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Kathy Marshack News

Empathy – The Key to Successful Couples' Counseling

Thursday, October 30, 2014

empathy is the key to successful couples counselingWhat exactly is empathy? Perhaps you’ve heard it described as being able to stand in someone else’s shoes and see things from his or her point of view, which is a lot easier said than done in our overly-demanding world.

Science is proving that empathy is the result of some very complex and intricate connections in the brain. The National Institutes of Health probed the neuroscience of empathy and its capacity to help us evaluate other’s actions and feelings earlier this year. They discuss how “empathy is not only the capacity to share and understand others’ feeling and emotions, but it is becoming evident that it is a multilayered phenomenon in which emotions and cognitive processes are simultaneously at work.” They’re attempting to understand the core elements and basic neural connections and cognitive processes involved.

I’ve discussed these empathy connections in a previous blog about understanding the science behind Asperger’s behavior because those with Asperger’s struggle with empathy. Perhaps you haven’t thought about how this also applies to the way a psychologist can help couples in resolving their conflicts.

Maybe you’ve even put off seeking help from a marriage counselor because you wonder: How can you help us when you’ve never been in this particular situation before? How can you possibly understand how I feel?

The answer is empathy. In addition to the multitude of connections I’ve mentioned before, our brain is also designed with mirror neurons that help us empathize through perspective taking and mentally putting oneself in others’ shoes. My job as a psychologist is to create a safe place for couples to process your issues and engage your innate power of empathy to resolve conflicts.

I don’t have a manual that scripts the solution for each situation, which is a good thing because every person is different. So how can we KNOW what’s the right thing to do in any given case? Drawing on my education and experience, plus paying close attention to this other level of inspiration that comes from the wonderful way we’re designed, helps me intuitively know what to say and do. Sometimes the solutions is to say the right words or point out the thing that’s most needed, and other times it’s simply a kind look or just sharing a safe place that allows you to open up to mending the rift in your relationship.

Often, couples need an objective third party to help them integrate the best solutions for protecting their relationship. Over-thinking a situation and excessive worry can sometimes tax your ability to effectively engage your own gift of showing empathy. Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Why suffer in silence a moment longer? I work with all kinds of couples including couples who run a business together, dual-career couples, couples where one is on the autism spectrum, and couples that find money worries, depression or stress are simply overtaxing the relationship. If you live in the Portland, OR/ Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office and schedule an appointment today.

Read more on my website: Entrepreneurial Life.

Simplify – The Secret to Less Stress

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

woman stressedIn our hectic lives we try to do everything, have everything and be everything. We want to be good at our jobs, be the perfect partner, and give our children everything we didn’t have. If you're a baby boomer there’s the additional worry of caring for aged parents. In this pursuit of taking care of everything and everyone, managing stress can be increasingly difficult.

I found a new article on CNN,"Stress less: Keys to a calmer existence", had some good advice on how to simplify your routine, your possessions and how you think about things. Some of the suggestions that were helpful and easy to implement included:

  • Eliminate time wasters.
  • Don’t say, “yes” to every request.
  • Break big tasks into the small steps.
  • Do what energizes you, and avoid what depletes you.
  • Schedule a small amount of time to routinely de-cluttering every week.
  • Keep the treasures and toss the stuff you don’t really love.
  • Start by doing what you know how to do and feel satisfaction in doing that.
  • When struggling with a problem, go do something you enjoy, then come back to it.
  • Don’t strive for perfection.

When you simplify your life you have less to worry about and less to maintain so you can focus on what’s important. According to Geralin Thomas, a professional organizer, "Once you shape your environment, then you’re ready to shape up yourself.” But what if these simple suggestions just aren't enough? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a powerful tool to help you control how you react to stress. It works to identify the sources of stress, restructure priorities, change your response to stress, and find methods for managing and reducing stress. Over time, it becomes your new and automatic way of thinking! If you live near Portland OR/Vancouver, WA and want to work with a mental health care professional that specializes in CBT, contact my office to make an appointment.

Read about eight specific methods to reducing stress on my website – Managing Stress.

Is Your Bucket List Half Empty or Half Full?

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

things to doWhat’s in your “Bucket List”? That term has become synonymous with the list of things you’d like to accomplish in life before it’s too late. It refers to choosing to live in a way now so you have no regrets later.

What are some of the things that people regret the most? An Australian nurse who cared for the dying noticed 5 recurring regrets her patients had:

  • Not living a life true to self, but doing what others expect
  • Not taking time to enjoy life because of working too much
  • Not having the courage to say what you feel
  • Not staying in touch with friends
  • Not letting yourself be happy

All of these regrets involve the choices we make. It’s never too late to make your life richer and more meaningful. It all boils down to your attitude and the choices you make. If you don’t take yourself too seriously and do more to get involved in life and with people, you won’t have regrets over the “I wish I’d done” list.

Some look at life with a glass half empty attitude, which is the negative way of thinking. Others choose to look at life with a glass half full attitude – positively working toward filling their lives with meaning.

I was honored to have an essay included in the book, Sixty Things to Do When You Turn Sixty. It helps Baby Boomers who are approaching their sixties to see the positive as you purposefully choose to make the best out of your life. My own experience taught me that even the trying circumstances in life can be turned into something positive.

How Are Women Entrepreneurs Changing the World We Live In?

Monday, August 26, 2013

women entrepreneurs juggle home and workThe numbers of entrepreneurial women are increasing rapidly. Because women are socialized differently than men, they tend to organize and run their businesses differently, though they are no less a force on the American economy. This is changing the way America does business, AND the ways Americans do marriage and family. Let’s examine this in more depth… 

How entrepreneurial women balance home life and work life.

Career women struggle with societal values and their own internalized beliefs about what is required of the competent professional versus the good wife and mother. In order to ease the struggle to define themselves, women can opt for the traditional homemaker role and not work outside the home. However, work proves to be powerfully alluring to women. Therefore, career women have chosen other methods to resolve this struggle.

Most commonly, entrepreneurial women overwork. Instead of asking for changes from their husbands, changes in the workplace, or even changes in society, career women increase the time spent in nurturing relationships as they increase their commitment to work.

While men strive for autonomy first and learn about relationships second, women develop their sense of self first in connection with others. Therefore, a woman’s sense of worth is highly dependent on the consequences of relationships.

Entrepreneurial women use unconventional methods in business management.

Women entrepreneurs have a more relaxed style of management. This can be seen in how women entrepreneurs treat their employees, suppliers, and customers. They seem to prefer a more people-oriented style. According to Putnam's 1993 study of entrepreneurial women in Oregon, women entrepreneurs blend their personal and their business identities. They base their management of the business on relationships rather than on the development of business plans. Employees are considered friends. Family and spouse support are elements without which the woman would not consider an entrepreneurial venture. Rather than network within traditional business organizations, entrepreneurial women rely on strong personal relationships with their customers and vendors. These findings led Putnam to describe the business orientation of entrepreneurial women as a "web of interconnected relationships."

Since this is becoming the norm, why don’t you and your partner reevaluate the arrangements you’ve made, as well as the assumptions underlying those arrangements? Are there ways that you can reorganize your relationship, your business, and your personal life to create an arrangement that works better for both of you? If you’d like a third party to help sort it out, talking with a family therapist can help. Contact my office and set up an appointment in either my Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington office.

Whether to work with your spouse or not is just one of the challenges I address in my book - Entrepreneurial Couples Making it Work at Work and at Home. It’s now available on as a Kindle edition.

In a “Blended" Family? How to Make It Work Despite the Obstacles

Friday, July 29, 2011

High divorce rates and remarriage in American has created many "blended families." Blended families refer to those in a household composed of parents and children who are not related by blood. The results of blending families creates stepparents and stepchildren. If you have ever been part of a blended family, you know the unique stress it can create. Since so many households are not the "typical" anymore, we need to redefine the family and begin educating ourselves as to how to rear healthy children in whatever family constellation they live. It’s not the family that’s important, but family life that exerts the most important influence on the development of your children.

What can you do to help ensure a healthy blended family environment?

1. Teach your children that there is enough love to go around to all family members, biological or blended.

2. Show respect for the care your child has for your ex-spouse. Don’t be threatened by your child’s stepmother. Don’t make your children have to choose between you. Work together so that the significant adults in your child’s life can expand and enhance his or her learning.

3. Look at your blended family as an opportunity to develop tolerance and flexibility. Be creative about the ways that you include extended family member into your family life.

4. Teach your child to appreciate that happy family life is created by caring, committed people of all ages and connections.

5. Educate yourself by reading and attending classes on parenting. Be humble and accept the fact that you may need some help.

6. If you encounter a situation that is beyond your understanding, seek the expertise of a family therapist. Sometimes personal problems or relationship problems interfere with productive family life. It is important to recognize these problems, to seek professional help and to restore family life to a healthy, happy balance.

By taking the responsibility seriously, you can have a successful blended family. For more information, visit Parenting Effectively - Happy Blended Families. If you would like assistance from a family therapist, contact my office to set up an appointment.

Parents and Teens - Be Alert to the Dangers of Sexting

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Is your teenager always texting? Then you need to have an important conversation with them. "Sexting" is a term to describe the action of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs through an electronic device. Sexting has become increasingly popular between teenagers. According to A Thin Line 2009 AP-MTV Digital Abuse Study, "3 out of 10 young people have been involved in some type of naked sexting."

You may be asking, what is the danger behind sexting? For one thing, sexting damages lives. The New York Times had a recent cover story, A Girl's Nude Photo, Lives Alter. The article discusses a sexting incident in Lacey, Washington. A young girl sends a naked photo to her boyfriend and before you know it, the photo goes viral. . . possibly thousands viewed the photo. The effects of this incident were damaging indeed. The teens that were involved as well their family and friends are forever impacted. Shame, embarrassment, pain, for a simple action that now can never be erased. I recommend that all parents and teenagers read that article!

The other danger behind texting is legal troubles. In Washington State and Oregon, sexting may result in state felony charges including dissemination of child pornography. The act of sexting is not illegal, but it becomes a legal issue when the photographer, recipient of the text or distributor is under the age of 18. That is when child pornography charges can come into play.

Sexting is not to be taken lightly! Parents, talk to your children about this very real issue. Explain to them the dangers that are involved. If a teen has gotten involved in sexting, they may need counseling to help them deal with the effects. If so, seek the assistance of a mental health care professional.

Visit Am I a Good Parent for 5 key areas to master to be a good parent. These steps will help you deal with many challenges that may arise when you’re a parent.

Sixty Things To Do When You Turn Sixty – It’s About Your Attitude

Monday, January 18, 2010

The idea of entering your sixties is often accompanied with dismay. For some though, turning sixty is welcomed. The difference boils down to your attitude, making the conscious decision to age gracefully.

It’s never too late to start your life over no matter how old you are. Turning sixty can be the perfect age to start over and do what you have always wanted to do with your life. With retirement and grown children, perhaps you’ve been allotted with the gift of time so take advantage of it. Don't take things too seriously, make sure to laugh along the way. Get moving and get involved. Find something you have always wanted to accomplish and do it!

I had the privilege of having one of my essays published in a wonderful book entitled, Sixty Things To Do When You Turn Sixty. Published in September 2006, this book of essays captures the imaginations of those Baby Boomers out there who are rounding the bend into their sixties. It is a positive and enlightening look at what turning sixty can be for those who choose to make something out of it.

I just learned that the Corvallis Public Library has Sixty Things To Do When You Turn Sixty available and it’s checked out regularly. If you are interesting in purchasing your own personal copy, please visit this page.

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