CLIENTELE + CLINICAL FOCUS
Healthy relationships keep us healthy. Research shows that when we have authentic, loving, satisfying relationships, we are actually mentally and physically healthier. So not only are these interactions a vital part of our lives for social and interpersonal connection, but they are also protective for our health. Likewise, unhealthy relationships can be detrimental to our wellbeing.
I work with clients to focus on relationship concerns of all types, including addressing dynamics and conflict with family members, friends, co-workers, romantic partners, and spouses. Goals for therapy may include resolving serious deep-rooted conflicts, recovering from the impact of trauma and addiction, strengthening the relationship bond, improving communication, and increasing intimacy. We will work together to identify the needed areas of growth and the tools necessary to develop healthy, authentic relationships.
Codependency is often thought of as an excessive emotional dependence on another, particularly a partner. Codependency can drive someone to gain their worth from the way others feel about them or act towards them, many times to the extent of abandoning one’s own moral compass, boundaries, or sense of comfort. Codependent people are often thought of as very kind, loving, and thoughtful friends or partners who can be selfless or accommodating to their own detriment. However, those who struggle with codependency can also be experienced by others as requiring constant reassurance or needing control. Codependency can manifest in a variety of ways that have been categorized into 5 patterns of behavior including Denial, Low Self-Esteem, Compliance, Control, and Avoidance.
I help clients gain clarity on which patterns or characteristics they embody, where they learned them, and how to replace them with healthier behaviors. In doing so, many clients are able to gain a deeper understanding of who they truly are separate from external pressures. As a result, they are able to authentically show up in relationships rather than being a chameleon to avoid rejection, are able to appropriately protect themselves in the presence of unwanted dynamics or challenging individuals, and are able to experience the freedom of surrendering the responsibility of caretaking others.
Betrayal trauma often refers to infidelity, sexually compulsive behaviors, or pornography addiction. However, it can embody many types of dishonest behaviors including those associated with other addictive disorders such as substance use or compulsive gambling. The longer you are around unhealthy behavior, the more you are at risk for also becoming unhealthy. Symptoms of betrayal trauma are similar to other types of significant trauma and can include the following: self-doubt, feelings of worthlessness, obsessive thinking, anxiety, hypervigilance, snooping behaviors, sensitivity to triggers, nightmares, anger, resentment, thoughts of suicide, sensitivity to triggers, and ongoing need to question your experience, or what I often refer to as performing the “relationship autopsy.”
I will work with you to speaklife into the reality and truth of your experience, providing the appropriate validation needed to heal. Our time together will also include establishing healthy boundaries to protect yourself from taking on the behaviors and/or emotions of your unhealthy partner or tolerating the intolerable. We will identify the underlying reasons for your attraction to your partner by exploring past relationships. Learning more about past relationship choices empowers you to break old patterns and make healthy choices for your relationship or future relationships. If you have experienced betrayal trauma, I also find it vital to tap into your intuition so that you can learn to trust yourself again, providing restoration of an important self-protective measure.
Adult Children of Addicts/Alcoholics
While some are very aware of the impact of growing up in an environment surrounded by addictive and compulsive behaviors, many people do not fully understand the impact of having parents or caregivers that struggle with addiction. Symptoms of growing up in this type of home can include perfectionism, people-pleasing behaviors, over assuming responsibility for another or the relationship, believing things are your fault, frequently doubting self or your experience, having a distorted sense of normal, lowered self-esteem, and tendencies to attract emotionally unavailable friends/partners/relationships (i.e. develop unhealthy relationships).
Our sessions together will include acknowledging the impact of the family system on your current lifestyle, patterns of behavior, relationship choices, and ability to cope.
We will also identify other ways your past may impact how you presently navigate through life. Together, we will work towards strengthening your self-worth and challenge the distorted thought processes that may have developed as a result of living in a home impacted by addiction. I will also help you channel and utilize the positive aspects and traits you have likely developed from this challenging past, which frequently includes strong intuition and empathy for others.
Addiction & Recovery
Addiction can evolve for many reasons, including a predisposition due to family history of addiction, growing up in a home impacted by addiction, and self-medication for past issues that have not been resolved. For some, there is a combination of both genetics and external stressors that put you at risk for addictive behaviors. You may be seeking treatment because you are questioning if you have a problem or you may be fully aware of the extent of your addiction and are seeking recovery support.
Together we will develop your goals for treatment so we can build a recovery plan that is best suited for your needs. We will explore generational patterns of addiction and the impact this may have on your patterns of use and implement a plan to break compulsive behaviors.
I will also help you identify past events or trauma that may have contributed to your current behavior, so that you can resolve issues underlying the addiction and heal those wounds.
One therapeutic method I utilize for relationship concerns is a differentiation-based approach. The focus of relationship therapy is often centered around improving communication and learning to negotiate and compromise with each other. While expanding these skills can be helpful, it often puts the focus on the other person. A differentiation-based approach emphasizes each individual’s own personal growth and “differentiation” from their therapy partner. The work centers around each person learning to clarify and define his/her own sense of self while maintaining the connection to another. Understanding yourself authentically means not being negatively influenced by external forces and pressures. Greater sense of self also leads to the ability to tolerate discomfort when giving and receiving difficult feedback with your partner in order to make necessary changes and grow in the relationship.
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is widely known as a form of therapy utilized for trauma. While I do use this technique to help heal individuals with trauma, I also incorporate EMDR to address many additional therapy goals such as improving low self-esteem or other negative thought blocking beliefs one might carry. EMDR allows us to change or “reprocess” negative messages that have gotten filed away in our brain but were never meant for us, and never meant to be part of who we are today. Negative messages can be harmful because they often bring back all of the feelings attached at the time the information was initially received or the trauma was experienced. EMDR helps to unpack the harmful message, attach new feelings, and re-file the information in our brain in a logical, truthful way.
Clients often ask if EMDR will change their personality or make them forget the memory. After EMDR, you will still remember the experience, but the way you view the experience and the feelings and thoughts associated with that experience will likely be positive, empowering, and less emotionally activating for you as they once were. We can discuss EMDR as a treatment option to determine if it is the best choice in meeting your therapy goals.
Regarding the fusion of your faith and therapy, I want to learn about your faith and personal relationship with God and discuss how much, and in what way you want to bring that relationship into the room. For example, some clients appreciate being able to openly talk about their relationship with God or find it helpful to draw upon verses or biblical stories that support the truths of who they are and the work we are doing. Often times, we will explore ways to let God into the dark or painful places, allowing Him to guide the healing process. There is nothing too big for God and by allowing Him full access to our struggles, we can find strength to keep pursuing hope, love, joy, and a peace that surpasses all understanding. During sessions, I often correlate bible stories to current real world events to help clarify scenarios or situations that are in question.
Depending on what your faith looks like, we can integrate your faith to a degree that feels right for you. (Faith is incorporated into sessions only when requested by the client).
I believe the foundation of the 12-step program is a helpful component in addiction treatment, and I utilize this philosophy to support the recovery process when necessary or requested by clients. The steps, traditions, and principals of the program are often referenced and utilized during sessions, speaking life into the work you are doing inside and outside of the therapy room in order to promote real-life application of your program.
The 12-step recovery philosophy encompasses a completely different way of thinking, feeling, and behaving – it’s a lifestyle change. I understand this philosophy and the components of working a solid recovery program and will use my experience to bring depth and clarity to your personal goals. If you are uncertain if the 12-step program is the right path for you or would like more information about this treatment approach, we can explore this option together to see if it feels like a good fit.
Online therapy is a remote option, sometimes referred to as telehealth or teletherapy. Online therapy services are available via our secure HIPAA compliant video platform. In some cases when video is not an option for a client, phone services may also be available. I want to ensure that therapy services are always accessible, particularly during this time when restrictions due to COVID-19 may not allow for in-person sessions.
Participation in sessions at Speak Life Counseling is a very simple process. A camera and microphone are the only computer requirements needed to engage and Dr. Mary Spease will initiate your private video meeting.
Although seeing your therapist in person may be preferred, there are many benefits to attending sessions on a secure online platform. Please contact me to find out if online therapy is the best option for you.
Why Choose Online Therapy?
You are able to see your therapist from the comfort of your own home or preferred space.
Your therapist can offer more flexibility with days and times for scheduling appointments.
You are able to easily work your therapy appointments into your day, as no travel time is required.
Although unlikely to run into an acquaintance in the office, online ensures your anonymity.
After stay at home restrictions are lifted, you still may prefer to limit outside contact.
Therapy is easily accessible, eliminating concerns about distance or transportation.
“Mary is a highly talented therapist with several gifts. Her ability to empathize helps others feel understood. Her intelligence allows Mary to make treatment decisions. Mary’s strong presence as a therapist tells people that they have made a good decision in seeking Mary’s council.”
-Josh Cornell, Psy.D.