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Increased Intimacy Through Couples Therapy

When we talk about intimacy most people think about sex, but that’s only one part of intimacy. Couples who say they want to know each other better are also seeking intimacy. True intimacy is achieved when you are able to see and be seen by another. I’ve often heard it said that the phrase “into me you see” is a great way to remember the concept of intimacy. In my work as both a couples and sex addiction therapist, I have helped many couples improve their connection and move into deeper intimacy.  Many couples report wanting to feel closer; this is true for couples who are just starting out, and event those who have been in a relationship for a long time.  They want to know each other’s dreams and desires  - all of which is part of intimacy. By using a technique that helps couples focus on identifying and communicating their emotions, I guide them in becoming more in tune with each other. When couples feel as though they are seen and heard in a relationship, then they are more likely to share their hopes, dreams, and desires. Couples that are early in their relationship can often save themselves some heartache. And after years together, many couples develop a new depth of knowledge of each other. If you love your partner dearly, but often wish you were closer, then couples therapy focused on intimacy building could be the next step to take to get you there. Wouldn’t it be nice to share the desires of your heart with your life partner?

Children Are Not Little Adults

After attending a host of holiday gatherings over the past few months, I started reflecting on a pattern I noticed of a lack of attention that being paid towards young children at some of these events. What I noticed was not that children were being overtly neglected, but that there seemed to be some odd expectation that they would behave like little adults while the actual adults got on with more important and mature matters.

This observation inspired my thinking process, and thus this blog post, about reasonable expectations for children.  The old saying that “children should be seen and not heard” is long since a thing of the past, and we have plenty of research to show that quite the opposite is true in terms of promoting their healthy development.

  • Children are meant to play. In this process, they are meant to explore, make messes, and be spontaneous. This means that they will jump from one thing to the next without thinking, and yes, without cleaning up. This process is critical to their development. Their brains are not developed enough to complete one task at a time, clean it up, and then neatly move on to another one. (Let’s be honest, some adults can’t even do this).

How to Have Less Technology and More Engagement This Year

A common complaint among parents these days is that their kids spend too much time on technology. In fact, it’s the reason why many families call our office. Parents often notice that their child seems disengaged and less interested in other social activities, and thus prefers the tablet or video games. After arguing with their child (and sometimes even their spouse) for days and months on end, they often seek therapy out of frustration. Here are a couple of strategies we offer to help families strike a balance with technology use and family time.

1.     Avoid discounting technology all together. Taking extreme measures like banning all technology does not help teach balance. Of course there are sometimes when restricting privileges is appropriate, but those should be on a case-by-case basis.

Ashley Madison – Does Your Marriage Need a “CDC”?

“Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain.”

- Robert Gary Lee

The Ashley Madison data breach has caused quite the stir in our offices.  For marriages impacted by sex addiction and compulsivity, it’s a trigger which sparks pain and trauma to those already in treatment with us.  For others it is an initial awakening to the world of relationships impacted by the Internet. 

Ashley Madison is a website created by Canadian Internet Entrepreneur, and now former CEO, Noel Biderman.  The sole purpose was to create a “dating site” for married individuals to find partners to have extramarital sex or affairs.  The company’s by-line is “Life’s Short, Have an Affair”. 

We Are Awesome Parents

"Nothing is worse than active ignorance."

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Have you seen the recent commercial of the family who just got the new iPhone 6s for their teenage daughter? The commercial is advertising new usage plans aimed at families who consume high volumes of data use. The family highlighted in the commercial is driving down the road with dad at the wheel, mom as passenger, and the daughter in the back seat, completely engaged in all the functions her newly acquired multi media device has to offer.  The daughter is talking to her friend when the dad asks, “Is that an extra expense”?  The mom assures dad “it’s in the plan”.  Dad proclaims, “We are awesome parents”.

Next the daughter is taking a selfie capturing the momentous moment and texting it to her friend.  Dad worriedly asks mom “Is that included in the package or an extra expense?”  Mom confidently confirms, “It’s covered”.  Dad replies, “We are awesome parents”. 

Lastly, the adolescent daughter is seen wearing headphones and rhythmically bobbing and swaying with exuberance to which her father sternly quips, “What is going on back there?”  She replies in a loud voice, “I am streaming my music, this is so awesome!”  Dad begins to question mom when she interrupts with quiet assurance “its in the plan”.  And dad repeats one final time “We, are awesome parents”. 


Does this statement describe anyone you know?  Your mother, your aunt, your best friend or perhaps YOU!  In our culture today, moms wear many hats.  Some are single moms in the workplace trying to meet all the needs of their children by playing many roles: taxi driver, tutor, meal maker, personal shopper, schedule keeper and soccer coach.  These roles result in little time for oneself.  Some super moms are “stay-at-home” moms, and because they are NOT in the workplace, are consistently called upon to show up at school to:  supply birthday parties, drive, chaperone field trips, volunteer their services in the school office, and help the teacher out when asked.  

Motherhood is a 24/7 occupation that never gets a day off. 

 The job description doesn’t offer a 2-week vacation or a certain number of sick days. The typical 8-hour workday, is often more like 18 hours…from before sunrise to well past sunset.  For “stay-at-home” moms, the job can be so demanding that some have thrown in the towel and joined the workforce just so they can reclaim some sanity and get some time of their own!  Mothers are the “glue” that keep the family together and function smoothly. When that “glue” becomes stressed, it no longer holds.  This shows up when moms get short-tempered, critical, judgmental and even jealous of other moms who “seem” to have a more carefree lifestyle. 

Adolescent Internet Addiction Disorder – Recent Medical Findings

This past week the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting took place. A literature review of 13 published articles was presented.  These articles showed people with Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), especially those addicted to internet gaming, show certain brain abnormalities. 

Studies found an increased blood flow is actually seen in the areas of the brain involved in pleasure and reward centers.  These findings support a 4-year study involving more than 80 experts in neurology and addiction medicine that was released by the American Society for Addictive Medicine (ASAM) in August 2012.  The ASAM study defined addictions as a chronic neurological disorder involving many brain functions most notably an imbalance in the so-called “reward circuitry.” 

Sree Jadapalle, MD, a 2nd year psychiatry resident of Morehouse Medical School, presented the summary of literature review findings at an APA press conference in New York. She reported the prevalence of Internet Addiction Disorder is present in about 26.3 percent of adolescents!  Her report further concurred with my own clinical observations in treating adolescents on two continents for the past 20 years.  While parents would bring me their children when they discovered illicit drug use, often, I was way more concerned for what was going on with technological devices in the child’s bedroom with texting, sexting, social media, webcams, and video gaming on the internet.  Her findings conclude Internet Addiction Disorder statistics are higher than illicit drug use.

These behaviors disturb the dopamine delivery systems.  Basically, when involved in these behaviors, dopamine is delivered at rapid expense rates and the brain gets depleted that allow one to mood regulate appropriately.  It would be like using all your water at the beginning of a hike in the desert without the ability to replenish supply appropriately. 


IAD is not currently an established mental disorder but a variety of screening tools can, and should, be used for screening among adolescents with mental health problems given the increasing prevalence of suicidal behavior in this age group.  Depending upon the degree and length of exposure to internet addiction, an adolescent child may demonstrate an indifference to consequences which can include psychological, social, and work difficulties.

The presented research shows a significant correlation between IAD and mental health problems, including depression, suicidal behavior, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, as well as alcohol and illicit drug use disorders, said Dr. Jadapalle. Some studies show that IAD may increase suicide attempts in the presence of depression.

The therapists at Relationship Recovery Center have specific training in process and chemical addictions (ie. Internet, Sex, Shopping, Gambling, and Gaming).  If you are seeing problematic signs or symptoms in your family members, we are here to help with cutting edge assessment and treatment.

Good Grief! Making Holidays After Death or Divorce

By Cindy Martin, LAMFT, ASAT (2), EMDR


As we near the end of the year, everyone is telling us to be happy! But what if we have experienced the loss of a loved one or the loss of a family as we have known it through divorce?  How do you manage to be happy then?  I suggest 4 things to think about:

1.    Create a New Family Tradition

2.    Surround yourself with Support

3.    Come to grips with feeling sad, but be open to feeling joyful

4.    Take steps to welcome Healing in the New Year

The holidays can often be something where we just survive rather than thrive-especially if we are in a BLENDED FAMILY!  There are only so many hours in a holiday season and the question then becomes, “who do we spend it with?”  The children often ask, “Will Santa know whether to deliver the gifts to Mommy’s house or Daddy’s house?”  Even the best plans for the holidays can be tinged with sadness because someone or something is missing that was there before.  As human beings, we don’t like CHANGE!   Statistics tell us that 20% of children live in step families, so it’s important to address these issues rather than ignore them.

1.    Create a New Family Tradition-every family has holiday assumptions, so rather than be sad that they cannot be fulfilled as in the past, make new ones that can soon become family memories as warm as the old ones.  Do what is best for your current family and your current situation.

2.   Surround yourself with Support-if certain family members are insensitive to your new circumstances, perhaps this is the year to spend time with those people who you feel supported by.  Or maybe you need to communicate to family members what makes you feel supported.  You can’t expect that they will automatically know.

3.   Come to grips with feeling sad, but be open to feeling joy- don’t be afraid to cry.  Sometimes the release is good for you.  There's no avoiding sadness when your heart is broken, but neither is there a complete absence of joy. Sometimes you're afraid to feel joy when you're grieving; it can feel like a betrayal to be happy. Or you fear that if you're too happy, those around you will think you're officially "over it" and your sorrow will no longer be tolerated.  In modeling for children, it’s good sometimes to see parents cry and then be able to be happy again afterward.  That way they can understand their own conflicting emotions.

4.   Take steps to welcome Healing in the New Year-a new year can mean a new beginning.  The holidays may bring moments of pain along with moments of happiness, but resolve to take steps to care for yourself and those you love by increasing visits, learning to listen to each others’ emotions, and perhaps getting support from professional counselors who can guide you into forming new traditions that will stabilize the family when the next holiday season rolls around.

The Importance of Family Traditions

By Nina M. Laltrello, MFT, CCAADC, CSAT-S, CMAT


Family traditions are an important element to family continuity and togetherness.  All families have important rituals and traditions whether they know if or not.  Family traditions say a lot about a family and what creates special meaning to its members.  The holidays that a family chooses to celebrate with flourish, says what is important to a family. 

·        Traditions give meaning to a family and define what is important in a family.

·        Traditions and rituals define who is in a family by their attendance at the celebration.

·        Family celebrations contain elements of what is important to a family by including special foods.

·        Family rituals or celebrations allow a family to make sense or meaning of change in family structure like in the case of weddings or funerals.

·        Religious holidays like Christmas and Passover transmit important symbols and images but link our family to the outside world with friends, community, and the world.

·        Family rituals voice beliefs and make meaning.

·        Rituals tap into a family’s creativity and appeal to people of all ages.  They create a way for families to bond across the generations.

·        Rituals allow families a way to pass history, meaning, and culture to the next generation. 



So when you sit down to that family holiday meal, think about what you have gotten from the generations that have preceded you.  On this holiday, think about which traditions are important to your family and why.



Source: The Intentional Family:  Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties.  Dougherty, William J. (1999)


By Cindy Martin, LAMFT, ASAT (2), EMDR


Just the sound of it conjures up images of being in the kitchen with a smoothie recipe.  You put each ingredient in the blender:  the banana, the berries, the apple, the yogurt, the skim milk.  Then you turn the blender on, wait a few seconds and what comes out looks nothing like what went in!  It doesn’t even have the same texture or taste of the original separate ingredients.  It turned into something very different.  It is much the same way with blended families.  We are each very distinct individuals and yet when we come together by the marriage of two individuals who want to spend the rest of their lives together, the families that follow them are expected to gel, mold and generally become one as well!  This is not an easy task. 

          Statistics tell us that more than half of all Americans living today either have been, currently are, or will be in a step or blended family one or more times in their lifetime.  Remarriage rates have dropped while co-habitation rates have increased.  I have observed that many single parents feel that re-marrying and putting two families under one roof is too hard and brings too many problems, therefore they just don’t do it.  They get used to their own unique set of problems and don’t have the energy or desire to tackle anyone else’s.  In these instances, I believe they are short changing themselves and their families. 

          Mary Pipher, a noted psychologist says that “while families are imperfect institutions, they are also our greatest source of meaning, connection and joy.”  And although a single parent family is still very much a family, blending two families together successfully can double the meaning, connection and joy!

          The complex structure of blended families cries out for quality integration of the relationships between individuals within each of the family units.  It requires developing a skill set of valuing diversity and differing opinions, tolerance of various traditions, and acknowledgment of accepted boundaries. 


          Blended families need not achieve the “ideal” to become successful, but they must foster a sense of belonging, an “us against the world” mentality, where each member is supported, validated, valued and LOVED! 

          So go ahead and taste that concoction in the blender, you might find out that merging all the various ingredients together is actually more pleasing to the taste buds than it is to have just a banana, a berry, an apple or yogurt all by itself!