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How Couples Therapy Helps You Navigate Marital Conflict

But first, a side note

Hi, this is Jessica! I’ve invited my local colleague Connor Moss to write a bit about how he helps couples deal with the conflicts that come up in their relationships. Couples therapy is a great service that I don’t offer, so I want to make sure you have an excellent local resource to get couples therapy with a skilled therapist when you need relationship help.

Couples therapy helps communication and conflict

Marriage is a wonderful part of life for most people. What we don’t often hear about in the media or on Facebook feeds is how common marital conflict is. Many people experience conflict in their marriages or long term relationships that sometimes doesn’t show up until years or even decades into a relationship. When you are in a relationship with someone for a long time, you and your partner will inevitably change and grow, and your relationship will have to change and grow with you.

For your relationship to continue to stay healthy into the years, many people find they must learn to adapt and learn new skills in order to navigate conflict that might emerge in your relationship. Couples therapy can help you and your partner come to terms with the conflict in your marriage and find new ways to communicate with each other and navigate conflict in new ways.

Conflict is healthy and normal

Many of my clients believe that conflict in their marriage means that something is wrong with their relationship and they start to question the future of their relationship. While sometimes a breakup or divorce is the only path forward for your marriage, most marital conflict can be worked through even if it feels really intense at the moment. Conflict in long term relationships and marriage is very common and it is not necessarily a sign that your relationship is unhealthy or is doomed to fail.

John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

According to John Gottman, a preeminent couples therapist and psychotherapist, there are four signs that a relationship is doomed, which are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Gottman dubbed these four signs the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, to represent how deadly to a relationship these forces can be. According to Gottman, these four factors, if left unaddressed, are likely to spell the end of a marriage or relationship. You might notice that conflict itself is not one of these four factors according to Gottman! This means that healthy conflict or arguments in a relationship do not need to mean that your relationship is doomed, and most people find that with the help of couples therapy they can navigate conflict in new ways. If you can engage in conflict without devolving into criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling, then you have a much better chance of withstanding conflict in your marriage.

Accept that conflict will happen, and find new ways to communicate through it

Conflict is a part of every relationship, no matter how healthy it is. Once the honeymoon period is over, every relationship goes through a growth period where difficult triggers around attachment, conflict, and communication are common. Close relationships often can bring up the most vulnerable and tender parts of ourselves and can be very painful to navigate. In the best form, long term relationships and marriages are a chance to engage in a relationship in a healthy way and learn from the conflict that emerges with your partner. Over a long enough time period, any relationship will face conflict, and with the proper support most conflict in relationships can be overcome or navigated through. 

How couples therapy helps you navigate conflict

In couples therapy, you and your partner get the opportunity to focus on your marriage or relationship with your partner once a week. This focus and time set aside specifically to work on your relationship can do wonders in and of itself. In addition, a good couples therapist will help you navigate the conflict in your relationship in a way where you both feel safe to share your side of the story. Once your stories are heard you will learn new communication tools such as Nonviolent communication, and understand how your attachment style might be affecting the conflict that you get stuck in.

The hallmarks of a healthy marriage

In a healthy relationship, conflict will still occur from time to time, but you and your partner will have the tools and understanding to navigate that conflict without falling into the pitfalls of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Once you feel you and your partner are on the same page, you can collaborate together to overcome conflict instead of feeling like its one of you vs the other. With the newfound confidence to navigate rough spots in your marriage, you will feel much more secure in your relationship and you will be able to trust that the two of you can navigate whatever difficulties life may throw at you and your relationship in the future.

Couples therapy in Santa Cruz, CA

I’m Connor Moss, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Soquel, Santa Cruz. I offer couples therapy as well as trauma therapy, depression therapy, and drug and alcohol counseling both in person at my Soquel office and online for anyone in California. If you are needing help in your marriage or relationship, please reach out today and I’d be happy to connect to see if I might be a good fit to help you. 

Photo of Connor Moss, LMFT

What is Depth Therapy?

How depth therapy works

Depth therapy starts with the assumption that “we can only learn about ourselves by looking inward and reporting what we discover” (William James). We can’t understand our psychological processes without considering what’s going on inside our minds. In early methods, clients were asked to reflect on their subjective experiences of their own emotional states. The goal is to establish a relationship between your unconscious and conscious systems so that your life is not dominated by unconscious factors beyond your control. Through insights and awareness, you can regain control of your reactions.

Common depth therapy techniques include socratic questioning, guided imagery, and role playing.

Socratic Questioning

This technique uses questions to help you explore your unconscious thoughts and motivations behind choices you made in the past. These questions are helpful when you find yourself doing things you regret. You can also explore automatic thoughts and emotions using this method.

Guided Imagery

In this technique, your therapist will invite you to explore early memories using all your senses. The purpose is to bring up early experiences that may have been formative for you. As you deeply explore painful childhood memories, you bring your adult perspective, compassion, and kindness for that early experience.

Role Playing

Either with your therapist or using a visualization technique, role playing allows you to plan for a future scenario. Using a past scenario, you can decide how you’d want to do things differently and practice how that might go.

Depth therapy is different from other methods

Depth therapy is an approach to treatment that focuses more on the entirety of your emotional and relational experience rather than one issue. It can help with anxiety, trauma, relational issues, and other life challenges, but the scope of treatment goes beyond the individual issues.

By looking at yourself and your internal unconscious motivations, you’ll learn to recognize your own patterns of how you engage and disconnect relationally. As we examine these patterns, we’ll discover how the problems you encounter in your day to day life are connected to these unconscious issues. In treatment, we’ll focus on helping you integrate your conscious system with these unconscious factors so you can regain control of your life and self.

This work focuses a good deal of time on examining your defenses. These normally keep you from experiencing the negative thoughts and emotions that might otherwise come up. Since you’ll be more in touch with these feelings, I like to add in a component of mindfulness to help foster acceptance and a mindset of holding and then letting go. Mindfulness helps to observe thoughts and emotions without focusing on them or getting caught up in them. As you stay present in your moment to moment experience, the therapeutic work will naturally process these experiences.

Who benefits from depth therapy?

Depth methods are good for people who are deep, analytical thinkers. It’s helpful if you can consider concepts and non-literal ideas. This kind of work is almost like a meta cognition as we’ll be thinking about your process of thinking. If you’re more of an abstract thinker, depth therapy might be a good fit for you.

This kind of therapy is typically more intense and longer lasting than other methods. It involves more emotional work including confronting memories, painful emotions, and strong reactions. Depth work takes motivation and commitment to dive into your inner world. People doing depth work often stay in therapy for a number of years, so this isn’t a short term commitment.

Is depth therapy right for you?

Depth work is one of a few modalities of therapy I offer. I use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for shorter term work focused on treating a particular issue. I also use EMDR to help process traumas and shift layers of connected memories. And of course I offer depth work for people who are interested in exploring their inner unconscious worlds. If you’re interested in learning more, learn more about me here or check out my FAQ for links to schedule a free consultation.

Relational Mindfulness: Getting In Touch With Your Self

Relational mindfulness is a skill that helps us keep in touch with what we’re feeling in the moment. When we tap into that self-awareness, we can notice our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations as we relate to others in the present. It’s a challenge to get in touch with yourself and stay in touch with yourself while you’re interacting with others. It’s especially difficult for people pleasers, people drawn to helping professions (hello, therapists!), and people with a history of trauma who often feel the need to stay safe by monitoring others instead of themselves.

Why Practice Relational Mindfulness?

The purpose of relational mindfulness is to be aware of how things outside of you affect you. If you’re a people pleaser, helper, or someone with a history of trauma, you may have noticed that you’re naturally mindful of the other person but not looking at yourself at all. It’s totally normal to become unaware of your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations in a situation where you’re socially expected to give attention to another person.

When you have a tendency to hide yourself and focus on others, relational mindfulness is a challenge to include yourself in the conversation. Including yourself means that you matter, your thoughts and feelings are equally important in the relationship. I know for people pleasers, helpers, and people with a history of trauma, that can be a really uncomfortable idea. Hiding is safe, and focusing on others allows you to avoid feeling what you’re feeling.

Relational mindfulness is a challenge! I hope this practice helps you improve your awareness of yourself as you engage and relate with others.

Experimenting With Relational Mindfulness

There are small things you can do to start dipping your toes into the practice of relational mindfulness. As a first step, you can try shifting into a posture of internal awareness as you’re watching a show or movie, reading the news, or listening to music. Practicing alone without another person around feels easier and helps you be less self-conscious. It can take time to learn to be aware of your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations.

Check in with yourself. Start by noticing your reactions to things you observe as you’re watching or hearing or reading. What statements create a reaction in you? What is the reaction? Just describe the awareness to yourself, don’t try to analyze where it came from or try to change it.

The goal with this practice is to be able to maintain a dual awareness of your own internal world and what’s going on externally at the same time. In your early practice, it might take you a while to name what you’re feeling- or even to realize that you are feeling something. By observing your reactions to media at first, you’re giving yourself space to take the time to identify your feelings.

Exploring Relational Mindfulness Safely

As you expand your practice of relational awareness, you’ll want to start checking in with yourself during conversations with others. The best place to start is with a safe person. Preferably, this is someone you trust enough that you can tell them about your relational awareness practice. Ideally, you can practice together, naming your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations you observe as you interact with them.

Practicing with another person

Relational awareness practice with another person can be a fun experience. You can go back and forth with each other simply observing your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations and reporting to each other what you observe. Alternately, you can check in with each other at regular intervals during your conversation and name your observations as you go.

Practicing alone… with others

When you don’t have someone you can practice with, you’ll still want to try bringing your dual awareness skills into a real life conversation. It’s easier to start in a group where you’re one of several participants so if you get stuck on an observation it doesn’t interrupt the flow of conversation.

Advanced Relational Mindfulness

Finally, you’ll feel ready to maintain your dual awareness when you’re in a one on one conversation. The core challenge is to stay in touch with your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations while staying fully aware of the other person. The goal of relational mindfulness in this context is to ensure you’re taking care of yourself and your needs

Want to Learn More?

Therapy can help you develop your internal sense of who you are. This is especially helpful for people pleasers, people in helping professions, and people with a history of trauma. Through relational mindfulness and other skills, you can learn dual awareness skills. These will help you improve your relationships by prioritizing yourself. Therapy can help you address your natural barriers to developing a focus on yourself. Learn more about how I work with therapists, people with anxiety, and people with trauma. Or click here to learn more about me.

Text Based Therapy

Text based therapy is an alternative to real time in person or video sessions. It’s also called asynchronous therapy. A UC Davis study shows that text based therapy can be just as effective as real time therapy for non-urgent mental health needs.

Who Benefits From Text Based Therapy?

  • People who like time to process their thoughts. If you’ve ever felt a bit overwhelmed by real time therapy sessions, text based therapy might give you a sense of space and time to consider what you want to say without creating awkward silences.
  • People who can express themselves better through writing or after some time to think. If you are the kind of person who thinks of what they really wanted to say after the session is over, text based therapy might benefit you so you can fully express yourself.
  • People whose schedules don’t allow them to keep to a regular session time. It’s hard to get to therapy when you don’t know your work schedule in advance or when you do shift work that has you available at nontraditional hours. Sure, there are therapists who have odd availability too, but text based therapy lets you get help at your convenience without finding a scheduling unicorn.
  • People who have difficulty with eye contact, feel stressed by real time interactions, or feel pressured to say the socially acceptable thing instead of what they’re really feeling.

Text Based Therapy With Me

I’m now offering asynchronous text-based therapy as an alternative to real time video sessions! Text-based therapy is provided through a HIPAA secure platform and offers many of the benefits of real time talk therapy.

As with all my therapy services, this is only available for people living in California. I work with people whose fears of abandonment and rejection lead them to sabotage their relationships. I also work with early career and young adult therapists to develop confidence in themselves, prevent burnout, and manage their own mental health as they work to heal others. Additionally, I work with people who are grieving losses and navigating a new path forward while honoring their pain.

What Happens Every Week?

Instead of getting a link to a scheduled therapy session, you’ll have full access to a HIPAA secure platform. You’ll be billed on Mondays (see FAQ for cost), I’ll send you messages each week, and you can respond at your convenience.

The content of our messages will depend on your needs. In general, I’ll keep our discussions focused on your goals. I’ll challenge you to think deeply about what’s going on for you and help you gain insights into your patterns just like in real time therapy.

Like with in person or video sessions, I’m here to help you, but your success depends on you doing the work on your own time. It can take a bit more effort on your part with text based therapy since we won’t have the accountability of face to face interactions. But if you’re the type of person who can thrive with asynchronous therapy, I am available to help you work toward your goals.

Fear of Abandonment

The Abandonment Cycle Looks Like:

You meet someone new and tell yourself not to get attached.

So you avoid getting close and opening up.

You end up getting so close you’re deeply attached and invested.

Then you get scared they’ll see through you, realize you’re not worth their time, and leave you.

So you push them away first. That way they can’t hurt you.

But that leaves you alone and abandoned anyway.

How To Handle Abandonment Thoughts

Separate Yourself From Your Thoughts

Let’s start off by getting some distance. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that these thoughts are natural and they’re okay. They’re uncomfortable, but they’re not dangerous. Thoughts come and go, and abandonment thoughts are no different. Breathe deeply, noticing how your body feels. Observe any physical reactions you’re having. Describe the feelings like you’re explaining them to an outside observer who’s never felt them before.

Look At The Facts

Next, describe the facts of the situation to yourself. Just the facts, no interpretation. Our minds naturally want to fill in the gaps to guess what might be going on, but our minds also want to keep us safe by preparing for the worst case scenario. Just the facts. These examples can help you identify the difference between facts and interpretation.

  • I texted her an hour ago and she still hasn’t responded. She must hate me.
  • My friends were out having fun without me. I found out on Instagram. I feel sad, like they just don’t care.
  • I lost my last best friend and it was very traumatic. Those thoughts come up when my new friends don’t make plans with me on our days off. It’s inevitable that I’ll eventually lose them too.

Pause And Find Calm

After you’ve explored the facts, freeze your actions until you can decide what to do from a place of calm. In the moment, your mind can come up with a lot of ideas about what you can do to make sure your friends don’t abandon you. But when you take a step back, some of those ideas aren’t helpful and may even be harmful to your friendships. Our minds don’t make great decisions when we’re stressed, anxious, and desperate.

Act Intentionally From Your Values

Once you’re calm, you can evaluate your choices. Try to notice which choices seem like emotional reactions and which seem like they’re aligned with your values. Check in with your body to make sure you’re still feeling calm as you explore your options. It can help to imagine that you’re offering advice to a friend or family member so the situation feels less personal. Once you’ve settled on a choice, consider the possible outcomes. How do you think your friends will react if you take that action? Will it get you what you want? Is there a possibility it might make things worse? Do you think you’ll agree with your choice tomorrow?

Follow Up With Your Choices

In the moment, it’s difficult to really know what’s going to happen. That’s why it’s important to go back and look at what the results were after the fact. A few days or weeks after you make a choice, take some time to really explore the actual outcomes. Were your ideas of possible outcomes correct? Did it work out how you wanted? What unexpected things came up?

This follow up is NOT meant as an exercise in shame. If you find your thoughts turning to shame, blame, and negativity, reset! We’re looking just at the facts, no judgment. You need to look at the parts that went wrong so you can do something different next time. Usually, you’ll notice that you’re getting stuck on one part of this process more than others. When you notice your patterns, you can create change.

Help For Abandonment

It’s possible to heal your fear of abandonment. You can grow into safe, secure attachment in your relationships. If you’re in California and you’re ready to get started healing your fears of abandonment, click here to schedule a free consultation or click here to learn more about me.

What Is The Best Therapy For BPD?

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, you may be wondering what the best therapy for BPD is. You want help and you want to get a good result. You certainly don’t want to waste money on therapy that isn’t the best fit for you. Or maybe you’ve tried a method that doesn’t work for you and you want to know some alternatives.

What Does It Mean to Be the Best?

The idea of a “best therapy” for BPD is highly subjective. Many people with BPD have been helped by Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), but it seems like almost as many people have tried it and didn’t like it. Fortunately, DBT is just one of many options.

The best therapy for BPD is really the best therapy for you. As you read through this list, consider what would best help you in your recovery. Also consider what format might be best for you. Many methods of therapy for BPD are available as intensive outpatient programs or even partial hospital programs. This can be good if you think you would benefit from more intensive work.

DBT: The First Best Therapy for BPD

I refer to Dialectical Behavior Therapy as the first best therapy for BPD because it was one of the first methods that was created especially for people with a BPD diagnosis. If you’ve been around BPD circles for a while, you’ve heard of DBT. You probably also have an opinion on DBT and its effectiveness.

If you’re newly diagnosed or just haven’t heard about DBT, it’s an offshoot of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). But it’s been modified to help people with BPD because it emphasizes mindfulness. DBT integrates some very meditative and philosophical ideas. Its main goal is to help you become less emotionally reactive. Mindfulness helps you slow your mind down so you don’t say or do things you might regret later.

DBT is based on skills, and it’s commonly used in a group format to help you learn and practice skills with other people. The groups can support you as you try to use the skills in real life situations. Group therapy also reminds you that you’re not alone with your BPD.

Full DBT can be hard to find. The official method is pretty intense, and most therapists don’t offer every part of “full” or “real” DBT. It’s hard to say that DBT is the best therapy for BPD when most therapists and programs don’t offer the full DBT experience.

Still, DBT skills can give you a helpful foundation to get started. You can often find DBT skills workbooks at libraries and bookstores so you can work through the skills without a therapist or program. Despite some of the issues, DBT is still considered the gold standard for best therapy for BPD… at least in America.

MBT: The Other Best Therapy for BPD

Mentalization Based Treatment was created in the late 1980s, around the same time as DBT. Like DBT, MBT was created by people with BPD and meant to help people with BPD. (Lots of acronyms!) Despite its background of evidence, proven effectiveness, and ease of use, it’s not quite as popular as DBT.

The ease of use is a huge factor in why I personally believe MBT should be more standard in the US. As I mentioned in the previous section, DBT is highly complex and requires significant training to be fully used. Most therapists aren’t fully trained and don’t offer the full complement of DBT supports. In contrast, MBT is easy for therapists to learn so they can offer a more complete therapy experience for you as the client.

MBT assumes that a primary cause of BPD is poor attachment as a child. If you don’t have a parent figure who you can safely attach to, you can’t develop your full emotional capacity or sense of yourself. MBT’s focus in treatment is to help you overcome the deficits in your childhood so you can develop secure attachments as an adult.

If your main issues are centered on your relationships, MBT may be the best therapy for BPD for you. It will help you heal your attachment wounds from your early childhood so you have less volatility in your current relationships. You’ll become less sensitive to small changes in your interactions. You’ll also learn how to soothe yourself when you become overwhelmed.

TFP: Best Therapy for BPD…For Some

Transference Focused Psychotherapy (TFP) is a modern psychoanalytic method. If the term “psychoanalytic” made you think of Freud, you’re right! That’s why I think TFP is best defined as a possible best therapy for BPD for some people. Not everyone is the best fit for psychoanalysis.

Modern psychoanalysis is different from how it was in the past. You typically won’t have 5 sessions a week or lay on a couch. But it is still focused mostly on internal work. You won’t necessarily learn new skills or insights right away. Instead, you’ll need to pay a lot of attention to your thoughts and to the relationship between you and your therapist.

One of the core ideas of psychoanalysis is that the relationship between you and the therapist is a reflection of your outside relationships. So any work you do in the sessions will help you out in the “real” world. You’ll be challenged to stick with the therapeutic relationship through all the ups and downs. Your therapist will help and prompt you to communicate everything. This includes your fears of abandonment and your feelings of idealizing, anger, emptiness, and suicide.

Could this be the best therapy for BPD for you? One caution is the lack of empirical evidence. Because TFP is highly individualized, it’s hard to create an effective scientific study. Another caution is that TFP can feel intense. It’s personal, not skills-based, so each session will be directly about you and the ways you relate to others. But if you’ve tried DBT and didn’t like it, TFP might be a good alternative to try.

There Is Help For BPD

Whatever therapy method you choose, and there are many more not listed here, the key focus is finding the one that helps you. There’s no point in finding the highest rated method if it’s not a good fit for your needs. The best therapy for BPD is the one you can stick to. Therapy works best when you can meet regularly and when you can feel comfortable with your therapist.

BPD Therapy With Me

My method of BPD therapy pulls from many kinds of therapy. I love the DBT focus on mindfulness and developing internal awareness. Some of the DBT skills are useful to provide structure when you feel like you’re falling apart. I also incorporate the attachment focus of MBT. Many of the people I work with had a very invalidating childhood and don’t feel secure in relationships. Finally, I think it is important to take the TFP perspective that the therapy relationship is meant to help heal your outside relationships. In therapy, you have a safe space to practice boundaries, stating your opinions and preferences, and expressing your emotions.

To learn more about how I work with BPD and to see if my method may be the best therapy for your BPD, click here.

Book Review: BPD Survival Guide

A therapist reviews The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide by Alexander L Chapman and Kim L Gratz. This book states that it’s “a comprehensive and accessible guide to the causes and symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder, co-occurring problems, psychological treatment options, medication options, and effective coping skills.

Cover image for The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide.

A Comprehensive Summary

This book is an excellent overview of Borderline Personality Disorder and is written for people who have BPD and those who love someone with BPD. The book starts by addressing the signs and symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder. It then addresses the stigma around BPD as a diagnosis. There are many myths about people with Borderline Personality Disorder being dangerous or manipulative. The authors also address some of the myths about where Borderline Personality Disorder comes from.

The most important myth that the authors address is the idea that Borderline Personality Disorder is a life sentence. While it does feel overwhelming, BPD is manageable and treatable. In the second part of the book, the authors address current treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder including Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Mentalization Based Treatment (MBT).

You’ll Get Resources

While this book is meant to be an overview of what it means to have BPD, it’s not meant to replace treatment. The authors do a good job of pointing you to places where you can learn more. They also provide resources for you to find a therapist who treats Borderline Personality Disorder.

In summary, this book is a great resource for people with Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s also helpful for people who want to learn more about BPD to support a loved one. It ends with some tips to help get you some relief while you’re waiting to see a therapist or join an inpatient program.

BPD Help Online

If you’re in California, learn more about how I help people with Borderline Personality Disorder here. In another state? Find online resources through TARA NAPD and NEA-BPD. People supporting someone with Borderline Personality Disorder can find resources at Borderline Sanctuary and BPD Central.

Book Review- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Journal

Helpful ACT Book

I recently got this little book to review from a colleague and I’ve gotta say it’s one of my new favorite ACT books to recommend to people. It looks so nice! And it’s a conveniently small size to take with you if you need prompts to practice when you’re at work or needing some support wherever you are.


Easy Techniques with Great Explanations

Josie does a great job of making the ACT techniques super understandable for people without a therapy background. She has great, down to earth explanations that don’t require you to know any psychological terms to start using them.

Flexible to Meet Your Needs

As she mentions in the book’s introduction, you don’t need to do any of the ACT skills in order. You can skim through until you find the section you need and then focus on that specific area until you start to feel better.

Who ACT Helps

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is what I use for people who need help managing their thoughts regardless of the cause. It’s like CBT- cognitive behavior therapy- but with an added focus on mindfulness and learning to be aware of your thoughts. ACT also helps if your stress is coming from your circumstances or environment as it teaches you a different way to interact with what’s going on to reduce your sense of stress from things outside your control.

Learn more about how I work using ACT and other methods here.

Boundaries In “The Giving Tree”

Debates About The Book

Most people who grew up in American schools read “The Giving Tree” as kids. If you’re not familiar, it’s about a tree who loves a boy so much that she gives him one of her apples when he’s hungry and enjoys his play as he swings from her branches and climbs her trunk. The relationship evolves over the years, and she ends up giving him branches to make a house, her trunk to make him a boat, and finally he uses her stump as a resting place in his old age.

It’s often celebrated as a nice story on giving, and it’s often criticized as an abusive relationship or one-sided relationship. There are many different interpretations from the religious to the environmental. We can also examine the story looking for lessons for us on how we can approach our boundaries with others.

Tree Needs Boundaries

I think of the tree when I’m working with people pleasers, and you may recognize some of these tendencies in yourself. The boy has a need and the tree meets it without considering her future needs. It’s one thing for a tree to give a few apples, but branches don’t simply grow back every year. And once her trunk was cut down, she was no longer able to provide apples or branches or shade.

What would this look like if their relationship was a friendship with boundaries that considered each of their needs moving forward into old age? Primarily, the tree would not be able to give her trunk if she wanted to live a long life. She may have been able to give some branches, but not likely enough to build a house. For her best interest, her boundary might look like only giving him apples.

Second, boundaries might look like advocating for a more mutual friendship. If the boy wants apples each year, she might well ask him to give her regular fertilizer for her roots or help her get rid of a pest that’s bothering her. A good relationship is mutually beneficial for both members.

Next, boundaries could involve the tree telling the boy how his requests affect her. The boy may not realize that taking the tree’s branches or trunk would be an extreme request. He may think the branches would grow back as quickly as the apples. The tree did not give the boy any indication that going along with his requests would have permanent consequences for her.

Finally, boundaries would reject any solution that required one of them to be harmed or killed for the benefit of the other. While this is an extreme example, how often do you sacrifice your comfort, happiness, or well being for the sake of someone else? Are they asking you to do this?

Do You Need Boundaries?

Have you always identified with the tree in this story? If so, think about the implications of maintaining this kind of relationship with someone else. Do you have any relationships that leave you feeling burnt out and unable to keep going? What would it look like for you if you put up some boundaries so your relationships benefited you equally?

Learn more about how I work and how I can work with you to develop your own boundaries here.

New Insomnia Book Is Out!

Managing Chronic Insomnia

If you’ve been following me for a while, you might remember that book 2 of the DIY Therapy series on chronic insomnia was supposed to be out in January. After some delays, it’s finally here!


Available as an ebook at multiple retailers.

Managing Chronic Insomnia is designed to help people who have been dealing with the stress, anxiety, and sheer weariness of poor sleep. Therapy techniques are effective in over 70% of insomnia cases, more than double the long term effectiveness of sleep medication.

About Insomnia Treatment

Insomnia treatment is based in Cognitive Behavior Therapy which is an evidence-based treatment. CBT is totally doable on your own- no sleep therapist or doctor needed. By following the guide and going through sleep retraining on your own, you should be able to manage your chronic insomnia!

If you decide part way through that you do want to work with a specialist, they’ll likely be using CBT as well. As a result, you’ll be able to pick up right where you left off and all the terminology should be familiar to you.

This book does not replace therapy. Instead, it provides an option for you to learn the skills, practices, and techniques of CBT. That means it’s possible to get relief from your insomnia without needing outside treatment.

Next Steps

Does this sound like something you’re interested in? Check out the universal link here. If you like it, consider leaving me a review on the platform where you got it. Do you need help implementing any of the methods in the book? Contact me to set up a one-time support session using the contact form here.

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