December 28, 2015

"What's Worth Doing Even If You Fail?"

Forget the New Year's resolutions

As 2015 fades into 2016, this is the perfect time to think about what you want your life to look like in the coming year. I am not just talking about New Years' resolutions. We have all made and broken resolutions more times than we can remember. I want to ask you to think about a bigger, more important question. What is missing from your life? What would enhance your life?

For some of you, this might include finding the courage to pursue a new job, start dating again, open yourself to more community or new friendships, or getting involved in a club, church, or other non-profit. These goals may have even been things that have been on your mind for a while. But inertia, laziness, fear, or insecurity have been getting in the way.

We often just keep doing what we have been doing. Ultimately, we are creatures of habit. We talk to the same friends at parties, sit in the same seats at church, order the same food at restaurants, and keep showing up at our jobs long after we have become dissatisfied with them. It is human to seek comfort and avoid unknown situations because if we do something new, we stand a bigger chance of failing.

Try something new even if there's a chance you may fail

But what would be worth doing even if you failed? Brene Brown posed this question in her book Daring Greatly. I think it is an extremely helpful question to ask yourself--especially as you consider making changes in your life.

A few years ago I decided I wanted to try out a team sport. I had no experience in the sport, and in fact I was generally more of an academic person than an athletic one. It took some time for me to talk myself into showing up, being vulnerable to meeting new people, and possibly failing at the sport I knew nothing about. But I knew that my energy and interest kept drawing me toward roller derby, so I eventually went for it.

The first night I showed up, I put on my gear the wrong way. Someone corrected me. I was a little embarrassed, but I was determined to make this derby thing work. I wasn't very good for a while. I had trouble learning the rules. I had trouble staying upright. But with every failure, I kept telling myself to keep going. I told myself if I just kept showing up, I would eventually figure things out.

Despite my initial inadequacy,  I was learning from day one about my own stamina and my ability to use my body in physical ways. I grew in confidence not just as I grew better at the sport, but also as I kept going time and again when I wanted to stop, to quit, to sit on my couch and watch tv instead of spending 2 hours practicing with my new derby team. My failures only made my successive successes that much sweeter.

You are worth taking a chance on

I can say that the decision to play a new sport was worth it even if I fail to ever become really good at roller derby. What I learned about myself and my new derby community were worth it by themselves.

Living life means taking chances and being vulnerable. It's scary and sometimes painful, but the only other option is to live a safe but dull and limited life. If I had chosen that safe route, I never would have learned as much about myself and never would have been able to reach my own potential. I also would not have made as many new friends.

Instead of making a list of New Year's resolutions this year, ask yourself,
What is worth doing this year even if I fail?
Pursue the changes you want (even if you might fail) because it is worth it. You are worth it. Your life is worth it.

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!

December 11, 2015

Wilson Counseling welcomes Wendy Evans!

We are excited to welcome Wendy Evans to Wilson Counseling. Wendy has a wonderful combination of warmth and strong clinical skills. This combination is one of the reasons she is so successful at helping people make real changes in their lives.

Wendy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 20 years experience in the field. She enjoys working with adolescents, adults, and couples who are struggling with grief and loss, anxiety and depression, eating disorders, and relationship and abuse issues.

Wendy offers a safe and non-judgemental environment that allows clients to open up and feel accepted. She uses a variety of techniques to help clients reach their goals including cognitive behavioral therapy, problem solving and some gestalt techniques. These techniques help clients build on their strengths instead to motivate change toward their goals.

If you would like to schedule an appointment with Wendy, you can contact Wilson Counseling via e-mail at nancy @ wilsoncounseling dot org, or call us at 713 - 591 - 3612 and ask for Wendy.

November 22, 2015

Avoid The Thanksgiving Binge: Tips For Eating Mindfully

Thanksgiving can be a really difficult time for my clients who struggle with eating. Before Thanksgiving ever comes, we spend time working together so that this holiday centered on eating can becomes a time where they can enjoy family and friends, and even food. But to do this, it is important to be mindful about the Thanksgiving meal itself.

Many of the kinds of things I cover with clients are discussed in a Psychology Today article "Tips for a Mindful Thanksgiving Feast" by clinical psychologist Alexis Conason. I have reprinted the text from the article below. She includes simple tips that will help you truly enjoy the food you consume and avoid some of the common behaviors that can leave you feeling uncomfortably full and unhappy with yourself.

Thanksgiving can be a time of socially sanctioned binge eating. We come together with friends and family with the intent of consuming as much food as humanly possible in a short amount of time. Many families have their own traditions around this. In my family, it is mandatory to wear “stretchy pants” (pants made from a givable fabric) to the holiday meal so that our waistbands don’t constrict our ever-expanding stomachs. The eating begins with snacks set out before the meal. Then we move to the dinning table for the main event. First comes soup and salad, then the turkey with various side dishes, and finally desserts (notice the at the end of desserts- there are many). By evening, the excitement of the holiday meal has given way to post-meal bellyaches, as we all sprawl out on the couch, unbutton our stretchy pants, and promise to never eat again. Fun times, right?  
Thanksgiving can be particularly difficult for those who usually restrict their eating through dieting. Due to a lessening of our usual restrictions around food, the holiday becomes a reason to eat all of the restricted foods that you’ve dreamt of for so long. And since you’ve promised yourself that you’ll be back on your diet tomorrow, you eat as much as possible today. Add in the stress that often comes from difficult family relationships and you have a recipe for eating disaster. If the above scenario resonates a bit too close to home, you may want to try something different this Thanksgiving. Here are some mindful eating techniques for a satisfying and enjoyable experience that won’t leave you feeling like a stuffed Butterball afterwards.

1.   Don’t skip breakfast. Many people don’t eat breakfast on Thanksgiving because they are “saving up” for the big event. But skipping breakfast means that you will arrive to the Thanksgiving meal feeling very hungry and primed to overeat. Since the turkey and fix’ns are not usually served until later in the day, you are likely to gorge on the snacks and appetizers before the main event. I don’t know about you, but canned nuts and potato chips are not usually what I’m looking forwards to on Thanksgiving. However, this is what I’m likely to consume if I arrive hungry. If you arrive satiated, you will be less likely to overeat the first food you see. You can make more controlled and conscious decisions and chose the foods that are most appealing to you.

2. Check in with yourself. Use a hunger and fullness scale to identify how hungry and full you feel throughout the day. Try to stay in the middle ranges of the scale without becoming either famished or stuffed. Remember: it’s a long day of eating. Eat until you feel satisfied now and go back for more food if you become hungry again later. Reheat leftovers if you desire more food after the meal ends.

3. Take a small taste of each food that looks appealing to you. There are typically many different choices available during the Thanksgiving feast. To start off, try taking a small portion of each food that you desire. Make mindful choices- observe what the food looks and smells like, notice any emotional reactions to the foods, and take note of your hunger and fullness level (see #2). Eat each food mindfully, observing the appearance, smell, texture, and taste of each bite. Notice if the taste changes as you eat. If you desire more of any of the foods, go back for a second helping. Continue to track your hunger/fullness level as well as your enjoyment of each food. 
4. Enjoy. Our enjoyment of food often diminishes as we become less hungry. When eating mindfully, you may notice that the cream puff that tastes so incredible at first bite becomes cloyingly sweet after the 10th bite. There usually comes a point in the eating experience where the food is no longer as enjoyable as it initially was. Try to notice the point where you are no longer fully enjoying the food and consider stopping.

While Thanksgiving tends to be a food-centric holiday, consider alternate non-eating sources of satisfaction. Catch up with your great-aunt. Listen to old family stories. Take a walk with a cousin. Dance. Watch the game. Hopefully you’re not sitting on the couch with your stretchy pants unbuttoned promising to never eat again. But if you are, that’s okay too. Try not to harshly judge yourself. Harsh judgments only lead to further overeating. Try to practice non-judgmental acceptance towards yourself and your eating. I wish you all a happy and mindful Thanksgiving holiday!

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away! 

October 25, 2015

Using Exercise To Fight Depression & Anxiety

image:Huffington Post

Exercise, the magic pill

I have talked quite a bit about the importance of physical exercise on strong emotional health. I firmly believe movement and physical exercise are necessary components to a good body image as well as to optimizing a whole sense of self, not to mention the benefits of decreasing anxious and depressive emotions. As one of my clients likes to say, exercise is the magic pill. It won't cure everything, but it will make many things in your life more bearable.

Exercise is a great coping mechanism for dealing with all of the garbage and stress that life will throw your way. I have had clients who struggled with anxiety who were able to control their anxiety with daily exercise instead of anti-anxiety meds. I have been amazed at the results.

Do something that motivates YOU

It is important to find a type of exercise that you don't mind doing, or you will likely burn out. For some people, being part of a recreational league, or exercising with a friend can help them be accountable to continuing the exercise. But for others, the solitary and meditative exercise of running can be very motivational. Ashely Womble talks about how she combats depression, in an article entitled "Using Running to Fight Depression." As Womble points out there is considerable body of research that link physical activity and mental wellness. The type of exercise you do is less important than the simple fact of having sustained physical activity for at least 15 minutes a day.

The obvious challenge is in starting and maintaining an exercise program. I recommend you begin with small challenges. There are some great apps that have 7 minute workouts. Check your app store for examples. Or challenge yourself to walk 10,000 steps a day. You can often fit these steps into your daily routines by doing things like taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator. Many people I know love using fitness trackers like the Fitbit to track their steps. Making a game of it can motivate you and make the whole process more fun.

Keep it going, and monitor your emotions

If you are struggling with stress and depression in your life, I challenge you to think of adding some type of movement into you day. Set a modest goal for the week and when you meet it, increase the goal the following week. People generally overestimate what they can accomplish in a short period of time and underestimate what you can do over a long period of time. Don't expect dramatic results over night, but you will find yourself changing over time if you stick with this lifestyle of activity. You will find that both your physical and emotional health will increase. Exercise can be a magic pill for many of the things that ail you.

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!

October 1, 2015

Understanding Your Teen: Resources For Parents
For the parents of my teenage clients, I think understanding their kid must feel like trying to read the Rosetta Stone without the knowledge of Greek, Demotic or Hieroglyphics, i.e. frustrating, mysterious and sometimes downright impossible.

I received a call from an upset parent recently. The call was similar in content to calls I have taken in the past from other parents. "Lindsey has done something and I don't know how to handle it. I just need to talk to somebody who knows my kid."  The tone in their voices is usually a mix of sadness, disappointment, and sometimes panic.

This call came from a parent who has always impressed me. In my interactions with her and her daughter, I have felt that she parented in a very balanced, wise and caring way. But even good parents go through moments when they have used all the tools at their disposal and they don't know what to do next. In those moments, it is helpful to be able to talk out your problem with a fellow parent, a therapist, or a friend.

There are also some good books, articles, and blogs that can help parents navigate parenting teens. One that I have found to be helpful is a blog called Understanding Teenagers. The author Chris Hudson gives practical advice.

Your teen is bound to mess up, to disobey, and to lie to you at some point. How do you handle that?

Chris points out, "Good discipline is educative and restorative rather than punitive. There should be consequences for betraying trust, but they need to be connected to and in proportion to the breach committed. "

When your teen does violate a boundary you have set with them, Chris mentions the following things which are helpful to consider:

  • Listen to what your teenager has to say before making any judgments 
  • Don’t respond out of anger or a desire to punish, take a few deep breaths and calm down before passing sentence 
  • Only make consequences that you can follow through with or they won’t work 
  • What might work for one young person might not work for another  
  • Set consequences that can be enacted quickly and provide your teenager a chance to try again, e.g. “You came home very late after we agreed on a time, so tomorrow I will pick you up” 

Parenting is one of the hardest jobs out there. Be patient with yourself as you parent. You are not going to get it right every time. Sometimes you will yell at your kids and then feel like a jerk. Welcome to parenthood. Surround yourself with others who have been there and can support you as you walk through this journey of parenting.

You may not be able to read the Rosetta Stone, but if you need help trying to read your teen or pre-teen, I recommend checking out some of the articles on the Understanding Teenagers Blog.  

Happy Parenting! You are doing important work.

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!

September 17, 2015

Lack of Sleep Can Affect Your Weight

You may already know that sleep is necessary in order to stay emotionally healthy, but did you realize that getting sufficient sleep is also important for maintaining a healthy weight? This article on WebMD entitled  "Sleep More, Weigh Less" explains why your body is more likely to feel hungry, hold on to calories and crave starchy/sugary foods when you don't get enough sleep. It is a very interesting read.

If you are looking for tips to improve your sleep, check out one of my past blog posts on this topic. Sweet Dreams!

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!

August 28, 2015

You Never Marry the Right Person

Doing couples counseling can be some of the most rewarding and exhilarating work I do as a Houston therapist, but sometimes it is also heart breaking stuff. By the time couples come in to see me, they usually have years of frustration, anger and resentment coursing through their veins. They may even view their partner more as adversary than ally. Life is incredibly lonely and conflictual when you can not find peace in your home and in your marriage.

But, if through therapy, couples can start to tear down the walls they have erected to guard their hearts, it is a beautiful thing to see the healing take place. I genuinely believe that marriage is one of the best places to heal all of the brokenness that world has thrown your way, but it requires consistent and often challenging work.

One of the biggest myths about marriage that poisons the well for couples is the idea that if you find the "right" partner, marriage will be smooth, natural, even easy. If you believe this, it is simple to see why couples assume that when marriage is difficult or even bitter, then maybe they married the wrong person. You may have felt this way along the line. "Did I make a mistake?" "Wouldn't my life be better without ____" Ultimately, I think marriage is not really about marrying the right person as much as it is about being the right person. Duke University ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas put it this way, "The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and car for the stranger to whom you find yourself married."

Theologian and pastor Tim Keller explores this idea in an article entitled, "You Never Marry The Right Person."  He points out that any two people who enter marriage are inherently broken and therefore are selfish by nature. He goes on to quote Dennis De Rougemont who says ,"Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love....?"  Our expectations for marriage and for our partners are completely unrealistic. Ultimately, I think this is to our detriment.

When couples come in to see me and both of them want me to fix their partner, I know there is going to be a problem. If no one in the room recognizes that they are a problem, then we have nothing to work with. I do feel that some relationships are broken beyond repair. If you are married to a person who is abusive, for example, I am not suggesting that you stick around hoping that things get better. But for most of us, our relational problems are fixable.

Before you try fixing your partner, I recommend that you try to focus on yourself. Ask yourself, what are the things I am bringing into the relationship that are not helpful? Start working on those things first. As you experience transformation in yourself, you will be more stable and capable of working on your marriage. One step at a time, your marriage can be a place of healing and peace. As long as you live, your relationships will require cultivation and nourishment to flourish. I know working on your relationship may sound like a drag, but the alternative is a relationship that withers and dies before it has a chance to become something beautiful.

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!

August 13, 2015

Couples Counseling Humor - Fixing verus listening

In couples counseling, I teach couples to use active listening techniques to improve their communication. Usually one of the the partners wants to "fix" their partners problem or fix their partner when the partner really just wants to feel understood and heard.

This video makes light of this concept of listening versus fixing. It is pretty hilarious. Enjoy!

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!

July 21, 2015

30 Day Body Image Challenge - Finding Freedom From Body Dissatisfaction

So much time wasted on fat talk

How much time do you spend daily thinking about how dissatisfied you are with your body? Now multiply that by 365 to see how much time you spend annually feeling dissatisfied with your body. Then think about all of the people you know, and add up how much time, energy, emotion and money they spend disliking their bodies. Can you even count that high?

One of the questions I ask to assess my clients who struggle with body image problems is, "what percentage of your waking hours do you spend thinking about food, weight, and your body?" The answers vary from 10% to 90%. Often these thoughts tend to be of the punishing variety, like "I hate my (insert body part)" or "My (insert body part) looks really fat."

These thoughts do not necessarily correspond to reality; they are instead based on negative feelings we have about ourselves. I had a client named Kristie in my office recently. I think by accepted western standards, she would be considered to have an ideal body. Imagine a Heidi Klum type--tall, thin, well accessorized. Still, she is not happy with her body. She shared that she was afraid people would reject her if she didn't always look perfect. Kristie said one time, "I'm so tired of thinking about myself and my body. It sucks up all of my extra time."  She has become a slave to a self-imposed standard that left her no time to do other things in life that she enjoyed, things that made her feel genuinely good about herself.

Do something good with that time

Carolyn Becker asks a really good question at her TEDx San Antonio talk. What could you do to change the world if you could harness all the time, energy, emotion and money you spend disliking your body and could direct it to making a difference? Commit to stopping the fat talk, the shame talk, and all of the negative body chatter that runs through your mind today. Instead, challenge yourself to think about how you can do something to make a difference in someone one else's life.

It does not have to be a big thing. You don't have to stop world hunger. But maybe instead of spending 5 minutes worrying about how your tummy looks in your new swimsuit, you spend 5 minutes writing an email to a friend telling them what a blessing they have been in your life, or you make coffee for your partner when they get up in the morning, or you help your elderly neighbor pull weeds in her garden, or you get online and donate money to your favorite charity. You have the power to redirect your energy to something good. And when you are engaged in doing good, you will just feel better.

Make a plan and take the challenge

Of course you can keep criticizing your body in the hopes that it will motivate you to exercise more and eat less, but I want to encourage you to try something different. For the next 30 days, focus less on how your body looks and more on how you want to use your body to be the kind of friend, coworker, partner, and parent who contributes to the wellbeing of those you encounter. Make a list of 10 things you can do this month, and cross the list off as you go.

Who knows, the extra energy you get from helping other people might even translate into more motivation to take better care of yourself. But hopefully the motivation to take care of yourself will come from a place of strength and confidence and not from a place of criticism.

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!

May 31, 2015

Finding hope in the storms: Life after the flood

It has been a long hard week for so many people in the Houston area.  When we went to bed on Monday night,  we could not have imagined what would soon be at our doorsteps, literally at our doorsteps. The thunder boomed, the lightning struck and the rain poured all night long. Many people stayed up anxiously waiting as the flood alerts rang on their phones.  And then they scrambled to move valued possessions as the waters started seeping into their homes. 

The insurance adjuster who later came to assess the damage told us enough rain had fallen in Houston to fill the entire state of Delaware with 10 feet of water. On some parts of our street,  the water came up to my chest.  The city sent rescue boats to help the elderly,  or anyone else stuck in their homes. Imagine boats where streets used to be.  The air was filed with the sound of helicopters and rescue vehicles.  It is an incredibly surreal experience. At least temporarily,  the waters had s swallowed our neighborhood. People felt dazed and confused.  

Even when  the schools reopened, you could see the empty looks on people's faces.  I remember seeing someone whose home had flooded walking up to the school. As I reached out to give her a hug, she sobbed in my arms. This is a woman I barely know,  but we are all in this together, and so, I cried too. After traumatic events like this,  emotions sit right bellow the surface,  and nearly anything can push then out. This is the kind of thing that is hard to capture in pictures. It is hard to capture how vulnerable people feel.

The beautiful side of all of this is seeing how neighbors and friends did come together to help one another. There are countless stories of people helping neighbors pulling out wet carpet, moving furniture,  making meals, and taking in neighbors who needed them. 

One of the best predictors of how satisfied you will be in life and how well you will deal with difficulty is social support.  If you have supportive friends or family,  you will likely weather the storms of life. 
We live in a very individualist society.  I think it is part of our cultural DNA to value rugged individualism  and independence. And sometimes that works fine,  but in moments of difficulty,  it becomes obvious that we are not islands. We need each other.  I firmly believe we are made to live in community. 

We are made to help and be helped. Our lives are richer when we share in people's need and suffering. I think most people can accept this.  But what many of us have more trouble with is accepting the help. We are socialized to see accepting help as weakness, and as burdensome.  I can tell you from personal experience as well as my experience helping my clients in therapy, that is not the case. 

It will be a blessing for you to let people walk with you in your times of need,  just as it will be a blessing for them to help you.  These are the kinds of experiences that make us feel human. This is how we create community which ultimately makes life more fulfilling.

We all have our own burdens to carry.  Whether you have gone through a traumatic event,  or are just having trouble adjusting to the stresses of everyday life,  I encourage you to reach out and share your story.  Your honesty and vulnerability will help relieve your burdens,  and your courage to share will help others open up. Reaching out might just be the difference between feeling drowned by the troubles of life or feeling surrounded and buoyed by love and support.

The day after the heavy rains,  we had a few hours of blue skies, sunshine and cool breezes. There was no rainbow,  but just as in the story of Noah, I would like to think there were signs of hope.  I would like to think we are part of that story of hope and redemption as we share our burdens with each other. 

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!

May 10, 2015

Melting Away Parental Guilt

Sitting across from me on the sofa with her adolescent daughter, Lydia was tearful and a little overwhelmed. I had not planned to meet with them that day, but I had a cancellation and was able to fit them in. Lydia's daughter Sandy had been in treatment with me for the past few months for an eating disorder. Though she had made great strides, Sandy continued to struggle with stuffing her emotions down with food. Sandy was working out the trauma she had experienced as a victim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a family member. Sometimes Sandy acted out, sometimes she numbed out. For her, going numb was easier than letting the pain of her experience live alert inside her.

The trouble of parental guilt

Just like so many of the mom's who bring their children in for treatment, Lydia was incredibly resilient and was determined to do right by her daughter. Watching your daughter deal with any illness is tough. For Lydia, this pain was compounded by the extreme guilt she felt that her daughter had been abused. As the words started tearfully flowing, Lydia said in a tone barely louder than a whisper "All I wanted was to protect my daughter, and I wasn't even able to do that." She felt like a failure at the one thing that mattered most to her.

I could see Sandy, who initially sat stoically, start to soften up, lean in and put her arm around her mother. Sandy, I asked, "Are you upset with your mom for the abuse? For not protecting you?" She replied without thought, hesitation or anger in her voice "Not at all. I am just angry that they (the family member) have made her feel this way." And it was easy to see the the truth of her words in the protective way that Sandy looked at her mom.

Guilt is a part of parenting

Guilt is a part of being a good parent. Period. It does not necessarily mean you have done something wrong. On the contrary, what I have found is that guilt tells me something great about my clients. In this situation, Lydia's sense of guilt tells me that she cares deeply for her daughter, that she has a strong protective instinct, that she dreams of good things and peaceful relationships for Sandy. It also tells me she takes her role as a mother seriously and holds herself as Sandy's mom to a very high standard. I encourage you to ask yourself the same question I asked about Lydia when you are experiencing guilt. 

What wonderful thing does the guilt say about me?

I often help people recognize guilt for what it is--a sign post. What does your sign post say about you? For Lydia, she was eaten up by guilt, paralyzed by it. But through therapy,  she was able to recognize something good about herself because of the guilt she felt. Her guilt meant that she loved her daughter, and that was a great thing. Once she recognized that it helped melt away some of the guilt so that she could continue doing the hard work of parenting a teenager.

Your situation may be different from Lydia's, but I can guarantee you that you experience guilt as a parent. Maybe you feel guilty about not spending enough time with your kids, or about being impatient and yelling, about being too protective or not protective enough, or about not being able to provide the things you would like for them. The list could be endless.

Melting away the guilt

You would not experience any of this guilt if you did not love your children and want good things for them. Now, if you can just show yourself the same compassion you show your kids when they are less than perfect, you too can work past the guilt. You can work at being the kind of parent you want to be.

I am constantly impressed, amazed and dumbfounded by the parents who bring in their teens to therapy. These are parents who invest in their kids, who share their vulnerabilities, who love them through tantrums, acting out, being lied to, and many other difficult experiences. As a parent, you may doubt yourself, but remember, you are a work in progress. And you are exactly the parent your child was meant to have.

As mother's day and then father's day approach, I feel thankful that there are parents like those who walk in my door who are trying day by day to love their children well. They are shaping the future one heart at a time. And their investment is not in vain.

No matter what their guilt tries to tell them. 

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!

April 24, 2015

Fighting and conflict dragging you down?

Cindy came in feeling like things were falling apart all around her. She had had an altercation with someone at work and had been written up for it. This was pretty devastating to someone whose identity was wrapped up in her reputation at work. Add to that stress the fact that her and her husband were fighting more and she was questioning if marrying him was a mistake. Her communication with her husband had become increasingly combative. She felt he did not help out enough, was not contributing to the relationship financially, and did not listen to her when she tried to voice her concerns. Cindy did not want to leave her husband or her job, but she knew she could not keep things going the way they were.

Sometimes when I write about my clients stories, I wonder if the words do justice to the real pain of their experiences. Words like stress hardly seem sufficient. When you think about your own life and the the conflict you have had with loved ones, you realize how deep and pervasive the fallout is from these damaged relationships. Longstanding arguments with your partner can cloud your entire day, or week, or your life in general. You can start to lose hope, feel depressed. And what seems even more tragic about this, is that all of this hurt is coming from interactions with someone whom you love and who loves you back. All of this is coming from someone who probably genuinely wants you to be happy.

I was able to help Cindy decrease her stress level with some cognitive behavioral techniques. Once her mood improved, we worked on her relationship problems. I encouraged Cindy to ask herself two questions before talking to her husband. These two questions can help all of us to be more intentional and avoid a lot of conflict before it starts. I encourage you to take out a note card or your phone and write down the questions and your answers to these questions.

The first question is:

"How do I want my partner/friend/co-worker to feel at the end of our interaction?" 

Your list might include things like "I want him to feel respected, relaxed, important." The second question is:

"How do I want to act in this interaction?" 

Your list for this questions might include, "I want to be open minded, caring, attentive." This list will guide you when you interact so you are not just being defensive, but instead are intentional and outward focused. These questions will help you deal with your partner in a way that fits who you want to be.

You won't always do this perfectly, but it is a great place to start. When Cindy and I talked about using these questions, I could see a light going off for her. She realized she had some control over how she felt when dealing with her husband. And now she had a tool to use in communicating with him.  Then Cindy said something interesting  "I need to value my own well being." In other words, I need to value myself enough to work on this and use the tools.

I don't know your situation, but if you are struggling in a relationship, I recommend you try using these questions to guide and inform your interactions. I think you will find, like Cindy did, that you feel more in control, and better about yourself. And ultimately, I hope it will mean more peace in your relationships as your partner feels heard and valued.

If you found this article helpful and would like to receive it automatically in your inbox, there is a subscription link on the top right column of this page.

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!

March 26, 2015

15 Unhealthy Habits You Can Start Changing Right Now

This article is a funny and insightful reminder about ways you can start to feel better about your body and yourself. Check the list to see if you find yourself on it.  Chances are, you are doing at least one if not all of these things at some point. Most of them seem innocuous, but are pretty much guaranteed to erode your confidence over time.

If you are struggling with pain or feeling stuck in your life, professional counseling can help. You can contact our Houston therapists by phone at 713 - 591 -3612, via email at nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org or visit the Wilson Counseling website at  to find out more. Help is just a phone call away!

March 6, 2015

Want To Make The World A Better Place? Hug Somone Today.

Science is cool. It teaches us many things including how to live more joyful, healthier lives. Being a therapist, I get really excited when I learn about the science behind what makes people happy. This sounds like flaky stuff, but to me, it is some of the most worthwhile stuff of life. Scientists are confirming something that we inherently know on an intuitive level. Hugs are good for you! Okay, this is not exactly breaking news, but what is interesting is how healing hugs can be and how many benefits you get from this simple, beautiful gesture.

According to the National Institutes of Health, when you hug someone, it triggers the brain to release a pleasurable chemical called oxytocin. "Oxytocin does more than make us feel good.  It lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving mood, increasing tolerance for pain and perhaps even speeding how fast wounds heal.  It also seems to play an important role in our relationships.  It’s been linked, for example, to how much we trust others." All of that from a hug! 

Here, and here are other articles that discuss the benefits of hugs. Some of the benefits include:
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Boosting self esteem
  • Building trust and a sense of safety
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Lowering stress levels
  • Decreasing feelings of loneliness
Hugs are especially important to babies and children. Some research suggests that well hugged babies make for less stressed adults. And the list goes on and on.

One hug a day is not really sufficient. Four is kind of a minimum, but eight or nine a day would be ideal. Resolve today to give and receive more physical affection in general and hugs in particular. It costs so little, but gives so much. And when you give that full frontal, warm, stress releasing hug, lean in and feel yourself existing in the sweet, calming moment. I feel happy just thinking about it.

February 25, 2015

How To Not Screw Up Your Kid's Body Image - Developing Healthy Eating Habits in Children

With my Houston clients who are coming in to deal with disordered eating, I always do a body image and weight history.  This helps us get to the root of what may have caused their disorder. When I asked one of my anorexic clients, Claire, about her earliest memories of her body, she recalls being 10 years old when her mom took her to a weight loss clinic. Claire's mom wanted to lose weight, and felt that Claire could stand to lose a few pounds as well. So, they both went on diets.

Claire commented that this is the first time she realized something was wrong with her body, and that her mom would be happier if she was thin. For her, being thin meant being beautiful, and being accepted. Claire became hyper health conscious. Nine years later, she is at a point in her life where she feels guilty if she even eats something like fruit, because "it has too much sugar." She thinks about food, exercise, and weight obsessively. People who know her would probably describe her as healthy and fit, but the truth is, she is struggling with a debilitating eating disorder.

The really sad thing about Claire's story is that I am sure her mom meant well. She probably felt she was helping her daughter be healthy. But there was something in Claire's perfectionistic personality that made her gravitate towards being extreme about health.

This may sound like a cautionary tale about mistakes parents make, but I really want to focus less on blaming and more on how you can be proactive with your kids to help them develop a healthy relationship with food.

One of the foremost experts on eating and feeding children is Ellyn Satter. Satter is a registered dietitian and family therapist. Her guidelines for feeding children are a great place to start. When it comes to feeding your kids, Satter feels that children should choose how much and whether they eat, whereas parents should choose what, when and where they eat. Kids are very intuitive eaters if we allow them to be.

The other thing to remember is that kids are still growing. It may seem like your child is eating so little they might starve or so much they might become obese, but their bodies are changing all the time, and it is important to let them grow into the bodies they are meant to have. Making a big issue about your child's weight, or letting others make a big issue of it, can sometimes lead to kids who don't feel worthy both physically and intellectually. If you are genuinely concerned about their weight, you may want to talk to their pediatrician privately about it. For more specific tips on how to help your kids with food, check out Ellyn Satter's website.

Parenting is incredibly hard work. It is normal for good parents to ruminate or even feel guilty about their parenting choices. Am I doing the right thing?  Am I going to screw up my kid? Please, God, help me not mess this poor child up. No parent can make perfect choices all the time. Instead of dwelling on parenting guilt, reminder yourself that the guilt shows you care deeply about your child.  Hopefully this will help you give yourself some grace about your choices, and start focusing on your goals for how you want to parent your child going forward.

Happy Parenting!

If you would like some direction with parenting, or to discuss the stresses that come with parenting, counseling can help. Contact our Houston counselors today to find out how counseling can help you.

February 17, 2015

Eating Disorder Conferece Coming Up on Febraury 28th

Houston Eating Disorder Specialists is hosting an eating disorder conference which will focus on realizing recovery. This is a great opportunity for  family members, those struggling with eating disorders or eating disorder professionals to learn more from some of the foremost experts in the field.

The conference is right around the corner on February 28, 2015 from 8 am - 5pm. It is for both professionals and the public.

Speakers will discuss the importance of nourishing the self for both client and clinician. What are the principles of healing and how do we incorporate them? How do we help our clients stay connected to a deeper meaning and purpose and how do we do that for ourselves? How do we bring ourselves into our work with clients and how does our work help us to heal and to grow.

I am particularly excited about our keynote speakers, Carolyn Costin and Anita Johnston. Carolyn is one of the pioneers in the treatment of eating disorders and has a wealth of practical information and tips on how to recover.

Register here.

January 21, 2015

Finding freedom in brokenness : One woman's story of recovery

One of the reasons I think people find counseling so helpful is that they find acceptance even when revealing the parts of themselves they may feel ashamed of. Most of us are not very honest about our struggles because we don't want to be rejected or judged. It is a brave and difficult thing to open up, so most people choose to just keep their problems to themselves as long as they can.

But, struggle and brokenness are a basic part of being human. When we keep our struggles to ourselves, our problems feel like a secret, or even a defining character flaw. The result is often isolation and shame. If you never have the courage to share your struggles with someone you trust, you will never have closeness. True intimacy comes through honesty. One of the wonderful things about my job is being able to see the lightness people feel when they share their struggles, at first with me and then with someone one else in their lives. 

This type of courage about personal struggle was exhibited by one of my friends and colleagues, Caryn Honig. Caryn is a dietitian, and an eating disorder professional. She has devoted much of her career to helping other people who struggle with eating disorders, but she speaks in the video below about her personal struggle with anorexia and bulimia. I know it was very emotional for Caryn to get up and speak about herself, but her courage became an inspiration for many other women in the audience to share their stories. After she gave the talk, people came up and told her, "Your story is my story." They found a voice in her, and it allowed them to accept themselves just a little bit more. It gave them a point of hope.

You may not be dealing with an eating disorder, but I bet there are things that weigh on your heart and mind. This could be anything from problems in your marriage, to an addiction, to depression or anxiety. I encourage you to find someone you trust, and share your struggles. You don't have to carry your burdens alone. If you are not sure who you can talk to, I recommend you start by talking to a therapist. Find your point of hope today!

If you found this article helpful and would like to automatically receive my blogposts in your inbox, there is subscription link on the top right column of this page.

January 3, 2015

Be Yourself to the Happy End

Sometimes I like to pass along things that I find inspiring. If you have spent time with me, you know I encourage people to learn to live authentically and to embrace and celebrate the person they were created to be. Researchers who study happiness consistently have found that people who live authentically are more likely to experience happiness and feel a general sense of wellbeing. When I talk about living authentically, I am talking about living in line with your values, ideals, sensibilities, creative instincts, etc.

I recently watched a documentary entitled Advanced Style. "Advanced style" It is a term used by photographer/blogger Ari Seth Cohen about the stylish older women whom he photographs. The pictures on this post are from the women in the documentary or from the blog of the same title. These are women in their late 50's to 90's. 

In our society, we have so few images of beautiful older women that come through the media. Reading fashion magazines, you might get the impression that fashion and beauty are things relegated only to 20-somethings with a thigh gap. And that is what makes the voice in Advanced Style so fresh and inspiring. These are creative, beautiful, fun women who are being authentic to themselves right through to the end of their lives.

There is a particularly colorful 91-year-old in the documentary. She has a shock of red hair and homemade false red mega eyelashes to match. She talks about how at her age she no longer has anything to prove to anybody else. She is really enjoying this stage of her life because she can live it fully, authentically, one moment at a time because every day is a gift. It may have taken her a lifetime to figure this out, but I hope we can learn from her wisdom and start to live that way today.

I realize that some people might dismiss the outfits or even these women as being silly or frivolous, but I am thankful for the courage it takes for them to be themselves. I am thankful for images that remind us that you can still be creative, beautiful, fabulous, outrageous, and even edgy well into your 90's. I am thankful that beauty comes in so many different ages, sizes, colors and packages!