premarital counseling los angeles

6 topics engaged couples seldom discuss that could lead to divorce

You just got proposed to, the ring is fabulous and you can't wait to start planning the wedding of your dreams. You have always imagined yourself in a beautiful, big dress with lace sleeves. You've picked the bridesmaids, you know your location, but have you had the right discussion with your fiancé to make sure that you are both in sync? Or do you still have fears that your marriage might end up like your parents'?

Now I know there is nothing romantic about having a serious discussion with the one you love. You'd rather focus on the fairy tale wedding. But if you plan to spend the rest of your life with someone, you better make sure you have laid the right foundation. You don't want to end up like your parents who are now unhappily divorced or like your friend who used to be so happy, but now she can't stand her husband. Laying the right foundation for your marriage will ensure that you both are happily married.

Here are 6 topics that every serious dating and engaged couple should discuss so that the marriage doesn't end up in strife or divorce.

Finances: Money is a huge trigger for many people. Some of us are taught how to take care of our money, and others were never taught. We typically take care of our money the way we saw our parents take care of their money. If your father was a big spender, chances are you'll also want to spend your money quickly. But if your parents or guardians were frugal, you'll probably have a smilier mindset. In some families, money is actually never discussed, meaning that the kids grow up to believe that money is a taboo topic. 

While you are still engaged, it's important to talk about how you both will manage finances. Will you have 2 separate accounts or 1 joint account? Will you split bills half way or will one partner contribute more to the bills? Will you be setting a monthly budget or will you play it by ear? Money is one of the top reasons for divorce. Although it might be uncomfortable, get the discussion in now before you say your vows.

Kids: I can't even tell you how many couples do not ever discuss the issue of kids until after they are married. How many kids do you both want to have? Who will take care of the kids? Will one of you stay home for a while to care for the kids? Will the kids be in daycare? What type of daycare are you comfortable with? How will you raise your kids? What values will you like to instill in them? What are your parenting styles? Will you be a listening parent or a barking orders, do what I say parent? Will the kids be home schooled? If both parents cannot agree about how to raise kids, I promise you, it'll become an ongoing argument once the kids get here. So while it isn't romantic to go over these issues, it's definitely practical.

Holidays: Holidays are joyous times. We spend the time with our loved ones, we have special rituals around that time of year, and we definitely know what type of food should be served. But when an engaged couple gets married, the question becomes, "Do we celebrate holidays at your parents' house or mine?" Great question.

Marriage is a joining of two families. And you can't expect one person to completely leave their family behind. And if both of you are from different cultures, you have to add a separate layer to it. Your spouse might celebrate holidays that you've never heard of. Take some time to talk about what holidays you both would like to celebrate, where you'd like to celebrate, as well as who you'd like to celebrate it with. It might sound too simple to discuss, but when one partner feels like her family is ignored every year, it could lead to resentment, which leads to bitterness and anger. 

Chores: When you're single, you get used to running your household however you want. You can leave your dishes in the sink for 2 straight nights, you can vacuum 3 times a day if you'd like, and you can cook all the stinky cheese you please. No problem. But when you become engaged, then get married, you have to learn how to compromise. Don't take chores for granted. Before you move in together, talk about how you plan to split chores around the house. Is it his job to take out the trash, or will you both do it? How often do you expect the house to be cleaned? Specify what cleaning looks like, because for some people, cleaning simply means sweeping the floor, for others, cleaning means, sweeping, dusting, mopping, fluffing pillows, cleaning the blinds and scrubbing the grout. Make sure it's obvious what your expectations are. I can assure you that something as simple as a dirty home will drive you to daily conflict. 

Religion: This is a huge one. Be very honest about your religious and spiritual beliefs. This is not something to glance over. Talk about your beliefs and how you express them in daily life. So if your expectation is that you go to church on Sundays, then say that. if your expectation is that you volunteering Sundays, go to mid-week service on Wednesdays and also participate on other days, let that be clear. And if you are 2 people form different faith backgrounds, it's even more important to discuss what that would look like. Religious beliefs run deep so put everything on the table and let your expectations be very clear. This WILL lead to strife if not ironed out while you're still and engaged couple.

Roles: Discuss what each of you believes the wife and the husband's role is. Usually, we expect to run our household the way our family of origin ran theirs. So if your mom stayed home and watched the kids, you might want to do the same. If your dad worked two jobs and your mom worked one, you might assume your husband wants to do the same. Do you believe the husband is the head of the household? And what does that mean in practice? Get very specific. The easiest way to do this is to think back to your family of origin. Write out what roles your mom and dad played and think about if you'd like to continue that lifestyle or if you'd want something different.

Learn more about ways to set appropriate boundaries with your partner in this post- How to set appropriate boundaries in your relationships

And if it's too difficult to have these discussions on your own, I provide premarital counseling/therapy for engaged and premarital couples. Let's make sure that you are confident when walking down the aisle. Start your marriage off right with solid counseling. Don't make the same mistakes your friends and loved ones did. And if you'd like to schedule a free 15 minute consultation call, to see if premarital counseling in the Murrieta/Temecula area is right for you, click here or call 951-905-3181. I also provide online premarital counseling throughout California.

That odd feeling could be a panic attack

You think to yourself: "Something is seriously wrong with me." You step into your office and you feel like the walls are caving in. You try to take a few extra deep breaths, but you fear that you will choke. No matter how hard you try, you still can't catch your breath. You begin to sweat, and then suddenly, a wave of embarrassment washes over you. You don't want anyone to notice that you're struggling over here.

You rush to the bathroom as fast as you can to try to get control of yourself and it feels like you might throw up all over yourself. You hope you don't faint. Your body feels hot and you're lightheaded. After what feels like an eternity, you're able to get it together. You stay in the bathroom for a few extra minutes, but after that incident, you spend a lot of time worrying that it'll happen again.

Now it's all you can think about. Anytime you go to the store, you think "Will this happen to me again?" You leave your house and wonder, "Will today be the day?" After a while, your worry actually brings on another episode and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

 If this has ever happened to you, it’s possible that you might have experienced a panic attack. First of all, it’s important to get checked by your physician to ensure that you’re not suffering from a physical health condition. Your doctor would also want to check that it isn’t being caused by a substance or medication.

Panic attacks often create very high anxiety. You try to keep it all under control, then you spend a lot of time worrying that they will happen again, which could then trigger another attack. If you experience panic attacks you might also experience dizziness, a choking sensation, trembling, shaking, hot flashes, nausea, difficulty catching your breath, pounding heart and even fear that you may be dying.

But you know what? Panic attacks are treatable by mental health counselors. Please don't be ashamed. Pick up the phone and reach out for help. The sooner you reach out, the sooner you can begin your journey of recovery. 

So if you’re in the Murrieta or Temecula area and you’ve been struggling with panic attacks or anxiety, don’t stay silent. Click here to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation with me so we can decide how we can work together to help you find your calm. You can also all me on 951-905-3181. Sometimes all you need is some therapy or counseling. You deserve all the joy in the world.

If you're not close to the Murrieta area, but you reside in California, I also provide online sessions. Reach out for help today.

How to pick a therapist in the Murrieta area

Your life has been difficult for a while. You're struggling with anxiety and you're considering therapy. You do a quick search online and you realize there are over 20 therapists in Murrieta alone. How on earth are you supposed to find the right one? Well here are some of my suggestions:

Does the therapist take your insurance? When people call me on the phone, one of the first things they ask me is if I take their insurance. Most people want to go this route because it's the most cost effective way for them. If you choose to use your insurance, just know that insurance expects the therapist to diagnose you. This diagnosis is permanent and will remain on your record. FYI. However, in some cases, if you don't meet criteria for any mental health disorder, then the session won't be covered by your insurance. Always ask your therapist what your diagnosis is. It's a great way to empower yourself. Note that because a therapist accepts your insurance doesn't mean they will be the best fit for you.

Also be aware that your insurance dictates how many sessions you get to have, the length of your sessions and what types of session you have. For example, some insurance companies don't cover couples counseling, some don't cover group counseling and others will limit you to 3 sessions. Call your insurance company to get all the details before making a decision. 

 Is the therapist male or female? Some people specifically want a male therapist, while others want a female and some don't have any preference. Figure out who you are more comfortable with and go that route. There's no advantage with either, just do what makes you feel comfortable.

How much do counseling sessions cost? If you are going the insurance route, ask your insurance company what your benefits are, figure out how many sessions you are approved for and also know if you'll have a copay or you have to meet a certain deductible. That way you can budget for the sessions. Note that it's also possible to work with a therapist who is not contracted with your insurance company. In this case, the therapist will give you a receipt called a super bill, which you will present to your insurance company for reimbursement. So don't fret if the therapist you want to work with isn't on the list of in network providers. Typically this works for PPO insurance companies, while HMO companies want you to see a therapist who is contracted with their network.

If you are not going the insurance route, also ask the therapist how much each session will cost so you're not taken unaware and you can budget accordingly. Either way, you'll have some planning to do.

Where is the therapist located? Do you want a therapist who's close to your home or close to your work? How far away from your home do you want to drive? Some people will drive an hour to see a therapist they deeply connect with, and others must have someone within a 10 mile radius. Think about that. Ultimately, the most important thing is having a therapist whom you deeply connect with.

Imagine driving 10 minutes to see a therapist whom you can't stand? Sounds awful doesn't it?

Can the therapist see you online if you have to be out of town? If you are a busy person who does not always have the time to drive over for weekly appointments or if you go out of town regularly, you might also want to consider a therapist who can see you remotely. I personally use a software called Vsee. It's similar to Skype, except it's more secure. Note that in California, I can only see my clients if they are physically located in California. So if you're traveling out of state, I can't see you.

How long will therapy take? Successful therapy takes anywhere from weeks to months. Have this conversation with your therapist so you can mentally prepare yourself and commit to the care you deserve. It's a lot better to be prepared than to unsuccessfully drop out of therapy.

What is the therapist's personality like? We all know which type of person we connect with the most. This is why it's important to have the free consultation that many therapists offer. Figure out if you like their voice, if they sound friendly enough, if you want someone older, younger, more experienced, etc. Do they remind you of someone from your past? Once you have your first session, if you don't feel like they are a good fit or you really don't like their personality, just tell them.  I promise my feelings will not be hurt. Remember. Not every therapist will be the perfect fit for you.

So, if you'd like to have a free 15 minute phone consultation call with me so we can figure out how to get you on board the counseling train, ou can call me on 951-905-3181.

Questions to ask your therapist

So you've finally taken the plunge and decided to schedule an appointment with a therapist. Your heart is beating wildly, you're embarrassed and you're not sure how it's all going to go. You head into the office, you check your shirt to make sure you didn't stain it with your lunch. Your thoughts won't slow down. You ask yourself, "What am I supposed to say?" "What if she asks me something I don't want to answer or a question I don't know?"

 It's okay. Just breathe. Once you step into my office, I'll welcome you, ask you to have a seat and make sure the room temperature is all good. I'll also have tissue boxes for you, just in case things get a bit tearful. When you sit on my couch, here are some questions you can ask me.

 1) Will you be able to help me? And I'll probably tell you that I'll try my best, but I cannot give you a 100% guarantee that your life will be perfect after therapy. We will work together as a team to help you inch closer to your goals. But just like your doctor cannot promise you a sickness free life and Nordstrom cannot promise you that those pumps will change your life, I can't promise you that your life will be perfect.

 2) Did you diagnose me? Great question. If you plan to use your health insurance, then yes you'll be getting a mental health diagnosis. It's the only way insurance will pay. However, if you do not fit the criteria for a mental health diagnosis, I will not be diagnosing you. FYI it's illegal to just give someone a diagnosis just to make insurance pay. No bueno.

 3) What's my diagnosis? Another great question. I love to discuss this with my clients. I will tell you what diagnosis I gave you (if indeed I gave you one), why and what it means. This is similar to how doctors explain to you what they diagnose you with. If you're diabetic, they tell you what that means and if you pulled a muscle, they also explain to you what it means. Don't be afraid to ask me about this. I believe it could be great for your healing.

 4) How long will I be in therapy? This varies. Some people are in therapy for 6 short sessions, and others, for as long as 1 year or more. Still there are some people who show up once, decide it's not for them and they stop coming. It really all depends on your diagnosis, your commitment to do the work and what your goals are. If your diagnosis is severe, chances are you'll be in therapy longer. If you're not willing to do the hard work, you might also be in therapy longer. Either way, this is a great conversation to have.

 5) Will you be sharing my information with anyone? Technically I will only share information if you are a danger to yourself or someone else, or if I'm having to make a child abuse, elder abuse or dependent abuse report. These reports are mandated by the state of California when the need arises. I'll also have to share your information if the Feds ask me to do this (because I do not want to be complicit or a partner in crime). This is called the Patriot Act. Read more about it here. Outside of any of these situations, your information stays in my brain like a steel trap.

 If you'd like me to share information with your doctor or lawyer or husband or childhood friend, you'd have to sign a document called a release of information. In the document you'll tell me which information specifically I'm allowed to share. If you change your mind in the future, you can choose for me not to share that information.

 6) How often will our sessions be? Every therapist works differently. I personally like to see my clients weekly. This seems to be the best option for people who really want to get the ball rolling. I'm all about, let's set a goal, let's work hard to reach a goal, and then let's get you graduated. Woohoo!!

 7) Do you charge cancelation fees? Not all therapists do this, but I absolutely do. If I don't get a 24 hour notice, I do charge you a portion of the fee. This is important to note so you know exactly what to expect. Remember this, therapists see clients hourly, so if you don't show up to your appointment, we're left twiddling our thumbs. Plus if you give me a 24 hour notice, I'm able to offer your appointment time to someone else who needs some therapy. So out of respect for other clients who might want an appointment, please give a 24 hour notice so that others who also need help may take your spot.

What other questions would you like to have answered before you see a therapist?

For a free 15 minute phone consultation call with me, call me at 951-905-3181 so you can begin a path to a happier, calmer life. During this 15 minute phone call, I'll ask you what you've been struggling with, what your goals are, if you've been in therapy before, and it's your time to ask me whatever you want. Look at it this way, you get to interview me before you work with me.