Seven Questions Your Therapist Doesn’t Want You to Ask

...but that the well-informed client will want to know7 Questions Your Therapist Doesn’t Want You to Ask

Have you ever been asked an awkward question that you are unsure how to answer? Well, therapists get those all the time! So often, in fact, that I have spent time to compile my typical responses for when people are brave enough to ask.  I completely understand where you are coming from–you are anxious, coming into therapy trusting me with something vulnerable. So when you ask difficult questions, such as the ones below,  I am impressed–it shows me that you are invested in your therapy and the progress in our sessions. Because I know these questions can take courage to ask, I am devoting my blog today to answering them all at once.

Q:  How can you help me if you have not been married/don’t have children/are not an addict, etc?

A: Fantastic question! This is one I understandably get a lot, as I’m not yet married or may not have experienced exactly what you’re going through. Here’s an analogy I love to use: A doctor does not need to have had a broken leg to know how to fix it.  In last week’s post, I talked about my extensive education, research, certifications, and training I have received in order to be an experienced therapist. I have been in the middle of hundreds of marriages totalling thousands of hours of counseling; I know what works! My job is not to share personal biases or experiences from my own life (like what I have done to achieve the perfect marriage), but to be an unbiased, third party observer and use my education, research, experiences, and skills gained through counseling others to help you reach your goals.

Q: Will you respect my values and/or spiritual beliefs when they are different from your own?

A: Yes, absolutely. As a religious woman, this is something I feel very strongly about. When you come into my office, I leave my beliefs at the door and adopt your values. For example, based on personal values, I have chosen not to smoke. But if you choose to smoke marijuana on a daily basis, I am not going to tell you that’s a bad decision or that you are a terrible person! My job will be to point out if your choices are steering you away from what you are ultimately wanting. If smoking marijuana is affecting you from keeping your job, for example, then I may point out that the drug is interfering with your ability to think clearly.  While I will never expect you to live according to my beliefs and quit smoking, I may advise that you be smart about when you smoke (ie. during the weekend or other times that will not interfere with your work performance). My job is to help you make the most of your life.  I’m not going to project my values on you; instead, I am going to meet you where you are and we will work together to get where you want to be!

Q: Have you seen a therapist for your own issues?

A: I see a lot of therapists as clients, and many of them ask if i have “done my own work.” Without going into details about what specifically I have had to work through, yes, I have certainly invested time in self-betterment. In many of the trainings I have been through, it was required that all attendees bring a piece of personal work to process during the training. If I felt like I did not completely work through that piece by the end of the training, I sought additional resources to help me fully resolve it. In order to be the best therapist I can be, I have to do my own work. I’ve been on the other side of the couch and I can honestly say that I understand where you are coming from.

Q: Do you practice what you preach?

A: You bet I do! Well, I try. I give my clients homework–things like practicing mindfulness or self-care, watching their diet and sleeping patterns, reaching out to their social network for connection, processing/identifying their emotions, etc. And yes, I do all the same things I ask my clients to do. I am not perfect…some days I fail miserably!  But I will redouble my efforts the next day–which is what I will expect of you when you fall short.

Q: Why do I feel worse than I did before I started therapy?

A: Although this is actually quite common, I can see why it would be frustrating for a new client to feel this way. In therapy, I’m going to help you work through issues you have ignored or numbed to protect yourself. Reliving difficult experiences or using coping mechanisms instead of resorting to an addiction can be uncomfortable and/or overwhelming at first. But this is good! It means there is movement where you used to be stuck. It’s a positive thing. I don’t expect it to last forever. A good analogy for this is the first time you took a new medication–did you feel some side effects before it kicked in and did its job? As you continued to take the pill, you likely began to feel more of the positive and less of the negative side effects.  Therapy can be hard, but these painful “side effects” will only be temporary; the “medication” (aka the work you have put into therapy) will kick in and you will experience the satisfaction that comes from your hard work.

Q: Will you let me know when I’m done with therapy or will you prolong my sessions so I keep paying you?

A: I am sure you can think of a million things to spend your money on other than therapy, so I admire you for even considering to come see me.  I always tell clients that my job is to work myself out of the job. As I said in this post, I experience such joy seeing clients progress, get healthier, and move closer towards their goals. (It is important to note that the amount of sessions required for each person and/or situation varies. There is no set time frame, but we will go at your pace until we both feel that you have fully worked through your issue.) So no, I absolutely will not “hold on” to you for monetary gain. I want you to move onto the next stage of life healthier, happier, and independently. Plus, as you “graduate” and leave counseling, that makes room for someone new. (Not to mention that I would probably get bored if I saw you forever…haha!)

Q: Why did you specialize in sex addiction and why do you like being a therapist?

A: Such a valid question. Let me just preface by explaining how I got interested in it: I was working at an agency where I saw numerous clients with signs of sex addictions. I did not have the needed skills to appropriately address or assess this piece of their treatment. I was led to seek additional training in sex addiction, and to working at an inpatient treatment center to further my knowledge, before moving into the private practice sector. I continue to see many sex addicts, male and female, in my office. Why? Because I have found that these dear people have the most tender hearts! And I find deep satisfaction helping them find their worth–they make mistakes (don’t we all?), but that does not make them bad people. I love reminding them of that!

On a more general note, I chose to be a therapist and work with couples and families because I deeply value those relationships. I absolutely love that my life’s work is helping others improve relationships I esteem so highly.

Do you have a question you would like me to answer? Click here to contact me today!

Choosing the Right Therapist for You

Melissa Cluff, Marriage & Family Therapist, Cluff CounselingIn last week’s post, I talked about 5 things I want my future clients to know. This week, I’d like to address how to choose the right therapist for you–an essential element in having a successful experience in therapy.

The first two steps to choosing the right therapist for you are 1) being aware of which personality traits you connect well with, and 2) knowing what concerns you would like to work through with your therapist. First, take a moment to think about what characteristics you are looking for in a therapist, remembering that these characteristics can help make therapy a safe place for you. To give you an example, here are a few adjectives I use to describe myself as a counselor: cheerful, compassionate, nurturing, knowledgeable, available, humble, and direct.

The second part of finding the right therapist for you will depend on your needs and goals–why are you seeking therapy in the first place? What are you hoping to accomplish? Some of the more common reasons individuals seek counseling are for anxiety, depression, codependency, divorce support, family conflict resolution, and help during periods of transition or adjustment. In addition to these topics, I specialize in relationships, addictions (especially sex addiction), and trauma. I have sought years of supplementary certifications so I can be an experienced, knowledgeable, and qualified therapist in these three areas.

Below I will break down some of my “letters” (or the abbreviated qualifications) you see behind my name, my additional certifications, and where each one fits into my specializations. If, after reading this, you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me!

Melissa Cluff, MS, LMFT, CSAT, EMDR-II

  • MS: Master of Science

RELATIONSHIPS

  • LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
    Marriage and family therapists are trained in Family Systems Theory. The idea here is that individuals cannot be understood in isolation from one another; I must look at all of the relationships a client is involved in, not just at the individual(s) that come into my office. Because I am a firm believer in the centrality of family and committed romantic relationships to and in one’s health, I devote time in focusing on my client’s relationships, and how each plays a role in shaping who they are.
    PREPARE/ENRICH certified: I am trained to administer PREPARE/ENRICH, the leading relationship inventory and skill-building program. These assessments help couples identify and strengthen growth areas in the relationship and I have found them to be extremely helpful with my pre- and post- marital couples. (Click here for more information on the assessment itself.)

ADDICTIONS

  • CSAT: Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist I trained with Patrick Carnes through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). Being a CSAT allows me to better assess, diagnose, and treat sex addicts and their partners compassionately and effectively. I worked with addicts in both in- and outpatient environments before I began my private practice. Using the knowledge I have gained as a CSAT, I have led therapeutic groups for female addicts, male addicts, and female partners of sex addicts, as well as, facilitated recovery intensives for couples. (Click here for more information on IITAP.)

TRAUMA

  • EMDR-II: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (Level 1 & 2 trained) EMDR is a model of treatment that works to decrease the intensity of emotions connected to a traumatic memory. I became interested in EMDR after witnessing the positive outcomes it had on my clients at an inpatient treatment center. I recognized that many clients, not just those with addictions, come into my office with trauma, and I wanted to find a way to decrease the power that the trauma had on the clients. (Click here for additional information on EMDR.)”
  • I acquired additional training in trauma, and inner child work through Pia Mellody’s Post Induction Therapy (PIT). PIT is a therapeutic treatment approach assuming that childhood trauma, including child abuse and neglect, is the origin of developmental immaturity. It is often used in inpatient and intensive outpatient settings. I have found that using this model with my clients, in the later stages of treatment, has been extremely effective in fostering ongoing sobriety, reduction of trauma symptoms, and relational healing.

I share this information not to overwhelm or impress you, but to inform you. I have spent the last decade of my life acquiring the education and certifications needed to be the qualified, supportive therapist you deserve. I am warm, compassionate, attentive, and honest. I specialize in relationships, addictions, and trauma. If you are seeking professional help in one of those areas and think I have the attributes you would like to see in a therapist, give me a call.

A Letter From Your Future Therapist: 5 Things I Want My Clients To Know

5 Things I Want My Clients To Know | Cluff Counseling, DFW Marriage and Family TherapyDear future client,

There’s a stigma in our society that one doesn’t need to see a therapist until there’s an overwhelming reason to do so–like a tragic accident, infidelity, or hitting rock bottom with an addiction. Seeking therapy isn’t easy, but it could be one of the best decisions you ever make. Have you ever felt emotionally exhausted, overwhelmed, discouraged, lonely, or anxious? Disconnected from someone important to you?  Distant from the person you want to be? If you have–which, I believe, we all do at times–here are a few things I want you to know:

  1. I think you are remarkably brave for seeking help. I absolutely do not think you’re a weak person because you need counseling; as I stated in my first post, I deeply admire my clients for having the courage to make changes in their lives in order to be healthier and happier.
  2. I’m not going to “psychoanalyze” you. My job is to be curious. This includes asking some difficult questions so we (especially you) understand why you’re acting and thinking as you are. I’m not going to judge your character or your future based off of the vulnerable things we will discuss and explore in our sessions.
  3. I will not be surprised when (not if) you slide backward to old behavior patterns. This is natural, and part of the change process. I believe we learn the most about ourselves when we allow mistakes and don’t expect perfection. Personal and relational transformation will take time–but it will be so worth it. Please don’t give up or become discouraged. You deserve to see this journey to the finish line!
  4. I will never “fix” your problems or your life. That’s up to you. I will not spew advice at you nor tell you what to do. Through our sessions we’ll talk about where you are, where you want to be, and how you will get there. Together we’ll make a reasonable game plan with practical steps for you to achieve your goals.
  5. Trust my intentions–I want you to have the life you want. I chose this profession because I truly love helping people find lasting healing. I am your advocate! We will work at your pace to overcome your challenges and weaknesses so you can be the best possible version of yourself. You deserve to be happy and I want that for you!

Lastly, I want you to know that increased happiness is just one of the many outcomes you can enjoy from therapy. You can also experience:  A greater understanding of your needs and how to fight for them in a healthy way; the ability to make tough, thought-out decisions instead of simply reacting in the moment; more connection, vulnerability, and meaning in important relationships; the strength to fight off painful emotions when they are present in your life; the presence of mind to forecast and overcome potential stumbling blocks in relationships and in your recovery; and–best of all–the chance to live more congruently with your true, happy self.

Call me! I am excited to start building our therapeutic relationship. I promise that when you look back on where you are now and where you’ll be after our sessions, you’ll wonder why you waited this long.

Sincerely your future therapist,

Melissa Cluff, MS, LMFT, CSAT, EMDR-II

P.S. Tune in next week for my post on how to choose the right therapist, and why my specialized skills and training will be the best fit for your needs!

Image Designed by Freepik

Welcome

Hello, there! I’m thrilled you stopped by for the launch of my new blog! I’m Melissa Cluff, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist as well as a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist. Cluff Counseling is my therapy private practice. This introductory post will give you a little look into who I am and why I love what I do.

Welcome to Cluff Counseling | DFW Family & Addiction Therapist

I would describe myself as cheerful, dependable, and witty. When I am not in the office, I enjoy decorating, discovering local restaurants with friends,  meal-prepping, further exploring my newfound interest in traveling, and being active in my nieces’ and nephews’ lives. I love to be busy and struggle to stay still. I am a people person; I thrive off of meaningful relationships and am grateful for those relationships in my life. When I was little, I dreamed of being a teacher, like my mother, and I remember using a large chalkboard in our garage to instruct my imaginary students, and sometimes my younger siblings. In high school, somebody close to me confided in me about his positive experience with his therapist, and told me I reminded him of that influential therapist. I then decided to explore psychology, and developed a passion studying human behavior within the realms of relationships and addiction, and sought out higher education that would allow me to make my passion a career.

I received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Brigham Young University and a Master’s degree in Human Development and Family Science, with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy from Oklahoma State University. I am involved in several professional associations and have received additional training and certifications that have enabled me to focus on those suffering from addiction and/or trauma (in an upcoming post I will further discuss the meaning of said certifications and how it can help you in our sessions). As a therapist, I would describe myself as 1) compassionate; 2) responsive; and 3) curious, yet non-judgmental. My goal is to provide a welcoming, safe place–a judgment-free zone–where you can bring the things that weigh you down and feel empowered to work towards becoming the person you want to be! As your therapist, I am your confidant, your cheerleader, your advocate.

My life mantra comes from the simple words of Dorothy Satten, “Real is better than perfect.” I have this displayed throughout my office as a reminder that connection, with ourselves and with others, happens when we are authentic instead of trying to be what we perceive others want us to be. I am a client-centered therapist, which means I allow you, my clients, to identify what isn’t working for you and the direction you want change, rather than prescribing goals for you. Through our sessions, you will come to better understand your emotions and needs, and recognize the patterns that have kept you stuck. We will work together to refine your coping skills and equip you with the necessary tools needed to achieve your personal and relational goals. Although it’s difficult to say goodbye to clients, I find immense joy witnessing the personal transformations of my clients as they prepare to move on to the next phase of their life–as healthier and happier people.