Holding Hope Services

Julie Fanning LCSW



June MSW Online Blog Post – Tips for Social Workers Helping a Distressed Client

June is almost over and I am just now getting around to my June MSW online blog post.  Since it is geared for new social workers or those interested in being social workers I thought tips for helping a distressed client could be helpful.   I think they are great tips.  I use them regularly with clients.   Hmmmm.  That being said,  I have done poorly using 4 out of the 5 tips with my work and personal relationships this past week.  I guess I really do teach what I most need to learn.

Hoping everyone is finding moments of joy each day!


Helping the Distressed Client – Tips for New Social Workers




Believing the Worse

I’ve heard that most of us need 4 positives for each negative we hear.  I wonder why it is difficult for so many of us to hear the good things.  I think we often just disregard the positive things.  For example let’s look at two different emails I’ve received from clients.  The first email was after meeting someone one time.  The email basically said that she wanted to cancel her next appointment.  She said she didn’t think I was kind.  She thought I didn’t know what I was doing and that I shouldn’t be a therapist.

I read this and I take it to heart.  (Which is against one of my main principles for all of us – “Don’t personalize anything.”)  Although, in my role of a therapist, it is helpful and necessary to self-evaluate and have self-awareness.   Ideally I would read an email like this, process the feedback.  Keep and learn from what is valuable and discard what is not helpful.  I would not obsess or take it to heart, affecting how I feel about myself.

The second email I received was from a client that I saw several times and had not seen at the time of the email for a few months.  This email said that the client felt like our counseling sessions were extremely helpful.  She was able to change her thinking patterns.  She had accepted some situations in her life and completely opened up other doors.  It was a very positive email thanking me for the help.

I read it.  Most people like to hear that people like them or they did a good job and I am no exception.  I took a moment or two to preen.  Then, I found myself discounting the praise.

Interesting.  How often do I discard the positives and take to heart the negatives.  How often do you do that.  Many of us have some negative messages running around our brain a lot of the time.  Negatives we hear fit right into those messages so we grab on to them.  Positives challenge those negative messages and we discard them.  I’m going to try to make an effort to believe the positives I get and not take negatives as the absolute truth.  Maybe try to believe the positives and see how your feelings about yourself shift.

I take it all back (but not really) – Use text to argue!

Texting - It's no way to argue.I take it all back (Well – not really)

So I wrote this blog once about not arguing through text.  Still believe what I wrote in that post.  Texting,  instead of talking can lead to misunderstanding and more hurt feelings and even destroy some chance at rebuilding and positive reciprocity.

Is there a time use of text or emails could be helpful?  It turns out that different things work for different couples. Can you think of a time texting or emailing can be helpful?

One time I can see it being helpful is if when a couple is trying to resolve conflict, the emotions of the moment overwhelm a sense of good judgment.  Let’s say that you are disagreeing with your partner and instead of being able to talk about the issue you are just seething.  You are thinking (and saying) “F…You.” Or “I hate you.” Or “You never consider me and I don’t want to be with you anymore.”  As you’re saying these things you know you don’t mean them (well in the moment you do but you know later – when the moment is over you won’t.)  Maybe this would be a time to take a step back.  Some couples will say they separate and then will text what the immediate issue is and try to work some tentative agreement out so the argument doesn’t turn into hours or days of recrimination and there are lots of hard feelings or the original conflict is not solved, just shelved until another day to flare up an argument again.  Several couples have indicated that this works for them to calm down enough to hear the other person and they are then able to talk it out without further damaging their relationship.  I can see that.  It can take away some of the strong emotion of the moment to something manageable.

Other people have told me email has worked for them.  It is easier to write down their words and thoughts and think their responses through rather than going with whatever blurts out of their mouth.  Maybe it gives the recipient time to actually read and digest the information without just pretending to listen while spending the whole time planning their response.

Another use of email may be to figure out the day to day maintenance issues of a family.  It has been indicating that emailing everyday questions and concerns saves time and frustration.  You don’t need a half hour discussion about what day your partner is available to go to the doctor or which electrician to call. Write out the choices and make a decision.  I can see why email communication works in some relationships.

Communication seems to be one of the most common struggles in a relationship.  Figure out what works for you.  In this age of technology if electronic communication works for you in some situations – use it.  Just keep in mind the limitations of not seeing someone’s expressions or hearing their tone.

Don’t forget to use in person communication too.  Face to face connection is one of the perks – not one of the drawbacks – of a relationship.

Share your pain

For some reason I am all about speaking up lately.  I was playing on Pinterest (you know – instead of doing something productive) and I came across this quote:

“I learned that now that one who speaks about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.”  CS Lewis

I have so much love for this quote.  It is so easy to not speak about what hurts us.  Sometimes it is to avoid.  If I don’t talk about something that bothers me then I don’t have to feel as bad.  Sometimes we don’t talk because a situation seems hopeless and nothing changes.    Sometimes it is because we think other people must be sick and tired of listening to us go on and on about it.  Seems like acceptable reasoning.

Only, the aftermath of not sharing can be so much more devastating. Not speaking can lead to isolation.  Not speaking up can lead to more feelings of hopelessness and desperation.  Not sharing can even lead to feeling shame.  Not sharing and speaking can lead to avoiding feelings which oddly enough often make feelings more pronounced.

I’m not suggesting you tell the cashier at Target all your problems but I bet there are some safe people in your life you can speak to.  People generally want to help us.   People generally are understanding.  Talk to a close neighbor, friend or family or even a therapist.  (Shout out for therapy from the therapist!)  You might be surprised at how speaking up alleviates some of your hurt and helps you feel more centered and whole.   

Things Not To Say

I saw this article on things on to say to mothers.  Worth reading!

8 Things Never to Say To moms 

Several things I wouldn’t say to anybody, not just moms.

A good rule of thumb is to be kind in your intractions.  Telling someone they really need to dye their hair (if it is not your very best friend in the world) isn’t helpful.  The other day one of my bosses said that to me.  Instead of being helpful (which I know her and she was genuinely trying to be helpful), I wasted moments of my life worrying about my hair.  Just saying.
So..  Ask yourself if what you are saying is helpful or hurtful (before you say it.)  Be Kind. Be Kind. Be Kind.

Tips for Men – Coping with the break-up

I created a short ezine article – Tips for Men Coping with the Break-up. 
See what you think!—After-the-Breakup&id=6668947

Random Thoughts on Money

This article talks about using humor in the “money discussion” with your significant other.  I thought I’d share because a major source of conflict between couples is often money issues.  It seems like in “the big picture” the couple wants the same things.  People mention stability, security, providing for their children, having a little extra for some fun.  It is in the details that problems occur.
Ignoring financial issues won’t make them go away.  Leaving all the decision making to a partner often leads to resentment by the spouse taking care of everything.  Talk about  your finances.  If you have a partner who manages all the money in the relationship, take time to acknowledge it.  Maybe the number one way to decrease the resentment is to put aside some time to talk about money.  Most people I know who are the main money manager in the partnership say things like “If he would just sit with me a few minutes each week so I wouldn’t feel like it was all on me.”  Or “I wish she’d show some interest in what I am doing with the money.”    Even if you would do just about anything  avoid talking about your finances try spending just a bit of time each week or month and you might be surprised in decreased conflict or improved satisfaction.  This is not a time to be judgmental or angry but to honestly appraise where the current family situation stands and what may be coming up.
Whether single or in a relationship, thinking about your money each day might be helpful.  My mom used to say to me all the time “If you would just spend a few minutes each day working on your money you would have a handle on your finances and be successful.”  I’ve shared that advice with many people.  I have been told by several people that they work on their money a few minutes each day, just like my mom said, and there was a noticeable difference in their financial savvy.  I’m still working on coming close to reaching this worthwhile goal but I will keep trying.
The End

Religion,Politics,Culture – Get talking about it!

One ‘rule’ of much of polite society is that you shouldn’t discuss religion and politics with people.  (Unless, of course, you are already positive they have the same views as you do and you can just sit around agreeing with each other.) 
You probably hear people say “it isn’t like anyone is going to change their mind.”  Unfortunately, just for that reason alone it is often good advice to just not go ‘there’.  Often people are so ingrained in their ideas they don’t listen and they aren’t open to even considering views that contradict their beliefs.  An individual so wants to make a case for their idea that they don’t listen to the other person’s views and there is no reason for the discourse.
I think there is something sad about this.  Back in the day before your strong opinions were formed – didn’t you enjoy talking about all the possibilities out there?  Wasn’t there a kind of fun in figuring out your values?  Often we start out with values that are the same as our parents (or the direct opposite.) Then we get the joy of the journey to figure out where we really stand.   Many times when we are young we are open to looking at new and different ways of thinking. 
People seem to lose the willingness along the way. I think we miss out if we don’t talk about subjects like religion, spirituality, government, laws, families, and culture just to name a few.  I absolutely love when I really listen to someone and am able to think “I never thought of it that way before.”  Our lives and the societies we live in change constantly.  Doesn’t it seem as if with all the new information out there that we should be taking it in and seeing if our current values still hold true. 
I consider it a failure that so many avoid diving in and having discussions – real discussions about what we believe in.  Not in an effort to change someone’s mind but to share viewpoints and respect the differences. 
Even discussions about topics that you feel strongly about could benefit from being open for discussion.  Sometimes we shy away from hearing other sides because it may feel uncomfortable and it might challenge our beliefs.  A lot of people balk at challenges to their beliefs.  Reevaluating ourselves can be scary.
If your viewpoints are solid – really listening to someone else’s beliefs will not crumble your beliefs, they may help clarify why you believe what you believe.  Or you may gain additional insight or adjust your opinion as you learn.  One of the amazements of life is that we can grow, change, and learn.
Life is complicated and contradictory – doesn’t it make sense that our values and beliefs would be too. Next time a ‘forbidden’ topic comes up try seeing if there is a way to have a genuine discussion and allow you to be open and engaged.  You might be surprised.

Texting – It’s no way to argue.

I like to text.  I finally added unlimited texting to my plans because of high usage. Some communication is perfect for texting.  Yes/No questions, a quick check in, a request or a “thinking about you” all seem appropriate to me.
There is some communication that is not served well by text. 
In depth conversations and solving problems are not generally conducive to text messaging.   I have found in my personal and professional life that many people seem to have complicated conversations over text and then are surprised when there are misunderstandings.  I’m not even talking about teens and early adults who are probably much more adapt at text communication than folks a bit older.  I’m talking about adults in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.  I’ve seen entire relationships which seem to dissolve over rapidly exchanged texts.
If communication is something like 90% non-verbal then why would I think that you are going to get the nuances I am conveying via text?  I’m talking not just gestures and facial expressions but tone and variations of our voice.  How many times have I heard someone ask “what do you think they meant by that text?”  Well I just don’t know.  They put LOL but it seems kind of mean.  There are so very many ways a text can be misinterpreted.  
People seem braver with texting.  If you are texting something you would never say to the person face to face – reconsider texting it.  There is a reason you wouldn’t be willing to look into someone else’s eyes and the say the same thing.  
Texting the tough stuff allows you to distance yourself from the uncomfortable emotions.   To get to the other side – to process a situation – you might have to feel the yucky emotions.  A text may not get across the emotions you are trying to share.  It is difficult to validate another person in text and continue a conversation.  We’ve all gotten the texts that are so long they go on for 4 or 5 texts.  Your phone keeps pinging as you try to keep up with the message.   Then if you happen to add autocorrect to the mix who knows what you are saying.   Autocorrect once changed the word I was typing “iffy” to “orgy” which was not what I was trying to say.  There is no wonder on why texts can be misunderstood.
There are just so many variables with text and in some ways it is allowing yourself to have an excuse not to step up, deal with emotion and connect.  Being open and vulnerable is hard – but can be so very worth it.
Next time you are tempted to text – ask yourself if it is really the right way to be communicating this issue.   If not – try talking face to face (if it is technology you are looking for talk via skype.)  You may be surprised how well it works!

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