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What do you think of when you hear the word “commitment?” On a small scale, I often think of “obligations” that I would prefer to be free from, such as being committed to going to a social gathering when I’d prefer to be at home watching Schitt’s Creek on Netflix or my “commitment” to being fiscally responsible despite my firm belief in retail therapy.
What about commitment in terms of a relationship? Currently, we live in a culture where commitment isn’t always valued. For example, we get many messages that if something or someone does not bring you happiness, you should discard it or find someone else who makes you feel [fill in the blank].
Sometimes we buy into the notion that the grass is greener on the other side and we shouldn’t waste time being unhappy. If we buy into these messages, we can start to view commitment as something that we only do when we feel like it.
And honestly, it’s much easier to feel like being committed in the beginning of a relationship when things are fun, new, easy, and exciting. It’s much harder to be committed to someone when the monotony of everyday life (and stress) sets in, or when the reality of being in the relationship is different from what you expected. So what do you do when the new relationship bliss has long worn off and you’re left wondering if maybe you’re just not as “compatible” as you once thought?
Commitment is a major key to long-lasting relationships. Why is that? Because commitment is a choice. It’s a conscious decision to choose your partner even on the days when they’ve disappointed you, hurt your feelings, or when you feel that initial “spark” has gone away. Commitment is the choice to love your partner despite their annoying habits, their flaws, and their mistakes.
You can strengthen the commitment in your relationship by practicing a few key skills:
Trust is the foundation that is needed for commitment because it allows you to feel physically and emotionally safe in your partnership. With trust often comes loyalty, friendship, and a mutual respect, and an acceptance of one another that allows for the ability to extend the “benefit of the doubt” to your partner when they disappoint you.
This can be difficult when you feel your needs or wants have gone unmet by your partner, which can easily lend itself to a feeling of resentment. While communicating with your partner about those unmet needs is necessary, choosing to let go of the resentment and the hurt feelings that linger after you have resolved the issue is a continuous process. Choosing commitment means choosing to let go of past hurts without holding your partner’s mistakes against them.
This means choosing to be emotionally available to your partner by choosing vulnerability and connection instead of pulling away. Part of turning towards your partner is choosing to be present in the small, everyday moments that you share with your partner. For example, say you and your partner just sat down for your usual Friday night Netflix binge (can you tell what I do in my spare time?) and you hear them let out a sigh. Turning towards your partner would be pausing and asking your partner if they’re ok. While such a moment may seem insignificant, taking advantage of the small opportunities for connection enhances your relationship. This also helps to build trust, which is essential to commitment.
In a healthy partnership, commitment is a necessary choice. Relationships naturally go through ebbs and flows, and going through the ebbs can really make the choice to continue to commit to your partner difficult. However, committing to your partner in the “ebbs” allows you to experience the fullness of your relationship.
Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFT-C
Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFT-C helps you create your very best life. She has a warm, compassionate, and gentle yet highly effective approach to personal growth work. She specializes in helping couples create healthy, happy partnerships, and assisting individuals to heal from past hurts in order to create fulfillment and joy.
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Here at Growing Self we often do financial counseling for couples with people seeking to get on the same page around money. Let’s face it: money is a loaded topic. From our younger years, we are taught that finances are not a polite dinner-time conversation. It’s poor etiquette to bring up your salary, your expenses, your debt, and your money goals even among your closest relations. Why is this?
Our personal finances often influence how we feel about ourselves. They can have a huge impact on how much freedom, power, security, and comfort we experience in our day-to-day lives.
Finances impact our significant life and relationship milestones, like getting married, having a baby, or buying a house, and can also figure heavily into big decisions like pursuing education, addressing medical needs, and planning for retirement.
Money, more than almost any other topic about which couples fight, directly bears on survival (some researchers have even noted that fights about money are more likely to end a relationship than fights around other topics).
In my experience as a couples therapist and relationship coach, there are several reasons why couples struggle to address their money woes both individually and as a team. Today I want to provide you with easy to incorporate tips on how to talk about the taboo topic of money with your partner.
Most of us were taught early on that sharing financial specifics is rude, and clients have sometimes told me that talking about money makes them feel embarrassed or “exposed.” If you feel this way too, you’re not alone.
For those who are in a budding new relationship, talking about money may not be necessary. Then, when you get to the point in your relationship that it feels like the right time to start addressing this topic, it can feel so foreign and surreal that you just keep pushing it off.
Because expectations around sharing and transparency are unclear, couples are left asking lots of questions without any clear blueprint for the “right” way to proceed.
Do we combine our finances, or keep separate accounts?
And if we are going to combine them, when do we do that? When we move in?
When we get engaged? When we get married?
How much influence should we have over each other’s spending?
Do I have a right to know where my partner’s money is going?
The discomfort goes both ways. For those who have been successful with their finances, they may feel rude bringing it up (almost as if boasting their money success), even though they have worked hard to get to where they are, practiced self-control, and self-discipline with their money habits.
For those who feel less than successful with their finances, they may feel shame or regret around their finances and they don’t want to bring that into their relationship with their partner. Talking about finances is emotional. Telling your partner about a large accumulation of debt may feel shameful.
You may be fearful of how your partner may view your spending or saving habits, or worry that entering a discussion about finances will end in a fight. The way you manage your money reflects your values, and when partners criticize these choices in one another, it can feel uniquely threatening.
Many of the couples who come to me to find clarity around discussing their finances are at a loss for how to move forward. They have already exhausted the topic, fought over whose approach is better for the relationship, and have often felt unheard by their partner (or have experienced broken trust surrounding finances within the relationship).
You don’t have to wait until you get to that point. In fact, the earlier you start talking about finances, the easier it will be to create a plan together moving forward.
Start by checking in with yourself. Getting an accurate and up-to-date sense of where your money is going on a regular basis will allow for you to approach the topic with confidence.
Take stock of bills and scheduled payments, debt (including any student loans, a mortgage, and credit card debt), regular monthly expenses (like gas, groceries, etc.), and any miscellaneous spending (think: eating out, travel costs, buying Christmas presents, and so on).
If you’re a little on the budget-avoidant side of the spectrum, it can be helpful to take your own financial pulse before raising the issue with your partner. That way you may be better prepared to answer their questions, and you’ll be more aware of whether or not you’re satisfied with your current spending habits. (If you’re already operating from shared accounts, you may be able to skip this step!)
Because finances can be an uncomfortable conversation (at first–it gets easier!) I recommend that you schedule a time to meet with your partner in a neutral zone – whether that’s at home, at a coffee shop, or maybe even out on a walk. Don’t spring the conversation on your partner in the middle of a romantic dinner, around friends, during work, or at your family reunion (although I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this!).
You already know where you stand financially (hooray for finishing step one!), and maybe you now have a better sense of where you want to be. So, begin the conversation by sharing these details with your partner: be honest and transparent about where you are, and describe where you ultimately want to be financially as a couple.
Once you’ve shared, allow your partner to weigh in. If this conversation comes as a surprise to them, don’t expect them to have all their answers or point-of-view laid out clearly right away. They may need some time to think about what you’ve shared and to take stock of their own financial situation.
While you have this ongoing conversation with your partner, share your goals and listen respectfully to theirs (no matter how different they are from yours). Maintaining an open, nonjudgmental stance is the best way to keep the conversation from shutting down or spiraling into conflict.
Beginning this conversation will allow the two of you to set expectations around your money. The whole point of this conversation is to build trust, awareness, and success in your relationship and in your finances.
This conversation should lead you toward shared goals, an idea of what your future looks like, what you can each expect out of your current employment status, what changes you need to implement, and how you can achieve your financial and lifestyle goals over the next one, five, ten, or even fifty years.
Respecting your partner will be what gets you through any difficult conversation, especially when the conversation has to do with something as life-altering as money.
If there are large disagreements, try talking about the meaning behind your position and asking about what your partner’s position means to them. Example: having a higher eating-out and entertainment budget might be your way of prioritizing community and friendships, while saving that money might be your partner’s way of feeling secure in the face of potential future emergencies.
Here are three tips for successful money talks.
As discussed earlier, this is not a one-time-over-morning-coffee discussion. It’s an ongoing conversation that you may need to have weekly, or at the very least once a month. The more time and effort you put into discussing and implementing change in your finances as a team, the more successful you will be. It takes time, and that’s okay.
Change is not going to happen overnight, and you’re not always going to see eye-to-eye but if you’re realistic with yourself, your partner, and with your bank balance, your relationship will have a better chance of moving forward at a manageable pace towards your goals.
Above all, be compassionate. People mess up. Have grace both for yourself and for your partner. Recognize that new habits take time to build, and that you probably won’t have everything figured out in your first month (or year) budgeting together. And guess what? That’s okay too.
There’s more than one way of handling your finances. If you are having trouble finding the right method for your relationship, maybe speaking with an expert to gain insight into what might work best is the right move for you and your partner.
There is no one right way to talk about money or handle your finances. You don’t have to be a money expert to start making good money moves. Working together as a team is going to be the MOST important step to achieving your financial goals, and to maintaining trust in the relationship.
A good rule of thumb in relationships: the moment you feel an impulse to conceal something, that’s your cue to share it with your partner. Admitting that you made a poor decision is less harmful in the long run than getting caught hiding it.
Here’s to your financial success together!
Amanda Schaeffer, M.S., MFTC
P.S. Do you have any conversational tips to share about building trust around finances in your relationship? Share with us in the comments section below!
Amanda Schaeffer, M.S., MFTC is a marriage counselor, family therapist, life coach and individual therapist who creates a warm, safe environment, bringing out the best in you and your relationships. She empowers couples and individuals to heal and grow using evidence-based approaches that create real results and lasting change.
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HOW TO DEAL WITH SELFISH PEOPLE: Do you have someone in your life who consistently makes you feel like they don’t care about you, or whatever you’re feeling is not *quite* as important as whatever is happening for them?
If so, you may be in a relationship with a selfish person. This can be emotionally draining, not to mention frustrating — particularly if they’re your husband, wife, or partner. (Though selfish bosses, friends, and coworkers are challenging too).
If you’re trying to figure out how to get your needs met in a relationship with a selfish person, here are some strategies to make it work. (Or, give you the clarity and confidence to let them go).
The first step? Understanding the psychology of selfish people can help you get insight and compassion into the way they think, and why they do the infuriating things they do…
Emotional intelligence exists on a spectrum. Some individuals are higher in emotional intelligence than others. One symptom of low emotional intelligence is the tendency to be self-absorbed: Exclusively concerned about what you’re thinking, feeling, needing and wanting, rather than attuned to the thoughts, feelings, needs and desires of others.
One thing that I have found to be helpful is to conceptualize the way that people are functioning in the context of their life experiences. People who are “selfish” (have little awareness of the thoughts, feelings, or needs of others) tend to have been raised in environments in which their feelings, thoughts and needs were not recognized or valued. In contrast, highly empathetic people had — from earliest childhood — their feelings and thoughts reflected back to them, and at least respected.
In this way, thoughtful and compassionate people are not born: they’re made. Likewise, people who have arrived in adulthood without the easy ability to understand or value the emotions of others are products of their environment. The good news is that everyone can learn how to become more other-focused. [Learn more about the importance of empathy] However, this work is long and slow.
While emotional intelligence is different than cognitive abilities in that it can be strengthened and increased through deliberate learning and practice, it requires the person who is lower in emotional intelligence to 1) recognize that there is an issue, 2) have an interest or desire in improving the situation 3) learn specific skills and strategies to increase emotional intelligence and then 4) commit to practicing these skills regularly.
Unfortunately, in this situation the question “can we ‘train’ self-absorbed people to take more of an interest and listen?” is describing the central problem which is also creating barriers for the solution.
People with low emotional intelligence generally have zero awareness that their relational focus is creating distress or annoyance for others…. Because they often fail to pick up or consider how others are feeling. “Being trained” would require them to pick up on cues given by others and then respond by doing things they struggle to do: containing their inner experience to the point that they’re able to focus on the other person, listening, etc.
All of these activities, though they seem simple, actually require a complex emotional intelligence / emotional regulation / communication skill-set that is developed over time. Expecting that someone who doesn’t do these things should be able to if they only cared enough is a recipe for disappointment and resentment.
You certainly can point out when someone is being self absorbed or inconsiderate. But, consider this:
When you (naturally) react negatively to someone with low emotional intelligence (again, someone who may have little to no self-awareness around how they may be impacting others) they will often feel genuinely surprised, offended, and even attacked and victimized. For this reason, enerally speaking, more often than not, attempts to directly confront self-centered behavior and ask for improvement results in defensiveness, minimization and often an unproductive conflict.
It is therefore extremely difficult for others to create change in a self-focused person.
The person doing the calling out is usually just going to get dismissed by a self-centered person as being hostile, difficult, “selfish” (ironically), or a variety of other things. It usually takes a self-centered person to experience consequences in multiple relationships as well as in the occupational domain in order for them to entertain the possibility that they themselves are the common denominator.
Now, what CAN work is to “assist” the other person in experiencing natural consequences for their relational patterns. For example, it’s normal and natural to not want to spend as much time with someone who is self-centered and a poor listener. Over time, they may notice that they don’t have that many friends, or have short-lived relationships, aren’t advancing in their careers, or often feel lonely and disconnected. They may start to feel badly about that and wonder why.
This type of self-reflection can lead them to enter into a personal growth process, ideally with the assistance of a therapist or coach who can help shine a light on the relational blind-spots that have been causing others — and ultimately themselves — so much pain. This can lead to a transformational new level of self-awareness and personal responsibility, particularly when it’s coupled with effective direction around how to learn emotional intelligence skills.
People committed to the process of increasing their emotional intelligence can then begin learning how to understand their own feelings, and use that as a starting point to develop empathy for others. Often, learning how to name and manage their own feelings feels like new territory for them.
They can shift away from the “mind-blindness” that may have characterized their relationships in the past, and begin deliberately focusing on what others are thinking, feeling, or wanting. Often, learning how to actively and empathetically listen, ask open-ended questions, and slow their process down to incorporate the perspectives of others are central to developing stronger relationships going forward.
However — and this is key — no one can do this work for them. The selfish person has to be motivated to do this work for themselves. If you try to “help” a person grow in this area by confronting them, nagging them, or pushing them towards personal growth work it’s just going to make YOU angry, and THEM defensive. (And less likely to do the work). (If this is resonating with you, check out “Is Your Relationship Codependent?”
The answer to this question depends on what type of relationship you’re hoping to have with a self-focused person, and how committed you are to supporting them through their growth process.
If you’re dating, it may be wise to let this person go sooner rather than later so that they have time and space to continue to develop themselves personally. You’ll be saved the frustration, hurt and resentment that you’re certain to experience if you continue attempting to get your needs met by them before they are able to do so.
Likewise, casual friendships with people who relate to others this way are rarely satisfying. You’d do better to invest your time and energy into friendships with people who you can have a more balanced and mutually generous relationship.
Now, if you’re neck-deep in a marriage / kids / mortgage situation with someone who you’ve come to realize is a self-centered and lacking in emotional intelligence skills, it may be worth working on things with them. In these situations “working on things” tends to look like one person getting really angry with the other person for doing what they usually do — being thoughtless and self-absorbed — which leads to defensiveness and withdrawal. (Read, “How to communicate with a withdrawn partner.”)
A better solution is to bring this party to a good marriage counselor who can help you both understand what is happening in the relationship in a neutral and productive way that’s more likely to generate real and lasting change. The person who struggles with emotional intelligence skills needs guidance around how to be a more emotionally present partner. However, the person on the other side of the dynamic may also need to work on having acceptance, compassion and appreciation for their partner as well.
A particularly difficult relationship to manage is when you have a parent or a close family member who is very self-centered. The best strategy here may be to 1) lower your expectations dramatically 2) limit your time together and 3) look to other people to meet your emotional and relational needs, because you’re not going to get them met here.
You can save yourself a lot of frustration and heartache by avoiding getting entangled in relationships with selfish, self-absorbed people from the get-go. When you’re getting to know someone new, observe how they relate to you, and other people too.
When you’re dating, take self-centered behavior extremely seriously, and do not make the mistake that too many people do (especially women) which is to “date optimistically.” Optimistic dating is thinking that behavior / personality / values / life goals will change in response to how much someone cares about you or how committed they are to the relationship.
A lot of women take selfish behavior on their new boyfriend’s part to indicate that they should work harder to be more loveable because then their boyfriend would treat them better. This is not true: The guy is being self-centered because that’s actually who he is. If you want better, cut them loose.
Furthermore, remember that the way people do small things is generally a microcosm of the way they do big things. Not taking five seconds to text you back all day “because they were busy” implies that your needs are actually secondary to theirs, in their mind. Pay attention to that, especially early on.
A great way to test someone’s generosity vs. tendency towards selfishness is to say no to them when they ask you for something. A generous person who is capable of having empathy for your feelings will understand and respect your boundaries. A selfish person who struggles to understand and prioritize the feelings of others sometimes will likely get upset, “hurt” or even angry with you.
A fantastic and very reliable way to prune self-centered people from your life is to get good at saying no. Expect that they’ll get mad at you, and stay the course. If you set a new expectation for the relationship — that this is a two-way street — they’ll either have to do some important growth work, or the relationship will self-destruct. Win – win, either way.
How can someone break a cycle in which the selfish person in their life frequently asks them for favors or time, without reciprocation?
If you’re navigating a challenging relationship with a self-centered person, it can help you to hold on to empathy and compassion for them. Keep in mind that the self-centered person really has no idea how off-putting their way of relating is, and that the origins of their selfish behavior are in their own unmet needs for emotional support. These ideas can help you stay in a compassionate place when dealing with these types of people.
Remember that they just want to be loved too, and they are also doing the best they can with what they have. They got dealt a crappy hand in the supportive family department (OR they are on the autism spectrum, which we have not touched upon, but which is also very real).
All of the above can help you be patient, but also manage your expectations so that you don’t find yourself getting hurt, disappointed, or resentful when they don’t behave differently.
Until they discover that the way they’re relating to other people is pushing them away, and decide to get help for this, they’re unlikely to change. That’s not your fault, but it’s also not your problem. You can be kind to self-centered people, but knowing who and what they are will also help you set healthy boundaries for yourself and invest your energy and attention in people who can love you back.
Wishing you all the best,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
PS: You, clearly, are already on a path of growth and likely have a lot of self-awareness. (People who read articles like this one usually are!)
One low-key way to help someone you love start thinking about the way they are and what their growth opportunities are, is by inviting them to do a “self discovery” type activity with you.
Consider taking our “What’s Holding You Back” self discovery quiz, and inviting them to do the same. (You can email an invite from within the quiz). Even just taking the quiz and thinking about the questions may lead them to — if not an “aha!” moment — a “hmm” moment. Just a thought! Here’s the link. xoxo, LMB
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
As a therapist, life coach, and marriage counselor, I admire each and every person who gathers the courage to schedule an appointment with me and seek support for themselves, their relationships, or their families. I know that they’re investing in themselves because they believe they are worthy of investing in. Such self-awareness, wisdom and healthy self-love is always inspiring.
Too many people put themselves on the bottom of the heap, investing in every other aspect of their lives — their education, their career, their children, their friendships, their homes — but rarely their own personal wellness, or their hearts desire. Is this you?
If so, you probably put off investing in yourself, getting professional help, and taking positive action to improve your life… though you’re there for everyone else. You may think about it sometimes but quickly talk yourself out of it, minimize your feelings, or prioritize someone else’s needs.
If this sounds familiar, my guess is that you would describe yourself as a naturally strong person, but the downside of “being strong” is that sometimes it comes with a price: Not taking care of you, the way you take care of others.
But it’s easy not to take care of you, isn’t it? Especially when it comes to things like getting involved in therapy, couples counseling or life coaching. There are so many persistent myths in our culture about all the reasons NOT to get support, and it’s time to bash them!
Let’s talk through some of the most common reasons I hear for why people avoid getting help and investing in themselves, and why they’re not true!
This is one I hear frequently, even when people have resolved to book a therapy or coaching appointment with me.
Believe it or not, even people in a lot of pain sometimes feel guilty for doing something to help themselves. They tell me about challenges they face, or hard things they’re grappling with but then quickly say, “But so many others around the world have it so much worse. I’m really so lucky.”
While being grateful and keeping things in perspective is a wonderful strength to have, it’s also a liability if it makes you feel like you don’t have a right to your feelings, or can’t feel sad, angry or hurt about something true for you.
As a feminist-oriented therapist, I am always happy to have a conversation about power and privilege, and I firmly believe that we are all worthy of healing and belonging.
If there is something in your life that feels painful or difficult to overcome, my hope for you is to feel like you deserve to be supported just as much as anyone else.
If you feel guilty when you think about making your feelings a priority, think about it this way: investing in yourself as a way to make yourself even stronger, and more able to give empathy and compassion to other people.
Truth: Your experience and your emotions matter. YOU matter.
Too many couples buy into this.
Perhaps conflict in your relationship occurs fairly infrequently currently, yet when it does occur you notice that you and your partner tend to sweep things under the rug and avoid addressing the conflict. You might write this off to a one-time thing, or feel that because it’s infrequent, it won’t matter in the long run.
However, each time we sweep conflict under the rug or avoid it all together, we are slowly solidifying the pattern of our relationship. This pattern makes it not only more likely that conflict will become more frequent, but potentially also increasingly eruptive and ultimately, more damaging to your bond over time.
If you happen to notice early in your relationship that you and your partner are conflict avoidant, talk about reaching out to a therapist or a relationship coach so that you can identify effective ways to face conflict together and strengthen your bond and understanding of each other.
We know from marriage and family researchers Drs. John and Julie Gottman that conflict is inevitable in every relationship. What separates “healthy” couples from “unhealthy” couples is what they DO with it.
The healthiest, happiest, strongest couples are the ones who openly address their differences and find ways of proactively, constructively working through things together. Couples who do this important growth work strengthen their relationships. Couples who seek support for their relationship, and who are open to learning how to communicate and compromise will have more positive outcomes. Investing in their relationships sets them up for success long-term.
Couples who avoid this work, or who allow unresolved conflict to simmer, fester, and become increasingly toxic are inadvertently damaging their relationship. By sweeping things under the rug and not getting help for their relationship, they are increasing the likelihood that their relationship will fail.
Furthermore, research into couples and family therapy shows that the couples who choose to work together on their relationship sooner rather than later have better outcomes. Any marriage counselor will tell you that it’s much easier to work with a couple who still like, love, and trust each other.
Couples who wait, ignore problems, and let anger and resentment build up often enter couples counseling on the brink of divorce. There is so much regrettable history between them, so much hurt, and so much damage done that — even with the best marriage counseling — sometimes their relationship is simply too far gone to repair.
Investing in your marriage sooner rather than later is like taking care of your health: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
When I was in graduate school a common phrase we heard was “What we resist, persists,” and the more I sit with couples and individuals in my office, the more I find this to be true.
I frequently meet with those that have been “avoiding” therapy by placing it lower and lower on their list of priorities and by the time they’re in my office, they are overwhelmed and exhausted from carrying their distress for so long.
Often times, these are the individuals who spend a great deal of time taking care of others and rarely make time for themselves or their own needs. Or they are couples with children and stressful careers and aging parents who truly can’t fathom stepping away for an hour for fear of everything falling apart.
Or sometimes people put this off because they’re worried about how much therapy, life coaching or marriage counseling will cost…. Without considering the value investing in themselves will bring to their lives. They’ll spend money on furniture, vacations, or home improvement projects without much thought. But when it comes to investing in their own health and happiness, their success, or in their most cherished relationships… they stop themselves.
One way to shift this self-limiting perspective is to think about this from the other side. Asking yourself questions like:
When you put the short-term investment in yourself in context of the costs or benefits to aspects of your life that are genuinely priceless… it changes your perspective.
I want you to know that I see you, and that your well-being and happiness matters just as much as anyone else’s. You deserve space to cultivate growth and healing; you deserve time to rest and reset. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you don’t have to carry this alone.
If you see yourself or your relationship in any of the myths above, my hope for you would be to spend some time reflecting on what is keeping you from this work.
Remember though, whenever you are working with a coach or a therapist, you aren’t in this work alone. Are there other myths or beliefs you have that keep you from reaching out for support? Comment below and let’s continue this conversation!
Brittany Stewart, M.A., LMFT-C is a couples counselor, individual therapist, premarital counselor, and a life and relationship coach. She works with her clients to build connected relationships, restore emotional bonds, and grow in their capacity to love others as well as themselves.
As a Ph.D. clinical psychologist, I started out years ago doing traditional therapy with clients for issues such as depression and anxiety. The in-office setting made the most sense for me at that time due to the extreme distress many of my clients were experiencing and it was important for me to physically be present with them and to offer support (and tissues!). However, once I obtained my professional coaching certification, I began to specialize in career and life coaching which drew different types of clients to me. While they had some transient anxiety or depressive feelings about not being in their dream career or living their best life (which would be expected), they didn’t have those symptoms at a clinical level. Additionally, my coaching clients had different needs and expectations than my therapy clients. As an aside, I do have some coaching clients who are also in concurrent therapy and I feel fortunate to have some amazing therapist colleagues to refer them to for their therapy needs.
When I first made the switch to coaching by phone or online, I have to admit that I was hesitant at first about meeting with people online or by phone. Would we have the same connection? Would it be as helpful as in-person? Would it be weird looking at a camera or talking on the phone with someone instead of being face-to-face? Now that I’ve been doing online and phone coaching for several years, here are the things I’ve discovered as well as what my clients have shared with me.
Whereas I used to be limited to serving clients who happened to live in my general proximity (Denver), I now have clients all over the U.S. and the world—from South Africa to Europe to Canada. Working with such a diverse population of clientele is not only inherently rewarding but has greatly enriched my knowledge of other cultures and experiences. It’s also amazing how similar people are in terms of wanting to live their best possible life!
I’ve had people do sessions outside from a street in Dubai, at an airport terminal while waiting for a flight, in their office on their lunch break, from their car (parked of course!) and in their own living room while their kiddo was napping. Whereas an in-person session means the client also has to allot time for traffic and driving to and from the appointment, parking, checking in with the receptionist, finding a baby sitter, etc., online coaching is so much easier to fit into a busy schedule—and my clients tend to be very busy people.
Sometimes, my clients want to see my smiling face so we do Skype or Zoom; while other times, they may be traveling and so phone works better on certain weeks. Or technology blips happen (because life) and we switch from one mode to another.
In fact, I’ve found it to be even more effective because we are laser-focused during those 45 minutes. I’ve had multiple local clients whom I initially saw in-person who decided to switch to online coaching with me due to their busy schedules. An interesting outcome of that is that most ended up preferring the phone even over Skype/Zoom. Why? Many told me that they can think better and process ideas more when they walk around, so the phone allows them to do that while we talk.
If you’ve never given online or phone coaching a try, I hope you will consider the amazing benefits. Taking steps to change your life for the better is an investment of your time, energy, and resources but life is too short to waste another day.
Wishing you all the best,
Dr. Kristi Helvig, PhD, LP, BCC
Dr. Kristi Helvig PhD, LP, BCC is both a licensed psychologist and a board certified coach. She specializes in career and executive coaching working with her clients online locally and internationally. Dr. Kristi can help you receive clarity, overcome old obstacles, and climb the mountain to success — no matter how you define it.