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A group of independent counselors serving Kingwood and Houston
Specializing in Gottman MethodTM Couples and Marriage Counseling

How to Sail Through Certification in Gottman Method Couples Therapy

Reposting a blog I wrote that appeared on The Gottman Relationship Blog

In October 2012, my business partner Alysha Roll and I travelled to Seattle for Level 3 Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy. We were so excited to learn from the Gottmans in person and the experience did not disappoint. We left feeling energized and inspired, so much so that we spent the four-hour plane ride back to Texas planning our future as Certified Gottman Therapists.

We got off the plane in Houston and hit the ground running. Fast forward six months, and certification was the sweet reward for our “nose to the grindstone” approach. If you’re considering your own journey toward becoming a Certified Gottman Therapist (CGT), here are some tips to sail through the process.

Buddy Up

Since Alysha and I worked closely together, we opted for group consultation. This proved to be a very advantageous strategy as we provided each other with a great deal of support throughout the process. Being each other’s cheerleader, technical consultant, video screener, and honest opinion giver was enormously beneficial.

Choose the Right Consultant

Before leaving Seattle, we made it a point to meet and interact with many of the consultants. While Alysha and I viewed them all as experts, we sought out a consultant that was a good match for our personalities and business style. In addition to receiving clinical consultation, we tacked on some extra sessions to discuss the business side of being a Gottman therapist so we could see a maximum return on our investment. Selecting the right consultant is paramount. We scheduled weekly appointments with our consultant, which created good momentum and put some pressure on ourselves to obtain and produce tapes.

Market Yourself

Our initial to-do list was full of ideas to recruit more couples to our practice, not only to get a wide selection for the certification process but also to establish ourselves as experts in our community. We updated our website, changed our business name, and restructured our work schedules to accommodate more couples. We changed our advertising, sent postcards, informed other therapists of our new specialty, and hosted an Open House. We utilized the power of social media by blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, and Pinning. If you build it, they will come. We had (and still have) an abundance of couples.

Have a “Can Do” Attitude

As a firm believer in “I will believe it when I see it,” I knew that I had to shed any doubts about my ability to become certified. The importance of a “can do” attitude can’t be stressed enough because anxiety and fear of failure will surely slow the process or make it come to a screeching halt. Our consultant was masterful in using softened startup when he had to give a negative tape review and I worked very hard on not becoming defensive. Trusting his opinions and expertise, while at the same time affirming my ability as a therapist, helped me keep my eye on the prize. I looked at negative feedback as an opportunity for growth rather than a failure on my part.

Immerse Yourself in the Gottman Method

After Level 3 Training, I realized that my knowledge of the Gottman Method was inadequate and I had a great deal to learn to become proficient. Reading most of the books on the required reading list helped me gain confidence and drilled the concepts into my head. Alysha and I began applying Gottman strategies in our own marriages but quickly realized that our husbands were not up to speed. We returned to Seattle with our spouses to attend The Art and Science of Love. Seeing John and Julie Gottman do a live demonstration of Aftermath of a Fight was incredibly poignant and helped our partners embrace the process as much as we did. Being workshop participants showed us how the interventions build on one another, melding the entire process for us. We left the workshop with an additional surge of energy to focus on the certification process.

Channel Your Inner Techie

Making and editing videotapes was not as daunting as I expected. Using a very basic video camera and extra rechargeable batteries allowed me to record and download several sessions per day. At the time I used Microsoft Movie Maker and have since switched to iMovie, but both are easy to use. Gaining consent to videotape was also less challenging than anticipated. My pitch was very brief and included three reasons to tape: video playback, self-critique, and consultant feedback. As I spoke I handed them the consent form on a clipboard, indicating that I expected them to sign. Not one couple refused to sign and they quickly got used to the camera. The most difficult thing about taping was taking the time to watch and edit tapes after coming home from work.

Certification Isn’t the End of the Road

We breathed a sigh of relief once we were certified, but Newton’s second law of motion was in play and we quickly moved forward, planning our own Art and Science of Love workshop in Texas. We have since conducted 16 couples workshops and it is one our favorite things to do as CGTs.

Many doors opened for us after we became certified. We continued our training with The Gottman Institute so we could teach Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 Trainings, as well as work with consultees. Clients began to seek us out specifically for Gottman therapy as well as Marathon Intensive Therapy sessions. Local groups asked us to speak about relationships from a Gottman perspective and we have both been interviewed by the national media.

One of the things I value most about being a CGT is the Gottman community. We ”rove” at The Art and Science of Love workshops in Seattle a few times per year and get to interact with the staff of the The Gottman Institute as well other CGTs. I never get tired of hearing John and Julie present at the workshop and learn something new each time. We also participate in the CGT Facebook group to share information and get support. Having a tribe that speaks the same language has been a tremendous source of encouragement.

Our goal was never just to “get it done,” but instead to embrace the journey of lifelong learning. We can’t wait for what’s next.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, Certified Gottman Therapist

Master Trainer for The Gottman Institute

Intimate Partner Violence and the #MeToo Movement

Reposting a blog I wrote that appeared on The Gottman Relationship Blog 

Trigger warning: This article discusses sexual assault and violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Over the years, the term domestic violence has been broadened to the more accurate term, intimate partner violence, acknowledging that abuse can occur regardless of marital status, gender, or sexual orientation.

When you hear the term domestic or intimate partner violence, you probably imagine a woman with a black eye, fleeing in the middle of the night to escape her batterer. While that image is accurate, it does not capture the depth and breadth of what many women experience. It also does not bring into focus the batterer.

I should mention that while the majority of domestic violence victims are women, abuse of men happens far more often than you might expect. Data from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey indicates that one in six men in the United States have experienced some form of contact sexual violence during their lifetime, and 11% of men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.

Intimate partner violence is about power and control and it can take many forms. John Gottman and Neil Jacobson studied violent relationships and wrote the compelling book When Men Batter Women. From their work, we can better recognize the characteristics of the most dangerous batterers, the “Pit Bulls” and “Cobras.”

Pit Bulls have stereotypical traits of a vicious dog latching on and not letting go. These men are emotionally dependent on their partners. They fear abandonment and are controlling, jealous, and react violently to perceived betrayal. Cobras, like the venomous snake, attack their partner without warning. They have sociopathic, antisocial traits and a pathological need for power and control. Their behavior is calculating and sadistic. The book also discusses physical aggression in couples that is not rooted in control and intimidation, but rather is situational in nature, and potentially treatable in couples therapy.

In intimate relationships, partner rape is one of the many ways men can exert power and control over women. It is the most underreported form of rape, and in many states marital rape is still considered a lesser crime than rape by a stranger. In fact, until 1975, every state had a “marital exemption” that allowed a husband to rape his wife without fear of legal consequences. It was only in 1993, 25 years ago, that every state and the District of Columbia passed laws against marital rape. However, it’s still more difficult for a spouse-victim to prove that she didn’t consent to her husband than it would be to prove non-consent with a stranger.

The asymmetrical power dynamics of sexual assault are staggering. In the US alone, nearly 23 million women and 1.7 million men have been victims of completed or attempted rape. According to the CDC, for female rape victims, an estimated 99% had male only perpetrators and for male rape victims, 79.3% had male only perpetrators.

Women worldwide have trudged through vulnerability and shame to share their painful #MeToo stories. Many have finally found the courage to speak out about the unspeakable on social media, in therapy, with their friends and families, and on television. These brave women have endured harassment, ridicule, blame, and death threats. Their courage is inspiring other victims to speak out. Without them, we would never see change.

#MeToo empowered women to tell their stories, but they were often stories about anonymous perpetrators (an ex, a former classmate, a neighbor). With intimate partner violence, it feels riskier because the perpetrator can easily be identified, and it may lead to further violence. Another difference is that in the #MeToo movement, several women may be identifying the same perpetrator, adding to the credibility of the claims.

When women report sexual assault by a stranger, they often gain more sympathy than women in violent intimate relationships. Rape by a stranger is clearly assault, but many fail to view intimate partner violence in the same way. They see women willingly staying in these relationships and this leads to victim blaming.

In When Men Batter Women, Gottman and Jacobson discuss the confusing nature of violent relationships. Battered women can feel emotionally connected to their partner and have great fear of leaving them. Trying to leave a violent relationship can escalate the danger of further battering. For women to leave violent relationships they must be prepared and have carefully planned their escape to safety.

It is often uncomfortable for men to discuss intimate partner violence or sexual assault. It may feel like criticism of their entire gender. At the heart of these discussions are issues relating to power and control, a topic that that must be examined with a broader lens.

The reality is that for millennia, men have wielded far reaching power. When power is challenged, there is always backlash. In 2020 we will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment which gave women got the right to vote. The movement didn’t start in 1920. Women had been organizing and protesting for decades. Since that time, women have engaged in battles for reproductive rights to manage their own bodies, for equal pay, and the shattering of the glass ceiling in business and politics. Men did not have to fight for these things.

Change is slow and the road is bumpy. We don’t always recognize the nuances in how power and control are turned over to men, but even the language we use is problematic. In his viral TED talk, Jackson Katz reminds us that the words we use put the responsibility of ending sexual assault on women, not on their male perpetrators. We cite statistics of how many women are raped each year, but not how many men rape them. We talk about how many girls get pregnant, but not how many boys impregnate them.

Katz goes on to say:

The use of the passive voice has political effects. It shifts the focus off of men and boys and onto girls and women. Even the term “violence against women” is problematic. It’s a passive construction. There is no active agent in the sentence. It’s a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at that term “violence against women,” nobody is doing it to them. Men aren’t even a part of it.

This is the language that lends itself to victim blaming and makes domestic violence and sexual assault women’s issues. It leaves men out of the equation completely.

Women cannot and should not bear the responsibility alone for creating change where intimate partner violence or sexual assault are concerned. Many emotionally intelligent men are speaking out as allies. These are the men, the admirable men, who accept influence from women, respect them, honor them, and share power and control. They are demonstrating great courage and vulnerability by standing up against the message to “man up.”

As Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes to an end, let’s not forget the brave survivors of intimate partner violence. Their #MeToo stories matter, too.


Domestic Violence Awareness Month evolved from the “Day of Unity” held in October 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The intent was to connect advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children. The “Day of Unity” soon evolved into a week, and in October of 1987, the first National Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed. In 1989 Congress passed Public Law 101-112, officially designating October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

To get help, call 800-799-SAFE. You can also get help through email or live chat on the National Domestic Violence Hotline contact page.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, Certified Gottman Therapist

Master Trainer for The Gottman Institute

 

Love on the Rocks? How to Handle Valentine’s Day

There’s no avoiding it . . . heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, a sea of red and pink greeting cards, ads for diamond jewelry and tents of roses are assaulting us at every turn.

To those newly in love, Valentine’s Day is a day full of sweetness and romance.  For long-term, stable couples it’s usually a pleasant but perfunctory gesture.  But for those in struggling relationships, it is a painful reminder of what is no longer.

For couples not exactly “feeling it” but not ready to throw in the towel, searching for the right Valentine card is overwhelming.  Mushy cards are out.  Humorous cards mock your struggles.   Blank cards to write your own loving sentiment make your stomach tie up in knots.  ”Forgetting” to get a card will feel like a slap in the face.

I read an article by a so-called marriage expert on how to handle the Valentine’s day-struggling-couples issue.  The author suggested finding the right card that doesn’t gush but says I love you and giving a token of that love, such as chocolate truffles.  He said you know your partner well, so get exactly the right thing that will remind them of the love you once shared.  Oh and one more thing, put aside your feelings about how your partner handles cards and gifts . . . after all this is the day to express YOUR love.

The problem with advice like this is that is suggesting that avoidance is the route to coping with loss of romance and passion.  It implies that a token can transmit your deeper thoughts and feelings, that you don’t need to communicate your wants and needs because you and your partner are so connected that you will select the right gift  to tug at their heartstrings.

Okay, maybe if you are from a Vulcan blood line you can do the whole mind meld thing and words are not necessary.  But most of us are just regular humans, so if friendship, passion and romance are fading, the token gesture will fall flat and the kids or co-workers will get the truffles and your partner will not be moved.

Let’s be honest, what struggling couples really want is their friendship back, because it is through friendship that the flames of passion and romance are re-ignited.   They want to be heard, understood, appreciated and emotionally connected to their partner.  They want the fights and negativity to end.  They crave physical affection.

So if you are struggling, try reaching out to your partner and saying “Valentine’s Day is hard for me. It reminds me of how we used to be.  All I really want is to feel connected to you again.  Would you be willing to work on that?”

Sure, it feels risky to make yourself vulnerable and ask your partner to work on things.  But doing nothing means that the relationship will continue to erode . . . and that’s not what you really want.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC

Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapist

 

 

Hurricane Harvey . . . . and stress in your love relationship

Yesterday I read about a journalist interested in interviewing couples who had to postpone their wedding due to Harvey. I found this interesting because my counseling specialty is relationships and I know that this natural disaster has the power to impact couples in either a positive or negative way. John Gottman, renowned relationship researcher, says that how couples look back on earlier difficulties in their relationship is predictive of how it will turn out. Some couples “glorify the struggle”, meaning that they drew strength from the adversity they weathered together. They made it a “we” problem and worked through obstacles together. Other couples get dragged down by the difficult times and fall into disillusionment. They look at it as a “me” problem and build resentment and walls in their relationship. Ten years ago, my husband and I experienced our own storm when I had a health crisis. My health was initially very compromised and then it turned into a chronic problem that I have to manage daily. While not every day has been unicorns and rainbows in our marriage, we did get stronger over time because of the difficulty we faced together. Through that experience I knew that I could trust my husband to be there for me in big and little ways, and we deepened our commitment to one another. People notice and ask what the secret to our marriage is and I jokingly say it was my near-death experience. It’s not that the trauma we experienced gave us the tools to improve our marriage, but rather it gave us the desire to work on it. Commitment is a verb and it means working on your relationship daily, and like all couples, we still had to work on how we dealt with emotion and conflict. If your home flooded, you and your partner are likely to have some emotion and conflict to manage. If you are having trouble leaning into one another so that one day you will be able to “glorify the struggle”, I encourage you to get help sooner rather than later. Sadly, most couples wait an average of six years from the onset of trouble before they seek counseling, and by then some serious damage could occur. We know that emotions related to the flood are high now due to Acute Stress. Sometimes couples struggle with emotions because one is needing a lot of emotional expression and support and the other doesn’t have a comfort level in dealing with emotion. We call this a meta-emotion mismatch and it is one of the most common problems we see in couples. Some people may be having trouble coping with the stress of losing everything and they may be turning towards addictive substances or behaviors to numb their feelings, and that surely can negatively impact their relationship. Couples could also be arguing a lot about flood related things, like money or “what do we do now?”. How people argue matters. Some may not like or understand the way their partner deals with conflict, or they may be letting harsh criticism and defensiveness hijack any meaningful problem-solving discussions. Again, not every day will be unicorns and rainbows for even the best of marriages, but if the bad days are starting to outnumber the good days, please don’t wait to address it. Please visit our website for our ever-expanding list of resources for people impacted by the flood.

Hurricane Harvey . . . . feeling sadness

Yesterday a friend from Dallas came to visit and as we drove into town on Kingwood Drive she asked about the devastation.  In that moment, I realized that to her things seemed very normal here.  The adrenaline surge that we felt the last few weeks was gone.  Traffic was not congested, donation centers and shelters were not evident, and volunteers were now out shopping and having lunch instead of delivering sandwiches or ripping out sheetrock.  I drove through Barrington for her to see the wreckage, and while the mounds of trash provided evidence of the flood, very few people were outside.  It was then that I knew that there would now be room for people to start feeling sadness.  In the early stages of grief, we are too busy or too numb to feel sad, even though the situation warrants it.  It is not until we settle into the fact that our life is profoundly different in an unwanted way that we start to sow the seeds of sadness.  People who were less affected by Harvey are moving back into normal routines. And while people who had to leave their homes are trying to get back into normal routines, things are far from normal, and they are feeling it.  Sadness is an expected emotion because it is tied to something missing in our life.  Even if people have accepted the loss of material things, they are still experiencing the loss of the comfort of their daily routines.  Sadness is one of the most uncomfortable emotions we can feel.  People who experience it want it to go away quickly and people who witness in others want to make them feel happy instead of sad.  But we must be careful not to jump past sadness too quickly.  Sadness is a productive emotion because when we allow ourselves to feel it we can better figure out our next steps. It serves like a GPS, guiding us in the right direction.  When we try to fight it, we may find that it settles into hopelessness, despair and deep depression.  Being emotionally healthy means that we honor our feelings, and that includes being able to sit with uncomfortable emotions at times.  It is important to talk about your loss and sadness but so often we force a happy smile so as not to make others uncomfortable.  We fear that expression of sadness will weaken us, but the opposite is true.  If you are starting to feel the weight of sadness, it might be time to talk to a compassionate friend or get some counseling. If you are witnessing someone’s sadness, you might feel uncomfortable but just try to listen.   Feeling heard and understood helps.  Don’t try to get them off of the feeling by offering hollow platitudes.   Recognize your own discomfort, but try hard to tune into the other’s sadness and offer validation and empathy for what they are feeling in the moment.  Our tendency is say things like “It will be OK” or “I am sure God has great things in store for you” or “Count your blessings instead of your losses”.  All of those things may be true, but they are emotionally dismissive statements and don’t invite others to fully feel their emotions.  We especially do that with children because we hate when kids are sad, but the best thing we can do for a child is to help them understand that what they are feeling is normal.  What has happened warrants sadness and if they feel it, it is OK for them to express it.  With both adults and children, we need to give them permission to feel their sadness.  We need to help them understand that they don’t need to fear it, and we need to let them know that we can handle their negative emotions.  If you or a love one is struggling, area therapists are available to help.  Please check out our list of resources for flood victims.

Hurricane Harvey . . . the good, the bad and the ugly about acute stress

We have been dealing with the effects of the flood for two weeks and feelings have been all over the place. We are experiencing the good, the bad and the ugly of Acute Stress. Let’s talk about “the bad” first. In previous posts, I talked about symptoms such as anger, numbing, guilt, irritability and sadness. But the list of symptoms for acute stress is much longer, and I know personally I have experienced some of them, such as impaired memory and concentration, fatigue and insomnia. Others who were more directly affected (being rescued, loss of job, loss of home, etc.) may be experiencing other symptoms, such as confusion, intrusive thoughts/memories, helplessness, relational conflict, social withdrawal, impaired work or school performance, loss of pleasure, nightmares and a spacey feeling, which we call dissociation. These are expected symptoms, but most people are resilient, recovering within 6-16 months. And now for “the ugly” . . . More severe reactions may occur in some individuals, such as severe re-experiencing (flashbacks) of the rising flood waters or being rescued, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, severe dissociation (not feeling connected to one’s own body, amnesia), extreme avoidance or problematic substance use. If you or someone you know is experiencing severe symptoms, it is time to seek professional help as a diagnosis of PTSD may be on the horizon. So, what are the “good” things that can potentially arise from enduring this trauma? Highly stressful situations are often the impetus for our persona growth. Think of your own history and times of personal growth and you will realize that it is often tied to a painful event, like a divorce, illness or job loss. The idea is not new. Nietzsche’s famous line is “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”. Natural disasters can create what is called “post-traumatic growth”. Now I am not saying that losing everything in flood is something to embrace. It is not. But, some individuals will be profoundly changed in a positive way because of it. Post-traumatic growth is not universal, but it is also not unusual. After Hurricane Katrina, the study of post-traumatic growth took off as many people reported improvements in their life. It’s hard to say what that growth will be, but growth tends to occur in five basic areas: new opportunities, closer relationships or enhanced empathy, sense of one’s own strength, greater appreciation for life and a significant change or deepening in spiritual beliefs. Flood victims are currently feeling great suffering, yet over time some may experience growth that they cannot imagine right now. According to research, it appears that those who have not endured repeated trauma in their lifetime are more likely to experience this type of growth. As a community, I think we are experiencing a form of post-traumatic growth, and I hope it sticks. Social support and connection to our community have skyrocketed. We have abandoned the notion that political, racial, religious and socio-economic differences separate us because we are all having a common experience. We are mired in sadness about our losses, yet we have never felt so much fellowship in our community. Without this natural disaster, we would not have experienced this. The flood may be the beginning of the story, but it is not the end. There is hope. And as always, I want to close my post by reminding you that local therapists are committed to helping those who are struggling. Please see our ever-expanding Resource and Referral list on our website.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC

Hurricane Harvey . . . . survivor guilt and numbness

Some people may be wondering why they are experiencing “survivor guilt”. Some are wondering why they are feeling nothing. The short answer is both are common and expected responses after natural disasters. We are in a period of acute stress. We can’t really call it PTSD yet because not enough time has elapsed for that diagnosis. Both Acute Stress and PTSD are forms of anxiety and grief, but the more serious PTSD means you are stuck in the process. If you are feeling nothing, it is your way of coping, at least for the moment, with the tragedy we are experiencing. Sometimes when things feel too big, we shut it down and section it off as a means of protecting ourselves from the pain. It hasn’t sunk in yet. The numbness is actually somewhat productive in the early stages. Not being weighed down by heavy feelings helps us to kick it into high gear to clean out flooded houses, contact insurance companies, deal with FEMA, etc. The same is true after the death of a loved one. There is a lot to do in planning a funeral, and it is not until we are done with the busy-ness and into the daily routine of our new unwanted reality that we begin to feel. This numbness is why therapists’ offices are dead right now. The phone isn’t ringing like you might think. In about a month or two we will be full to capacity with people who are starting feel the pain and are moving through the stages of grief. Instead of feeling nothing, many of you have the unwanted feeling of survival guilt or “why was I spared when so many others are suffering?”. It is also a normal reaction and part of the acute stress process. There are different types of survivor guilt that have varying intensity and duration. For example, if you were the only person to survive a plane crash, your guilt would be much more intense. Or you would have a lot more to work through if you were somehow responsible for the tragedy, like being the driver of a car that crashed and all your passengers died. But neither of these situations apply to this natural disaster. What people are experiencing now is feeling guilty for feeling relieved that it is not them. You might be worried that you have some deficiency in your character for feeling this way. Some people also struggle with WHY they were spared. Why did the water stop right at my doorstep when my neighbor’s house was destroyed? Try to understand that you are capable of feeling two feelings at the same time. You can feel relief as well as compassion for your struggling neighbor. It’s not an either/or situation. And it is normal to not want to feel the pain we see others experiencing. We all have felt pain and loss because they are universal feelings, and we don’t want others to feel that way, so we feel guilty. I don’t know that we ever understand the WHY of such tragedies, but I do know that to cope it helps to dive in and helping others alleviate their pain. It helps us to channel our guilt into something positive. If you are struggling with survivor guilt please understand that it is a normal part of the acute stress process, but if it becomes too intense or persists too long you may need to seek professional help. When the emotional storm from Harvey hits, local therapists will be available to help, and please note that some services are free of charge. For more information, please check out the resources on our website.

Hurricane Harvey . . . . acute stress and PTSD

We are tired of dealing with the wrath of Harvey. It has been exhausting. We want our old lives back. We want to forget about what happened. But we can’t. No matter how hard we try, we can’t. Yesterday I went to the gym for the first time since the storm hit, trying to get back into normal routines. All of the TVs were showing things that made it impossible for me to put my mind elsewhere. Watching Irma swirl towards Florida sent shock waves through my body. I now know what it means to live through a devastating hurricane/flood and my heart was breaking for the people who were going to suffer. Driving around town I see shrubs covered with a grayish white film, showing where the water line was. I continue to hear helicopters and wonder what is happening, whereas in the past I would not pay attention to that sound. And when I pass by the Community Center, I no longer see a Community Center. All I see is the place where I was taking elderly women off of rescue boats, in the pouring rain, carrying them up the muddy hill, with their bag of pills, their walker and their cat in a cardboard box. And then there’s my rubber boots. Those nasty rubber boots that I wore for three days. I can’t look at them. They have been relegated to the garage, and I may have to throw them away, just like I did with the dress I wore to my mother’s funeral. Too many memories. We are all in a state of acute stress. There are painful reminders of what we are dealing with and what we have been through. People who had to be rescued have horrific memories that they will play over and over in their heads. For most of us who were not direct flood victims, we will gradually resume our normal lives, despite living with the annoying inconveniences I already talked about. Our triggers will simmer down and in time our acute stress will subside. For those whose lives have been turned upside down, there will still be many who manage just fine. I spoke with one man whose house flooded and he told me he and his wife would be fine. They both had good jobs and could afford to rebuild, even without flood insurance. He was mentally strong and had a vision of things being OK at some point in the future. But that won’t be the case for some members of our community. Some will develop full blown PTSD. They don’t have a sense that life will be OK. They are struggling, paralyzed by fear, and have no compass as to how they will move forward. Some of the people affected by the flood were not mentally strong to begin with. Many already had a mountain of problems. Some had past histories of childhood trauma that are now getting reactivated . . . they feel like trapped victims all over again. These are the people I worry about because they can’t cope with their new situation. And when we can’t cope we try to numb our feelings with substances or entertain thoughts of ending our life. It’s that painful. As we move out of our own acute stress reaction we need to be there for our most vulnerable neighbors. If you need additional support please get help. If you know or suspect that someone is struggling, please urge them to get help. Alysha Roll, has been compiling a list of resources and she has posted it on our website, and we will continue to update that list as we get new information. We, and other local therapists, are committed to helping our community recover.

Mary Beth George

Hurricane Harvey . . . feeling angry

Anyone else feeling irritated? In the last 24 hours I have felt irritated a bunch. I am irritated that my exhausted body was woken up by a panting dog afraid of thunder, and that we might get even one more drop of rain. I was cranky because traffic jams all over Kingwood caused me to be late for work. I was annoyed because my cell phone kept dropping calls. I was frustrated that do-gooders have wiped the shelves clean of packaged chips and Gatorade to feed clean-up crews, but these are two things I need to make school lunches. Yes, I know there are supplies at other stores, but I want to go to the store right by my house. I breathed a heavy sigh when I realized I can’t just run over to Bed Bath and Beyond to exchange my Soda Stream CO2 canister . . . I now have to go to The Woodlands. And then I was flooded by thoughts of all of the inconveniences I am facing because so many places I am used to going are not open for business. And I am irritated that there is no end in sight to these inconveniences. I get it, these are inconveniences and others are facing real tragedy. Not only do flood victims have these irritations, they also have full on anger. They are angry about long waits when calling FEMA, only to get an unhelpful person on the other end. They are angry at the absence of the Red Cross in Kingwood. They are feeling rage about how the SJRA handled the rapid release of water from the dam. They are pissed at themselves for not having flood insurance. They are angry in Fosters Mill for having to deal with a truly shitty situation. They feel grateful that friends and relatives took them in, but everyone is getting on their last nerve. They are miffed that volunteers threw away salvageable items. And they are disgusted with themselves for feeling needy and like a victim, two qualities they really hate. They might even have a twinge of being mad at God for doing this to them, because after all, they are good people and didn’t deserve this. Well folks, meet Stage 3 of Grief. Tensions are rising and we are losing our patience. This situation stinks. Life has given us lemons and there is no lemonade in sight, only a sour taste in our mouth. But we need to be talking about our anger, not dismissing it or pushing it aside. If you are like me, you are feeling low level anger. It’s more irritation and annoyance, but those are valid feelings given the situation. If you are trying to deny those feelings by saying things like “I have nothing to be angry about because others lost their homes and I didn’t”, you are being dismissive of your own experience. Hell yes, these things are irritating and disruptive to the life we knew before we met Harvey. You can hold two feelings at the same time. You can be grateful and irritated at the same time. Even flood victims are being dismissive of their feelings by saying things like “It’s just stuff, at least we are alive”. Yes, that’s true, but anger is the right feeling. Anger means something unjust has happened and they have a right to be angry. We all do. Anger is a normal part of the grief process. Feel it. Allow it to be there. If you don’t, down the road you will be like a soda can that was shaken, and then explodes.

Mary Beth George

Hurricane Harvey . . . feeling gratitude

Gratitude – that’s the emotion of the day. My family and my business were spared the wrath of Harvey, and while I feel grateful for that, that is not what I am referring to. I am talking about my gratitude for all of the people coming out of the woodwork to help with recovery efforts. I am blown away by people’s generosity and kindness. We are helping an elderly couple with disabilities gut their home, and for a variety of reasons this has been no easy task. And just when I think I am going to lose my shit, some angels show up ready to work. A family with 6 children stopped to offer us a cold drink, and when they saw the mess we had they redirected their efforts and put the kids to work. Another person showed up and offered to bleach/power wash the entire house. Wow! People from Hudson and Hundreds Foundation showed up and worked their asses off. I went to Kroger to get more Gatorade for our helpers and the woman ahead of me in line paid for it. A friend from College Station sent a message about an apartment being offered for free. I don’t eat gluten, so much of the food being offered I cannot eat, but someone alerted me to a group that was distributing gluten free sandwiches. My father-in-law texted and said he is sending a big fat check. My BFF in Connecticut is collecting gift cards for me to distribute. We are reaching out to local therapists to join us in offering free counseling services and many have responded with an enthusiastic “Yes”. My 17-year old came out to help for the sixth straight day without complaint. My exhausted husband who had to work at his real job this evening, spent the day helping. AND THIS WAS JUST IN ONE DAY! If this hurricane has done one positive thing, it has restored my faith in humanity. I am on my knees in gratitude. My broken heart is being held together by the kindness of others.

Mary Beth George


Couples Counseling and Psychotherapy Associates provides service to Kingwood, Humble, Atascocita, Porter, Fall Creek, Summerwood, North Houston and surrounding areas.

Couples Counseling & Psychotherapy Associates

2330 Timber Shadows Drive
Suite 106
Kingwood, Texas 77339
Ph: 281-812-7529

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