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Psst…Don’t Forget Something Sweet…

February 13, 2019

Pssst…. just in case you forgot… this is just a little reminder to do something sweet for your Valentine!

I have a few clients each year who say that they do not believe in Hallmark holidays, including Valentine’s Day.  Sadly, this belief is their reason for not doing something nice for their significant other on special days.  Meanwhile, their partner is usually disappointed and tells me they would like romance, especially on February 14.  Ignoring holidays that your partner would like to celebrate is destructive to the relationship, whereas planning and celebrate holidays together (including Hallmark Holidays) is one predictor for relationship success according to research!

If you are one of  the many people who thinks Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark Holiday just for retail stores to make money, I can understand your point of view, really I can!!!  But still, I urge you to consider what you can do for your Valentine regardless.  Unless your significant other adamantly feels the same way about Hallmark Holidays – you are not off the hook!   Your significant other will probably appreciate you overcoming your cynical view long enough to get them a box of chocolates or to make them a homemade card saying “Will you be my Valentine?” with some comments about what you appreciate about your life together.

The longer you have been together, the more important it is to figure out what your partner would really like this year.  Think about your sweetie.  What is their love language?  Do they like gifts?  Do they like words of appreciation? Or physical affection?

Whatever it is… go for it!  Or even better… do all of the above- some kind words, a small gift or some flowers, relieving them from a chore they hate with a sticky note that says “I love you, so I did this for you on Valentine’s Day,” a foot rub, an invitation for a date night sometime soon…

Most important, if you value your partner, then Valentine’s Day is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate this and make sure there is some romance in your day!  I know… there are 364 other days of the year that you can also be romantic.  But, doing something romantic on such a special day just might earn you some extra points with your significant other – and plus… it will give your partner another reason to brag about you to all your mutual friends and family!

I admit that I love romance and sweetness, so it’s easy for me.  If romance and expressions of love are not your first nature, I still hope you will push yourself and go out of your way to grow in your love life.  You got this!

For any additional support with your relationships, please Contact our office to request an appointment!


As I Already Said….

February 11, 2019

“As I Already Said…”

This is my famous line that I encourage all my clients to say when assertively asking for a need to be met in their relationship.

For example, let’s say you go to your partner and you say, “When you gamble some of your paycheck at the casino when we are behind on the utility bill it makes me feels scared.  I need for you to promise me you won’t gamble again until we are caught up on our bills.”  A defensive response would not be unlikely.  Your partner might come back and say, “Well, I won money anyway, what’s the big deal?”  Or they might bring up the $15 you spent on some item that they thought was unnecessary.

These are defensive responses, and in some cases some people become emotionally mean and even verbally abusive when their partner brings up a relationship complaint or concern.

On a daily basis, I hear clients discussing fears about bringing up their feelings and concerns in a relationship because they are anxious about it leading to a defensive reaction that escalates into a terrible fight.

Instead of responding to whatever deflection or defensive response your partner is giving you, try repeating yourself in a matter of fact way instead!

“As I already said, when you gamble some of your paycheck (even a very small amount) when we are behind on the utility bill it makes me feels scared.  I think I have a reasonable request for you to promise me that you won’t go to the casino again until we are caught up on our bills.”

Now, trust me when I tell you, that it is not uncommon for more defensive responses to continue if your partner has a difficult time with hearing and validating your concerns.  There are many reasons for defensive responses, however I won’t explain them for the purpose of today’s advice.  The important thing here is that you know how to react.  Let’s say that your partner comes back with yet another defense.  “You know that I am supposed to get a bonus next month and that I will likely be able to pay off the bill then.  I just want to have a little fun in the meantime.  You worry too much!”

Your persistent response should be easy to remember!  What is it?  That’s right.

“As I already said, when you gamble any amount of your paycheck when we are behind on the utility bill instead of saving that money to pay the bill it makes me feel scared.  I need for you to agree that you won’t gamble again until all our bills are caught up.”

Let’s say you have to say “As I already said” for a fourth time.  In this case, you might say something like “Honey, you can’t argue with my feelings or my request.  As I already said, I feel scared when you gamble money when we are behind on our bills.  I am asking you to promise me that you will not gamble again until we are all caught up.”

Do you see how this is persistent?  It shows that you value yourself and that you believe in the reasonable request that you are asking for.  It also keeps your partner from being able to change the topic to something else, such us how you spent $15 on shampoo that your partner thought was too expensive because you could have purchased it for $11.99.  Before you know it, you can be talking about all kinds of problems and things completely unrelated to your initial concern.  Instead of going down this path, no matter how much your partner tries to control the conversation or tries to tell you how you should feel, this strategy is a simple way to stay persistent in the face of defensiveness.  Some therapists consider regular defensiveness as emotionally abusive.  In some relationships, defensiveness escalates into name-calling, cursing, and other verbal abuse.  Dr. Patricia Evans in her book “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” encourages people to use this approach.  I read about this strategy over ten years ago.  I have found it to be very useful for many of my clients, and I recommend it for you.  Some clients who have consistently used this approach have reduced control and defensiveness in their relationships.

If you need support and assistance because you are struggling with any kind of relationship communication.  Please schedule your first appointment with a Relationship Repair Associate by going to

Here’s What You Should Do…

February 8, 2019

“Here’s what you should do….” is something I hear people say all the time.  I am extremely sensitive to these words because “You Should” and “You Need To” and other similar phrases are commands.  Commands sound controlling to other people, and people generally do not like to be controlled in their personal and workplace relationships.

There are a few exceptions to this, such as the military and some other settings in which commands are expected, respected, and required!

A moment of self-disclosure here… I really do not like it when someone speaks with the phrase “You need to.”  When I was younger and practicing my assertiveness, I would often respond to people in my personal life by saying “I don’t need to do anything, however I will consider what you are saying as a request.”  (This may have shocked people, however I think my husband eventually got used to it)!

In particular, women are very sensitive to these words (me included), and I see female partners bristle up in therapy sessions when their significant other use these kind of phrases.  I often stop the communication and teach people to use collaborative less dominant language, including phrases such as:

  • “I would suggest that you….”
  • “It would mean a lot to me if you were to….”
  • “I would like to request that you consider doing….”

This being said, you might be surprised to know that I am mellowing out now that I am of middle age.  I have observed that men talk to other men with control language all the time, so I think I hear it in a less sensitive way now.

Have you noticed that dudes will often say to each other, “Here’s what you need to do.”  They give each other advice in a friendly way and no one gets too offended.  Since men are socialized to communicate using control language as a way to appear confident, strong, and masculine – is it really fair for me to feel like someone is trying to dominate?

I recently had a session with a couple in therapy where we were discussing this exact problem (among others… as you can imagine).  The wife feels that her husband is telling her what to do, and he just sees it as giving her a suggestion – not a command!  Upon exploring this further and having known this couple for awhile, this was not a man who generally dominates his wife or controls the relationship in an unhealthy way.

My solution was to encourage the husband to try to remember to soften his language and be more collaborative with his wife.  However, I also suggested that the wife try to hear the words “Here’s what you need to do” as advice.  Given that the words “you need to” are coming from her husband with his male brain, she agreed to try to translate the words into a suggestion in her female brain.

Now we are getting into Mars and Venus gender differences here. LOL.

However, it is still my opinion that it is best to communicate with other people in a non-controlling way.  You never know which people, coworkers, friends, or neighbors might not hear the control language as a suggestion and become offended.   If you want to build relationships, I would suggest that you not take this risk!!!

So, this is my advice for today, “I would suggest you consider taking the words ‘Here’s what you need to do’ out of your vocabulary, but since I don’t want to control, whether you want to take my suggestion is completely up to you!”

If you need any support or assistance communicating in new ways with your partner or other important people in your life, please Contact my office for support and strategies!



For Therapists Only, Are You Looking to Grow Your Career???

January 24, 2019

Dr. Stephanie is bringing on a new PT therapist to work weekend hours at her Laurel location. You will also learn how to have your own private practice, and be able to open up your own Relationship Repair Shop Location! Please send your resume to

This Monday she is also teaching a class for Continuing Education Units that will improve your therapy skills and improve your personal mindset!

“Therapy Disruption: 6 Strategies for Helping to Promote Change and Mindset Breakthroughs in Our Clients”

Register Now!

Doc, I can’t SLEEP!!!

January 23, 2019

One of the most common complaints I hear at the start of any kind of therapy or coaching is difficulty sleeping.

Believe it or not, only one or two sessions can fix this problem in some cases.

Here’s why:

1) One reason that people can’t sleep is that they are feeling confused – so the brain stays awake trying to problem solve and process emotions related to a particular problem (or problems). When a patient has clarity instead of confusion, with a plan of action and someone to help guide them with their plan, then ta-da the sleep improves. Make sense?

2) A second reason for sleep problems is one or more traumatic episodes that are unresolved. In this situation, I almost always use a treatment called EMDR therapy because it almost always works! I recently did an EMDR session with a client who had not been able to sleep for several months following a very traumatic incident. She literally was barely surviving on only a couple of hours of sleep per day. After one EMDR session, she said she went home and slept for 8 hours! One more session later, she reported she is regularly sleeping 6-7 hours per night now.

3) Depression is another reason for sleep concerns, and research shows that only 3-5 sessions of psychotherapy will usually reduce depression symptoms including insomnia. It may seem like, “How could a few hours of talking to someone really reduce my depression?” Well, in many cases depression partially stems from feelings of helplessness. When you “seek help” and “receive help” in the form of getting support, guidance, and talking about all that stuff circling around up in your head with another human being – it can reduce some of the feelings of helplessness and thereby diminish depression.

4) Relationship problems are another primary reason that people complain about sleep problems, especially conflict. But what if conflict is repaired and resolved? Well, that is another way that a few sessions of therapy can improve sleep.

When I can’t sleep, it is always a sign to me that I have to make a change in my life. I either make a decision by the end of my sleepless night about what I need to change and take action the next day. Taking action stops the helpless feeling…. Or, if I am not able to make a decision or figure out what to do then I seek a mentor, friend, or professional to get guidance from as soon as possible. I am not saying this works for everyone, but in most cases this is a recipe for sleep the next night!

Do you need better sleep? We are here to help. You can schedule an appointment with one or our Relationship Repair Associate anytime at Online Scheduling Link

Don’t set your marriage up for failure! Why Premarital Counseling is a MUST!

January 14, 2019

By: Tyra Berger, MSMFT, LGPC, NCC

You meet the love of your life, you date, you fall in love, you are infatuated with each other, spending most of your time together, not wanting to ever be apart. Dinners, sweet gestures and so much PDA you make others around you gag! 🙂 Love. Then, after a year or so, after the honeymoon phase has eased a bit, you start to really begin to know each other, your disagreements may become less easy to resolve, some of the things you loved about your love now get on your last nerve; pet peeves! You begin to notice differences in your personality that you may not be that fond of, but you are still in love! You get through another year of growing in love all while still discovering your differences, and you might even decide to move in together. With that step you learn even more! He leaves the toilet seat up, she is messy, he doesn’t pick up after himself, she leaves the cap off the toothpaste, he snores, she’s a cover hog…. oh, the horror of it all! Ha! All annoying…. but! You’re still in Love. In love enough to want to move on to the next step! Becoming engaged to be married! Love. It was a lovely proposal. Candles and flower petals, she was surprised and excited, she said yes, he shed a tear…now you have a wedding to plan! Venues have to be booked, caterers, florist, the cake, the dress, etc. All to celebrate the love and the coming together of two people who will spend the rest of their lives together…marriage. Let me say that again… THE REST OF THEIR LIVES TOGETHER… MARRIAGE! I don’t point that out to scare, but to accentuate the magnitude of what that means. Love. Marriage. In all the preparation you do for a wedding and to be together forever, there is another HUGE part of preparing for a wedding, a marriage, and helping to ensure that your marriage will last…. Premarital Counseling.

I encourage Premarital Counseling 100%. Premarital Counseling helps set your marriage up for success. If you are preparing to get married and have not considered Premarital Counseling, I beg you, please reconsider!

Here’s 5 reasons why:

  1. Studies shows a 31% higher marital success rate for couples who did participate in Premarital Counseling than those who didn’t. That’s huge! Give yourselves this chance!
  2. You learn more about your differences, face them and agree on how to handle them before you are faced with them in a negative way once you do get married.
  3. Learn what your growth areas are (areas you need to work on) and what your strengths are so that you can use them and continue to build on them.
  4. Learn new things about each other; things that don’t come up in normal conversations, like hurtful experiences, sex and expectations. Deal with them and find resolution to them before you wed.
  5. Again…prevent divorce! Premarital Counseling will make your relationship stronger, provide a framework for a healthy relationship and empower you with tools and skills necessary to communicate effectively and navigate conflicts.

So…now you know. Premarital Counseling works. Set your marriage up to succeed. I specialize in couples counseling and Premarital Counseling and am a certified facilitator of the #1 Premarital Counseling assessment program, Prepare-Enrich used to help strengthen relationships.

For more information or to schedule an appointment for Premarital Counseling visit my website: or visit

Parenting Class This Friday!!!

January 14, 2019

Our Relationship Repair Associate Terrie Tyrie is leading a local parent workshop in Ellicott City this Friday!!!

Please plan to join us for dinner at 6:30. At 7:15 Club SciKidz will be leading a super fun activity for the children, and parents are invited to join Terrie Tyrie, LCPC, who will lead a parent session on how to talk with children about instilling healthy habits at every phase of development, toddler through teenager.

Friday Family Fun events are free, but so that we can be best prepared, we would love for you to let us know if you’ll be joining us. Please register HERE


January 11, 2019


At least once a week, I hear a new client say “This is just who I am.  This is who I have always been.  I cannot change who I am.”

Usually this is a defensive response to their partner who is asking for a change important to making the relationship successful.  It sounds pretty hopeless doesn’t it???

First of all, saying “This is just who I am.  Stop trying to change me” is a guilt trip because the words insist that the partner asking for change is somehow asking for way too much.  It suggests the idea that, “you should feel bad for being so unreasonable.”  You should feel guilty for asking me to change something that is such a part of me.

Second of all, saying “This is just who I am.  I cannot change” suggests that there is so much permanency to the behavior or the habit or the trait that it is completely unchangeable.  Whether intentional or not, this is a mental tactic that suggests to one’s partner or family member that there is no room for flexibility, negotiation, reconciliation, solutions or improvement.  The partner asking for change may as well just accept that change is not possible.  They should accept feeling hopeless and helpless about a behavior and accept that the problematic behavior is a permanent problem never to be repaired (*note that mental helplessness creates symptoms of depression and anxiety).

If your partner or a family member is saying this to you, this could be a mentally abusive and controlling response.  If you are seeking systemic change in your relationship, do not accept this response.  For example, I recently had a husband telling his wife that he cannot stop touching women because this is just who he is.  She perceives he is inappropriate with women and even though he is a married man, she should accept it.  I have had wives tell their husbands they cannot ever learn to initiate sex because that is just who they are.

In most cases, the “This is just who I am” defense is just a bunch of BS.  Even if someone has a deeply ingrained personality trait that causes their behavior, people can still learn to adjust and change habits that are causing pain or neglect to their loved one.

Of course, we do need to make attempts to accept certain aspects of our loved one’s personality.  However, this does not mean that behavioral changes are completely out of the question!  For example, your partner might be spontaneous and not big on planning things.  However, this does not mean they cannot learn to put a date night on the calendar every two weeks to make sure your relationship is prioritized… instead of spontaneously ending up going out with coworkers.  Or your significant other might be very focused on care taking for the children because their personality is very protective, however this does not mean they cannot learn to be flexible enough to sometimes take time away from parenting to make vacation plans with you!

In fact, research shows that mentally healthy people work towards being less extreme regarding their personality traits.  People who are extreme extroverts benefit from learning to sometimes be alone or to have quiet time at home with their family.  Likewise, people who are extreme introverts benefit from learning to get out in a crowd and make friends!

The bottom line is this.  If your partner or child or parent is saying “This Is Just Who I Am” don’t buy into it!!!  Be persistent.  Insist that this is not true, everyone can learn to make changes.  If the behavior is a deal breaker for your relationship, put pressure on the relationship for change instead of accepting the BS.

If you are the one saying “This Is Just Who I Am,” then you should reconsider.  This is a defensive response, and your defensiveness and inflexibility is a predictor for relationship failure.   Even if the other person stays in relationship with you, they are still likely to withdraw.  You will never know how close or happy you could have been together unless you are willing to make adjustments and be influenced by one another.

You can do this.  Creating change in your relationship is hard work, however I wish you the best in overcoming hopelessness.  No guilt trips. No BS allowed!  For some additional guidance, schedule an appointment with myself or an associate at

All Heart,

Dr. Stephanie


Is Your RRC In Tip-Top-Shape?

January 10, 2019

A lot of people are confused about how to create an amazing relationship!  They try all kinds of different things including things such as giving a small gift or engaging in a kind gesture.  However, no matter how great people are as a parent, a lover, a partner, a coworker, or a friend…. there are still some factors that can cause Relationship Failure according to research!

For example, defensiveness is one of the top predictors for Relationship Failure and Dissatisfaction.  If you have not heard of this metaphor before, just imagine that there is a Customer Service Counter for your relationship.  Imagine that your partner comes to you with a concern and instead of listening and helping to find a solution, you get defensive…

Many people have no problem imagining this because defensiveness happens in their relationships every day.  In a customer-business relationship this causes trust to break and loyalty decreases.  Depending upon the importance of the business relationship, the customer might even become angry and contemptuous.

However, defensiveness can be fixed with an important mindset shift.  If you get defensive when your partner brings up complaints or concerns, you must change your mindset in order to improve your relationship in 2019!

Instead, think about how an excellent customer service person responds and open up what I call your “Relationship Repair Counter (RRC).”   To keep your RRC in tip-top shape, you then need to follow certain steps such us telling the person who is bringing up a complaint that they are important to you and you value them.  Of course, then you should listen and validate  them before asking the ever-important question, “How can I resolve this for you?”  or “How can I make this up to you?”

I always say that having a RRC in tip-top-shape is the “easiest hardest thing you will ever do in your relationships.”  It sounds easy and it makes sense to a lot of people.  In the moment, when someone you have a relationship with brings a complaint to you about your behavior or personality it is not easy.  Having an RRC takes work!!! However, non-defensiveness is one of the most important predictors for you having a successful life and happy relationships with the people whom you live and work with.

Almost everyone needs some help and tweaking with how to apply these concepts in their life.  If having a RRC in tip-top-shape is something you need to discuss, please Contact Us to meet with one of our Relationship Repair Experts!!!

What Is Your Decision?

January 9, 2019

Decisions.  Decisions.  Decisions.

Even making small decisions such as what to do on Saturday night or what kind of Pizza to buy can cause some couples a big problem.  Some couples describe that decisions are painful because neither person is decisive whereas other couples can get into major power battles because both partners want to be the General!

I always ask couples about their patterns for how conflict gets started.  It’s usually either the complaint resolution process or the decision making process that trips people up.  If you and your significant other sometimes have a disagreement that escalates into conflict during the decision making process, then I have some ideas for you.

Here is the process that I recommend for a decision that has two possible outcomes.  For example, you might have to decide “do we move to a new house or do we stay in our current house?”  Or, “do we start our child in kindergarten this year or next year?”

Most of the time, when there is conflict it is because one partner discusses all the reasons to do one of the options and the other person camps out in the alternative viewpoint.

In these types of decisions, do this:

  1. Promise one another that you will listen to each other’s thoughts and feelings about each possible option with the intention of being influenced by your partner.  Not with the intention to only think about your own viewpoint.
  2. Each partner should talk about all the pros and cons of one of the options.   (*Notice it helps to hear your partner discuss possible pros and cons, making them appear more reasonable and not having already made up their mind without hearing what your ideas are).
  3. Then each partner should discuss all of the pros and cons they see for the second alternative option.
  4. Next, each partner should discuss which decision they are leaning towards and why.  The other person listens and shows respect for their partner’s thoughts and opinions.
  5. Each partner should now say how important this decision is to them on a scale of 1 to 10.  Sometimes, if it is difficult to make a decision, partners might take turns deferring to their partner’s leaning if the decision is about something very important to their partner but less important to them.
  6. Now, if you don’t have to make a decision right away then set a date in the future when you will come back to discuss further.  Agree that in the meanwhile you will think about and consider the other person’s viewpoints and thoughts.
  7. Finally, meet up a few days later after having time to think about the decision.  See if you can agree on what the final decision should be.  Keep in mind that you might sometimes defer to what your significant other thinks the better decision is, with the understanding that sometimes they might defer to you on a decision that is very important to you…

In a future blog post, I will review how to make a decision about something that has many possible outcomes.

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