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Will You Accept Vanilla?

October 21, 2019

Unhealthy control can manifest itself in different ways, however in some cases it can be when a parent or spouse or a friend simply will not listen to you.

Some people are so controlling of other people that they will say things such as, “you shouldn’t feel that way” when someone says they are sad.  Or when someone orders coffee, they will say “Why would you like a vanilla latte?  Vanilla is so boring; you should get chocolate.”

No. No. No.

We are all different and if someone in your life likes vanilla, they are not boring.  They are unique and they happen to think vanilla is a wonderful flavor.  Accept it.  Buy them more vanilla.

A common hurt that people discuss in therapy is the following: “I feel like he or she doesn’t really know who I am, what I like, what I don’t like, how I feel, what my opinions are.  When I try to say what I would like he or she don’t listen.”  This leads to feelings of helplessness and frustration because we all want our parents, our spouse, our friends to listen and take notice!

Patricia Evans talks about this in her book, Controlling People, which I recommend.  (I am an Amazon affiliate and money from books that I promote in my blogs helps to cover my time writing blog posts and content that can be helpful to my clients and followers)

For example, a bride and groom are telling their parents during wedding planning what kind of ceremony they envision.  But one of the parents just won’t have it.  The parent wants to control the wedding plans instead of listening and really getting to know their child’s likes and dislikes.  While the parents should have an influence with wedding planning, they also shouldn’t completely disregard their child’s feelings and wishes.  Rather the child’s feeling and wishes should be front and central.

This can be challenging for all of us.  Believe me, there are times when my first reaction is that it seems to me that someone in my family should want to make a different choice.  Ironically, it’s usually the choice that I think I would make for myself.  LOL.  We all have the tendency to think our perspective is the best one!

But when it comes to relationships, if you put control onto other people then you are ultimately creating distance in your relationship instead of creating love and intimacy.  You are likely creating power battles instead of acceptance and respect.

Intimacy includes really knowing and celebrating the preferences, needs, likes, dislikes, opinions, and feelings of other people.

I urge you to stop telling other people what they should think, like, or feel because they are likely to stop telling you their innermost thoughts and feelings!  You are blocking intimacy.

Instead focus on really accepting what people are telling you they are thinking or feeling.  This will build your relationship closeness.

If you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t accept you, causing you to feel helpless, we hope you will seek support regarding how to change your relationship patterns.  Or if you recognize yourself in these words and want to learn to no longer control the people whom you love, please reach out to one of our Relationship Repair Associates today.

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Support Group

October 11, 2019

We are co-facilitating a Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Support Group at Capital Women’s Care in Maple Lawn.  It will be on Mondays at 7:30 pm beginning on November 4, 2019.  The group is a nonjudgmental therapeutic support group for Mothers with children 2 and under.

Any mother who is struggling with stress, sadness, or adjusting to the needs of her new baby and family are welcome to attend – there is no need to have a formal diagnosis of postpartum depression or anxiety.

Registration is required in advance of group attendance to best prepare for the needs of all group members.

Supporting new mothers in our community is so important and we are excited to offer this group with the partnership of Capital Women’s Care and Postpartum Support International.

The group will be co-facilitated by Jennifer Riley, the Postpartum Depression Coordinator for Howard County and Dr. Stephanie Weiland Knarr, Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist.


We are hiring new therapist employees for Howard County and Upper Marlboro locations

October 10, 2019

We are looking for a new full time or part time therapist (LGMFT, LGPC, LCMFT, or LCPC) at our Howard County and Upper Marlboro locations.  All therapists are being hired as employees.  Guaranteed pay is available while therapist is building a caseload.

We have a group private practice model with incentives and commission pay for working efficiently and effectively with clients.

This opportunity is time limited as we are looking to hire a therapist within two weeks, so please Apply right away if you are interested.

What Mental Health Awareness Week Means To Me

October 8, 2019

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week.  Here’s what that means to me…

As a society, we have become more knowledgeable and accepting in recent years that people struggle with mental health concerns … Diagnosis such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, adjustment disorder, eating disorders, PTSD, autism, ADHD, and many more.  Most of us are more aware that one in five Americans at any given time is suffering from a mental health problem.

I have noticed that it has become far more common now to hear men and women, teens, and people of all ethnic backgrounds to talk about seeing their therapist.  I really didn’t hear this as much back when I started my career in 1999.

However, as my clients have complained about… we still have a long way to go before we treat mental health problems the same as physical health problems.

The source of many mental health problems is relationship problems, family problems, and spiritual emptiness which is why Relationship Repair is so essential, even if we are just Repairing our Relationship with Self!

I know all too well about the stigma.  When I post anything on social media about anything to do with marriage therapy, my business, or anything related – it barely gets any likes.  But if I post a video, I sometimes will get over 100 views but less than 5 likes, comments, or engagement.  No one wants anyone else to know they liked a therapist’s post, but they will watch the video to hear my ideas and advice.

I understand the stigma is still real.   I have been through a couple of depressive episodes in my life due to life’s challenges … and it’s not like I ran around openly telling everyone about my ailment the way I did when I have had a sprained ankle.  But then again, a sprained ankle is so much more obvious.  Which is the point, right?

This post is my part in encouraging everyone to really let this truth sink in… “People with a mental health diagnosis need acceptance, support, treatment, and interventions just the same as humans with physical health problems.”

Just today, one of my associates was telling me how much she wants to help a youth who came to only two therapy sessions.  He then stopped his appointments because family members discouraged him from continuing treatment.   His family’s opinion is that he does not need therapy or treatment despite a recent suicide attempt and being in the highest risk category for succeeding in a future attempt.

This is only one example of how mental health diagnosis and treatment are sometimes not taken seriously enough!

My clients have more difficulty getting the support of work supervisors for time off work due to a need for mental health treatment.  Whereas supervisors are much more understanding for the need to go to the primary care physician or the physical therapist.

These struggles for people to have more treatment and support when they are suffering from various mental health concerns come at a time when the anxiety and stress of many Americans is at an all-time high.

As I see it your brain is a part of your body and we all have problems.  Every. Single. One. Of. Us. If only we all could trust each other to be able to talk about those problems more openly in a Judgment Free Zone.  I know that’s not realistic but still… I can dream about it!

If you have been putting off therapy intervention but know that you need it – please Reach Out to a Relationship Repair Associate right away for an appointment in a Judgment Free Safe Zone. I sincerely hope you won’t let stigmas and societal confusion about mental health keep you from living your best life…

P.S. If you have tried previous therapies and did not get the right treatment, you can schedule a consultation with me to review what treatments you have tried.  I will help you problem solve what might be able to finally get you the relief from symptoms.  I want you to have a happy, productive life within your budget and schedule.

Who is Your #1???

October 7, 2019

Today, I was working with a client who really regrets putting his parents as a priority over his wife for the first years of their relationship.  He is now doing a lot of repair work on his marriage and learning how to set healthy boundaries with his parents.

When someone puts their parent first over their spouse, this does not happen in a vacuum.  It frequently occurs within the context of a young adult who was controlled in an unhealthy way as a child.

I recommend that adults read more about how to recognize and heal from a controlling relationship with their parents.  A common book that many clients have found helpful is “If You Had Controlling Parents” by Dan Neuharth.  You can find the book on Amazon.

The child grows into an adult whose body and mind are still conditioned to feel afraid of their parent.  They are so afraid of their parent’s reactions due to past emotional control sometimes paired with harsh physical discipline that they are afraid to set boundaries with their parent.

Because the adult child is still afraid of his or her parents, they do not put their spouse first.  This can come in the form of “we are going to dinner with my parents even though my spouse wants to stay home and rest.”  It can come in the form of, “even when my parent is critical of my spouse and gives advice that was not asked for, I am not going to say anything to stand up for my partner or my relationship.”

There are lots of ways this can play out, but the worst part is that the marriage bond is severed.  I cannot even begin to unravel the damage that occurs when someone fears their parent’s reactions and then repeatedly does not put their partner as #1.

Your significant other is supposed to be your #1.  Your priority is supposed to be first and foremost to the needs and benefits of your partnership, not the relationship with one of your parents or a sibling or anyone else.

If you need help breaking free from the bonds of control by a parent so that you can make your partner your #1 priority, please Register to see of our Relationship Repair Associates today.

Have You Reached Your Breaking Point?

September 30, 2019

If you have reached your breaking point, that’s no surprise to me!

During my training as a marriage and family therapist, we were taught that when one person reaches a breaking point they will then push for systemic change within their marriage or family relationship.  This push for change often leads other family members to backlash against the person who has pushed for change, creating some turmoil and conflict.

Usually after a period of time, there is a settling in as people adjust to the new changes and expectations.

The breaking point might be someone saying:

  • I will no longer stay married if my partner continues to drink and drive
  • My child’s behavior problems are getting worse, I have to be more consistent about setting behavioral consequences to extinguish bad behavior
  • My partner has been neglecting my emotional needs for too long, if there is not an improvement, I will have to get a separation
  • The children’s other parent is mistreating them, I will have to step in to protect my kids
  • My parent is critical more than they are kind, and I am adult and will distance myself until this behavior changes

Breaking points can be for many different reasons, and it’s not that I advocate for people to threaten a separation or divorce or to create distance or cutoff in relationships.

However, sometimes I have observed that these threats and pushes for systemic change do ultimately help relationships to improve!

There have been situations when someone leaves or threatens to leave that their partner finally goes to anger management or gets sober or takes initiative to learn how to be more emotionally engaged with their family.

Every household environment is its own family system, and if you are fed up with yours …. if you have reached your breaking point….

Well, it might just be time for a behavioral change that will get the full attention of everyone else in the family.  It might push your partner or other family members towards a systemic change that is healthier for everyone in the family.

If you have reached your breaking point and you would like support while you are pushing for systemic change in your relationship, please Register for an appointment with one of our Relationship Repair Associates today!

Best of Howard County Voting Ends This Friday September 27 and Are You In Need of Free Couples Therapy?

September 25, 2019

This Friday September 27 is the deadline to vote in the Baltimore Sun Best of Howard County contest for your favorite small business!

We would love for you to participate in the Best of Howard County voting, and we hope you will consider Dr. Stephanie’s Relationship Repair Shop for the Best Therapist!   We are in the Health and Wellness section.

We also have room for two Couples in need of Free Therapy to work with Anne-Marie on Thursdays between 9 am – 3pm.  If this works in your schedule and you believe that you would benefit from up to 6 free therapy sessions, please request an appointment via the online calendar at and put in the appointment request that you would like to be considered for six free sessions of therapy.




Are You A Listening Ear

September 23, 2019

I cannot tell you how many times I observe two people circling around the hamster wheel with a communication problem because the listener is not actually listening.  They are defending or rationalizing or talking about themselves.

Listening is such hard work, but it truly is one of the best ways to build a relationship… or to repair it!  It really is…

It is quite common in couples or family therapy for me to slow down the communication process and identify who is the speaker and who is the listener.  Then later in the session we switch roles.  This helps both people to feel heard and acknowledged instead of circling around on the hamster wheel talking about the same problem while no one is really listening.

In some cases, a client is also telling me that their partner is complaining about their communication skills and they do not listen, but they are struggling with what behavioral changes are required.

There are four steps you must use at the Relationship Repair Counter to be an active and engaged listener!  So, when it is your turn to listen to someone you love or work with….

  1. Listen without interrupting.
  2. After there is a pause, reflect what you heard the speaker say.  The easiest way to do this is to say, “It sounds like….” Then insert a summary of what the other person has told you.
  3. Then ask, “Did I get that right?”  By asking this questions you are finding out if you heard the speaker correctly, if not then they will usually try again to tell you what they want you to hear and you should go back to Step 1 and try again to go back through Step two and three.
  4. Finally, say “I can understand why you would see it that way.” Or I can accept that you feel that way, it makes sense.”  These are examples of validation.

If you need more practice because you did not grow up in a household with these kinds of validating responses, you are NOT alone.  Trust me.  However, if you can get these steps in your head and practice them you can help people in your life feel heard and acknowledged.

Many clients who struggle with these listening techniques do practice them during couples or family therapy sessions.  So if this is something you need help with please contact one of our Relationship Repair Associates today for an appointment.

What Do You Think About the Response to Bullying and Violence in HCPSS?

September 17, 2019

If you are a parent with a child in Howard County Public Schools, I hope you will take this online survey (5-10 minutes of your time) as well as ask your friends to take the survey also.  This is an exploratory survey to start collecting information about parental concerns the response to mental and physical violence at school.

Last week, I posted on my neighborhood’s Next Door social media platform asking parents to respond to a survey about HCPSS response to bullying and violence at school.  I had quite a few responses within the first day of that post, so it seems there is definitely parental concern about the lack of response to violent behavior and bullying by students within HCPSS.

Many parents are surprised when they do not get a helpful response to bullying or reports of violence given that Howard County schools are generally considered among the best in Maryland in terms of academic standards for its students.

I imagine that there is work to do in all of the local Counties on the issue of violence and bullying, but right now I am focused on an initiative within HCPSS.

As a psychotherapist working with children and families here in Howard County, I have been shocked in recent years at how many parents are having trouble getting a helpful response to complaints about teasing, bullying, and even physical violence towards their child in school.

This creates mental health symptoms for the victim and then the child has at times needed mental health therapy at my private practice. I am concerned about the lack of response, so I have started a private survey to better determine if this is a wider problem that is occurring more frequently and how concerned other parents and citizens are.

I will be going to a school board meeting on Thursday September 19 to discuss the initial results coming in on the survey that I started last week. I would like to get wider parental input to find out how many parents are concerned about the response to violence and bullying … and what the viewpoints are of parents throughout the County.

I am also interested in the positive experience that some parents may have had as well.  It is important to get an accurate perspective on parental and community experiences and opinions.

So far, from the 34 survey responses initially collected,  only 15% of parents believed that they received a helpful response after a report.  In the other 85% of cases, the children were suffering from some kind of mental health symptoms and it was creating a family disturbance.  There were many comments made that HCPSS is more concerned about protecting the rights and confidentiality of the perpetrator of violence that assisting the victim or the family to feel safe and cared for.

If you are having any problems with your child’s adjustment to school, including concerns about school violence, please Reach Out to one of our Relationship Repair Associates for support.


We Still Have Room In Schedule For A Client In Need Of Free Therapy

September 16, 2019

Sessions are with Domenica Carrese at the Laurel Office, and Dr. Stephanie will be supervising the clinical progress of Domenica’s clients.

Sessions are available on Fridays between 10am – 4pm.

If you would like to be one of these clients, please submit a Scheduling Request through the portal for Domenica on Friday, September 20 or Friday, September 27 at the Laurel Location.

Please note in the scheduling request that you are looking for free therapy and Domenica will reach out to confirm.

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Dr. Stephanie's Relationship Repair Shop
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