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Articles2020-06-11T22:30:58+00:00

How to Be a Good Friend: 8 Practical Tips

Making and keeping a friend can be difficult but it is possible. For our lives to be lived to the fullest and for us to experience the joy of having others in our lives, we need to work on how we show up in our relationships.

As much as we need to know what attributes we need in the people we consider friends, a more important question needs to be asked and that is. “Am I a good friend?” In this article, we will look at eight practical tips for how to be a good friend so that you too can thrive.

How to Be a Good Friend

For one to learn how to be a good friend, certain characteristics and behaviors need to be developed and fostered. Though not an exhaustive list, below are some components to consider:

Be available.

Being available in friendships means that you are available to spend time together, get to know each other, and have fun together.

No relationship can be built without both people involved being equally invested. Availability also means that you can be relied on whether in good or tough times. You will be there for your friends when they need your support.

Practice empathy and understanding.

Being empathetic means that whatever your friend might be going through, you can feel for them and respond accordingly. You do not minimize their situation or dismiss it. Understanding your friends means that you accept them for who they are not who you want them to be. You might not agree with some of their decisions, but you still offer understanding.

Be their cheerleader.

Being your friend’s cheerleader means that you can encourage them to be the best version of themselves and you are also there to celebrate their achievements, without envy or jealousy. You show that you genuinely want them to succeed, even if they get something first that you both wanted, you show up and celebrate.

Be trustworthy.

No relationship can function without trust. Being trustworthy means, you are dependable, you can be relied on, and you can also keep confidence.

Respect boundaries.

Learning to respect and honor your friend’s boundaries is a sure sign that you care for their well-being and respect their personal space. Never pressure your friend to do or share something they have indicated that they do not want to share. When you respect your friend’s boundaries, it is a sure way to ensure that they will respect yours.

Work on communication.

Communication is not easy in any relationship, but it can be worked on. However you communicate, make sure that you are not the only one who always shares your life and struggles. For a friendship to function equal attention needs to be given to both parties involved. This will mean that you are genuinely interested in what they share, and you give them space just as they do for you.

Learn to give and receive feedback.

One beautiful aspect of friendships is that we have people who can be honest with us about our blind spots. They have your best interest at heart so do not be defensive when they offer you constructive criticism. It is important as well for you to give feedback when needed so they too can grow and become more self-aware,

Practice forgiveness and compassion.

Your friend is not going to be perfect. When they do something wrong and try to make amends, practice forgiveness, and move on with compassion.

Next steps

For a variety of reasons, it can sometimes be difficult to put ourselves out there and build friendships. If this is you and you need help in this area, contact our offices for an appointment.

Photos:
“Friends”, Courtesy of Ave Calvar, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Friends”, Courtesy of Felix Rostig, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

4 Things that Will Surprise You about Group Coaching

Group coaching may feel intimidating to you if you’re an introvert or someone who gets energy from being alone. But attending a coaching session with a small group of others doesn’t have to be scary.

4 Benefits of Group Coaching

Here are four surprising benefits that you can gain from group coaching sessions.

1. You can gain confidence in your ability to overcome.

Whether you are struggling in a particular area of life, trying to make a difficult decision, or have a goal you’d like to achieve, group coaching can help you gain confidence in your ability to overcome obstacles.

As you get to know the others in your group, sharing about your goal or difficult situation will happen naturally. They will open up with you (even just a little at first), which invites some level of vulnerability in the group. Your therapist will guide the session so that no one overshares and will make it a comfortable environment where all members feel heard.

Stepping into a group isn’t easy, but as you grow into it, you’ll learn that you can do hard things. It’s a step in the right direction, getting you closer to a solution, a goal, or a sense of peace with where you are right now.

2. If your group coaching facilitator is a licensed, trained therapist, he or she will have tools and ideas beyond what you can find online.

Because therapists not only have higher education certification but also practice for many hours to maintain their certification, you can trust them. While a group coaching session isn’t the same as seeing a therapist one-on-one, your group leader who is trained in psychology will have much more to add to the conversation than a pat answer or an encouraging remark.

Tools such as cognitive behavioral practices, mindfulness, reflection prompts, and active listening techniques are just a few of the ways your group leader can guide you and other members of the group. A group coach’s role is different from a one-on-one psychologist.

Coaches listen, ask the right questions, and use the appropriate tools to guide members to their own awareness. This awareness is powerful and life-changing, helping each individual to view obstacles from a new perspective, make progress, and find hope.

3. Group coaching may be the gateway to your breakthrough.

Group coaching provides support from others who are walking similar roads or have goals they want to accomplish. It can also be a means of accountability.

So, if you’ve been hesitant to seek the help of a licensed counselor one-on-one, group coaching is like a shallow on-ramp to the possibility of experiencing deep breakthroughs via individual counseling. Many who take part in group counseling sessions report that they feel less discouraged and more hopeful, and they can see a path forward where they couldn’t before.

These realizations may just lead you to take the step of finding a counselor who can guide you to deeper healing from past hurt, better relationships in your current life, and gain new perspective on your future.

4. You’ll learn the power of peer support.

If you’ve ever attended a child’s sporting event, you have likely seen supportive family members and non-supportive family members. The supportive ones cheered the child on, said encouraging things, and gave hugs no matter what; win or lose.

The same can be said of group coaching. Your fellow group members become like the cheering squad you wish you had in everyday life. It’s encouraging to learn how much a stranger’s kind words can build you up and give you the confidence to take the next step toward a goal.

Unlike a course where your facilitator teaches content and you listen, group coaching is interactive and allows you to help others while also helping yourself.

You’ll learn how to ask good questions, challenge faulty perspectives with kindness, and give someone else the support they need to overcome a difficulty or make a decision that’s plagued them. Then, as you receive the same kind of support, it’s easy to take in the group’s feedback and apply it to your life both now and in the future.

Attending group coaching can be the foundation for which you or your loved one builds a strong understanding of why we need each other. Human beings were meant to live in relationship and not try to solve problems all by themselves.

Learning the value of group coaching can mean the difference between trying the same things you’ve tried in the past or starting something new. If you’re ready to try something different, contact us at Westlake Chrsitian Counseling today to find professionally trained counselors in Westlake, Texas who lead groups of all kinds. Let us connect you with the right one to meet your needs.

Photos:
“Succulents”, Courtesy of Rose Miller, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Cacti”, Courtesy of Laura Adai, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Succulents”, Courtesy of Eduardo Soares, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

The Difference a Day Makes: Healing Trauma, One Day At a Time

God’s mercies are present to sustain and keep us, even in the places where we experienced trauma. Otherwise, we would have broken apart and been consumed. Human beings tend to focus on what we don’t have and rarely recognize where God preserved us in trouble.

For those of us who have experienced trauma, we are intimately acquainted with how it deprived us. Often, those facts and our perceptions afflict us with deficits. These threaten to interrupt goodness in our lives with their incessant retelling of trauma, shame, and their convoluted story.

We rarely want to acknowledge any part of our traumatic past, even when Jesus beckons for us to bring our burdens to Him. We don’t always notice where the trauma we encountered deposited toxic traits. These often distort thinking and reconstruct behaviors, based on the lies they tell.

Trauma calcifies hearts and minds, hardening us to the possibility of change along any dimension. It produces patterns that pollute us from the inside out, affecting and infecting those whom God intended to bless through our lives.

While trauma may have a story to expose, its shameful narrative is always in error and incomplete. The greatest news and the gospel’s prevailing truth are at work, highlighting that something better is in process.

When considering the nature of a difficult or traumatic past, we can experience a brilliant contrast between the trauma that threatened to consume us and the compassions of our loving Father. From this perspective, we find harmony with the words of the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah. Lamenting, he poured out his heart in ways that continually urge us to lift our heads and hands, surrendering pain and past trauma to the Lord who heals and redeems.

Though it seemed counterintuitive, Jeremiah declared God’s mercies in adverse conditions. He searched as far as his memory bank would permit to recollect the Lord’s compassion from times past. Like the prophet, we may also recall our history. It may seem that there is nothing but condemnation and pain to point out. However, the fact that we are here testifies to God’s preservation and announces that destiny awaits our advancement.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:21-23, NIV

We do need to acknowledge, and even grieve what we didn’t gather in some of the places and from some of the people who mattered. Yet, we cannot remain there perpetually. We must mourn it and move forward. Healing sometimes happens on the move, even if one step at a time. God helps us to do this, all with a heart that is resolved to believe and celebrate that He repurposes what doesn’t make sense.

There are times when we feel that we have nothing else good and nowhere that we can praise God, but we can bless Him for a new day. If He didn’t have a purpose in mind, He would not have furnished fresh mercies to greet us with each new morning.

Today is a day forward and further away from the place of pain that threatened to tether us to a trauma-informed past. It represents one day closer to another manifestation of healing. Each sunrise produces a difference that a day can make, not simply because the calendar flipped, but because there is the potential to experience a change of heart and mind.

Learning to rehearse the Lord’s goodness transforms us from the inside. It continues to do so, remaining in operation, even under duress. When we pair our faith with the promises of God, it produces effects. Simply put, we see what we believe. Sometimes, the process is accelerated and other times, it is extended.

No matter the time, faith grows in the dark. The appearance of circumstances may not reflect God’s truth in our reality just yet. They are a collection of facts that reveal part of the narrative, but it is only the truth of God’s Word that places our trauma story in context.

While the traumatic encounters reveal where we didn’t have control, we can embrace our God-given authority in our healing. We must believe and put our faith to work where God has given us influence.

Next steps for healing trauma.

Pursuing professional counseling will offer the support needed to walk through a healing journey. Counseling provides a safe space where you can address the present symptoms of your pain and process what led to it. Make an appointment to connect with a counselor on this site. It can further position you to encounter another experience of God’s love, power, and glory, even as you heal and grow, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.

Photos:
“Pine”, Courtesy of Jan Baborák, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Go Get ‘Em”, Courtesy of Kyle Glenn, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Planning”, Courtesy of Daiga Ellaby, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License

Toxic Positivity Explained

“We are what we think.” This is a statement society has been told and it is true, we are all a product of what we think, how we view ourselves, and our life circumstances. To get out of hard situations, we must believe we can do so in the first place. Positivity and optimism have been credited with helping people live healthier lives, be more productive, and have better mental states. Toxic positivity, on the other hand, is another matter, entirely.

Positivity becomes toxic when it is expected to be the only emotion we feel or experience no matter what it is we are struggling with in the real world. In a world of constant positivity, it is imposed upon us to always look to the bright side. No matter how dire a situation is, we are encouraged to only feel happy and positive in all situations to the exclusion of all other emotions.

This unrealistic expectation backfires as people struggle to reconcile how they truly feel and what society is telling them they should feel.

Effects of toxic positivity

Everything should always be done in moderation. Positivity is not wrong; it only becomes toxic when people are instructed to live in a way that is contrary to their makeup. As human beings, we are designed to feel a whole range of emotions depending on the situation at hand. No emotions should be favored above others.

All emotions are data informing us of our internal processing and helping us decide how to act, this is for our survival. However, if we chose to ignore so-called negative emotions and only focus on the positive ones, below are some of the effects:

  • Lack of compassion or empathy for oneself or others.
  • Shame and guilt for feeling hurt, broken, grief, depression, etc.
  • Less resilient due to inability to face hard situations and emotions.
  • Invalidate our emotions and those of others if they are not positive.
  • Re-traumatizing because of not being given space to share hard situations.
  • Mental health issues because of not seeking help due to shame and guilt.
  • Suppression of emotions can lead to emotional burnout.
  • Stigma toward those struggling and thus not offering help when they need it most.
  • Inauthentic living because it is unrealistic to be happy, positive, and optimistic all the time.
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms like taking drugs or alcohol to try and numb the feelings one feels they shouldn’t experience in the first place.
  • Gaslighting toward oneself or others occurs when we deny the reality of hard emotions even when they are appropriate, leading to being unsure about our own experiences and feelings.
  • Lack of growth and accountability occurs because of not addressing mistakes or failures honestly, but they are glossed over with positivity and hence never hold themselves accountable.

Our ability to live in a world that is sometimes painful, unpredictable, and harsh lies in our ability to face these realities honestly for us to be resilient and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

For us to show compassion and empathy toward ourselves and those around us, we must first acknowledge that good emotions also exist with hard emotions. Those hard emotions are not to be denied. It is said, if you bury an emotion, you bury it alive.

When to seek help

If any of the above feels familiar, if you are in a place where you have never known how to share your story authentically and evaluate your feelings freely without judgment do consider getting in touch with our offices. A counselor can provide a safe and free environment where you can be authentic and gain helpful tools to deal with any hard situation you might be facing.

Photos:
“Smiley-face Balloons”, Courtesy of Tim Mossholder, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Balloon Lady”, Courtesy of Lidya Nada, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Repurposing Failure: Overcome Insecurity and Rebound In Resilience

The goodness of God remains constant, though the challenges we encounter in life will vary with time and circumstance. Our human tendency is to become discouraged by this inherent paradox. This is why encouraging ourselves in the Lord is a sacred act that defies the gravity of what would otherwise plummet us into despair, hindering resilience.

We have to remind ourselves to look up and see God again, recognizing that falling is as much a prerequisite to success and resilience as getting up. While this is part of life, fear of failure can sometimes set us back from what started as momentum for working toward a shared vision with God.

Failure, the prelude to resilience

Failure is a non-negotiable part of life. We are often loath to admit that reality. Whether we learn from our own flaws or observe someone else’s lesson, we can access the wealth of insight that experience provides.

Where we previously encountered failure and insecurity, we can develop confidence and resilience. The Holy Spirit is our Teacher. He will reveal how to make present pivots and redirect future results.

While failures are built into any process, we can also survey our own lives to see where they benefit us. Mistakes generate opportunities for reflection, helping us to notice our choices.

Unpacking and exploring failure familiarizes us with some of the thought patterns and processes that led to our outcomes. When we have stumbled upon a learning experience instead of an anticipated win, we can tease out areas to tweak and adapt our approach for the next time.

Challenge doesn’t eclipse the vision or negate what the Holy Spirit may have revealed. However, God is wise. He knows that unveiling the entirety of His future for us would overwhelm us and destabilize us with details that we don’t control.

The area where we do have influence is in our decision to acknowledge God’s promises, follow His process, and enjoy His partnership. There are always a handful of spiritual truths and practical principles that can guide our daily decisions as we move forward.

Acknowledge the God of promises

Of course, the enemy would want us to spend more time looking at the past than walking with God into our future. Easily, we could become consumed by it and miss the joy of His Presence and the faithfulness of His promises, even when our vision stalls.

Taking inventory notes of what has contributed to our experiences without belaboring every stumble. We can begin again by considering what worked instead of over-emphasizing what didn’t. The Holy Spirit will equip us with wisdom to get up and build again with Him if we ask. We can incorporate the past’s lessons so we can experience refreshed hope as we move into our future.

Follow the process of resilience

As we abide in the present, we must remember to acknowledge our small beginnings. Despite the roadblocks faced as Jerusalem’s temple was being rebuilt, the prophet Zechariah encouraged the people to celebrate their small wins. God rejoices when we acknowledge His present goodness in the process, though we haven’t seen the final outcome (Zechariah 4:10).

The Father calls for us to be thankful, as gratitude benefits us, fostering the joy and confidence that stifle insecurity and anxiety (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Though faults coexist alongside the good to be celebrated within, God’s glory won’t be seen because of what we lack or possess, but rather in the Savior who has us.

Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. – Psalm 115:1, NIV

Embrace divine partnership

The science of gratitude has revealed that it quells anxiety and results in a calmer and steadier heart rate. This is evidence for building joy with Jesus into our journey that could otherwise feel arduous. We will feel the pinch of circumstances, even when we are faced again with the potential to fail. Yet, as much as there is an opportunity for failure, faith appropriates limitless possibilities.

The key is a partnership with God and daring to believe. While we cannot control the past circumstances that led to instances of failure, we can decide that dread and fear will not influence us into a refusal to try again.

Next steps

Embrace gratitude despite the failures you encountered. While you may have hesitated to go forward, remember that the Lord is calling you to advance in hope. Wherever you are in your experience with the fear of failure, you can rebound in resilience and overcome the insecurity that has prevented you from launching again.

You can discover grace and the growth you long for. The counseling services we offer can help you on your journey. Make an appointment today to upgrade your confidence and change your life.

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/comfort-gratitude/202007/gratitude-helps-curb-anxiety

Photos:
“Palm”, Courtesy of JSB Co., Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Ivy on Colored Wall”, Courtesy of Alicia Mary Smith, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Resting”, Courtesy of Motoki Tonn, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Premarital Counseling for Today’s Couples

If you are considering premarital counseling, you are in good company. As many as 44% of today’s couples choose counseling before the wedding. Why are couples choosing counseling at this time, a time when they feel so in love? Why not wait until they really need it?

Why couples choose premarital counseling

It used to be the trend that couples would only seek counseling if the marriage was in trouble. Marriage counseling is a wonderful way to work through issues, but some problems can be avoided altogether with premarital counseling. Preventing a problem or knowing how to work through an issue can save you time, money, and heartache.

Christian premarital counseling seeks to resolve issues before they appear and arm you with skills to deal with problems and temptations. For example, some married couples hit a snag a few years into the marriage after the newness wears off and responsibilities become heavier.

Schedules may conflict, and arguments can ensue. The temptation to escape or look for another person can feel overwhelming. Premarital counseling prepares you by working around conflicting schedules, prioritizing the relationship and intimacy, managing anger, resolving conflicts, and avoiding temptations that can destroy the marriage.

Discuss the commitment of marriage

The sanctity of marriage is the foundation of any union. If you want your marriage to last, then you need to place importance on it. Prioritizing the relationship and forgiving the other person are essential tasks.

Living with another person is not always easy, and words may be spoken harshly. However, these words and behaviors should never become abusive. Abuse is another matter. If you are in an abusive relationship, seek help immediately.

Work out financial details and living arrangements

Before the wedding, discuss where you plan to live now and in the future. For example, do you want to purchase a home or rent while you build your career? How will you manage the finances?

If your partner volunteers to manage the financial accounts, make sure you know what income is coming into the home and the expenses. A financial advisor can also help you clarify questions about saving, investing, budgeting, and financing significant purchases like a house or car.

Work through conflict

Some couples skip premarital counseling because they are so in love and they believe that love can conquer all. In a sense, this is true. However, anytime humans live together, there is bound to be conflict. Counseling teaches you the skills to resolve conflict and defuse arguments before they reach the breaking point.

You also learn how to recognize scenarios that can lead to bad choices. Our thoughts lead to our emotions which in turn influence our behavior. If you know how to change your thoughts (your perceptions) about a situation, you are less likely to react impulsively.

Rash decisions or actions can destroy a marriage. Even if neither of you has an anger issue, counseling can help you work through tough situations together.

Contact us today for a premarital counseling session

If premarital counseling is a good fit for you, contact us today. Most couples receive eight hours or less of counseling before the marriage. We can work with your schedule for face-to-face or virtual sessions.

You can increase your chances of having a long-lasting and successful marriage by preparing in advance and gaining the necessary skills to weather any storm. Contact us today for your first session.

Photos:
“Engagement”, Courtesy of Andre Jackson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Proposal”, Courtesy of Colin + Meg, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License

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