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

Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

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

OMG . . . Spirituality in the Counseling Process

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

One of the two things you are never supposed to talk about in social situations is religion (the other being politics) because as we all know, opinions differ, debates become heated and good relationships can become strained.  But what about in the  counseling process?  Can one talk about religion or spiritual issues?

Historically, the answer has been no.  Counselors have shied away from discussing
spiritual matters for fear of imposing their own values on a client.  Our professional associations have even had difficulty defining spirituality, let alone offering effective guidance in this area.

However, both counselors and clients are recognizing a need to do more exploration in this area.  In the broad sense once can think of religious faith or personal spirituality as the framework for how people make sense of the universe, a basis for their value system and their purpose on earth.  What is important is what the client believes, not the counselor.

For clients, their faith can be a source of comfort and support or it can be part of the problem.   For example, young adults often find their beliefs in conflict with their parents.  This can lead to a deep sense of guilt or anger and resentment, causing great interpersonal difficulty in the parent-child relation ship.  Sometimes clients discover they need to re-examine their beliefs and values, especially if they are in the process of divorce and their chosen religion disapproves of divorce.  Sometimes the scenarios are not so clear cut, but clients make comments like “I need to get back into going to church” or “I’m mad at God”.

Spirituality encompasses qualities such as love, compassion, respect, caring, tolerance and forgiveness.  All religions address these values, but even non-believers say these things are important.

When woven into the actions of our daily lives, living by these values help one to feel much greater life satisfaction.  What matters in seeking these “feel good” qualities is clarifying one’s beliefs and helping clients take action to be in alignment with what they believe.  Being in alignment means you are living by your personal code and there is harmony and peace in your life.  Since the goal of counseling is to feel happier and more peaceful, it is not completely possible to separate spirituality from many counseling relationships.

As a human we go through many levels of development, spirituality being one of  them.  Many of the most influential people in my profession have written about the need for spiritual growth and how it affects our outlook on life and decisions that we
make.  Many of the books we have selected in our online Bookstore intertwine spiritual issues with personal growth.  We recognize there is a wide variation of personal beliefs and we tell clients to look at the big picture of the message of the books rather than the fine print.  Applying the basic message in your belief system is what is important.

When it comes to spirituality and counseling, look at it this way . . . if you can bare your soul with your deepest, darkest secrets and most personal information, spirituality should be no exception.


Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD



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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