Estes Therapy Tour

Take a tour of the counseling office here in Mission Valley of San Diego, CA. Get comfortable with our location before you even walk in the door. Our job is to make sure you feel comfortable at the office. Estes Therapy Tour




Estes Therapy Tour

Are You in Denial About Leaving Your Relationship?

leaving your relationship
Sometimes you might find yourself in a relationship that is not totally healthy anymore, or where you're no longer happy. Instead of taking the necessary steps to begin to leave your relationship, you stick around and just hope things will be better. When you're stuck in a rut and your partner isn't really trying to work with you, you might just be in denial about what you need to do. On the other hand, if you do still have strong feelings for your partner and hope that things could improve, it might just be time to step up and fight for your relationship. How do you know if you should stay and fight or if you're just in denial about leaving and afraid to admit the truth?

What Percentage of You is Ready to Go?

Are you 50% invested in the relationship, and 50% ready to go? Or are you 99.9% ready to leave the relationship but you're just afraid? On the one hand, even if you only have a very small percentage of your heart  that is not ready to leave, you should put leaving on the shelf and talk to your partner about how to make the relationship better. This is the only way to give saving the relationship a fighting chance. But, if you have tried to put leaving on the shelf and the percentage of you that wants to go keeps growing -- you may just be in denial about what your true feelings are.

How is Your Partner Reacting?

It takes two to tango. If you are willing to fight for the relationship but your partner isn't, you can't fully recover as a couple. Whether you have past relationship wounds, or just burn out, you must both be willing to truly invest. Are you making excuses for your partner? Pretending he has a reason for why he isn't trying, or telling others that he is making strides when you don't really see any signs of effort? If your partner is not really making an effort but you continue to hold out hope for years, you might be in denial about the fact that your spouse just isn't willing to work for the relationship.

How Long Have You Thought About Leaving?

Are your thoughts about leaving fairly new, or have you been considering this action for a long time? If you have been on the fence for a long time, you need to think about what is really keeping you in the relationship. Do you really still see hope for making it work, or are you just afraid of the unknown? If you are only staying because you are afraid to be alone, it's time to step out of denial and take the jump. Your partner can probably sense that you're not truly happy, and you are wasting your time and his.

If you don't know if you're in denial about leaving or should really stay, going to counseling can help you decide what the best course of action is. EFT can help you reconnect with your partner, or come to terms with how to end the relationship.

Do You Need Premarital Counseling in San Diego?


Look for these signs of a relationship that's not ready to walk down the aisle.

If you are engaged and planning on getting married, you may have thought about premarital counseling. My view of premarital counseling is that it can be helpful in some way for most couples planning on saying “I do.”  You wouldn’t fly a plane without flying lessons,  because you need to learn the skills and safety required for navigating in the air. Similarly, premarital counseling can teach you how to handle turbulance and all the working parts of your relationship. Premarital counseling sessions are about helping couples learn the rules of communication, explore marriage expectations, and discuss strategy plans for the future. Most premarital therapy is used as a preventative tool -- think of it as a way to give your relationship a solid  foundation before walking into the married world.

In addition to getting premarital counseling as a way to build a strong foundation, if you recognize any of the following issues in your relationship, couples counseling is a good idea before tying the knot. 



Start Marriage on the Right Foot


You've said "yes" and you both want to take the best steps to planning your new life together.  Premarital counseling can help build that foundation to building a healthy and long lasting love.  The desire to be successful may be all that you need to know that premarital counseling is right for you.  The more proactive couples are in a relationship, the better the results.  Marriage and Family Therapists specialize in relationships and building a solid connection through communication and creating a secure attachment.


Your Partner Wants Couples Counseling

If your partner suggests counseling, this is a sign that things haven't quite been corrected in the relationship. People don't suggest working with a professional when the relationship has a solid connection. It is very common that one partner cries out for help and the other person completely misses the critical issue until years later once the relationship has become entirely unraveled. Take the suggestion of counseling seriously when your partner brings it up -- it's better to address your issues BEFORE you get married, so don't simply blow off the suggestion of premarital counseling.

The Sex Has Stopped 

One of the signs that a relationship is dwindling is a lack of intimacy in the bedroom. In a secure relationships, both emotional closeness and sexual closeness keep things balanced. Intimacy can go in waves through the years, but if there is an ongoing drought that lasts months or years, this is a sign to seek professional help. If you are planning on waiting for sex until you are married, premarital counseling can be a safe place to talk about your expectations when you do get married and start having sex.

You Feel Relationship Burn Out

Going from completely engaged and seeking closeness to a completely "burnt-out" position is a danger zone. When this happens, you haven't given up on the relationship, yet you are unwilling to expose any vulnerable needs or to rely on your partner.  This is a sign that things have been changing and you could be going down a dangerous road, headed towards complete disconnection.  This is a critical time for couples to seek counseling and get both people to engage in the relationship, especially since you are about to get married!

Someone Cheated

This may be a no brainer for some people, but affairs are signs that premarital counseling is needed. Whether the affair was just revealed, or you are active in the affair, it is critical to understand why this happened in the first place and heal any emotional injuries. Many couples think that they can simply lock up the past, say "I am sorry," and move on. In reality, affairs are very fragile situations where the repair work is critical and must handled in a healing way.  Every second counts when rebuilding trust and regaining the security in a relationship. Moving on doesn't mean shutting the door to pain, but it also doesn't mean you relive the pain over and over. Seeking counseling helps couples handle the fears and emotions that arise in the present and take action to create a long term resolution.

You Seek Outside Comfort

When either you or your partner quickly go to friends or family before turning to the relationship, you should seek counseling. When we no longer turn to one another to resolve issues and instead turn to others for support, a wedge is created in the relationship. Sometimes it becomes easier and easier to turn to others and this can quickly snow ball into a drawn out relationship that dissolves over time. You need to learn to work together so that when you are officially a married couple, you can truly work together as a team instead of starting out on the wrong foot.

You Have Feelings For Someone Else

Thoughts can be thoughts and simply just that. But other times a fantasy leads us to an exciting place where it would be easy to cross the line if the opportunity arises. It is vital to get at the heart of why you get so excited when your co-worker sends you a text, or a friend calls you. If your relationship was solid and secure you wouldn’t consider being with someone else. Something significant is going on, and things are lacking in your current relationship. Start couples counseling to figure out what you aren't getting in the relationship and give your partner an opportunity to get it right with you before it is too late.

Arguments are Heated

When fights continue to go to bad places, either verbally or physically, couples counseling is essential. The more attacks you take at one another, the more you drive each other way and develop a bad habit when it comes to communication. Any time the relationship becomes degrading or hurtful, it is time to seek some expert advice on how to stop the damage and to the relationship.
If you recognize any of these problems in your relationship before you get married, you NEED to get back on track before going through with the wedding. If there are serious cracks in the foundation of your relationship now, they won't get magically fixed by walking down the aisle. Seek out premarital counseling so you can learn better communication and built trust and a secure bond in the relationship now. Think of premarital counseling as an investment in your marriage.

How Counseling Can Save Your Marriage

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
When your marriage hits a rough patch, the communication can break down quickly and it might feel like you're hanging on by a thread. If you don't take action, arguments will increase and you can feel more alone than ever. Counseling will help you rewire the way that you communicate in your marriage, and get to the bottom of each person's feelings. The therapist will service as an impartial mediator, pointing out areas where each partner can compromise, and helping you work as a team to rebuild trust and a safe bond. How can counseling save your marriage? Here are the top ways it will help you turn things around.

1. Improved Communication

Counseling will teach you how to talk to your spouse about your feelings in a way that does not come across as attacking. This is essential! If your significant other feels attacked when you approach him, he will become defensive right away and communication breaks down. By figuring out how to approach each other in a way that is not nagging or blaming, you can really start to hear each other and work together. Communication is one of the most important ways to keep your marriage in tact.

2. Creating a Safe Space

You need to feel safe in a marriage. That includes being able to open up, be yourself, and know that your partner will always be there for you. Counseling helps build a secure bond with your partner so that you both feel safe. On top of improving your communication, turning your marriage into a safe space can also eliminate jealousy and improve your trust. In counseling, you can both express what you need to happen for the marriage to feel secure and safe, and your therapist will serve as a guide to the process -- she will make sure both parties are heard.

3. Dealing With Past Hurt

Once you know how to communicate with each other and feel safe, counseling will let you deal with past hurt. Whether its infidelity in your own relationship, or trauma that you experienced outside of the relationship, dealing with past pain will let you heal and move forward in a more healthy way. Letting your partner in on your past hurt and help you move past it will bring you closer, and just might save your marriage.

How to Deal with Difficult Family Members During the Holidays

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The holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but in fact they can actually be among the most stressful months. Besides tracking down gifts for everyone and spending lots of money, you may have to deal with some less-than-ideal relatives during this time of the year -- sending your blood pressure through the roof. Have a parent or other family member who you know will drive you bonkers this holiday season? Here are some tips for getting through it in one piece.

Mentally Prepare Yourself

Chances are, a difficult relative isn't going to suddenly come out of the woodwork. If Aunt Ida was a challenge last Christmas, you can expect the same this year, and you know exactly they type of behavior she will pull out of her hat. Go into celebrations and family gatherings with a game plan for how you will deflect certain comments or change the subject when a particular comment or bad joke happens. You'll have a much easier time staying calm and getting out of a sticky situation if you have an idea of how you're going to handle it before hand. You can just stick to the plan as opposed to having to think on your feet.

Have a Partner in Crime

If you and your sister both share the same problem with one relative, make a mutual deal where you'll save each other from an uncomfortable conversation with that person. Knowing that someone else at the party has your back can take a lot of stress off of your shoulders. Your sister (or other designated family member) will swoop in to pull you away if they spot you being hounded about being single for the 3rd Christmas in a row, or dealing with yet another offensive joke from your cousin's husband.

Don't Contribute to the Problem

Just because someone in your family insists on being a thorn in your side doesn't mean that you have to retaliate with bad behavior of your own. While you don't need to be a doormat, don't let yourself get riled up and yell at someone -- because then you'll just look like the bad guy who ruined the Christmas party. If a family member tries to pick a fight, let her know flat out that you're not going to argue on the holiday. If someone insists on chiding you about some aspect of your life, just let him know you don't want to talk about that subject and turn the conversation to something else. Repeat yourself if necessary, or leave the room if that is the only way to diffuse a potential argument.

Try to Empathize

If someone is really negative during the holidays, they usually have something bad going on in their life or are generally an insecure or unhappy person. Try to look at your difficult family member through that lens, as difficult as that may be, and remember that they are communicating in the only way they know how given their state. They might actually be trying to connect with you even though it seems they're being critical or harsh.

Take Breaks

Sometimes taking a few minutes alone in a private room, or going for a walk, is all you need to calm down and re-energize. These 10 to 15 minute breaks will give you a reprieve from your troublesome family members and give you a chance to consciously focus on something positive. Use this time to call a friend who is somewhere else and make jokes to get your mind back in a positive space before you return to your family.

The family members in your life might not always be the easiest pill to swallow, but just remember that in a matter of days you will return to your regular life. Try to focus on positive things about your family and turn their flaws into funny quirks in your mind.

Which Type of Counselor is Right For You?


Breaking Down Different Therapy Degrees 

When you look for a counselor, you will find out pretty quickly that there are many different types of practitioners. I am Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), but several other types of counselors exist as well. Do some research and find out which type of counselor makes the most sense for your personal situation. For example, do you want to focus mainly on issues related to your relationship or family, or do you want intense individual counseling with someone who can prescribe medication? The counselor you choose might depend largely on their specialty and degree, so here is a little background on some of the main different types of counselors.

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)

MFTs are licensed to work in their state and provide mental health services surrounding issues of relationships. After getting a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy, MFTs also complete 3,000 hours of an internship under the supervision of another licensed MFT where they work with real clients. A marriage and family therapist helps you get to the core of your emotional issues, and will often look at problems from the context of the relationships in your life. An MFT often works with couples, but can also provide individual counseling. Within the MFT field, counselors use different theoretical approaches. I use Emotionally Focused Therapy.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

A LCSW has a graduate degree in social work, and has also passed a state or national exam to become licensed. A licensed clinical social worker has to complete hours of clinical supervision, which can be different depending on the state they live in. LCSWs practice psychotherapy, and can help you with mental health issues that get in the way of your everyday life. A LCSW has studied things like sociology, social work, human behavior, growth and development, and they also know a lot about research methods.

Psychologist

A psychologist has a Doctorate degree in psychology. Psychologists are educated to deal with mental illness, behavior problems, and diseases of the brain – they are trained specifically in patterns of human behavior and how the brain works under different emotions and conditions. A psychologist must go to school for between five and seven years to get their Doctorate, which usually includes conducting their own research and taking an internship. A psychologist can work with either individuals or couples.

Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist goes to medical school and gets her M.D. They are trained to diagnose and assess mental illness, and they are allowed to prescribe medication because they are medical doctors. A psychiatrist has gone to school for formal training, and then completed a residency at a medical practice or hospital before they are fully licensed. Many psychiatrists are specialized in one particular area, such as children or addiction. Psychiatrists look at things from disease, behavior, personality, and life experience perspectives.

Life Coach

A life coach is not required to have any formal training, and they are not allowed to diagnose or treat mental illness. Instead, a life coach is there to help you figure out what your goals are in life and then stay on track to meet them. A life coach doesn’t necessarily help you deal with your past – they are just there to keep you motivated to achieve goals like education or finding a new job.
The type of counselor you see might really shape your experience. If you think you want to work with a MFT, give me a call or book an appointment online and let’s see if I can help you!
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net 

Looking for San Diego Counseling?


Where to Start and What to Expect

San Diego is a large city, and finding a therapist can seem overwhelming. What should you expect? How to you find the right person? Where can you begin a search? These are all questions that probably pop up when you start to go about getting San Diego counseling. The good news is that while looking for the right counselor is something you should take seriously, it doesn’t have to be scary.

Finding a Therapist

Psychology Today is one trusted resource for finding a counselor. You can narrow your search by your neighborhood, and many therapists make a profile on the site so you can read more about them before you reach out. Click here to find the Psychology Today search.
GoodTherapy.org is another place to search for a therapist. This site also lets you search by location, so you can find San Diego counseling in your neighborhood, and they have verified some of the therapists’ credentials. Click here to get to the GoodTherapy.org therapist search.

What to Expect

During your first therapy session, your therapist will probably begin a pretty casual conversation, where you can explain why you came in for an appointment. It’s not what you see in the movies – you won’t lay on a couch while the counselor just sits there and looks bored. Once your therapist gets to know more about you, she will begin to ask you questions and then give you some tools for how to move forward. If you are in couples counseling, the therapist is there to be a neutral party who listens to both people and then helps guide the conversation between the couple. Couples often think of me as the only un-biased person in their lives, and that's what a counselor is for -- someone who won't take a side. A therapist will help you build healthy communication patterns and deal with conflict as a discussion and not an argument.
Counseling can help you build self-esteem, heal past trauma, and overcome issues like anger and body images. Even though searching for a counselor in a city as big as San Diego might seem overwhelming, building a better you is well worth it!

If you need San Diego counseling and think I can help, give me a call! You can also book online.

Life on the Fence: Should You Stay or Should You Go?


What to Consider if You're One Foot Out the Door

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Women who are unfulfilled in a relationship soon begin to live on the fence. Half invested the relationship, half completely checked out and ready to leave. When this happens, you can’t seem to find that feeling of love and feeling alive.  Thoughts of stepping out of the relationship become more frequent and much more tempting. Women might feel especially torn because they don’t want to do the wrong thing, the guilt takes over, or the fear of the unknown gets overwhelming. The hardest part is when children are part of the equation; women can feel a strong sense of obligation to make it work for the kids yet they are dying inside. If you’re on the fence, look for the signs of burn out and ask yourself some big questions.

Burn Out

Do you feel burnt out in your relationship? No matter how hard you try to feel emotions, you just can’t seem to find a spark? Hours of the same arguments, trust issues, and feeling unheard can lead to the same burn out you experience when you spend too much time getting frustrated about anything. When you feel burnt out, you may begin to have difficulty sleeping, feel anxious often, and just be sick of dealing with your partner. At this point in the relationship is when women will often consider leaving. Before you head out the door, however, take the time to really ask yourself important questions and weigh the options.

How Much Are You On The Fence?

Having uncertainty in your relationship because your partner continues to be unfaithful is very different than being on the fence because he is needy or calls too much. One of these issues is a serious crack in the foundation of your relationship, and the other might be fixed with an honest conversation. When you are on the fence, a large part of you is already out of the relationship but a small part is hanging on and might consider staying. When you find yourself on the fence of a relationship, take a step back and imagine if there is anything he could magically change or become, would it help you consider putting a little bit of your heart back in the relationship? Will the problems you face allow you two time for recovery if he starts showing up EXACTLY how you need him to be? Or is it “too little too late?”

Are You Telling Him What You Need And Exactly Where You Are?

It’s important to ask yourself when you’re considering leaving your relationship: “Have I told him what’s bothering and the changes I need to consider working on the relationship?” If your partner is blissfully unaware that anything is wrong (or the severity of where you are) things can’t get better! Communicate how severe things are, what you need, and the ways in which you think the relationship needs to change. Then…listen! Once a dialogue is open, you might find that you start to feel more secure in the relationship and get off the fence.


Is He Willing to Work On It?

It really does take two to make a relationship work. If you are on the fence because you have expressed what you need or want to change and your partner is unwilling to bend, you probably feel like you’re in the relationship alone. When you find yourself here, it’s time to consider seeking counseling NOW!  Make sure you are ready to leave by sorting through the history of how you got to this place.  You may be flirting with the idea of landing on the other side of the fence – leaving -- but make sure you have exhausted all your resources and attempts. Still, it is hard to fight for a relationship when the other person is not equally invested or willing to work on it.

Is a Third Party Involved?

If you are a woman on the fence because you are having a fling, or have feelings for someone else, the first step is to cut off communication with the third party – at least in the short term. Only once you have stopped talking to the other object of your desire can you have a clear head about whether or not you should stay or go in your current relationship. If you do decide to leave the relationship, make sure to close that door completely before you start something new.

Experiencing relationship burn out is something many women experience, and doesn’t necessarily signal the end of the relationship. If you are willing to put in work, and so is your partner, you might be able to salvage what you have. If you decide to move on, do yourself a favor and make sure one relationship is over before you start a different one – or things will only become more complicated. 

Meet the Interns: Susan Buckley, IMF #63812

I am proud to have two MFT interns in my Mission Valley practice, both of whom offer week day and weekend appointments for individuals and couples. Want to get to know them better before you book a session? That's understandable! Here is an interview with Susan Buckley, one of my interns.

When did you decide to go into Marriage and Family Therapy?
I decided to begin my journey into Marriage and Family Therapy after volunteering with children at a domestic violence shelter.  Seeing first-hand the courage, hope, and motivation of the residents, as well their desire to implement positive changes in their lives, made me want to become a therapist and contribute in some way to that process.

Do you have advice for someone who is considering becoming an MFT?

My advice to someone who is considering becoming an MFT is to be patient with the long process, be prepared for a good deal of self-reflection and growth, and finally, remember the reasons you started your journey.  The path to becoming an MFT can be strenuous, but the reward for following your passion far outweighs the obstacles to getting there.

What would you say to someone who is nervous about setting up their first counseling session?

If someone expressed nervousness about setting up their first counseling session, I would let them know that most people feel uneasy meeting someone for the first time, let alone meeting someone who is supposed to listen to their innermost thoughts and feelings.  That is why it is important to me that the client feels at ease in the session before we begin to explore any personal or difficult topics.  My goal is to provide a positive experience for clients.
Read the rest of Susan's interview here.

7 Signs You Need Couples Counseling


DON'T WAIT UNTIL YOUR RELATIONSHIP IS ON THE BRINK

If your relationship is on the rocks, you might start to question whether or not you’re in the right situation. Before you throw in the towel, you should definitely consider couples counseling, which can help you learn to change your patterns as a couple and start to move forward in a more healthy way. If you don’t know whether or not you’re in trouble, here are the signs that you need marriage counseling.
 1.  Your partner suggests couples counseling: If your partner suggests counseling, this is a sign that things haven't quite been corrected in the relationship. People don't suggest working with a professional when the relationship has a solid connection. It is very common that one partner cries out for help and the other person completely misses the critical issue until years later once the relationship has become entirely unraveled. Take the suggestion of marriage counseling seriously when your spouse brings it up.
2.  The relationship is sexless: One of the signs that a relationship is dwindling is a lack of intimacy in the bedroom. In a secure relationships, both emotional closeness and sexual closeness keep things balanced. Intimacy can go in waves through the years, but if there is an ongoing drought that lasts months or years, this is a sign to seek professional help.
3.  You become burnt-out: Going from completely engaged and seeking closeness to a completely "burnt-out" position is a danger zone. When this happens, you haven't given up on the relationship, yet you are unwilling to expose any vulnerable needs or to rely on your partner.  This is a sign that things have been changing and you could be going down a dangerous road, headed towards complete disconnection.  This is a critical time for couples to seek counseling and get both people to engage in the relationship.
4.  There’s been infidelity: This may be a no brainer for some people, but affairs are signs that marriage counseling is needed. Whether the affair was just revealed, or you are active in the affair, it is critical to understand why this happened in the first place and heal any emotional injuries. Many couples think that they can simply lock up the past, say "I am sorry," and move on. In reality, affairs are very fragile situations where the repair work is critical and must handled in a healing way.  Every second counts when rebuilding trust and regaining the security in a relationship. Moving on doesn't mean shutting the door to pain, but it also doesn't mean you relive the pain over and over. Seeking counseling helps couples handle the fears and emotions that arise in the present and take action to create a long term resolution.
5.  You’re seeking comfort from others: When either you or your spouse quickly go to friends or family before turning to the relationship, you should seek counseling. When we no longer turn to one another to resolve issues and instead turn to others for support, a wedge is created in the relationship. Sometimes it becomes easier and easier to turn to others and this can quickly snow ball into a drawn out relationship that dissolves over time.
6.  You’re fantasizing or beginning to have feelings for others: Thoughts can be thoughts and simply just that. But other times a fantasy leads us to an exciting place where it would be easy to cross the line if the opportunity arises. It is vital to get at the heart of why you get so excited when your co-worker sends you a text, or a friend calls you. If your relationship was solid and secure you wouldn’t consider being with someone else. Something significant is going on, and things are lacking in your current relationship. Start couples counseling to figure out what you aren't getting in the relationship and give your spouse an opportunity to get it right with you before it is too late.
7.  The fighting is bad: When fights continue to go to bad places, either verbally or physically, couples counseling is essential. The more attacks you take at one another, the more you drive each other way and develop a bad habit when it comes to communication. Any time the relationship becomes degrading or hurtful, it is time to seek some expert advice on how to stop the damage and to the relationship.
Couples counseling will help you get back on track when the security in your relationship begins to dwindle. Before your relationship is pushed to the brink of destruction, visit a counselor to  learn better communication and get to the bottom of your issues.

If you're in San Diego and need help working through anger in your relationship, contact me today and let's see if I can help!

San Diego Counseling

I strongly believe that counseling is not one-size-fits-all and needs to be tailored for each of my clients. I want to make sure you get exactly what you’re looking for, so take a look around the website.