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

Archive for the ‘Personal growth’ Category

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

Monday, September 11th, 2017

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

Making Life Dreams Come True for Both You and Your Loved Ones

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

My son will be starting high school next year and he must select an area of emphasis to guide him in course selection, such as Law Enforcement or Science and Technology.   His initial reaction was to choose a path that matched his aptitude, not necessarily his passion.

This has generated plenty of discussion around the dinner table.  My husband and I shared how neither one of us followed our intuition or passion and initially wound up in unfulfilling jobs.

One of my favorite authors, Wayne Dyer, often says “Don’t die with your music still inside you.”.  In his latest book I Can See Clearly Now, he details the twists and turns his life took and how he always followed his intuition and passion to create a life of purpose and fulfillment.

We all have music inside us and we all have dreams.  Careers should be full of passion, not just paychecks.  But passions also arise in many other areas, such as travel, adventures, sports, creative outlets . . . there is no limit when it comes to passion and dreams.  These are not just bucket-list items to be checked off, but things we feel called to do in our lifetime.

As I reflected on how I arrived in a career that I love, I felt a debt of gratitude for my husband.  He has supported me along the way in more ways that I can count.  And I have done the same for him.

In Gottman Method Couples Therapy, making life dreams come true is at the top of the Sound Relationship House because it is one of the necessary ingredients inSound house relationships that work.  In fact, Gottman believes it is the most important thing.

Initially I was surprised by this statement, but as I now reflect on it, I can see from personal experience that when partners support each others dreams it generates many positive feelings.  We feel heard and supported in our relationship, cherished by our partner and happier in our life.  And I believe the same is true for our children too.

My son’s music is just now emerging, literally.  While he may have an aptitude for math, his passion is creating music.  The teen years are full of inspiration and dreams, and how he navigates his adolescence will have a tremendous impact on the rest of his life.  Helping him to feel safe to explore his dreams and to feel the supported is one of the best gifts I can give him.

It’s my way of paying it forward.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC

Certified Gottman Therapist


(281) 812-7529

Houston (Kingwood), TX


“We Need Couples Counseling and My Partner Won’t Go” – 5 Strategies to Try

Friday, September 13th, 2013

We are on the brink of divorce and I can’t get my husband (or wife, or life partner) to go to marriage counseling?  What can I do?

Believe it or not, distressed couples wait an average of SIX years before seeking the help of a marriage counselor.  Unaware of the slow erosion that is taking place, they don’t notice the Four Horsemen of the Apocalyse have set up camp in their home.  Oh, they may know they have some degree of unhappiness, but they keep waiting for the other person to change to get the relationship back on track.

When the fog begins to lift and one partner accepts that the relationship simply is not working, they have an AHA moment and begin googling couples counselors.  Finding a few names they are sure their partner will want to dispel their pain with the help of an experienced therapist.  When they are met with There’s no way in hell I am airing our dirty laundry in front of a therapist.  I had a previous bad experience in counseling and I don’t believe in therapy, a sense of panic sets in.

If your partner is resistant to therapy, all hope is not gone yet.  Try the following:

  1. Stop making your partners flaws the main reason you need counseling.  Take ownership over your feelings and say things like I am so sad that we have become so distant.  I miss who we used to be as a couple.  Please go to counseling with me so we can get our happiness back.
  2. Ask your partner to go to ONE session.  Many times resistant partners will relax with an experienced therapist and agree to join in the process.
  3. If your partner is using the cost of counseling as a reason to not go, check with your insurance company.  Many plans cover marriage/family counseling.  It is possible that you have this as a covered benefit and will only have to pay a copay.  Or your employer may offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and you can get a few free sessions.  Check with your Human Resources Department.
  4. Consider a couples workshop or marriage retreat, like The Art & Science of Love.  This Gottman Method workshop is ideal for resistant partners because itimage004 (2013_06_02 20_47_53 UTC) is not therapy, although the effects are like having six months of couples’ therapy.  The workshop is educational, research based and there is no public disclosure.
  5. Go to counseling on your own.  While nothing replaces the dynamic setting of couples counseling where both partners are working on issues, individual counseling may be of some benefit.  You will have a safe environment to explore your feelings.  If you are truly willing to work on the relationship, you will begin to take ownership over how your behavior has contributed to negative patterns.  A word of caution though, individual counseling that is just used for venting or trashing your partner will not be effective, and in fact, can be harmful to the relationship.

If after trying these things and your partner is still unwilling to get help, you might be faced with the fact they are unwilling to work on the relationship.  Not only are they avoiding the therapist’s couch, they are avoiding working on it in any form or fashion.  This can be a painful realization and you may want to seek individual counseling.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist

How Building a Sense of Community Enhances Relationships

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Relationships can be enhanced in myriad ways, one of which is building a sense of community.  When couples, families or work groups come together to participate in their community, positive feelings abound.  A sense of community gives us a feeling of belonging and that what we do matters to others.

When two or more people in relationship work towards something meaningful in their community, whether it is for the benefit of a school, civic organization or by volunteering, they share an emotional connection.  Not only do they feel positive about their good-deed-doing, there is a sense of reward for their efforts and a deepening of their roots in the community.  By socializing within the community and working with others towards a common goal, couples, families and groups can feel more closely connected.

DSCN0937On the Fourth of July Couples Counseling and Psychotherapy Associates built a sense of community by participating in the Kingwood Civic Club annual parade.  Our families joined in the fun by helping in various ways.  Not only did we feel more closely connected as a group, but we got to meet many other parade participants, deepening our roots in Kingwood.  We distributed stress balls(of course we did, we are therapists), magnets, candy for the wee ones and a special discount for our upcoming Art & Science of Love Weekend Workshop.  We shook hands and waved and felt the warmth of our community.

On a more personal note, my family and I build a sense of community by volunteering at  Greyhound Pets of America.  A few Saturdays a month we head into Houston to work with greyhounds that are former athletes or surrendered pets, all waiting for a loving home.  Admittedly, I am the dog lover in our home, but my family gladly joins in because it feels good to help.  We follow this community building activity with another ritual . . . going out for brunch afterwards.  When it is all said and done we feel closer and it sets the tone for a great day.

When we work with couples who are struggling, one of the things we assess is how they build a sense of community (Gottman 19 Area Checklist).  Working together towards something you both believe in can be a great way to add some much needed connection.  For example, my husband and I recently volunteered to work together on creating an athletic booster club at my son’s school.  This simple activity has generated great conversation and we feel united in our efforts.  In addition to dates and working on better conflict management, think outside the box when trying to enhance your relationship.

How are you doing on building a sense of community in your relationships?

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC

Certified Gottman Therapist




Paying It Forward

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

On Thanksgiving morning my family and I enjoyed a walk with our dogs before getting down to the serious business of cooking and football watching.

As we returned to our street my husband found a dollar bill in front of our house.  My sister called out that she saw another . . . and another . . .  and another.  Of course then we all began looking and $17 dollars later we wondered what was going on, thinking a child must have lost their money.  Checking with the neighbors and not finding the rightful owner, this was turning into a mystery on our quiet cul-de-sac, but I set aside the cash to deal with other pressing Turkey Day activities.

Black Friday rolled around and my sister, friend and I made our annual pilgrimage to the mall.  After a few hours of battling the crowd we headed to our favorite watering hole for bite to eat and a cocktail.  Without a reservation we had to sit at the bar, but we didn’t mind since visiting this establishment has become part of our annual tradition.  After the second bite into our burgers the bartender said she needed to slide us down a few seats to make room for another party.  Her abruptness in moving our food out from under us caught us off guard and we were a bit irritated, and had no choice but to comply.

The new party saddled up to the bar and placed their orders while we noshed and sipped, recovering quickly from our game of musical chairs.  When the bartender placed the check in front of us the man in the party that displaced us called out that he appreciated what we did and was picking up our tab.  Instantly we felt guilty for the irritation we felt and found ourselves giving thanks to him for his generosity.  After chatting with him for a few minutes it was clear that money was not an issue for him and he simply asked us to do something nice for someone in return.

Paying it forward is an age old concept of the beneficiary of a good deed paying it back to someone other than the original benefactor.

Several years ago Oprah had a Pay It Forward challenge where she gave audience members $1000 and a camcorder to capture them doing good deeds.  The stories that came out of those acts of generosity were incredibly touching.   Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote a novel that was turned in to the “feel good” movie Pay It Forward, starring Haley Joel Osment and Kevin Spacey.  Spacey, a teacher of 11 year old Osment, instructs the class to come up with an idea that would change the world.  Osment’s character comes up with the idea that for every good deed bestowed upon you, do three good deeds for someone else that they could not accomplish  themselves.

Indeed that sort of generosity would change the world.

By having money serendipitously thrown at me in all directions on this holiday of Thanks and Giving, I now am charged with how to pay it forward.  My son and I have already begun giving the one dollar bills away.  By carefully placing them in locations where people are sure to find them (napkin dispensers at restaurants, toilet paper rolls in restrooms etc), we are having great fun imagining the surprise on people’s faces when they discover their bounty.  Because of the gratefulness and generosity of the stranger at the bar, we are now looking for opportunities to be grateful and generous.  What a perfect start to the holiday season.

So why do I bring up this tale of gratefulness and generosity on a blog about mental well-being and healthy relationships?  Simply put, these are some of the basic ingredients for emotional balance and happiness.  Studies done of the expression of gratitude on a routine basis have shown that focusing on the positive things in life correlates with a higher level of psychological and physical well-being.

In Gottman Couple’s Therapy™ we teach couples the importance of giving appreciation, rather than allowing resentment and contempt to build in a relationship.  Being appreciative for what we have, rather than focusing on what we don’t have, can go a long way in charging your emotional battery in any relationship.

Acts of kindness help us to feel more connected to others and a feeling of connection is important for our happiness.  By being generous we are more aware of the good in our lives and we develop compassion for others.  Being generous can make one feel better about oneself (unless they have an ulterior motive to gain something in return) and raise their self-esteem.  No matter how you slice it or dice it, generosity and gratitude lead to improved well-being.

So if you are out and about this weekend and happen to find some money, consider that it may not be lost but a gift to be paid forward.  And when you do, see how it affects your mood and well-being.


Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

6 Step Recovery Plan for Betrayal

Friday, November 16th, 2012


Even if you have never been in a relationship that involved an affair, the word itself invokes a deep feeling of betrayal in most people.  Being betrayed is a universal human experience, so on some level the Petraeus story resonates with all of us.  We all know what it’s like to have a knife jammed in our back, to feel the deep wounds of broken trust, to be blindsided and victimized by someone we thought we knew.

Betrayals come in all shapes and sizes, but the deeper the love bond, the deeper the wound of betrayal.  We often think of an affair as the only form of betrayal in intimate relationships, but according to Dr. John Gottman, breaches of trust occur in many disguises.  Can you trust your partner to listen to you when you are upset or anxious?  Can you trust that your partner will place a priority on your relationship, above his mother, friends, work?  Can you trust that your partner won’t abuse alcohol or drugs?  Can you trust that your partner is an involved parent?

But trust is not only important for love relationships.  We want to feel a sense of trust in schools, the workplace, our cities and nations.  A few months ago I experienced one such betrayal that left my head spinning.   Not only did I feel the weight of the injustice that was thrust upon me, I felt the negative feelings that follow any betrayal . . . anger, blame, self-pity and desire for revenge.   At the same time I had a strong desire to move towards forgiveness, because I knew that harboring that mountain of resentment was getting in my way of healing.  To add salt to my already festering wound, my seemingly guilt-free betrayer was happily moving forward, dismissing all of my feelings.

It was at this point that I knew I needed a survival plan.  No, not a survival plan, but a plan to thrive.   Here’s my six-step betrayal recovery plan:

  1. Allow yourself to fully feel your feelings.  You have been violated and trying to jump to forgiveness too soon won’t work.  Betrayal usually equates to loss of some sort.  No matter how scared you are of moving in a new direction, do not try to bypass the stages of grief.
  2. Find a healthy level of detachment from the situation.  If you need space from your betrayer, take it.  If you need self-soothing, do it.  Now more than ever you need to take care of yourself.
  3. Do not be more of a victim than you need to be.  Of course that other person wronged you in unimaginable ways, but identifying too much with your Poor Pitiful Pearl story will keep you stuck in your pain.
  4. Be careful who you talk to about your betrayal.  Some people will dismiss your feelings and side with the enemy, so they are not good confidants.  But neither are people who encourage you to wallow in your pain.  Finding a therapist may be your best option if your family and friends are favoring one side or another.
  5. Do not idealize the past.  Accept that there were troubles in that relationship.  Betrayals often arise because of conflict avoidance, meaning the betrayer (and possibly the betrayed) was having deep feelings they were not sharing.  This emotional distance is anything but ideal.
  6. Channel the energy of your painful feelings into self-growth.  Time does not heal all wounds, so don’t take a passive approach to healing.  While you are not responsible in any way, shape or form for the betrayal that occurred, you might be able to see how you participated in the damaged relationship that lead up to that event.  Work on becoming a better, stronger, more empowered version of you.  Create a better future for yourself, whether it is with or without your betrayer.

As the knife wounds start to scab over you may be vacillating between negative and positive feelings.  One minute you may feel better about the situation, the next you may get great joy out of envisioning bad things happening to your betrayer.  This is normal on the road to recovery.  While living through betrayal is a terrible feeling, try not to look backwards, as that is not the direction you are going.  You can choose to inch (or run) towards empowerment and then, and only then, will you feel healed and truly ready to forgive.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC

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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