Thumbs UP: Catch People Doing Something Right

April 30, 2017

By Steve Litt, LCSW

 

Thumbs UP

Thumbs up, People! One of the oldest and wisest sayings I’ve learned in my career is, “Catch people doing something right, and then acknow-ledge it”.

I thought at first this was about changing other people. The idea to me was to encourage the best in children, family friends and employees. I continue to see that this works in all aspects of life. It is a highly effective technique.

What I didn’t recognize for years was that this worn out homily also has a profound influence on the one who is catching people doing something right.

Once you start looking for what’s right in the world, it begins to change the way you look at the world around you and actually changes your brain. There is growing evidence that these changes can be passed on genetically to you children.

Neuroscience has developed rapidly in the past few decades. What we think about how one gets a positive attitude has been enhanced.

We have always known that the more you continue to think positively the more easily those thoughts come to you. Norman Vincent Peale’s, The Power of Positive Thinking, first published in 1952, was one early and important contribution to theories about how thinking affects behavior, happiness and success.

The opposite is also true, the longer you persist at looking at things negatively the more you will see in that dim light.

Practice makes perfect. The more you do anything the easier it is do and continue to do until you tire of it.

In family relationships we can both change our brain and our behavior by practice.

Here’s an example from my professional life. A woman came to me complaining that her children were taking their father’s “side” in the couples contentious divorce. The youngest daughter, a 12 year old, was refusing to visit the mom and complained that her mother was abusive and drinking too much.

Investigators from the county checked the story and the kid admitted she was lying. The lie was suspected because no one, not even the dad, said mom had ever been seen to be drunken or abusive to anyone. When I discussed this with the mom, she was furious at her daughter. I would be, too.

She said she wanted to confront the daughter and ask her why she’d lied, question her motives, and generally give her a piece of her well offended mind. It probably would also be asked, “Did your dad put you up to this?” (He didn’t). By the time she and I were done discussing this, she asked the little darling merely for an explanation. She said it something like this, “Honey, I know this divorce has been rough on us all, but I’m wondering what that last bit was all about. Can you help me understand it? I want us to stay close, but I really would like to know what that was all about.”

Rather than attacking her child and putting her on the defensive, she called upon all the good times the two of them had and asked how to get back to that. It was a long and emotional discussion. It worked.

When this kind of struggle comes up in any relationship, think about your response at least overnight.

What is the most loving and positive thing you can say?

That’s what you use. It will change the relation-ship, the child and you.

The thoughts of ripping them a new one are OK if you never voice it.

We have a right to be mad, but not ineffective and mean. Be Positive like these two above.

March 23, 2017

 

OK, You’ve Decided to Divorce                                                                By Steve Litt, LCSW

Take time to figure out how to approach divorce

Take time to figure out how to approach divorce

First, sit with the decision for a few days. Make sure you are not just very hurt and angry. If the decision is clear, a few more days won’t change that. You may have been thinking about this for a long time. I offer that there are things for you to do before you make the big announcement. Don’t declare your intentions yet and don’t file anything yet.  In the meanwhile, BE NICE! Do your research before you act.

When you stack cannon balls, how you set the first row determines how the subsequent rows will look. So it is with divorce. What you do at the beginning shapes the course and shape of what is to come.

The Second thing to do is talk to professionals like lawyers and marriage counselors who are specialists. Do some checking around, every lawyer and therapist is not qualified to help. This could be the most important choice you make. Ask about your rights in a divorce. Ask for details of how the legal jurisdiction you live in functions. In some jurisdictions there are long waits to get to court. Some offer mediation or arbitration options. Some states have a do it yourself method for simple divorce. You do want to know all that you and yours will be facing.

When the cost of a contested divorce can cost as much as a condo, house or a college education, its worthwhile to see how much you can do yourselves. Divorce need not be contentious in no fault divorce states. I have seen stellar outcomes in Collaborative Divorce. It’s worth investigating. You can start by looking at the options for doing your own divorce. Each state determines how or if that is available to you. In Colorado, there are handbooks available for do it yourself divorce. These are a good place to start, even if you don’t choose to do it yourself.

Lawyers can be interviewed and you get to choose. Ask if your friends who have been divorced have a recommendation. If you have a simple divorce that is amicable look for a person who understands that and is willing to work with mediation and in a collaborative way.

If its going to be a fight and there are  estate or custody issues, get an attorney who can handle the conflict without being overwhelmed.

This divorce cost over $100 million. It could have been much more.

This divorce cost over $100 million. It could have been much more.

If your spouse gets the attorney first, do some research and find an attorney who has gone up against your mate’s attorney before. Its so much cheaper and  easier to settle when they know each other or if they are friendly. Lawyers that don’t know each other or don’t respect each other will spend your time and fortune jousting in order to understand their opponent.

Thirdly, in this early stage before you file or declare divorce, make and appointment with a marriage and family therapist who is an expert in post divorce adjustment. Use that time to begin to understand how to manage yourself and the family after the separation and then after the divorce. I give a  “divorce inoculation” to newly divorced/separated clients that has been greatly appreciated over the years.

NOTICE: At this point you have not told your spouse or filed for a divorce or separation. That will be covered in Part 2.

Posted in Uncategorized by admin
February 17, 2017

By Steve Litt, LCSW

family-932245_1280

In announcing his upcoming divorce a great guy I know asked what’s it mean when she said “ I don’t want to be divorced from you. I want to be divorced to you”?

Designer Divorce.  Increasingly people are finding that divorce doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. It was so much easier when less people we doing it, say in the 1960’s. A divorce meant a lifelong estrangement. We weren’t going to talk, visit, go to the same places to eat, share family holidays and events. Nope, we were divorcing and that was the end of the relationship. Talk through the lawyers and just handle the money issues by mail or notes.

Some people are still using that older version of divorce. There are times when that is a great idea. Not talking can reduce the toxic level of conflict that led to a divorce. I worked with one divorced couple where he was willing to be cordial and claimed he was over it. She, however, just had a hard time being in the same room with a guy who beat her with a rifle butt before leaving. That one is very clear. The old way makes sense and the post-divorce situation may never get better. Trauma like that is hard to put aside.

Others have begun structuring their divorce the way they want it. It’s a kind of Designer Divorce. Some of these folks continue to date and be sexual, just not exclusively. They help each other move and call every day or so to check in. They show up at kids’ school conferences and events together. I have seen levels of cordiality and closeness in divorce people that would stun previous generations. My favorite is when they both remarry and everyone gets along well enough to work together to benefit the shared children. I once had a family session with two parents, two step-parents and one child. It went marvelously as the adults acted as one team.

So what does it mean to be divorced TO someone. I guess you get to decide. How about a  handy dandy checklist like the one I have put in this article. Look at it and let me know your thoughts or suggestions for making it better.

kids-1875965__480

Checklist to a Better Divorce

  1. Be polite and cordial, even if you don’t feel like it.
  2. Let the past go and focus on the future and the interests of the children
  3. Accept the new partners of your former spouse
  4. Never talk badly of your former spouse
  5. Always take the High Road
  6. Forgive and move forward
  7. Accept that divorce is 49% your fault
  8. Speak in kind tones avoiding derision and sarcasm
  9. Smile
  10. Remember: Your Children are Watching

boy-1620904__480

December 28, 2016
There was even a TV show

There was even a TV show

I hope you are as excited about our new offering of Divorce, Version 4.0 which offers a free upgrade from 3.0 last revised in 1952. While 3.0 was much better than the older version of leaving the folded up clothes outside of the teepee, the required resources to carry on a lifetime of avoiding each other were too burdensome.

Still, look how far we’ve come since Version 1.0, first launched by Henry the VIII. Most would agree that those beheadings and trials were costly and brutal.

 In announcing his upcoming divorce a great guy I know asked what’s it mean when she said “ I don’t want to be divorced from you. I want to be divorced to you”?

Designer Divorce.  Increasingly people are finding that divorce doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. It was so much easier when less people we doing it, say in the1750’s or 1950’s. A divorce meant a lifelong estrangement. We weren’t going to talk, visit, go to the same places to eat, share family holidays and events. Nope, we were divorcing and that was the end of the relationship. Just talk through the lawyers and handle the custody and money issues by mail or notes.

Some people are still using that older version of divorce.
unknownThere are times when that is a great idea. Not talking can reduce the toxic level of conflict that led to a divorce. I worked with one divorced couple where he was willing to be cordial and claimed he was over it. She, however, just had a hard time being in the same room with a guy who beat her with a rifle butt before leaving. That one is very clear. The old way makes sense and the post-divorce situation may never get better. Trauma like that is hard to put aside.

Others have begun structuring their divorce the way they want it. 4.0 a kind of Designer Divorce. Some of these folks continue to date and be sexual, just not exclusively. They help each other move and periodically  to check in. They show up at kids’ school conferences and events together. I have seen levels of cordiality and closeness in divorced people that would stun previous generations. My favorite is when they both remarry and everyone gets along well enough to work together to benefit the shared children. I once had a family session with two parents, two step-parents and one child. It went marvelously as the adults acted as one team.

So what does it mean to be divorced TO someone. In Version 4.0, you get to decide. How about a  handy dandy checklist like the one I have put in this article. Look at it and let me know your thoughts or suggestions for making it better. Write me at swlitt@gmail.com.

Checklist to a SmarterDivorce (Choose any or all of the options)

  1. Be polite and cordial, even if you don’t feel like it.
  2. Let the past go and focus on the future and the interests of the children
  3. Accept the new partners of your former spouse
  4. Never Talk badly of your former spouse
  5. Always take the High Road
  6. Forgive and move forward
  7. Accept that divorce is 49% your fault
  8. Speak in kind tones and avoid derision and sarcasm
  9. Be generous in spirit and actions
  10. Smile
  11. Take notes at that Parenting After Divorce Class

Let us know how you like 4.0. Our thousands of contributors and users are raving about it. We hope you love it as well.

PEACE OUT.

September 29, 2016

 

By Steve Litt LCSW

Gof Thrones couple

 

Start softly and be gentle. Sounds good doesn’t it? Cue the Barry White music…on 3.

Just teasing. I am not talking about sex this time. Sorry.

This piece is about how to begin a conversation with someone you love when there is a complaint. First think about what you want to accomplish by bringing up this complaint. It should almost always be that you want something to change, but not at the expense of hurting your partner.

Starting softly sets the tone.

Try it the next time you have a complaint. A gentle beginning might sound like, “Hey, Babe, is this a good time to talk? If it is, I would love to have a few minutes with you to work on something.”

Follow that with, ” I was listening to the radio the other day and some financial guru was saying we all need to put more money in savings. I would like us to talk about that because I like the idea.” That’s so much better than, “You must think money grows on trees”, or, “The way you spend money, I will never be able to retire”, or, “You are just so irresponsible with money”, or some other poorly thought through rant.

Remember that the goal of bringing up a complaint is not to get your  feelings out or to punish your partner for their behavior.

No, the purpose of a complaint is to work together to reach an agreement and to change things. Change is the goal, not venting. By the way that “Venting ” thing is all wrong. We are not going to blow up if we don’t vent a little. The boiler metaphor doesn’t resemble the way our brains really work.

If we blow off steam (another 19th century metaphor) we are going to hurt someone and train ourselves to dump anger on others. It might feel better, but the damage it does isn’t worth it.

Let me be the first therapist to tell you that its OK to stuff anger. This idea of always getting your feelings out is a psychological myth. Treating people well and communicating in effective ways doesn’t have to be done in anger. There is no reason to blow up at people.

Start Softly And Be Gentle. Anger’s purpose is to inform us that something needs to be changed. Work on that change and channel the energy from the anger into something that is constructive, softer and gentler.

Replacing rage or sarcastic behavior with effective communication can become addictive and you may reach the point where acting angry seems so useless.

You can’t stop feelings, but you can be informed by them and then behave in effective ways. You get to choose your response.

Really!!

July 24, 2016

By Steve Litt, LCSW

If you are starting a private practice you probably know there are many ways to fail. Here I give you 50 that occur to me. I am open to hear any additions you might have. PLEASE!!

Of course, I have made a lot of mistakes in my 49 years of practice, the biggest may be telling you how many years I’ve been at this. Some are obvious and some you may not agree with. The idea is get you thinking about how to be successful.

I want you to succeed. My life has been wonderful and a great deal of that is a direct result of my private practice and the flexibility and freedom it has offered me.

The 50

1. Spend too much on furniture and rent.

2. Rely on someone else to build and maintain your website.

3. “Specialize” in everything.

4. Only go into the office when you have appointments.

5. Only do PR when your caseload is low.

6. Only bill monthly.

7. Only take insurance.

8. Refuse to take insurance or learn how to help your clients with claims.

9. Stay in your office and only go to required CEU workshops.

10.  Work alone and don’t share your struggles with others.

11. “Coach” folks and avoid the problems of a state license.

12. Dress like the dork that you really are.

11. Take your time returning calls because you are only working those hours.

12. Limit yourself to a structured week, let others be flexible around you.

13. Don’t keep up with current theories, those you learned in grad school were enough.

14. No need to get supervision after you get that license…YOU’RE A PROFESSIONAL.

15. Do all your own finances.

16. Don’t worry about disability insurance.

17. Get the least expensive liability insurance.

18. Have long deep conversations with new callers who want to find a therapist.

19.  Decorate in the most expensive way you can to show how successful you hope to be.eames+3

20. Practice outside of your area(s) of expertise…I mean its called PRACTICE, isn’t it?

21. Tell addicts you can’t work with them unless they get clean/sober first.

22. Work alone and don’t mix in with other therapists.

23. Avoid reading in the field. Just stack the old books in your office.

24. Do the minimum post degree education.

25. Rely on just a few good referral sources.

26. Don’t let your clients know anything about you.

27. Tell your clients all about you.

28. Don’t bother knowing the ethical or legal standards of your profession

29. Get as many credentials as you can and plaster them on the walls

30. Answer phone calls during sessions. It might be a new referral!!

31. Fall asleep in a session.

32. Personal Hygiene isn’t important. Especially that spinach in your teeth after lunch.

33.Tell couples that are tough to work with that maybe they weren’t meant to be together.

34. Have inappropriate financial or sexual relationships with a few “special” clients.

35. Spend more time talking than your clients. After all they came to see you and you’re smart.

36. Always refer to your life story for inspirational examples to share with clients.

37. Don’t communicate with others who work with your clients. What do teachers, doctors, former therapists have to offer, anyway.

38. Don’t take vacations, You don’t get paid, so only take off when you have no appointments.

39. Locate your office far from public transportation.

40. Find a cheap office that has no handicap access.

41. Don’t provide water, kleenex, or snacks.

42. Don’t read the newspapers in your area.

43. Avoid joining other professionals in study groups.

44.  See as many clinical hours a week as you can schedule. No need to pace yourself.

45. Don’t ask about messy problems that might make you uncomfortable.

46. Never learn your weaknesses and ignore feedback.

47. Never submit to getting therapy for yourself. You couldn’t possibly improve yourself.

48. Eat meals while talking to clients. That is really efficient.

49.  Never ask for help from other therapists.

50. Ignore everything on this list. What the hell does Steve know?

July 7, 2016

Wills and Trusts

It is going to happen, so get a will or a trust started now.

By Steve Litt, LCSW, Professor Emeritus at DFI   stevelittlcsw.com

Plan now for your and your spouse’s death. If you aren’t married, but are living together as a committed couple, this is even more important. Marrieds have more protections and get more breaks in the law. A will or trust can greatly help unmarrieds.

Too many of us ignore financial or estate planning for death. There aren’t enough of us with wills, especially if we are younger. Plan financially for the death of the other. Discuss how to manage finances, where the money is, who to ask for help with taxes, probate, and insurance. Don’t pretend that you will live forever.

Ways to start a will

There are many internet sources for writing your own will. With a little checking it’s easy to find something that will be a fit. You do get what you pay for, but unless you have complicated estate and trusts there is no need to spend thousands. There are even free sites. Whenever I want to do something I got to Wikihow or YouTube and see if there is anything useful on that site.

There are also software packages that work well. I am not going to review them here, but there are sites that review and rate software for writing wills. I have done my simple will using one of them. I have to admit it was easy. Putting off the task of writing a will is more about denial of death.

Don’t live in denial of death

We want to pretend that we will live forever. I suppose for many of us thinking of death is the same as intentionally shortening your life span, or something equally as senseless.  DENIAL!!

A little less than 50% of all adult Americans have wills. That number is smaller with African Americans and Hispanic Americans, with about 30% and 25% respectively.

Does that mean that white American adults are in less denial of death? I doubt it. It may mean they have more access to resources. This statistics are probably more a function of income than ethnicity. Maybe 55% of all adults in the USA don’t have anything to leave their survivors. But even if you only have a piece of pottery to leave your family, they could end up in probate court over who gets custody of the beloved ceramic.

A detailed will can be very helpful in reducing the costs for surviving family members. Be fair to your heirs and don’t set them up to have conflicts over the estate. I have seen bad wills and trusts that seem to have been written with no thoughts of the effect on all the survivors.

A well done will can make life a lot easier for your survivors emotionally and financially. They just lost you and the last thing they will need at a time like that is a messy legal struggle.

Trusts can be complicated and a good one can really help the life of the beneficiaries

In my experience, the best trusts are ones that use a team of at least 3 people to make the decisions, protect the principal from depleting, and are flexible and fairly distributed. Trusts that dump large lump sums of money on the heirs often lead to destructive behavior. It’s like winning the lottery and having a miserable life.

If your trust is written so that only one person is in charge, they may not continue to be as wise and benevolent as when you were alive. Sometimes the passage of time changes people. Bank Trusts that are run by bank employees would be my very last choice. Somehow these Banking groups seem pretty uncaring and self-serving.

I watch many Banks invest the trust’s funds in their own bank stock, charge high fees and be rigid and inflexible or chaotic and random in distribution. Frankly, I wouldn’t ever choose a bank as the trustee. I might place funds in banks, but I would not place trust.

Find a good trust attorney and have a bunch of people read it before you set it up. Strangely, I have become good at seeing the pitfalls of wills and trusts, though I am not a lawyer, perhaps because bad wills and trusts cause so much disruption to families.

May 20, 2015

Power Off (and On) to Empower Your Relationship
By Rebecca Moravec, LPC

“Technology is the knack of so arranging the world that we do not experience it” Rollo May, The Cry for Myth

It is 8:00 p.m. My husband and I are settled in on the couch with the TV on. He is searching e-bay for who knows what on his Mac Book and I am scrolling through instagram on my smart phone. We are connected to so many devices and yet, we are obviously not connected to one another in this moment.

This isn’t a new revelation—the idea that technology is causing us to walk around like zombies as we live in a virtual world. We know it…and yet we stay glued to our screens. So what do we do? When is it time to power off? And can we use technology to connect with our partners? Here are some ideas:

Power OFF:

1.) Power off at meal times. Sharing a meal together is a great time to catch up on each others day. Put all devices away—sit at a table if you can—and tell each other the highs and lows of the day. It is important for you to know what is going on in your partners every day life!
2.) Power off when you get into bed. You don’t need to scroll through facebook or check your email that one last time. Put your devices away and spend some time cuddling….who knows where it might lead!
3.) Power off while you are watching a movie. Allow yourself to fully engage in a movie (or show) so that you aren’t asking your partner “what just happened? Who is that? Why did they do that?”
4.) Power off when you get home from work. Don’t walk in the door browsing emails from work or reading buzzfeed quizzes. Take 10 minutes to greet each other and connect.
5.) Power off on date night. Leave your phone at home – all of your apps will still be there when you get home!

Power ON:

1.) Power on to send a sweet (or steamy) text to your partner in the middle of the day (“Every positive thing you do in your relationship is foreplay- John Gottman)
2.) Power on to Pinterest and make a Pinterest board dedicated to your partner with funny and sweet things to share with them.
3.) Power on to send a love note on a site like Paperless Post
4.) Power on to send a cute photo of your kids, your pet, or yourself to let your sweetie know you miss them!
5.) Power on to call your partner to say “I love you” when you are apart. Yes…the phone still works for actual phone calls! (Queue Stevie Wonder music…)

Let’s embrace the world we live in and use our smart devices to be smart about connecting with our partners. I’m signing off to go cuddle…

Posted in Relationship Tips by admin | Tags: ,
October 29, 2014

Print

we need:

  1. your name
  2. a picture of you
  3. your credentials (any letters, or a brief description of why you know about the topic)
  4. affiliation with DFI
  5. any contact info you wish to provide (website, email etc.)