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August 2013

11 entries from July 2013

Change, Vulnerability, Shame and Brené Brown

As a counselor, I am often tasked with helping people create and experience change in their lives. I often walk this road with couples. I often talk to them about the fact that they have to choose to be vulnerable or to not be vulnerable, but without vulnerability I don't know how change happens.

The problem is shame. We often have a reaction to shame that we can't seem to get around and this slows or stops the change process. I've taken to doing something risky in session. I actually have clients watch the below video in session. Then we talk about it.

Sometimes, we talk for just the rest of that session. Other times we talk for multiple sessions about how shame and fear work against change. Now, I'm asking you to watch it and let's talk about it. You comment, I'll respond. I'll add some posts of my thoughts on these topics over the upcoming days, and months.

46 Challenge Tip #3: Dates have to happen

This one seems to be so obvious but it amazes me how often people don't seem to get it. Dates have to happen.

Couples that date, I mean really date are far more secure than couples that don't.

Of course, what does it mean to really date? Too many couples go on a date and pick up a fight, or talk about a problem with the kids or a bill. These ideas aren't bad but they can take a date and turn it into a meeting.

Meetings aren't fun. In fact, at our company we talked about the possibility of regular meetings and I asked a simple question; "Who here has ever worked at a place where you were excited about going to a meeting?" No one raised a hand.

When dates become a meeting, they didn't happen.

When dates happen, they need to have a fun agenda. They are great times for reflection, or remembering. They are excellent times to dream about the future. Sometimes, they can be great times to discuss different stressful events, but most family business issues should be dealt with during a different time.

The second way that dates don't happen is because of financial or other stressors. This is one of the worst times to stop doing dates. They need to happen more then because dates are the best way to keep the ground of your relationship fertile for emotional security to grow. As we've discussed before, they don't have to cost much money or even any money. Taking a walk through a park for an hour is a great way to go on a date.

Dates need to happen, even when money is tight because they are the balm for the stress that you are going through.

Another time that dates get cut is because of schedules. Often, this is so the parents can accommodate children's schedule. Once again, this is completely backwards from how what needs to happen. We mistakenly believe that by pouring all of our available resources into our children that they will become healthy.

What will actually make them healthy is a mom and dad that are healthy. And probably a lot less scheduling but that's a post for another day. Dates are recovery times for relationships.

If you want your relationship to be healthy you need to have regular date times.

That's why we started the challenge! So go do something with your spouse. Talk a walk. Lay on a blanket under the stars.

Do something. Anything.

The results will come.

Joe Knows! Question #1

Our first question has been selected for Joe Knows. Here’s how it works:

  1. People submit a question.
  2. A question is chosen at random by someone associated with me (or me) solely at our discretion.
  3. The question is posted and you our readers are given a week to answer and offer advice.
  4. One week after the original posting, I will post an answer either via video or written blog post.

Here’s this week’s question:

My husband and I disagree on the importance of vacations. He doesn’t think they are necessary and I do. Before we had kids, it wasn’t as big of a deal because I could just take a few days away for myself. But now that we have kids, I really want us to do these as a family because I want my kids to have those memories. My husband says that I am being silly and that we can make perfectly fine memories without leaving our house. It’s not that we can’t afford a vacation. We can, my husband just doesn’t want to spend money that he could be using to pay off debt for vacations. I think we need some balance. Help!

~Frustrated in Michigan

So what do you think my friends? What advice would you give this woman? Remember, please be nice and kind. I’ll post my answer next week. In the interim, feel free to keep sending me questions.

It's not about the nails. Taking my girls to get their nails done.

Recently, I had a fun talk with a friend. I was talking about my upcoming day.

“I’m going to take my wife to do a little necessary shopping, then take her for a pedicure and my girls to get their nails painted.”

“At a nail salon?”

“Yep,” I replied preparing to move onto the next topic.

“That just seems like such a waste of time to me...” my friend replied.


“Well, it doesn’t last.”

“True, but it’s not about the nails or the paint job on them.”

“True...” was my friend’s reply.

So as soon as I’m done publishing this post, that’s where I’m headed. I’m going to take my wife for that shopping and get my girls nails done.

In a few days, heck maybe in a few hours the paint jobs will probably be chipped and peeling. Nobody can tear up some nails like country girls. If the point was for my girls to look all girly, I will fail. It’s not that they can’t look all girly, when they want to look that way. It’s just that isn’t the point of this little exercise. The point of this exercise is that I want them to know that they are three of the most important four women in my life.

I want them to know that I love them and that they matter to me. Because they matter to me, the things that matter to them matter to me.

For a few dollars, I have the opportunity to help them feel special.

In a world that is increasingly demanding my time I want my girls to know that sometimes spending money on something that “doesn’t make sense” makes perfect sense because it helps them to feel like they are enough.

In a world that will bombard them for the rest of their lives with the message that they are not enough.

        They are not beautiful enough

        They are not smart enough

        They are not big boobed enough

        They are not small boobed enough

        They are not tall enough

        They are not short enough

        They are not long/short legged enough

        They are not feminine enough

        They are not tough enough

        They are not weak enough

        They are not “princessy” enough

        They are not anti-princessy enough

        They are not _______ enough



                                are not


I want them to know they are enough. They are worth 15 dollars to get their nails painted so that for a few hours or a few days they can have a visual reminder of how important to me they are.

As a father, I want to intentionally create a culture that paints a canvas of expectations for them to carry into adulthood.

It’s not bad to want to feel pretty.

It’s not bad to want your man to spend some money on you.

Sometimes, it’s OK to spend some money for fun just because it’s fun.

Incidentally, last night when I told the girls today’s plans, all three did this whisper, “YES!”

If I’m totally transparent, there is no way to put a money value on that. It’s priceless and certainly that’s part of the point of today’s little trip.

The 46 Challenge Tip #2: Dates have to be adaptive

Dates have to be adaptive. If you have children, this is just a reality of life. You cannot expect life to continue at your pace.

If you don't have children, you still know what I'm talking about. This past week, my wife and I planned our first date for the challenge early in the week.

We were going to go out Friday night to one a cool little section of our city. Have a quiet dinner and walk a little bit.

Then our son developed a fever. The plans we had for our daughters fell through and instead of them all almost being at someone's house, they were all home Friday night.

Que the ominous music. There goes our date, right? Wrong.

We just had to be adaptive. We moved our date night to Sunday. We made different babysitting arrangements.

We were still able to do almost everything that we wanted to get done. We still went on a date and it was a ton of fun. We didn't really do anything crazy. Our son's fever went away so he went with us. We tried a new to us restaurant and then we walked around a little bit and just talked.

It was a fun night. It was a night that we could have given up on because our initial plans took some setbacks. Adaptive dates come from a commitment to dates.

Everyone's life is busy. In our busy lifestyle one of the first areas that I see people make "budget" cuts is in the dating life. Maybe, it's because dates seem so frivolous. There are many other things that seem more important but the truth is that there is nothing more important in the long run than creating fertile ground for emotional security to grow in your relationship.

This will have the longest and best results for every aspect of your family. If you haven't been on a date yet, don't despair. You still have plenty of time to get them in. Make a commitment to yourself, your partner, and your family to get out on a date. The benefits are tremendous.

If you have been on a date, keep it up. Post on my facebook page, what you've done. How do you adapt your dates? Let me know here or the Facebook page. I want to hear from you.

Why I don't "take" your insurance

Being in the people helping business is one of the most interesting tightropes I have ever walked. On the one hand, I want to help people.

On the other hand, I want to pay my bills. I have a bias towards the actual field of counseling. Not all counseling is done by counselors. Some is done by Social Workers and some by Psychologist, while others yet is done by people with a different license and label. They all have unique abilities and benefits. For myself, I have a bias toward the process of counseling.

If I lived in Texas, this wouldn’t be a problem. In the state of Michigan it can be a bit of a problem. The State of Michigan has chosen to set up it’s insurance regulations to favor those with a  social work or psychology license.

That’s fine and well.

It is certainly their prerogative and no one made me pick the counseling license.

But as I’ve already written, I have a bias toward the counseling system.

This brings me to the point of this post. The majority of my business is fee for services counseling.

That is to say that most clients pay me a nominal fee for each session. This has a lot of perks for them that I am going to get into in my next post on my company blog at but today I want to address the number one question I get when people realize they can’t use their insurance.

They invariably ask why I don’t “take” their insurance.
The conversation often goes like this:

Them: I have Blue Cross or Priority Health, do you take them?

Me: No

Them: Why not?

The truth is, I would love to take those insurances.

But they don’t take me. For whatever reason, they have decided they don’t like my license and because for them it is about making money and not doing what’s in the best interest of their consumer they refuse to budge.

I have 48 credit hours of classes at the Masters Level in the art, science and skills of counseling.

I have almost 55 credit hours at the doctorate level for counseling. 

Many of the licenses that these insurance companies do take have less than a quarter of those totals. Some have taken courses in grant writing as a required part of their program.

A necessary and vital tool no doubt but how is that going to help you in the counseling session?  

 This isn’t about skill or aptitude. It’s about money for the insurance companies plain and simple.  
I often tell my billing person to remember the insurance person’s goal is not to accept our claim but to adjust it.
I once had a claim denied because I signed where it was written, “signature required.” The claim was denied because they actually wanted me to write my name out.
Call the insurance company; you get one person who tells you to do one thing. Then you do it.

And no results occur.

Call back; get someone else who tells you, “Well, I don’t know why that person told you that, they shouldn’t have…”

I have high hopes that this will change. Someday, licenses will be accepted on their merit not on who was around to write the rules fifty years ago. License reciprocity will be a reality not a dream.

Until then, you need to remember that we are not powerless. You have choices. You can call your insurance provider and complain. You don’t have to give them your money every month for less and less coverage.

You don’t have to take whatever they give out, even if it isn’t something you don’t want.

Let them know how much you like or don’t like their services.

You can also choose to pay in a fee for services situation.  For many people, this is a viable option with a lot of benefits that I will explore on Thursday at the CSC blog.



Sundays with Friends (other people's thoughts) #2

Amy Warner Radford kicked us off a few months ago talking about our faith communities and handling mental illness. You can read that post here

Today's post is from the newly married Rebekah Holman Clarke. Rebeckah is in the process of opening her own consulting firm. Today, she shares with us some salient and much needed thoughts on leadership.

It was April of 2010 and I went into work, thinking it would be a normal day.  As soon as I walked in, my boss asked me to swing by her office.  We usually chatted every morning so I thought nothing of it and even though she was a PhD and a Vice President, I was never really intimidated by her.  As soon as I walked in, I knew something was wrong.  She began to tell me about something I had done that she considered to be a huge error in judgment and, as a member of her management team, felt I should have known better.  I was caught completely off guard and quickly thought through the conversation she was referring to.  I didn’t realize that what I had said would cause such an issue and told her that.  We had a good conversation, including my apologizing and her telling me how we would move forward in correcting perceptions.  I left feeling a bit embarrassed, but knowing that we had patched up the issue.

Two hours later, we had a team meeting and went through the normal conversations and action items.  Immediately afterward, my boss asked me to stay behind along with one of her Directors.  We waited for everyone to leave and then out of nowhere, this Director proceeds to berate me up one side and down the other for the same issue I thought had been resolved with my boss.  I was confused, frustrated, embarrassed, and angry.  After 10 minutes, she was done and we adjourned.  And I began my job hunt as soon as I got home. 

It wasn’t until many months later that I realized I was working in a leadership environment that Lipman-Blumen (2005) refers to as “toxic”.  Toxic leaders are those that either engage in destructive behaviors toward their subordinates or exhibit dysfunctional personal characteristics.  Lipman-Blumen describes a number of destructive behaviors, including several listed below that hit close to home in my particular case:

  1. Misleading followers
  2. Failing to nurture followers, including successors
  3. Encouraging followers to hate or destroy others
  4. Identifying scapegoats
  5. Ignoring or promoting incompetence, cronyism, and corruption

The lesson in this story is not so much about toxic leadership, but for me, it’s about looking for the teaching moments as a leader.  I often rewind the conversations I had that day and try to think of what I could have done differently, but I think the real failure of action was on the part of my boss.  She missed a great opportunity to teach me about making better judgments calls.  She could have paired me up with the Director as mentor/mentee to learn how to handle those tough situations.  She could have encouraged me rather than berate me and allow others to belittle my actions and abilities.  She missed a great opportunity to use the situation to become a better leader…but I’ll take it if she won’t!


Lipman-Blumen, J. (2005). The allure of toxic leaders: Why we follow destructive bosses and corrupt politicians – and how we can survive them. Oxford, UK:  Oxford University Press.

 Would you like to contribute to Sunday's with friends? Contact me through the contact me tab or find me on facebook here.

What can we learn about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman?

I have been hesitant to enter the Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman fray.

In my opinion, it’s just too emotionally charged to get into it online.

Sunday morning, I woke up before anyone else in my family and as is my custom, I checked my email, and did a few other things.

Then I checked Facebook.

This was my newsfeed:

Person #1’s Status: You’re not paying attention if you believe Zimmerman was innocent.

Person #2’s Status: You’re not paying attention if you believe Zimmerman was guilty.

Person #3’s Status: You can’t really love Jesus if you believe Zimmerman was innocent.

Person #4’s Status: You can’t really love Jesus if you believe

That literally happened in almost straight succession.

Now, I’m not interested in debating the merits of the case with you or anyone else online. In truth, the list of people that I would discuss it with in real life is probably short.

Unless you want to talk about what we can learn about us from this death, trial, verdict and reaction.

Not about George Zimmerman.

Not about Trayvon Martin.

I’m not interested in discussing the judicial system, or anything else about the logistics of the case.

I want to talk about what we can learn about you and me.

I want to talk about our response to this event.

Both sides are drastically concerned with one thing. What they perceive to be justice.

People on both sides have used totally inaccurate arguments. They have both stated things as facts that they were proven to not be facts.

For many people, emotions have run extremely high.

People have made cries and accusations about everything.

This angers the people on the other side.


Because both sides believe they have justice on their side.

I think our desire, our passion to see justice happen is a good thing.

The problem, I think in this case is that it is blinding each side to seeing the view of the people on the other side.

We want justice so badly that we have failed to stop and hear the opinions of those who disagree with us. We’ve failed to stop and ask how someone in another reality from us might see this case.

We want justice so badly that we fail to make sure we act justly to people who have done nothing wrong, besides disagree with us.

I am afraid that until this changes there will alway be another Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman case. The names will be different. Perhaps, it will be different races.

But it will happen again, because I am afraid we have become a non-empathy society.

In a society where have nearly been enslaved to political correctness, which attempts to force empathy, we’ve lost our way. As long as we fail to embrace our alikeness, and differences while admitting our yearning for justice in a world full of injustice, we will never actually heal.

We will always be enslaved to our worst of emotions because it will be more about stopping the pain than true justice.

Stopping the pain is never about true justice. When we just want to stop the pain, we don’t really care if we have to stretch a few truths, or tell a few lies to get our point across. We believe we can bend a few of our own morals in order to achieve the greater good.

Of course, then we’re the ones perpetrating injustice.

May God have mercy on us all.

The 46 Challenge: Tip #1 Dates don't have to be complex

Many people that I talk to agree that a regular dating life is important for the health of their relationship. They also often admit that they don’t go on enough dates and many even tell me that they rarely go on dates.

I think part of that is because dating can be hard to coordinate with children.

And it can be expensive.

You have to pay for the babysitter.

You have to pay for the dinner.

You have to pay for the gas.

Despite what the media tells me, I’m still not seeing much of a recovery economically and it seems to me that one of the things to get cut the fastest is a couples dating budget.

But you don’t need a big budget to go on a date.

If you’re kids are older, you may be able to have one of them do the babysitting while you go for a short walk holding hands.

If you can’t let the kids watch themselves without fear that the entire second floor will be gutted before you get back, you can always wait until the kids go to bed to have your date.

You can explain to them how important it is that they give you “mommy and daddy time.”

If your kids are old enough give them strict instructions to not come see you unless something is wrong in a major way.

Then shut off the phones.

Close the laptops.

Put a movie.

Play a card game.

Play a video game. One couple I once talked to played strip video games. That was usually a win/win night for them.

The point is that dating doesn’t have to be expensive and in fact, you don’t have to leave the house.

It can as simple as sitting on the front porch sipping a drink and talking.

If you go that route, try to avoid talking about bills and those types of things. Talk about each other. Work, the future. What do you dream about. Etc.

The important thing is that you spend time together.

The 46 challenge

So we want to do something fun for the summer. One of the things that we believe is that couples need to date more. So we are challenging you to do the 46 challenge.

The idea is that you will have 4 dates in 6 weeks with your spouse. If you’re willing to do it, be sure to like our Facebook page, found at

We’ll have date tips and encouragement there. Everyone who completes the challenge will get a certificate of accomplishment and probably have more sex, which is always a good thing, right?

Plus, you’ll probably improve the overall health of your relationship.

The contest starts next Monday, July 15th and will run until Sunday, August 25th.

Let’s do some dating.

We believe you can do this without spending a lot of money and we’re going to offer tips on how to pull that off. We hope to be emailing you a certificate soon.