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Relationships are messy + delicious. Learn about how Robyn D'Angelo, The Happy Couple Expert uses science to effectively help couples in Orange County, California to master the messiness of relationships while learning how to love + be loved, better.

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Filtering by Tag: therapy

The Magic 5 Hours - Keepin' it Fresh

Emily Porta

It only takes 5 hours a week to recalibrate your relationship - check it out. Did these help you? I'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or email me directly at

If you're in the Laguna Hills, California area and you'd like to know more about how to keep your relationship fun, connected and fresh, call me - I'd love to work with you directly. (714) 390-1652.

Transcription:

Hi. Robyn D'Angelo here, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Relationship Specialist.   And today I'm going to be answering a question that comes up often in my office from couples and individuals, which is how much time should we, as a couple, be spending a week to keep our relationship fresh, to keep it on point?  And according to Julie and John Gottman of the Gottman Institute, they have come up with the magic five hours per week. And that consists of five different things. The first thing being partings. So, when you leave your partner, you know, for the day, the goal here is to find out one interesting thing about their day. What's going to happen? What do they have planned? Who are they gonna see that day? And then see if you can squeeze in there a six second kiss. This is something that John Gottman says is "a kiss full of possibilities." It can make you late to work--one of those good ones. So, that's the first one, is partings.  The second is reunions. Think about when you walk into a room full of friends or you show up to a party and people just light up. How good does that feel? Would it be possible for you to do that for your partner when they come in after, maybe, a long day? Or think of how great it would feel for them to just get super excited after seeing--you know, after being away all day and seeing you. Whether you've been, you know, with the kids or at work, at school--whatever it is. See if you can create an environment of excitement upon reuniting. And the third thing is admiration and fondness. And this makes me think of the story of the Swedish farmer who loved his wife so much that, one day, he almost told her. All right. It goes to the point of you have to do more than you think loving and kind thoughts. You have to make it a point to tell your partner the things that you appreciate about them and what you love about them. The goal here is to have two appreciations a day, and that will look different depending on what your partner's love language is. And we'll cover that at a later date. The fourth one is affection. So, there's been research on attachment that shows when people go in to get an MRI, if they're in there with their partner holding their hand, they--their stress levels, their anxiety is reduced significantly and it even predicts that they'll have lower levels of pain. How powerful is that? That's just from touch. So this shows that gentle touch from your partner can really heal and get you through really tough times. So make it a point to have affection, have touch and play, and really connect in this way. And the last thing is weekly dates. This is so important. Make it a point to spend two hours with your partner a week. So, no one else, no screens. Keep it really intense, with your focus and attention on each other. The best gift you can give your partner is time. So, I hope this has been helpful. If it has, great. Leave a comment below or you can contact me directly. And if you have questions or you'd like to know more, since this is obviously just a tidbit on how to stay connected and keep your relationship fresh, please call me directly at 714-390-1652. Or you can email me at robyn@therapywithrobyn.com. Talk to you again soon.

[Transcribed by NMS]

How to Choose a Great Therapist or Counselor

Emily Porta

There are a ton of therapists and counselors in Orange County for you to scour the Internet for, so how do you find a GREAT one? I recommend you ask some questions in order to assess. This short article lists just a few helpful questions, in no particular order (please note, the terms “therapist” and “counselor” are used interchangeably).

1. What were they like the first time you reached out to them?

Were they warm, informative and open to answering any of your questions? Did they work to provide you with fees and a schedule that worked for you or provide you with resources that better met your needs? Your first interaction with a therapist is an indication of how it will be to work with them. Therapists are not “one size fits all” so if you sensed a disconnection it’s probably safe to say they did too. Thank them for their time and move on.

2. How did you feel when talking and meeting with the therapist?

Did you feel comfortable sharing? Did they use language that was free of judgment and criticism while providing support or was there a sense of shame and embarrassment when you shared? A therapist’s job is to create an emotionally safe environment for you to talk about whatever it is you feel you want help with and if that’s not the case, it’s time to move on.

3. Can the therapist tell you how they plan to work with you to meet your goals?

A question to ask is “Have you worked with ______ (ie: couples and infidelity; anxiety; feeling like I have no direction, etc.) before?” Followed with, “And what are some of the ways that you have helped people like me?” If you get a clear answer, even one that you don’t really understand (ie: “I utilize a structured technique called Gottman Method Couples Therapy that has 35+ years of research to prove it’s success.”) and it’s followed by, “And I’d love to meet with you and hear more about what’s going on so we can work together to decide a course of treatment,” then you’re probably in good, competent hands.

4. What is the counselor’s general philosophy or modality when working with people?

Counselors all have a specific philosophy when working with people and should be able to clearly and concisely share that with you. It may sound something like “I am a solution-focused therapist, which means I focus on identifying your strengths, looking at times when your problems is not as intense, and helping you find solutions that line up with your goals.”

5. Is the therapist licensed or are they an intern? 

A licensed therapist has completed their master’s degree in psychology, social work or marriage and family therapy, worked as an intern to gain 2,500-3,500 hours, and successfully passed their state board licensing exams (which are not easy). An intern is someone who has gained their master’s degree in the above-mentioned fields but is currently working on gaining their hours and often times are less expensive than licensed clinicians. There are phenomenal interns providing quality therapy services and it’s up to you to decide what level of professional works for you.

6. Does the counselor specialize in any treatment type or do they “help everyone?”

If you’re looking for help for your marriage, find someone who specializes in working with couples. It doesn’t make sense to go to a therapist who specializes in working with adults battling with anxiety, if you're looking for grief and loss support due a recent death in the family. Find a therapist who specializes in what you want help with.

7. What is the counselor’s social media policy?

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, the list goes on and on and in a world where most professionals have an online presence, it’s imperative that you know your therapist’s social media policy. Most counselors discourage clients from providing any sort of online reviews or testimonials as it breaks your own confidentiality and tells the world that you’re seeing a therapist. Also, it’s part of a counselor’s ethical duty to not engage in any sort of relationship with a client outside of the therapeutic one, so “friending” them on social media would be a no-no. It is quite alright to “like” their social media pages, as they typically host articles and tips appropriate for clients but choose wisely before commenting and identifying yourself publicly.

8. Have there been any complaints filed with the board against the therapist?

Find out who their governing board is (ie: American Psychological Association, Board of Behavioral Sciences, etc.) and look up their status. This is simple, as you can search by their license or intern number, which should be clearly stated somewhere on the their website, business card or email signature. If there were any complaints, have they been resolved? Are their licenses pending? 

I hope this has been helpful I know that searching for a therapist can be daunting when you're not sure what to ask and what sets GREAT therapists apart from everyone else. 

Leave a comment below and share your questions about how to choose a GREAT therapist or counselor.

Why you can't afford to NOT go to therapy.

Emily Porta

"I can't afford it." It's a tough place to be in. To know you want to do something, but feeling like you can't. I know, I have been there. Here is an awesome article that talks about what to do if you can't afford it. HOWEVER, you can't afford to not get help. And here is why.

• Stress, depression, anxiety - the emotional impacts the physical. If you want to get physically fit, one of the biggest components is addressing your emotional/mental health. The sicker you are, the more you will find yourself in a doctors' office of some kind and between medications and doctor's visits - even with copays - it can get expensive. 

• Life is too short not to enjoy it. If you aren't loving your life, why are you waiting for it to change? You have the power to make a difference. If you have the tools and support you can get on the road to a happier day than if you keep doing what you are doing, because it isn't working for you right now.  

• Life will be even shorter if you don't enjoy it. Those with depression and anxiety have shorter life spans. Ick! Check it out.  

• Create better relationships. Therapy helps you get out of the crappy relationships and keep the good ones. It makes the good relationships even better. How awesome is that.  

• You can change your brain. You aren't a victim. You aren't stuck. You actually can even change the physical make up of your brain. You aren't destined to a life a sadness. You just gotta teach yourself some new ways of being in the world. Why wait for that to happen?

Bottom line...you are worth it. Your relationships to spouse, kids, family and friends are important. You could love you more. So yeah, it takes investing in ourselves to have a better life AND you are valuable and worthy of that investment. Contact me to get started today! 

Tell Me Your Story

Emily Porta

A man and a woman sat in the row in front of me on the plane home. For the next hour I picked up on snippets of their conversation. They bonded at first when they discovered they had both gone skydiving. They shared their experiences as though no one else but the other that had gone through that experience, could possibly understand. The conversation continued and with each story they got deeper and deeper into their connection. The man shared how his daughter had Bi-Polar disorder and refused to get the help she needed. He talked of the pain and fears that come with an adult child struggling through mental illness. The woman shared how she survived on $1,000 a month but how she was happy. She was single, hated children and understood what it was like to struggle with mental illness. They both had a drink, toasted to the skies, got off the plane and stood at the baggage claim on opposite ends, never acknowledging each other again. 

Even amongst strangers we want to be known. And in the sharing of the story, you never know how it will change the other person. But what I find most important is how when you share your story, it changes you. You get a new perspective. You create the language associated with the story. You can be the victim or the survivor. You might be successful or lucky. You get to choose how the story is told. You get to decide if it is told with compassion.

Often at the second session in therapy I will ask a client how they felt after their first session. Responses I hear generally are summed up with "it felt good to share." "It was nice to get it off my chest." It is as if in the telling of the story, there is an exchange of energy where the storyteller because lighter and more free. What a gift to be able to tell your story. Some have no one to listen. Or those that have a listener can feel judged.

Therapy is that space of genuine transformation. You tell, I listen and as the story is told, your life changes. It may be slow at first but months down the road, you don't recognize the old perspectives and language you once used. I would love to hear your story

The Crappy Therapist

Emily Porta

Bad therapists happen. It is a fact. There is no screen in grad school that weeds out the therapists that shouldn't be therapists. Now, if you don't like your therapist - that can happen and in fact can at times be normal. I believe that when you enter my office, we engage in a dance, a dance that you have done over and over. My job is to help you see the dance steps that aren't working for you, that keep you from the life you want to live. But, that means, I have to learn to dance with you. So, yes, if you find out that you burn a lot of bridges with your relationships, you might try that with me. That isn't so much what I am talking about. I am talking about bad therapy - therapy that ends up doing more harm than good. So how do you know that you are getting bad therapy? Here are some pointers:

• The therapist talks more about themselves than listens to you. Every therapist has an opinion about what to share and how much to share of their personal life. That's cool, until the session is all about them. Nothing is worse than a therapist that shares because they need to get something off their chest. This is about you. The sharing should be to help you. 

• They want to hire you, befriend you, or have sex with you. These all break the ethical guidelines of our profession. There is great information on how to report a therapist that has had a sexual relationship with their patient, just click here. Any type of relationship outside the therapy room is called a "dual relationship" and must be avoided because it impacts your therapy. Hard to get good therapy when you are hired to do some clerical work for your therapist. The roles get too confusing. 

• You say something isn't working and they don't listen. One of the characteristics of a good therapist is being open to changing the way they work with someone if what is currently being done doesn't seem to help the client. If you speak up (kuddos to you for owning your time in therapy) and share that something didn't feel helpful, the crappy therapist will either ignore you, demean you, or be completely offended. 

• They give advice. I have heard this time and time again. Therapists making suggestions on how to handle a legal or financial matter. I didn't go to law school, and even if I had, as a therapist, I am not acting as a lawyer. I can provide referrals, but I cannot advise on matters outside of my expertise. 

• They don't value your time. If they are always running late, forget your name, can't find the file you need, then they probably are too consumed with other things and not valuing your time or your presence. Sure, we all make mistakes and forget things. But I am talking about long standing patterns. 

• You have been going a long time, but nothing is changing. This goes back to what I was first saying. Sure, it could be that you don't want to be in therapy in the first place so you are determined to make it fail, ok, but a good therapist I would hope would acknowledge that elephant in the room if it is at all obvious. Therapy works! I believe in it! If I don't see improvement or change in my clients - I ask them about it. We work together to figure out what can be done differently. I think it is sad to keep taking their money because they are willing to give it to me, knowing that the therapy isn't working or that I am not a good fit. Part of being a good therapist is knowing what you are good at and when to refer out. 

So, now that I listed a few tips, do you think you have a bad therapist? What should you do? You have several options, but most importantly, don't stop therapy. Don't sacrifice your joy, your potential freedom, and happiness because of this. Find another therapist, they often offer free consults. If you think that therapy isn't right for you, try life coaching or spiritual direction. There are people out there that can help you, don't give up!

Guided Imagery: Creating a Place of Your Own

Emily Porta

I have been using guided imagery more and more in my practice. I find it is a great way to create a safe place for you to go to when you are stressed and overwhelmed. You can bring a mental image to mind of a place that is calming and peaceful, noting the sounds, smells, tastes, and colors around you. Your body automatically responds as if you are there - breathing slows, heart rate normalizes, and muscle tension releases.

However another great way to use guided imagery is to process your emotions. Often if a person has unresolved conflict with someone with whom they no longer are in relationship with, guided imagery can help them go to that place with a person and tell them what they feel and what they need. And just like in the safe place, your brain responds as if it is actually happening. Resentment can dissipate, fear will no longer be prominent, and sometimes even forgiveness arises.

Effective counseling is about using the tools that help the person. There are many tools and many different styles of therapies. Not all of them are for everyone. But you might be surprised what happens when you do seek out to change your brain - it will change your mood, your heart, your soul and your life. 

Why be a therapist?

Emily Porta

It is no secret, I love my job. So I thought I would give a little rant and rave about what makes what I do an amazing thing.

• I meet amazing people. Some of the most heroic and resilient people have come through my office. They have survived and thrived through trauma, loss, grief, and more. Their stories are not only amazing, but they touch my heart and transform me as well. Just when you think you have heard it all, you learn that you haven't and that each person is so unique, not one single experience is the same. 

• I get to be a guide. I am not the boss, the instructor, the one with all the answers (contrary to what you may hope). I get to walk along side someone in their pain. Share the pain and maybe lighten the load. I get to "figure it out" with them. 

• It's an adventure. Just when I think I understand something, I get a surprise or an unexpected answer to a question. There is never a dull moment. If I had all the answers...this job would be boring.

• I change too. You can't be with people and not challenge yourself as well. That is the joy of being in community. We shape each other. It is a beautiful process and a honor to involved with someone's growth.

• It is energizing. I don't come home from work stressed out with paperwork and other pointless stuff that I once had in my other life. Nope, I come home with my brain full of ideas, questions and excitement as I watch peoples' stories unfold. 

• It's a big picture thing. You know that whole ripple effect. A little pebble in the water sends out waves into the lake. I want to be a pebble that sends out waves through generations of change in peoples' families. The work I do with my clients, as I like to say, changes their family tree. Patterns get broken so that the next generation doesn't have to repeat it or work through it. 

So if you are an MFT or CSW intern and wonder what all the work you are doing is for, well I hope this helps encourage you just a tad. AND if you are thinking about therapy, find a therapist that loves what they do. There are so many more reasons why I do what I do...and these are just a few.

Is this thing working?

Emily Porta

Most of us want to know something is going to work before we try it. We read reviews of products before we use the or listen to evaluations of places before we plan a visit. So how does that work with counseling? I mean, how do you know it is going to work? You can hear from one person that they LOVE their counselor or therapist and that same therapist has had clients that stopped coming to them because they didn't like it at all.  I know people that have been in therapy for years. Does that mean it isn't working for them? Actually this is the exciting part. You get to decide. You get to decide who you see, how honest you are, what you talk about and how long you go. Think of it like you are designing your own tailor made product that works only for you!

When counseling works, you usually know it right away. If you don't, just take a little bit of time for self reflection and evaluate some of the following areas:

• Did the issue I brought to counseling initially get addressed? Has their been any improvement at all, even if it feels small?

• Have I seen changes in my relationships, career, or other areas of my life?

• Am I more aware of my feelings or insight about situations?

• Do I feel  motivated to go to counseling? Am I looking forward to what else I will learn?

If you answered yes to these questions, I would say in general, counseling is working for you! That is great!

If you said no to the majority of these questions, then here are some other questions you can ask yourself to figure out why it may not be effective:

• Do you feel a connection with your therapist? If you don't, have you talked to them about it? Not every therapist is for everyone. I tell clients that if they don't feel a connection or that my style jives with theirs, I am happy to provide a referral. It doesn't mean I am a bad therapist or they are a bad client. In fact, to me, that kind of honesty is what makes therapy successful. If I can link a client to someone that does help them, then I have done my job!

• Do you feel understood or listened to in your sessions? Nothing is worse then speaking from your heart and having it completely disregarded. The process of therapy is one of developing knowing - knowing of ourselves and being known by the other (the therapist)

• Can you be totally honest in your sessions? That's right, leave your censorship at the door. 

• Do you want change in your life and are you ready to take risks to make this happen? Risks might include setting boundaries with other people that might get upset about it or asserting your needs even when there is no guarantee that they will be met.

I believe counseling helps people. It has helped me personally and I wouldn't be in this profession if I didn't think it helped others. A good therapist wants to see you have positive change in your life. If you need help figuring out if counseling is right for you, consult with a therapist. I, and many other therapists, offer free consults to help you make the right decision for yourself. 

I was planning to do that...

Emily Porta

I decided to write a blog and noticed that...ahh! it has been a month since the last time I blogged! What? How did this happen? Where did the time go?

Ever notice yourself saying this same thing to well intended plans? I think this happens to us a lot and intentions get lost in the day to day of living. It was a nice reminder to me to continue practicing intentional living. All this means is to be mindful or aware of my thoughts, feelings, behaviors and choices. 

Have you been intending on starting therapy? What is stopping you? Why wait? Trust me. I see people that come to me years after an issue started, stating "I meant to come sooner, but I thought it would get better or go away." So like my blog, instead of expecting it to write itself, I just decided to share my thoughts right now. No need to put it off. Let go of shame or fear and trust what you want to do that is good for you!

Best wishes as your intentions become reality!