What’s the Plan…Stan …?

One of the things I’m known for in my practice is how I help my clients create an action plan to the situations that bring them in. This is one of the tenets of Brief Therapy, the style of therapy I practice in my office. As a brief therapist, not only do I assess the problems which are bringing clients in, but also examine things like exceptions to the problem and times when the problem isn’t as severe. I look for strengths and resources in other parts of the clients’ lives to see if we might be able to draw upon these more successful moments to deal with what is currently happening in their lives. And then from that information a plan is made. The plan is based on the goal of when things are better or the situation is resolved or feeling more manageable, what would we see. We get the goal described in behavioral terms and then set up the plan. Sometimes the plan requires more education and skill building, sometimes it is looking at the situation differently and seeing how that might be helpful, maybe it’s working on patience or coping skills until the situation changes, or it could be a myriad of other solutions that help clients get started towards their goal. The plan is specific to each person and his or her goal. It is co-created between client and therapist. The plan gets implemented and session time is used to understand what is working, what is not and make adjustments accordingly. Clients are asked to look for times when things are better and to take note of those situations because they provide clues about what the client needs to continue doing.

When playing golf, there are many parallels to this process I just described. Think about the times you’ve gone to the range. You take a club out of your bag, say a 7-iron, that’s what I usually start with .. and start hitting balls. You’re just warming up, so there might be some great shots and some not so great shots. At some point you might encounter a problem in your swing or the ball flight that starts the assessment process. “Is it my alignment, swing speed? Is my swing getting too big? Am I coming out of the swing too fast, etc.” Seems like everyone has a check list of sorts that gets run through to try to make corrections. As you hit more balls maybe you see that the adjustments you made are working. So, you keep doing them to help with the confidence and muscle memory. And hopefully, things have worked themselves and you reach your goal.. .hitting your 7 iron, “X” number of yards with the type of ball flight and execution that feels as though you are making more consistent swings.

As the Counseling Caddie I want to point out these parallels of what happens on the course and what happens in your life to show you that most issues and situations that create distress and discomfort in your life can be solved or managed by using ideas that we use on the course. With a little thinking and creativity you can begin to see, as I do, how golf mirrors life. And, by putting something that feels uncomfortable, perhaps overwhelming or scary into a context where you feel comfortable, like on the golf course, you can gain some confidence that at least you have a starting point. A grounding of sorts, which hopefully gets your mind thinking, “Okay .. so if I came across a tough shot on the course, how would I approach it?” In the next blog I will start to lay out the plan that I use and help others use to approach that tough shot in your life. Assessing the situation, understanding what works and doesn’t work, getting more tools in your toolbox, or should I say shots in your golf bag, coming up with a plan and executing it, tweaking it if necessary are all ideas that work on and off the course. I will help you see how using my 3 point plan can help you feel more confident in executing that tough shot or addressing that tough situation in your life.

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Who’s Your Caddie?

I can’t think of a more appropriate place to start than with the definition and understanding of what a caddie is. In golf, a caddie is the person who carries a player’s bag and clubs, and gives insightful advice and moral support. A good caddy is aware of the challenges and obstacles of the golf course being played, along with the best strategy in playing it. Being a caddy is more than carrying a bag around a golf course for 18 holes. Serving a golfer well in this capacity requires a solid relationship between the golfer and the caddy.

As the counseling caddie, I’ve spent over 20 years talking with clients about all types of issues and concerns people have in their lives. From the upset teenager who thinks his parents nag him too much about his schoolwork, to young adults struggling with the adjustment of going to college and sometimes needing to return home, to young couples just trying to make their way with finances and having small children, to the people who have day to day struggles in the workplace, How about those trying to find the balance between raising kids and taking care of aging parents, to those who are getting ready to retire and feeling the excitement and fear that this brings. I’ve addressed all these stages of life and everything that may come with it, such as conflict in your relationship, using technology or alcohol as an escape, hearing you now have a chronic illness and everything else that life throws you .. I feel like I’ve lived a number of lifetimes with everyone I’ve seen over the years. ..

For that, I feel that I am a caddie of sorts. I have a good understanding of the course. . .life’s course. . and sharing the lay of the land with my clients. In golf a caddie needs to know the distances to certain spots, landing areas, knowing targets off the tee and into the green, things that only someone who has played the course a long time knows. As the counseling caddie I am familiar with a lot of situations and can assist with the obstacles and challenges life brings , just as a golf caddie does on the course.

Caddies are also support mechanisms; letting the player make the decision on their shot and being supportive of that player. They are there to boost morale, to help the golfer stay focused and to offer words of encouragement when they are most needed. The counseling caddie does the same. Ideas and options are generated as a menu of choices for the client. The client ultimately decides their “shot” and the counselor is there to support and help the client stay focused on their goal.

Caddies are also responsible in helping their player be prepared. It’s their responsibility to make sure the bag is properly stocked. If the golfer doesn’t have everything required, it could adversely affect the game. Some things a caddie might do are: Check the golfer’s bag for the appropriate golf clubs, new golf balls, extra gloves, towels, a yardage finder, a yardage book, bug spray, sunscreen, an umbrella and a medical kit.

As the counseling caddie I see it as my job to help my clients be prepared as well. Having the knowledge of many life situations, I’m in a position to help others with what I’ve seen work and not work with other clients. I rely on research and resources that offer ideas to equip my clients for whatever they are facing.

So, when I ask you “who’s your caddie?” it can be anyone in your life that has knowledge of what you are going through, can guide you through the lay of the land, who can support you through it and make sure you have the tools and resources you need. Take some time and reflect on who’s your caddie and in the meantime I’ll be your counseling caddie.

Until next time. . .go work on your game . .

Intro-Caddie Inspired

In my life the biggest decisions I’ve made have come with great clarity. I’m  a Libra. .. and if you believe what the charts say.. .  decision making comes hard for us. We are good at seeing all sides of situations. This is a great trait to have, especially if you are a licensed therapist like myself. But, when it comes to trying to make decisions in my life, I can get tripped up by what is commonly known as “analysis paralysis.” But let me get back to my first remark. Over time I’ve learned to accept this about myself and trust that when something is right, it’s right. Indecision, fear, the back and forth of should I or shouldn’t I disappears and I just know.

Such was the case in regards to taking on this endeavor as the Counseling Caddie. For years I’ve felt a need to take on a project that was creative and utilized the things that I’ve learned in this field, from my training, conversations with my clients and going through life.  Over the years I tried a number of things from consultation, to working in the hospital to teaching and supervision. All were fabulous experiences that I would never say didn’t help me to become a stronger and more experienced and knowledgeable clinician. But all lacked the kind of passion that I recently found in this idea to be the Counseling Caddie.

For those who know me, I love to play golf. It wasn’t always the case. But once my son was born, I really took to the game. I was encouraged by my husband to have an outlet in life and so it became Tuesday morning golf with the ladies. This was an incredible experience as I had the pleasure of playing with inspirational women who were in their late 60’s and 70’s. We all showed up each week because of the love of the game. It was a great introduction to what would become my life passion.

Years went by raising kids…working… and golf for me would be more focused on my son and his game. I still managed to get rounds in throughout the year, but as with any family, time and resources have a limit and so golf would sometimes be on the back burner to other commitments in life.

As time passed I came to learn how the work I was doing in the office was a great fit to my time on the course. See, I’m a brief therapist. Brief Therapy is a mode of therapy that is behavioral based. We look at problem-solving and finding solutions to the concerns people have in their lives. We focus on people’s strengths and we look at exceptions to problems. We are action oriented and very resourceful. Turns out you need all of these skills if you are going to manage your golf game as well as your life.

And so it happened. On a day where I got off work early, I met up with my husband and this idea erupted, with great clarity I might add. I had been bitter about some missed opportunities in my field. Ideas that I had, and didn’t pursue for this that and the other reason. But this night, the anger subsided and a new found energy came about.  Take what I’ve learned as a counselor and help those who also have a passion for the game of golf and teach people how golf is a metaphor for life. Use the ideas and strategies we learn playing golf and apply them to some of the tougher situations we have in our relationships, at work and within ourselves.

In the coming podcasts, videos,  and blogs, I hope to share with you some of the ideas that work for me on and off the course and help you see how things that may feel overwhelming, impossible and unmovable can become more manageable and possible to change. I hope to surprise you as to how resourceful you really are.

I’m pleased to present myself as the Counseling Caddie. I hope the material that follows inspires all of us to work on our game, on and off the course ..