Family Gardening Goal setting Moms Perspective Problem Solving Relationships

Flower Child

In reviewing my blog page recently, I noticed it’s been almost a year since I last posted. Does that mean I didn’t write any? Not at all. I have many in the works but what seems to happen is that I complete 50% of the blog post, not sure I love it…79% of a blog, want to finish strong…92% percent of a blog, still, I might want to do some edits. I have many ideas and yet 2020 clouded my mind and, in some ways, diminished my joy in writing. Will what I have to say be important? Will my readers wonder if I am living in a bubble and have missed all the chaos of the year? Or will I just dislike the content of my own thoughts?

2020 invited me to do something different, less stressful than writing and yet creative and so I decided to create an Instagram page (@merrietherapy) where I would position my wooden unisex people into amusing thoughtful poses with tips that might inspire, increase coping, or add a spark of joy to someone’s day. At least that was my goal. I have to say I enjoyed this project and generated 100 different tips during the calendar year. My favorite one is the picture in this blog. Interestingly, I took this picture at my mother’s home. Her small, compact flower beds were, in fact, designed by me with flowers from my own perennial collection.

My mother (I call her “Mom”) is 82 years old and long past gardening. In fact, she has Meniere’s disease and can’t perform the ritual of bending and stooping which is so lovingly necessary to garden. So, I have worked in her flower beds from time to time trying to give her something lovely to look at as she leaves for, at this time of COVID-19, doctors’ appointments only. At any rate, I am a fan of the English garden and the seemingly uncoordinated and random look, with a variety of colors. 2020 saw the black-eye Susans take over one area of Mom’s flowerbed. So lovely.

It is true that one person’s idea of beauty is not necessarily another’s. It turns out that my mom does not like black-eyed Susans. When I mentioned how lovely they were this year, Mom said “I don’t like them, they look too wild.” Cue: stunned silence. No, she was not aware of my award-winning photograph and how I had proudly posted it on my Instagram page. “Mom, do you not get the English garden look?” I wanted to inquire, but I instead I only said, “I really like them,” to which she reminded me of her dislike.

Families can be hard. Moms too. I mentally resolved to redesign her flower beds, along with my life and my blogs. New goals, you get the idea. I made a plan which included moving many of the perennial plants back to my wild English garden. As it turns out, my black-eyed Susans had all but died out, so this, I thought to myself, “it will all work out fine.” I also decided I would find Mom some plants and flowers she would enjoy. I am not sure if I mentioned that, in my lifetime, my mother has never been a gardener or planted a single flower that I have known about, but she does enjoy nature.

It should be noted that I am not always in the habit of exploring my thoughts aloud with others, and I tend to strategize in my mind before I roll out a new plan, in this case, the plan about Mom’s garden as stated above. So, just as everyone in 2020 was doing, I was busy with many things including my work as a therapist. No, I hadn’t forgotten about the black-eyed Susans, I had just left them for another day.

I sometimes underestimate my mom. I went to see her a few days after our initial conversation about her garden. It seems she has become a gardener after all! She decided to sit in a chair with a pair of scissors and cut all the flower heads off of the black-eyed Susans…well, at least the ones she could reach. This looks like a very bad haircut. But there is also something amusing about it too. Perhaps she didn’t think I was listening to her. She seemed pretty proud to tell me, “I told you I didn’t like those. I trimmed them myself!” Good on you, Mom!

What is the moral of this story? People are different. As it turns out, I really like black-eyed Susans all crowded together and reaching for the sun with their ever-cheerful dispositions. My mom, on the other hand, does not like them. They feel too random and disorganized in her garden, and most likely in her mind as well. Things don’t have to be perfect, and that is really OK! Even though it could probably be better, I think I will actually post this blog. It’s about my real life, and what could be wrong with that?

Coping Skills Intention Problem Solving

I Can’t Stop Worrying!

Have you ever had one of those times that worry seemed to be the theme of the day? We all struggle with worry or anxiety. Often, we cannot change the thing we are worried about but we invest much energy, either consciously or unconsciously, in the process. We want and need our mind to slow down and give us a break from our thoughts. We are looking for peace and balance in our lives.

We all know that worrying won’t change the outcome but we still get trapped in the cycle.  The worry process can generate much negative energy for us. It can invite us to try to control others’ behaviors or resent them when our needs are not being met. A new process that allows us to work through our worry will benefit us. There is something we can do. Consider the three questions below.

What you are worrying about?

What do you want to happen?

What do you need?

I suggest that you write these three things down when the worry is getting to much. After we identify and write down the specific worry we can move on to what I want to happen; “I want him to stop criticizing me; I want her to return the money I loaned her; I want my kids to do what I tell them to do…” and the list goes on.

Next, what do I need? “I need to feel loved and supported by him; I need her to understand that was money for my own bills and now I am in a bind; I need my kids to listen to me so I don’t have to get angry with them.”

After you have determined the answer to the three questions above, ask yourself another very important question. How much control do I have in this situation? The answer might surprise you. We often have less control than we realize or if we do have some control, we may not be using it in a way to obtain a positive result.

Often our worry is about the actions of others or when they let us down. It can be that we are powerless in a situation and we do not know what to do. Do I have any control over my husband’s critical comments? Do I have any control over another person’s budget or how they spend their money? Do I ultimately have any control over how my children choose to behave?

If you said, “I have no control” over my critical husband you may feel loss and disconnection in the relationship; his criticism may drive additional negativity and resentment. On the other hand, you may feel more hopeful. If you said, “I have 50% of the control because I can talk to him about how I feel, change some things I am doing, or ask him to make changes” then you can work on how you will influence change. The idea is to be realistic about how much control we actually have.

How we perceive the amount of control we have over circumstances or other people will have a direct correlation to how we manage our worries.  Do I feel that I have any control over the situation causing my worry? If so, what are my choices now and am I doing everything I can do? If I have no control, am I spending my precious life energy worrying?

Sometimes I reflect on how many times in my life I worried, lost sleep and spent days being fearful or fretful, sometimes to the point of exhaustion, only to find out that the situation was resolved in some way I did not expect.  Worry dissipated my energy and left me feeling drained. One of the greatest lessons I have learned is about knowing my limits and using my energy to create more positive outcomes.

Having skills to redirect our thinking, to understand our worries, wants, and needs and how much control we can exert in any given situation can greatly influence our happiness and our relationships with others. We can assess how we are using our energy and modify what we are thinking and doing.  We can increase our happiness by managing our thoughts, understanding our options and using our skills in relationships with self and others. By managing our thinking, we increase our happiness and decrease our anxiety.

Coping Skills Intention Problem Solving Self Care

When Art is More Than Meets the Eye

Most of us have been to museums where we have experienced the pleasure of art: a painting, a sculpture, an installation, antiques, or perhaps a living museum as some gardens or zoos are called. Images on social media can also have a powerful effect on us. We are transported to other places in our minds, hearts, and imaginations.  

I am reminded of a trip to the Smithsonian museums where I experienced paintings by both Monet and Renoir. As I stood in front of those aged masterpieces, I got lost in the beauty of them and of the artists who painted them. I had many moments of wonder and reflection that day.

As you view the picture above, can you describe it in detail? As you look at the picture what do you see? What does it make you think or how does it make you feel?  What, if any, sounds or smells does it evoke? How long can you invest yourself in this process?

What I have described above is a technique to increase coping mechanisms. While I could write volumes about art and my experiences, I am particularly interested how you might use art as purposeful distraction. These skills are called “grounding,” and knowing how to do them can improve your ability to cope in a moment of elevated stress when you need it the most.

Here are some ideas and tips to begin using these skills.

Mental Grounding Skills Most people would say “counting to 10” is one skill, and that would be correct. Additional skills could be:

  • Describing your environment in detail, and include everything that you see. Aim for three minutes of focus to start learning this process.
  • Describing objects; this is where art can be useful. Add additional details of sounds you hear, textures, colors, smells, shapes, and numbers. Try to engage all of your senses.
  • Describing things by category. Name your favorite rock bands, flowers in your garden, zoo animals, bible characters … and the list goes on.
  • Describing an everyday activity in great detail. How to cook a meal, change a flat tire, or complete an art project. There are so many things to do and life processes to explore.
  • Imagining a pleasant place you have been, a place that feels safe and nurturing to you. If you struggle with this you can create such a place in your mind. See if you can stay in this place for 5 minutes to begin.
  • Reading aloud to yourself. Start from the end and read to the beginning. This will really give your brain something challenging to work on.

Physical Grounding Skills

  • Run cool or warm water over your hands and wrists.
  • Grab tightly onto your chair as hard as you can; notice the sensations and the experience.
  • Touch various objects around you: your pen or pencil, a leather handbag or the fabrics you are wearing, furniture you are currently sitting on, or anything that is safe to touch in your environment.  
  • Carry a grounding object in your pocket – a small stone, piece of cloth or object that you can touch when you are struggling with any unpleasant emotion.  
  • Notice your body in the physical space you inhabit. Move your hands or toes and notice the sensation, lean against your chair or experience your feet firmly planted on the floor below you.
  • Jump up and down.
  • Eat something in a slow and mindful way. Try a raisin or an M&M. Don’t swallow it but rather notice the texture on your tongue and in your mouth. Describe it to yourself.
  • Focus on your breathing, noticing each inhale and exhale. How wonderfully your lungs provide oxygen for your body. Focus on this only and do not let your mind wander. Aim for 6-10 focused, deep breaths.

 Soothing Grounding Skills

  • Create kind statements that you can say to yourself, “I am a good person. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to know everything. I am enough.”
  • Ponder on favorite things.
  • Imagine people you care about, that care about you, and look at photographs of them.
  • Remember the words to an inspiring song, bible verse, quotation or poem that makes you feel better. Social media sites like Pinterest have many quotes that can inspire.
  • Use coping statements like, “I will be OK. Nothing lasts forever. This feeling will pass. Tomorrow is a new day.”
  • Think of things you are looking forward to the next day, week, or month. Maybe spending time with family or friends, an upcoming vacation, a meal you will enjoy, or doing something for others.

Some say, “That sounds too simple” and others say, “I can’t focus on anything else but feeling upset in this moment.” Do not underestimate the value of distracting yourself with skilled intention.  Grounding works because our brains cannot focus on two things simultaneously. 

Grounding skills take practice, but the effort will pay off. They can be used anywhere and cost nothing except the wise use of our time and a desire to invest in yourself. They can transport our thinking and change our emotions, which is sometimes exactly what we need to help us get through this moment, this day, or this trial.  Try them, you may be surprised to see how these skills can enhance your coping strategies and your life.

Art is ubiquitous. It is the sculpture in the park, the painting in your hospital room or hallway; it is architecture, a warm smile from a stranger, a favorite coffee mug, or a snapshot of someone you love. Art is more than art; it is a gift we can use to enhance our lives.  


He is an ‘Acts of Service’ Guy

I am a couple’s therapist. Working with couples who are struggling with connection is a rare privilege. Mostly, we all want to feel love and connection. When there is a disruption in our connection then our signals, our acts of love, to one another can be missed or even misinterpreted. For example, in my office a wife or girlfriend may say, “He never… (fill in the blank here).” The translation is often that he doesn’t do the thing that would make her feel most loved.

This couple is missing an opportunity for enhanced emotional connection in their relationship. She says she wants him to “really” listen to her, see all her hard work in the home, sit and watch a movie, maybe a chick flick, notice and tell her that she looks really nice in her new dress and maybe even buy her some flowers every once in a while.

He says, “What do you mean? I just waxed the car, I take out the trash, do the dishes, mow the yard, and I picked up the kids from school on Tuesday last week?” His list can go on…. but she dismisses him by saying, “Yeah, but that is the same stuff I do too!”

That’s when I sometimes say, “Oh, he is an acts of service guy.” She says, “What do you mean?” Or maybe, “Yes, I know that is one of those love language things.” The conversation may proceed with what all those acts of service really mean to him. Within her criticism of him lies one truth.

It’s not that he doesn’t want to please her; he does. He also knows he loves all the little things she does for him and so he wants to reciprocate. These efforts may represent the things he saw his dad do, or maybe never do for his mom. They take energy and effort and, in his mind… it’s for her. He doesn’t know that she isn’t recording his efforts as love driven; she thinks they are life driven. What he may be missing is that, while this may his love language, it is not necessarily hers.

There have been a lot of things written about the popular book by Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages. If you have read it, then you already know the list goes something like this:

1. Words of Affirmation

2. Quality Time

3. Receiving Gifts

4. Acts of Service

5. Physical Touch

Words of Affirmation are the ways we say, “I appreciate you, you did a great job, thanks for your kindness, you are so important to me, I can see your value in our relationship by the way you did… (fill in the blank) and I love you for it.” For some of us this will make our hearts sing. We will feel seen and loved.

Quality Time is the way we spend time together and what that means to each of us. Perhaps we travel together and talk on our journeys, join in each other’s hobbies as a participant or observer, work on projects together, sit quietly in a room and read or watch television together. We show up in the relationship by doing what we feel makes that time “quality.” A husband might score big relationship points by watching what she wants to watch even if he doesn’t really want to know How to Lose a Guy in 10 days, why Magnolias are Steel, or what a Big Fat Greek Wedding has to do with anything.

Receiving Gifts – how could anyone lose on that one? Some of us love a gift. It says, “You were thinking about me and spent time to choose this gift just for me; I feel special and loved by you.” However, gifts that are given as a substitute for time spent on the relationship or as an “I’m sorry” for act that has caused pain may not meet love language criteria. If flowers are purchased and they disrupt the budget, they may not be viewed with the intent they are given.

Acts of Service is the love language of action. I want to show you my love by doing things for you. This gift can be underestimated by the receiver and over estimated by the giver. If he is an “acts of service guy” and you don’t get it, there will be a miscommunication. When I understand the true meaning, I may choose to adjust my view and my response to this love language.

Physical Touch is just that. Touch is linked to brain development in infants. It connects and grounds relationships. Perhaps you enjoy being touched, holding hands, giving or receiving hugs, being kissed hello or goodbye. Many clients talk about touch as the glue in their relationship. This is often especially true of men who express and receive love through physical connection.

In my practice, I have found that many people have one or two primary love languages and that, often, we show others our love language and miss the opportunity to know or demonstrate their love language. I often talk about ‘participating in the happiness’ of others, and one way to do this is by learning about their love language.  Here are some ideas:

*Read the book: The Five Love Languages

*Take an online survey

*Identify your love language

*Identify the love language of your person

*Talk about love languages

*Make intentional efforts to love your person using their love language

Relationships are hard work. To maintain a sense of connection and closeness requires purposeful focus. Speaking the love language of our person is one way to stay connected and add value to our relationships. It’s worth a conversation, and once you know what makes the heart of your person sing, you will be even more inclined to honor them in their love language.

Problem Solving Self Care

When Life Gives You Lemons

Experiencing problems is a daily affair for us all. The process of seeing a problem and assessing what we need to do to avoid or fix the problem isn’t always as easy as making lemonade. There are often pitfalls because we didn’t see it coming, we don’t know all the facts or what to do next and we don’t know how to change the outcome. This dilemma reminds me of a poem by Portia Nelson entitled Autobiography in Five Short Chapters:

Cradle to grave, life is a process of learning. We learn from both positive and negative experiences. Sometimes we fall down and skin our knees; those lessons can hurt.  Often, we learn from others’ mistakes or they give us a warning, “Hey, there is a hole in that sidewalk.” Maybe, we have already been in the hole and we can avoid that pitfall.  Perhaps someone else keeps us from falling into the hole by taking our hand and leading us to safety. Then there are those times when life just happens and the struggle continues. What can help us avoid life’s pitfalls?

  • Look before you leap.
  • Ask questions.
  • Give yourself reminders.
  • Use all of your resources.
  • Learn from the wisdom of others.

When you find yourself in a hole, don’t give up. You can say to yourself, “I didn’t see that coming but now I know” and get back up and try again.   Don’t stay in the proverbial hole in the sidewalk, make your way out of the situation. Be grateful for the life experiences and wisdom you have gained and let it guide you to a better path.  If you struggle with a problem, relationship, or situation, take stock of what you have learned, talk to a trusted friend, make the necessary changes even if they are painful, and practice gratitude for the teachers in your life. Find people who are walking on a different ‘sidewalk.’ Mostly remember, “Don’t give up!”

Couples Therapy Goal setting Intention Relationships

Where Do I End and You Begin?

A cat and dog nervously befriending each other

We all need relationships. Family, friends, and intimate partner relationships drive our universal needs for love and connection. Even if we have been hurt hundreds of times, we will still long for a relationship where our needs for love, connection and acceptance are met and, hopefully, where we can meet the needs of another. How do I know where I end and you begin? Healthy relationships need boundaries to create safety and allow for growth. Healthy boundaries share these qualities:

  1. Being able to assess trust in the relationship
  2. Knowing my limits in relationships
  3. Emotional Safety
  4. Physical Safety
  5. The freedom to be myself

Trust is a key feature in healthy relationships. Depending on our life experiences, we may, or may not trust easily. This may have worked well for us or it may have allowed us to be hurt by others. If you have struggled in this area, it may be helpful to think of trust as a gift that is earned slowly. About new friends you may ask yourself ‘Does this person act in a trustworthy manner? Is this person known to be trustworthy by others including family and friends? Is this person honest and how do I know the answer to that question?  Does he/she talk negatively of others?’ Honest assessments will help us to make better decisions about who we choose to trust.

If we struggle with trust in relationships this may be linked to personal needs for safety; this can be especially true if we have experienced trust violations.  We may feel that we can only trust ourselves and that others will ultimately let us down or betray our trust. A general sense of mistrust will lead to feelings of disconnection, isolation and loneliness. Finding persons we can trust will enhance our lives and is a worthwhile effort.  Sometime, working with a therapist can help us restore our ability to trust others.

Time is a factor for long-lasting and trusted relationships. You cannot rush the process.

We might ask ourselves, ‘How do I define myself in relationship with you? Where is my place and how do I hold it when we are together so that I don’t lose myself in this relationship?’ We want to be treated with dignity and respect. One way is to use limits for myself and for others. These are road signs that tell others to stop or to proceed. Examples of limit setting may be:

  1. I can decide how much or how little time I spend with you.
  2. I can say no with or without explanation.
  3. I cannot talk about this subject, but I am grateful for your support.
  4. I do not want you to share the contents of this conversation with anyone.
  5. I would like to receive hugs, or I would not feel comfortable being touched.

Perhaps the most disheartening thing about limit setting or use of boundaries in relationships is when others do not respect them. I always encourage my clients to have a plan that they may follow if others cannot respect limits or boundaries. Each of us is responsible for maintaining our boundaries. For example, if you are not treated with dignity and respect, you could:

  1. Restate the boundary perhaps using different language. This is sometimes called the “broken record” method.
  2. Use an “if-then” statement, e.g. “if you continue to raise your voice with me, then I will hang up the phone.”
  3. Leave the conversation, leave the physical space you are in together, or ultimately leave the relationship.

Don’t underestimate the value of acting on the limits that you set for self and others.

Emotional safety is another important feature in healthy relationships. It means we can share our feelings, be assertive, and be interdependent with one another. Mistakes can and will be made without shaming or being shamed. We can be different and that is OK.  We can be sensitive to each other’s feelings and have empathy for them.

Physical safety in relationships is about making physical boundaries clear to others. How much physical space do you need when talking with others? Studies show that the average is about three feet unless that person is a trusted loved one or friend and then the distance may be less. Physical safety boundaries respect the rights and needs of self and others. They utilize compromise and negotiation in the relationship and include asking permission to touch others when their boundaries may be unknown to us.

In a healthy relationship we get to be our authentic selves. What a relief!  We don’t have to hide our thoughts.  We can share our emotions and be open and honest about our needs. We can see the value in others even if they have different views and needs in relationships.   

We all need relationships.  While no one can do or be the perfect other, healthy relationships continue to evolve and bring us a sense of belonging and connection. Author Donald Miller wrote, “When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are” Now, that is my kind of friend!

Goal setting Intention Perspective

10 Ways to Live with Intention

In a world where we spend most of our time making a living and juggling our basic needs, sometimes we get stuck on auto-pilot, going about our daily lives, and miss opportunities to live with intention.  To enhance feelings of connectedness, joy, and accomplishment, consider these 10 ideas: 

“Do the hardest thing first” to increase feelings of accomplishment. We tend to procrastinate on the hard stuff. This can ultimately leave with us feelings of dread. By doing the hardest thing first, we create a space to feel good about ourselves, and other tasks become easier and feel less burdensome. Try it and see!

Make a decision” to do something instead of staying stuck. Procrastinators often struggle with this and end up not accomplishing necessary tasks. This can lead to negative emotions. Even if our decision needs to be revised later, just making a decision and taking a small action creates momentum in your life.

Acting as if” is a skill that can affect self-esteem in a positive way because instead of ruminating on negative thoughts, we improve brain chemistry. Instead of worrying (“Can I do this?”), act as if you can do it, then at least try. See if the outcome isn’t more positive. You might surprise yourself!

“Make a to-do list and start at the bottom.” Just mix it up. Sometimes our brain needs that!

“Do something for another person.” Getting out of our own head and seeing the needs of others can help us to find more balance and gratitude in our life.

“Make gratitude lists.”  Every day. It’s easy to forget who and what we are grateful for in our lives. Gratitude generates positive emotions that act as a buffer for depression.

“Send a thank you card.” Or any kind of card. Who hasn’t gotten a card from the mail and been especially delighted? Studies show that written communication has a powerful effect on the brain. We feel better because someone cares.

“Asking for help” can be hard but everyone needs help at some time or another. While the answer may not always be yes, when we can enlist the help of others, we feel cared for, problems get solved, and burdens are lifted.

“Create a budget.”  Having command of our finances gives us a sense of competency and creates order and structure in our lives. 

“Organize a space in your home.” This idea has taken on more meaning since Marie Kondo showed us how to rid ourselves of things that do not “spark joy” in our lives. Really, we feel more in control of our lives when we can find our stuff.

Perception Perspective Point of View

“Perhaps the Truth Depends on a Walk Around the Lake”

Lake View

I first read the words of Wallace Stevens, quoted in the title of this article, in 2012 and they gave me pause. Was he being literal or metaphorical? Was he encouraging a journey through our minds or a literal walk around a lake?  Either way, his words are thought provoking. Imagining a walk around the lake, we would see things differently, a different landscape as it were. We would get space from our original starting point or initial thoughts. We might see something or hear something that changes us or changes our mind. We would have time to think our thoughts in a peaceful environment or perhaps enjoy being distracted by new surroundings. Instead of looking down, we might look up. We might experience a change of perspective.

Perspective is the difference between a positive attitude and a negative one.  It is our point of view on life. Is the glass half full or half empty? Perspective is also the difference in being an optimist or a pessimist.  We are influenced by things all around us and by taking a moment for reflection, we may experience life lessons that can challenge and change us. Since life itself can change our perspective, we can use these experiences to assist our own growth and change how we view ourselves and the world.

Author Stephen R. Covey stated “to change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” Today we have a constant stream of information coming at us. We are changed by new experiences and significant life events.  New ideas can change our perspective and sometimes it comes in the form of friends, family, or even strangers. For me, observing nature and our universe creates new perspectives.  

I can change my perceptions with formal education, life education, spiritual education, and even by what some refer to as the “school of hard knocks.” I may tell myself that I cannot cook, yet I can have a change of perspective by learning the skills necessary to do so. In time, I might become, not just a good cook, but a gourmet chef.

I can try something new by resolving to do so and creating a plan of action. I might need help. If you need help, do not be afraid to ask. I often tell clients that if we don’t ask, the answer is always no.

A conversation with a trusted friend or a spiritual mentor may open a window of thought that changes the interior of our soul. We may walk away from the conversation much richer, ‘I understand myself much more deeply than I did before; I understand you in a way I did not before and now you make sense to me; this makes sense; I make sense.’ 

Witnessing someone accomplish great things or go through hard times changes our perspective. We may see that hard work pays off, or that sometimes even the best efforts do not result in the intended reward. Even as we experience disappointments or other negative things, we can work towards choosing a more positive perspective. This builds resiliency.  

An unexpected life experience can challenge previously-held ideas and create more compassion for others. I often think of the support I received from family and friends when I had a critically ill son.  Until that time in my life, I never understood how much it means to go to the hospital and see the people we care about. My friends showed up for me in so many ways. They checked on me and my family, brought food to the hospital, offered prayers and consolation, and they sat in the waiting room, just in case I might need them. This changed everything I ever knew about caring for someone. That was 30 years ago and I learned that it matters so much to show up.  Even if we are saying to ourselves “What can I really do?” – Just show up. 

When I look at the stars in the night sky and I see order and constancy, my problems don’t seem as large. When I see and hear the power of the ocean, I feel both wonder and awe. When I am driving home from work and I witness the unparalleled beauty of an Oklahoma sunset, I am delighted, and for a moment I have no issues too large. In effect, I experience a change of perspective as I purposely choose to observe something bigger than myself.  

We are all changed by the experiences of our daily life. Can we challenge ourselves to use these experiences to create a positive view of life, of the gifts we receive, and especially the gifts we never saw coming, some of which are borne through our pain? Our happiness is linked to how we view the events in our life, our perspective.  Can we see that there are so many lessons to be learned? Is it possible that “a walk around the lake” can create an opening to change our perspective and live a more meaningful life?

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” – Aldous Huxley


About the Author

Merrie Knox in Her Office

My journey to becoming a therapist began in 1994.  I was feeling overwhelmed and fearful about my life as well as all the barriers for a newly divorced, single mom with four children. I decided to find a therapist. What could it hurt? In all actuality, that experience was pivotal to coping with the challenges I was facing. In some ways that experience shaped me into the person I am today.  Every time I left my therapist’s office, I remember feeling competent and capable. My happiness increased and I was less worried…what a relief.

I am a person who likes to learn by observing my environment, so as I experienced therapy, I became fascinated with the skill set of a therapist who could allow me to feel good about myself without ever giving me advice. How did she do it? I learned my own truth, what my life experiences had taught me, both positive and negative, and how to create a plan for a different, more hopeful future for myself and my four children. I became more compassionate, loving, and spiritual. I am grateful for that life-changing experience.

Fast forward to 2002…in my work at that time, I enjoyed learning about people and one of the things I would do was create informal surveys to make conversation; the question I decided on one week was, “Are you happy with your life choices regarding your work?” I got many varied answers, but the thing that impacted me the most was hearing myself say, “If I could do what I really wanted to do, it would be to go to college and become a therapist.” I was 43 years old and thinking, “Could I actually do it?”

That old saying, “You can’t un-ring a bell” held true.  I said it, and I meant it. I went home that day and told my husband what I had said, how I surprised myself, my fears, and also my excitement at the prospect. He agreed that I should go to school and said, “I think you would make a great therapist!” He was then, and still is, my biggest fan. Today I often I tell people that “we” have a Master’s Degree because of the love and sacrifices he made to support me in my journey to become a therapist.

I began my college journey without even knowing how to use a computer. I struggled but soon learned that I could do it. My biggest academic challenge was college algebra. I wrote an essay on the topic and actually won a scholarship…but that’s a story for another day.  I met amazing people on my journey, some of whom I am still connected to today. I completed my “10-year plan” in just over 7 years and in 2009 I graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Master’s Degree in Social Work.

Today, I work primarily with couples in private practice. My work at Stonebridge Couples Therapy is incredibly rewarding.  In addition to my time in private practice, I have also worked for 10 years at Family and Children’s Services as a therapist.  I have learned about trauma, PTSD, and substance abuse, how these affect the lives of my clients and their families, and how to treat them. I continue to work part-time for the Women in Recovery program where I facilitate therapy groups. I also teach classes on family, divorce, and co-parenting with Family and Children’s Services’ Family Life Education department.

My love of people and learning has allowed me to continually enhance my skills and become a highly qualified therapist. I am proficient in many models of therapy and have always enjoyed mentoring and supervising new therapists. One of the models I have advanced training in is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), a proven, research-driven model for working with couples and families who are in distress and want to increase love and connection in their relationship.  I am also a certified national provider of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) which treats post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Besides the love of my family and my faith, the greatest reward I have experienced is being able to work with couples and individuals, and witnessing the transformations of increased love and connection, self-esteem, and competency in their lives and relationships.

Today, when clients express doubts about if therapy can really help them, I tell them ‘I get it, I understand, I am with you.’ I also tell them that, sometimes, therapy kind of sneaks up on you. You want to feel better, get relief sooner rather than later…and truly one day you realize you aren’t the same anymore; you are different and you feel differently about things. You have a new perspective, and that changes everything.