequently triggered by her appearance, it may be time to talk to your therapist about transferring to another therapist.

Thanks for writing in and I wish you well in your continued recovery.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW