Meet Andy Sibley, a local psychotherapist who wants to help by answering your questions
Over the years I have enjoyed helping people through difficult times. I worked for the Dr. Phil show for several years, counseling many guests of the show and accompanying some of them on the program. I still enjoy being a recommended counselor referral on their website. I also enjoy doing seminars and guestspeaking.
I am excited to kick off this “Ask Andy” series in 318 Forum magazine to offer “down home” advice from a counselor’s point of view on individual or family concerns. Here’s an opportunity for you to contact me with a question regarding a situation that you want some advice on. The benefit of offering advice in this public forum is that it gives other readers with similar difficulties the ability to read the questions and advice and personalize it to heal their lives. This format is certainly not intended to take the place of actual counseling with a clinical practitioner.
I thought I would prime the pump for your questions by describing a common issue I help people with in my practice: grief and loss. Grieving the loss of something or someone that has been taken away or changed can be difficult. When most people think of grieving, they usually think about the pain of the death of a loved one, but grief can come from any kind of loss you might experience. This may include the loss of a job, end of a marriage or relationship, health problems, loss of trust in someone, or many other types of losses. Many of my clients are surprised when they hear me relate a situation they are dealing with as a normal part of grieving. The revelation can give a new focus on how to deal with the emotional pain and healthily view the situation.
In counseling, it’s important to gather information and make sure the counselor fully understands the problem and the person’s perception of it before offering advice. This is where reading a self-help book or searching the internet is limited because these can only give you general ideas or ways to heal, but a personal counselor can get to know you and offer advice specific to you.
On the topic of grieving, here is a recent question I had from a new client, “Diane”: “How do I get past my husband cheating on me?” Indeed a complicated subject, so first let me give you a little more background on Diane’s situation. I learned that Diane and her husband, “Carl,” had been married for 10 years and had three children together. They didn’t fight often, enjoyed each other’s company, parented well together, and she thought everything was fine between them. Diane did acknowledge that she was often tired from working and caring for the kiddos, which limited her alone time with Carl and their intimacy together. She viewed this as usual and part of a maturing relationship. When Diane confronted Carl about the cheating, she was surprised to hear that he didn’t think they were happy and felt a distance between them and was lonely. Diane felt angry, betrayed, embarrassed and sad about the situation. They had been trying to work things out for a couple of months, but Diane was still having a hard time forgiving and letting go of the pain.
I worked with Diane and Carl together to help with communication, setting boundaries and also individually to work on their internal struggles. Once Diane began to understand that a large part of her difficulty was dealing with the losses and grieving, she began to forgive Carl and improve her belief in their relationship. Grieving losses can be a long process for some people (you don’t heal overnight), but getting through it can offer a sense of peace and acceptance.
One factor that affects how quickly or fully a person heals from a loss is their perception or belief about the event. The ultimate goal of grieving is to find acceptance about the situation. The first part of healing is a stage of not wanting to accept the situation while the second part of healing a loss is finding acceptance.
People who cannot find acceptance of their loss are at risk of going into “crisis” and not functioning well in life. Those that can change their perception of the situation and gain acceptance tend to heal and have a higher functioning in life.
Another important factor in healing from loss is called resiliency. This is your ability to adapt and recover quickly after stress, adversity or loss. If you’re less resilient, you’re more likely to dwell on problems, feel overwhelmed, use unhealthy coping skills to handle stress, and develop anxiety and depression.
Please reach out with any questions or topics you want me to address in the 318 Forum magazine.
To Ask Andy a question about a difficult situation you may want help with, please email him at Andy@AndySibley.com or go to his website at www.AndySibley.com.
Andy Sibley, MA, LPC, LMFT is a psychotherapist in private practice and contracted counselor for the Dr. Phil show.