The following success stories are based on actual client experiences at The Nook. All names, careers, and identifying details have been changed for confidentiality.
Financial Security Brings Relief.
Dana was a busy mom of four who managed her household on a single income. Dana had become angry and resentful because she felt like a single parent. She believed that her husband Joe was more interested in his career and his biking hobby than in being a partner to her. She felt like Joe’s only contribution was financial, and that this contribution still left the family struggling. Dana came to me depressed, exhausted, and looking for relief. We established that she was trapped in a cycle of “doing it all,” burning out, yelling at her kids, feeling horribly guilty and ashamed, resolving to do better, and then going back to “doing it all.” Dana was tired of the cycle and was ready to make some changes. One of her major stresses was tight finances. We worked on ways to better communicate with her partner and talked about the importance of self-care and the necessity of creating a sustainable plan. Once Dana’s youngest child turned 6 and was in school during the day, we looked at Dana’s skill set and the feasibility of her rejoining the workforce. Dana retrained for a consulting career. Because of her many years managing a busy household – taking on the responsibilities of chauffeur, short order cook, and executive assistant for six schedules – she was a pro at project management. She could look at failing small businesses with laser clarity, help them see inefficiencies, and coach them on how to streamline. She loved the positive feedback and accolades she received from clients, and her business flourished. Dana was able to contribute to the family finances, and her family was able to enjoy a family vacation that she once imagined would never happen. Financial security meant she could hire help for cleaning, gardening, and all of the odd jobs she had nagged Joe about. After a number of couples sessions, Joe stepped up to the plate to take on a larger role in childcare and household tasks, and he had his happy, dynamic wife back.
Weeding the Friendship Garden
Sarah was 32 when she came to my practice to work on her self-esteem and a feeling of discontentment about some of her friendships. Sarah’s partner Joy attended sessions periodically and they shared a loving, thoughtful connection. Joy was concerned that Sarah had difficulty standing up to people. As an adult Sarah had developed strong, meaningful connections with a variety of friends who were supportive and interesting. They shared similar interests and she always felt energized and recharged after their time together. She also had a group of friends from high school that had gone separate ways following graduation, ending up in different cities at different colleges and universities. Joy noticed that after Sarah spent time with her high school friends she became sad and negative. These friends were competitive with Sarah. They traded jabs masked as jokes, were willing to see the new, adult versions of each other. Through our work on self-awareness, Sarah recognized that she would not strike up friendships with these women if they were to meet today. She realized that she had little in common with these women, and that their values were not aligned. Through our work together Sarah figured out where she wanted to spend her time and energy, and which of her friendships were mutually satisfying. Joy learned to gently encourage Sarah to be more assertive and supported her in these efforts. Sarah maintained connections with some members of the group and let other connections fizzle, with no bad feelings, dramatic scenes, or guilt.
Parenting Curveball and Grief
When Melissa first came to The Nook she was shell shocked and had difficulty choking out words between her sobs. Two years earlier, life hadseemed perfect for Melissa. She was married to a wonderful, supportive partner and they had a delightful, energetic 2-year-old daughter, and and six-month-old twin boys. To relieve the veil of exhaustion with such a young family, Melissa connected with other moms for support and camaraderie. She reveled in being home with her kids, but she could no longer ignore the lack of developmental milestones for the twins. It gnawed at her gut, and kept her awake at night. When we first met, Melissa’s world felt like it was imploding – both of her twins had been diagnosed with autism. In therapy, we addressed issues of trauma and ways to work through the grieving process. In order to love the children she had, Melissa needed to let go of many of the dreams and hopes she had for her boys. The Nook became a safe space for Melissa to talk about her sorrow, her frustrations, and her uncertainty about the future. We worked together to help her address what she was able to control, and how to conserve her energy. Now Melissa greets most days with optimism and stays grounded in the present. She has created a supportive network of friends and family members, and she’s gradually getting more comfortable with accepting help. Melissa has learned to be an advocate for her children and for other families with children who have special needs.
A New Life at 50
Naomi was delightful 50-year-old woman, the wife of a farmer, and an involved member of her community. She was a proud woman who worked hard, raised her family, and enjoyed simple pleasures. Naomi came to my office just days after discovering that for the past 3 years her husband had been having multiple affairs. Naomi had a strong faith and was determined to repair the marriage. Our work focused on self-care and on Naomi having a voice in her marriage. Her husband was not interested in working on the relationship, and would not commit to being faithful. It was with profound anguish that Naomi ended the marriage and left the farm. Her life transformed overnight and, with the exception of her two teenage children, all that she had known and loved vanished. Naomi attended therapy regularly with her notebooks and lists of questions, ready to dig in and work hard as she had in all other areas of her life. She recognized that she had been needless and wantless in her marriage, and she enjoyed the new and strange process of focusing on her own needs. Now Naomi is in a loving relationship with a partner who cherishes her makes her a top priority. She continues to miss her life on the farm, but has found new ways to build purpose and meaning in her new life.
After “The Wild Years”
Valentina came to The Nook seeking couples therapy to revive her relationship. She had been with her partner Thomas for 3 years and was determined to make the relationship work. She hoped to be with Thomas for the rest of her life, but was concerned about potential addictions and their communication issues. They had met during what Valentina called “the wild years.” They both had lucrative salaries for the first time. They worked hard and played hard. On weekends they would attend all night parties, and they planned frequent vacations in party hotspots. Valentina grew tired of this lifestyle and wanted to settle down into a more mature relationship. In therapy, we addressed Thomas’ resentment of Valentina’s change in outlook, and Valentina’s expectation that Thomas would change with her. Thomas complained that she was no fun and nagged him all the time. Valentina said she wanted a mature partner, not a teenage party boy. Over months of couples therapy, they learned to express their hurt and anger respectfully, and to listen to each other. The road to recovery was bumpy, but they eventually began to enjoy one another’s company and find new ways to connect.
Staying Connected Through Infertility
Gillian and Marcus were three years into their relationship when they began trying to have children. Since they were young and healthy, they assumed that Gillian would be pregnant within months. But their efforts were met with difficulty. Gillian was referred to me by her naturopath to help manage the turmoil of emotions she experienced around infertility. After eight months of trying without success, Gillian had grown discouraged and frustrated both with the lack of a pregnancy and with Marcus’s seeming indifference. Through a combination of couples work and individual therapy, both Gillian and Marcus explored their sadness and the difficulty of living in limbo. They did not know when, how, or if they would eventually have the children that they longed for. We established ways for them to remain connected and developed a strong communication processes to express their needs. Eventually they reengaged as a couple, learned to support one another, and developed a path forward to deal with the multitude of difficult decisions they faced.
The Seventh Ring of Dating Hell
In my practice I work with many women – and some men -who are feeling rejected, dejected, and disheartened by the dating scene. Juliana sought therapy after struggling through two years in the online dating world. She had volumes of horror stories. By way of introduction from her online suitors she had received countless photos of penises, requests for nude shots of herself, inquiries into her bikini waxing preferences and a running commentary on her weight, height, style, career, intelligence and everything in between. In therapy, Juliana discussed the repeated blows to her self-esteemdealt by these dating sites. She had lost hope of ever finding a loving, respectful partner. We methodically worked through matters of integrity, authenticity, and values. The longer Juliana went without a partner, the more she began to internalize suggestions from her friends that her intelligence and success were scaring off potential suitors or making them feel inadequate. She wondered if it was realistic to expect monogamy, exclusivity, and unconditional respect in a relationship at all. Over the course of therapy, Juliana stopped dating online completely and engaged in activities that made her feel content, fulfilled, and valued. She established stronger boundaries in her dating relationships and with friends. She began to trust her own instincts over opinions from other people, no matter how well intentioned these opinions may have been. After six months of hard work, Juliana met a fabulous partner with whom she shared many goals and values. The happier andmore fulfilled Juliana let her intelligence and success shine, attracting a loving, respectful partner.
Mother & Daughter Find Their Way Back to One Another
Bernice reached out for support when she and her adult daughter Alexia were facing serious struggles in their relationship. Bernice was a driven and accomplished advertising executive who loved her daughter, but had great difficulty accepting her choices. Alexia felt judged by her mother at every turn – for how she was raising her children, for her co-sleeping with them, for cohabitating with but not marrying her partner, for staying home with her children, and for putting her career in film production on hold. Over months of therapy together, Alexia and Bernice developed some fundamental communication skills that had been absent for their entire relationship. A critical piece of their therapy was helping both women listen without judgement, understand one another and give the other the benefit of the doubt. Once these skills were established, both Alexia and Bernice had the opportunity to discuss their pain and gradually let go of decades- old resentments. Bernice and Alexia worked hard to develop a process by which they could maintain engagement and respect in their relationship even when their opinions differed. Bernice was determined not to replicate the relationship she had with her own harsh, rigid mother. Through this determination she was able to recognize her own pain in her daughter. Through consistent effort and forgiveness, this mother-daughter dyad has formed a new bond through their compassion and love.
First and Last Year of Marriage
The first year of a marriage can be an exciting, extended honeymoon phase in a marriage. It can also be a turbulent time of adjustment and assimilation. For Sue-lyn, it was an agonizing, lonely battle with herself that she fought each day. She was referred for counseling on the advice of her family physician due to debilitating anxiety and a litany of health complaints for which no physical cause could be established. For the first few sessions, Sue-lyn choked out only a few words between sobs. Eventually we conductedthree-hour intensive session and established the root cause of her anxiety and illness: Sue-lyn felt trapped in a marriage she wanted no part of. She had been so swept up in wedding arrangements and the happiness of friends, family and her fiancé that her own feelings were lost. Sue-lyn’s fiancé Fred was a great guy: hardworking, adoring, and stable. But Sue-lyn had never felt any physical, intellectual, or emotional connection to Fred. She had said yes to a first date when she had wanted to say no, she said yes to the following year of dating when she wanted to break things off, and she said yes when he proposed despite the protestations of her body and mind. She attempted to ignore the anxiety and dread she felt at being married to a man she didn’t love, hoping that warm, fuzzy feelings would develop over time. In therapy we explored her feelings of sadness and her need to please everyone around her. Sue-lyn discussed her debilitating shame, embarrassment, and fear of being abandoned by her family if she told the truth. A year later, Sue-lyn is anxiety free and physically well. She is slowly repairing her relationship with her family and she introduced Fred to his current girlfriend. Sue-lyn continues to work hard for clarity and confidence, and is enjoying the progress she has made.
Popular culture is teeming with films, songs, and images of loving and supportive mothers. But the experience of unconditional motherly love is not a universal. Carla was a bright woman in her early 30’s who self referred to my office after one of her friends demonstrated great progress through therapy. Sending an e-mail to set up our first appointment was excruciating for Carla, and it took many months for her to slowly and cautiously open up. She had been raised primarily by a mother who was a tyrant. Her mother was a litigator who made a living waging war in the courtroom. Sadly, she had the same approach to her job as a parent. Through therapy, Carla was eventually able to acknowledge that systematic belittling, shaming, and physical punishment constituted abuse. Each week at The Nook, Carla demonstrated heroic courage by looking at the impact her childhood abuse had on her adult behavior. She had denied herself any close connections and had constantly felt inadequate and stupid. Watching Carla move into a state of empowerment, make positive choices, and set appropriate boundaries was humbling. She is now able to confidently identify her own areas of strength and connect with people in meaningful, albeit cautious, ways. It is a delight to see her leave each session with more buoyancy and hope.