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Is My Voice in The Back of Your Head?

February 12, 2020

I recently had a client tell me that when she had a decision to make, she heard my voice in the back of her head.  A reflection on a therapeutic conversation went through her mind.  She made a different choice than they previous choice that she would have made!

And, good news… the new choice is leading her towards her goal!

Within myself, there was a private little party going on….

It makes me happy to hear that therapeutic conversations are taking full effect!

Sometimes it is surprising for me to find out something I said that was helpful to my client.  I give a lot feedback, strategies, encouragement, comfort, and direction to my clients.  I consider this seed-planting, but I do not always know which specific comment, directive, strategy, idea, or kind word might make a difference.  Here are some examples of comments I made during the past week:

  • “You deserve better.  I hope you will ask more directly for what you need.”
  • “It sounds like you asked for what you wanted but when you got some pushback, you didn’t persist.  Let’s talk about what might help you to be more persistent with your requests.”
  • “If you weren’t feeling helpless, it seems like you would respond with saying…”
  • “You are valuable, and you deserve to feel more validated and supported.”
  • “I think you are a special person.  I hope you can find a way to do one hour less of caretaking and carve out one more hour of personal time.”
  • “It is not your fault if your teenager acts out.  Ultimately, no matter how hard you have tried as a parent your 17-year-old is still responsible for her own choices.”

These are only a few of the comments I can think of from the past week, but chances are if my voice (or the voice of whomever your therapist might be) is in the back of your head, there is a positive nugget there to hold onto during this transformational time in your life.

If you need some help and someone’s voice cheerleading and guiding you, please Register to see one of our Relationship Repair Associates today for some support and guidance.

Welcome to Angela Harris, LCPC – Our New Relationship Repair Associate

February 11, 2020

Angela Harris, LCPC has provided counseling and therapy services to adults for several years.  She considers her specialties to be depression, anxiety, sexual trauma, PTSD and bereavement.  She also enjoys working with couples, using Imago relationship therapy to assist couples with transforming conflict and rebuilding connection.

Angela is a solution-focused therapist but deeply appreciates insight-oriented therapy to encourage clients to dig deep to find and understand the root of the problem.

She has been practicing meditation for many years and often uses mindfulness as an intervention with clients as needed.  Angela enjoys blending conventional counseling with spiritual practices such as meditation and mindfulness, finding that clients report significant positive results in mood and coping with the combination.

Angela currently sees clients at the Maple Lawn location of Capital Women’s Care in Fulton, MD.  Her hours are Monday and Wednesday, 11a-7p.

Angela’s favorite quote:  “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell [or] a hell of heaven…” ― John Milton


It’s National Marriage Week!

February 10, 2020

Did you know that it is National Marriage Week from Feb 7 – 14?   And considering my work as a marriage and family therapist, there was no better time for me to spend the past weekend in Seattle at the Gottman Institute (see me above in the picture) both experiencing and being trained on how to teach the Art of Science and Love weekend Workshop for Couples!  This workshop is internationally known, and I will be excited to start planning to teach workshops on the East Coast as well as in the Midwest during the upcoming year.  If you would like an Art and Science of Love workshop in your city, please reach out so I can consider presenting in your location!

The National Marriage Week website highlights the many physical, mental, financial, and spiritual benefits to being in a secure and happy marriage partnership.  What creates a successful marriage is both the small day to day affection and appreciation that we give our partner to help them during our earthly journey.  And… it is being influenced by our partner and being able to successful resolve problems and disagreements.

I was very touched when the presenters (both Ph.D. therapists) how to discuss and resolve a Regrettable Incident (AKA a marital fight) on stage in front everyone.  As any married person will tell you, we all have them.  Sad to say, I had one not too long ago myself!  And as I am all too aware, although we don’t go into marriage thinking about being experts at conflict management, we must become an expert in order to have all the other positive benefits of being married…

If you are going through marriage problems or you just want to improve your connection with your partner, please register and schedule an appointment with one of our Relationship Repair Associates today.  And… stay tuned for more information about upcoming weekend workshops and retreats later in 2020!



We are Hiring a New Therapist For Laurel Office

February 1, 2020

Dr. Stephanie is seeking one new part-time therapist for one of her Laurel locations.  If you ar a LCPC, LCMFT, LGPC, or LGMFT therapist please email your resume to to learn more about this position.


Free Therapy on Mondays Daytime

January 16, 2020

Domenica Carrese, Dr. Stephanie’s intern, is offering six free therapy sessions for three new clients on Mondays.  These sessions are only available on Mondays between the hours of 10:00 am – 3:00 pm.  The first three clients who request an appointment with Domenica on Mondays between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm will be accepted.

To request an appointment, please go to the scheduling link and put a note in the appointment request that you are seeking to be one of her clients approved for 6 free therapy sessions.  The scheduling link is at

All My Sisters and Brother and Me…

January 13, 2020

Let’s talk a little bit about sibling rivalry and other such problems … BECAUSE the positive or negative influence that siblings can have on one another is sooooo powerful.  Last week, I had several adult clients all in the same few days who were working on some self-repair as a result of sibling challenges.  Each of these clients needed to improve confidence and reduce emotions of anger, self-judgment, and sadness due to siblings mistreating them in some way as a child and in some cases continuing into adulthood!

If you have had a negative or difficult relationship with a sibling, the symptoms you are having and the pain you are feeling should not be minimized or underestimated…

For one thing, people spend a lot of waking hours with their brothers and sisters while growing up.  I have heard countless stories of people over the years who were molested, hit, teased incessantly, tied up, locked in closets and more… the stories are endless and as varied as the families that people come from!  Not to mention the fact that in some families, one form of intergenerational emotional abuse includes parents showing a lot more favoritism, time, or attention towards one child while neglecting the needs of other children.

I have witnessed firsthand how much older siblings have power over younger brothers and sisters.   By observing the interactions of my own children with one another (not to mention I have also observed neighbor kids, nieces and nephews, and my clients)… I have decided that these relationships are nearly as important as a parent-child relationship.  After all, younger brothers and sisters are almost always seeking the approval and attention of an older sibling.  An older sibling is ultra-cool in the younger child’s eyes.  In some cases, an older sister or brother will consciously or unconsciously use the power of merely being an ultra-cool older child to their advantage.

Even my own kids just had a fight last Wednesday evening and they are almost 9 years apart!  I will spare you the most of the details.  But suffice it to say that younger siblings do provoke older siblings as well.  And when that happens a 17-year-old can revert to acting like they are 10 years old to get revenge quickly!  LOL.

So, given all this information what do you do about sibling rivalry if you are a parent or a caretaker?

You must help even out the playing field, plain and simple!!!  A lot of parents and other caregivers tell children to work out problems on their own.  I completely disagree with this hands-off philosophy.  Children need you to know what is going on with some of their interactions and to intervene when there is conflict and provocation!  If you are not spending at least some time each week intervening in sibling conflict, you are likely not doing enough to prevent possible long-term problems.

When there is some type of fight that breaks out, I recommend taking the time to listen to each child separately and then implementing consequences for problematic behavior.  Younger children need to be held accountable for provoking older siblings.  Older siblings need to be held accountable for talking down to younger siblings or for repeatedly ignoring them instead of sometimes giving them attention or praise.  In almost all cases where people are emotion allyharmed by siblings, it was because caregivers either showed a lot of favoritism to one child OR because the caregivers had a hands-off approach to ongoing rivalries.

In my own family (see a picture of myself with my brothers and sisters below), I was the oldest of five.  I recall some serious consequences when my mother found out I was not being kind to my younger sister.  She also made a lot of attempts to try to keep things fair between us.  This was good leadership, and I am thankful that she intervened to help us have closer relationships!

If you are making a lot of attempts to be fair and to intervene, then you are more likely to help your children create loving and long-term friendships with their siblings, keeping your family healthier and happier!

If you need help with sibling rivalry in your family … or to heal memories with a sibling that were painful for you, please reach out to one of our Relationship Repair Associates today.


We Have Appointments Available During this Holiday Season

December 23, 2019

If you need to meet with a therapist this holiday season, we have some appointments available on Christmas Eve and between December 26 – January 2.

To request an appointment, you can easily go to our Online Scheduling Link or call our office at 301-490-1011.

It is common for people to have increased feelings of sadness and grief at this time of the year, so do not hesitate to check your therapist’s availability or to work with a new or different therapist for a listening ear or support!

Thankful For YOU and All of My Associates – Including Our Three New Associates!!!

December 3, 2019

This holiday season, I have much to be thankful for.  A healthy family, loving parents (not everyone has that), and a growing business.

On Thanksgiving Day, I was surprised at how many clients took a minute to send me a message thanking me for my commitment to helping them feel better emotionally.  Warmed my heart.  All my clients are important to me, and I have a very special job helping people’s lives to improve and in some cases for their relationships to heal!

Upon reflection, I am just very thankful not only for my clients, but for my business growth and ability to service more clients, giving more love and healing…  Around our family’s Thanksgiving table, we each reflected upon what we are thankful as well as what we appreciate about each other.  In that vein, I want to share what I am thankful for regarding my work team and therapist associates.

Yes, I am thankful for my business team…

My daughter Rachel has been crushing it this year!  She has taken over nearly all the financial aspects of my Relationship Repair Shop brand, becoming its first CFO 🙂 This was no small order since we added four new locations and tripled our client base during 2019!  Rachel is getting ready to graduate in May with a degree in Economics and Business from the University of Maryland.

Did you know we have recently added three new associates?

  • Tristin Malone is accepting new clients in Upper Marlboro
  • Rolonda Williams is accepting new clients, primarily at the Maple Lawn office
  • Darrius Humphrey is accepting new clients, primarily at the Laurel office

I am excited to see how each of these new therapists will develop themselves and their career during the coming year!

Now for my therapists who have been working with me during the past year, I am thankful for you also… each of you have special gifts and add to our practice team in different ways.

Tyra Berger grew almost a full-time practice in Upper Marlboro this year!  She has done more training and work specializing in Couples Therapy and she is quick to get things done.  Tyra is always pleasant and helps other team members with questions.  She is calmer than my Type A personality and might be the yin to my yang here at the Laurel office…which I appreciate about her.

Gail Bowles has grown a busy client base in Annapolis, with a focus on helping individual clients with resolving grief and relationship problems.  Gail has taken the initiative to become a PREPARE facilitator and she is our Imago specialist.  Gail is just wonderful at making clients feel hopeful, special, and cared for.  She is patient and takes the time to listen … she is especially good at answering the phone with care and compassion.

Krista Zerby started her new practice in Pikesville after graduating and getting her license this fall.  She does a remarkable job working with children, individuals with mood disorders, and helping couples to resolve conflict.  Krista is very detail-oriented with her work, which is much appreciated – and I can always have a good laugh with Krista.

Terrie Tyrie started in Maple Lawn this spring, can’t believe she has a pretty full client base over at Capital Women’s Care, where we just started a collaboration earlier this year.  Terrie was very instrumental with developing methods for responding to new client leads this year and has been helping to train some of our new therapists.

Chana Johnson finished out her internship and completed her licensure this year, then started up one of our locations in Owings Mills.  Chana is gifted at assessing the needs of her clients and inspiring people to move ahead in their lives. She also completed additional training this year in the Gottman method, and… If I have a question about the business, Chana is one of the people I ask for ideas!

Sophia Rizvi is very supportive of her clients and has developed a part-time client base for evening/weekend hours just since summer!  She has a gift with her individual clients, helping them with improving self-confidence and strategies for reducing anxiety.  Sophia is also great with staying on top of things and noticing the details, and she is great with setting her boundaries for a positive work-life balance.

My interns are awesome, especially when you consider they are still wrapping up their classes while seeing clients and doing co-therapy with Dr. Stephanie…  Anne-Marie James-Henry has taken on many challenges with her clients and she has been helping many clients to complete their therapy goals.   She has a special gift with helping teenagers and young adults, something I admire about her.   Domenica has taken the initiative to help with planning out a new website coming in 2020 and has a special gift for Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.  Domenica is also very detail-oriented and helps me to learn new things and stay on my toes!

My husband has coped with me getting just a little stressed out while navigating all this new growth.  So, I must thank him for dealing with me and for reviewing all my business ideas and plans!

So, that’s it.  This holiday season, I hope that you also go around the holiday table for Christmas or Hanukah discussing what you are thankful for and what you appreciate about the other members of your family!

I hope you are thankful also for yourself and for whatever gifts have come your way in 2019.  Possibly even for your trials and crisis, especially if you have already been able to see how you have turned your crisis into something wonderful.  I have several clients who had this kind of change in 2019.  Crisis converted into triumph, saying “things are better than they ever were in our marriage, in our family.”

If you are not there, trust me when I tell you that there will be a time in the future when you will be able to see how your crisis of today taught you lessons and helped you transform into a wiser, smarter, better person with more coping skills and relationship strategies… and more empathy for the difficult experiences that others might be going through.

Stop Hijacking My Relationship Complaint

November 4, 2019

Hijacking airplanes, trains, and ships …. That is relatively infrequent these days!!!

Hijacking Relationship Complaints, well that is another story.

Many people are not paying any attention to who makes a relationship complaint first, and they give a defensive response.   I call this jumping over the Relationship Repair Counter.  Instead of staying behind the Metaphorical Relationship Repair Counter, the person who hears a relationship complaint about their behavior or personality flaw jumps over the counter and files their own complaint.

Except no one is behind the Relationship Repair Counter.  Everyone is at the Counter filing complaints and no one is listening… quite literally.

One of my couples started calling this problem “hijacking” each other complaints, which I thought was a hilarious metaphor. (I told them I was going to write a blog post about it). And it’s so true…

For example, let’s say my husband complains about how I am no longer cooking delicious Nebraska farmer’s daughter type dinners like I used to because I am growing my business.  He misses those regular meatloaf and mashed potatoes kind of dinners!

Imagine if I were to hijack his complaint and hold him hostage to my own counter-complaint, let’s say I start complaining about how I don’t have time to cook because he is not helping me enough with the kid’s homework. (***None of this is true by the way, this is only a pretend example…)

Now he feels helpless and as if I don’t even care about his concern.  I have hijacked his complaint and am filing my own complaint at the Relationship Repair Counter.

However, imagine what happens if I don’t hijack his complaint…

Instead, I listen and say, “You’re right, I haven’t been cooking as much lately.  I miss being able to do that.  What do you think would fix that?”

This is proper complaint resolution, and he would probably suggest that we pay for some other service that is less important so I will have time to cook at least a couple times per week.  Great, now that’s resolved and there was no hijacking, no defensiveness, no fighting…

Make sense?

If you or your family member is in the habit of hijacking complaints and your complaint resolution needs some help, please Reach Out to one of our Relationship Repair Associates today…

How I Apply Gottman’s Anecdote for Defensiveness

October 28, 2019

It was a busy evening at my Relationship Repair Shop…

This is the name I affectionately call my private practice in the suburbs of Washington DC.  Although it was over 7 years ago, I still remember the solution-focused approach I creatively tried out with a stuck client.

Influenced by Gottman’s research and writing about predictors for marital failure, I knew that Defensiveness was one of them!

The husband sitting in my office was a very successful small business owner.   Yet, when his wife brought up a complaint he looked like a deer in the headlights.  Like most people, he appeared as if he had no idea what to do!  After overcoming the initial shock of hearing his wife’s complaint, he then became defensive – explaining his mistakes and telling her why she should not be so sensitive!

Instead of taking responsibility, showing value, listening, and finding a resolution…

I am from a business-oriented entrepreneurial family, so I knew that this client probably had the skill set to show value, provide complaint resolution, and find solutions for his customers!

Suddenly, I found myself asking the husband about how he handles his customer complaints and commented on his strengths as a business owner.

The husband quickly gave me the rundown about how he effectively provides customer service.  He now appeared confident as he explained how he listens to his customers and shows understanding – then he inquires “What can I do to resolve this?”  I asked him if he defends his employees or explains why a mistake was made during customer complaint resolution.  Nope, he doesn’t do that with his customer.

In a quick solution-focused move, I asked the client what would happen if he were to use his strengths in business to apply similar complaint resolution strategies with his wife.

A light bulb came on in his head, and we practiced using a customer service response with his wife’s complaint.  He resolved her concern; and she felt valued and respected.

Using this solution-focused approach has become my Anecdote for Defensiveness. Gottman’s anecdote for defensiveness is to help a client to take responsibility.

However, I have found that a lot of people struggle with how to take responsibility.  This Customer Service solution-focused metaphor gives people an idea of what complaint resolution is supposed to look like.  After all, most people have either had to provide Customer Service at some time in their life or they have experienced good Customer Service.

I have a worksheet with six steps that people can walk through in order to take responsibility at the Customer Service Counter for their relationship.  What I call the “Relationship Repair Counter” has become a focal point for work with my clients, most of whom struggle with defensiveness to some degree.

Gottman’s marriage research found that good complaint resolution and not being defensive is a predictor for marital success.  Likewise, the most successful businesses also have amazing complaint resolution approaches.  They are influenced by their customers and show them value.

I have taught workshops and given speeches about the numerous ways that we can translate the concept of business customer service into our personal and workplace relationships for maximum success and value.  I construct my Relationship Repair Counter each time I speak, and I love helping my audience to practice role plays whereby they bring up complaints using Soft Start Up methods and then respond to complaints without defensiveness at the Repair Counter.

We all want to be valued in our relationships, and not just our customer relationships.  Receiving and providing complaint resolution and finding reconciliation with our helpmate, our family members, and our work team is truly the core of what makes us human.  After all, each of us has a deep yearning to know that we are loved and valued… not just when things are good but when we are feeling wounded, hurt, and concerned.

If you need more help with complaint resolution and opening up your Relationship Repair Counter, please Reach Out to one of our Relationship Repair Associates today!

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Dr. Stephanie's Relationship Repair Shop
9660 Iron Leaf Trail Laurel, Maryland 20723
Phone: (301) 490-1011 URL of Map