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My Go-To items for self-help, couples and families (including in my own life!)

If you were to come in to my office for individual, couples, family or even group therapy, there are certain books, or products that are my go-to's for providing support or additional resources. I often recommend these products for either improving an understanding of your own thoughts, feelings, ways of communication, coping skills or fostering these in your relationships and in your family.

Why do I think these are so helpful? Before I recommend any resources, I always "try them". Either I have been trained with them and have used them with clients or I have also used them in my own personal life. So if you are in therapy, or are just looking for some additional support that you can explore on your own, here are my favorite picks. I will list links for these books in both English and Spanish (if available).

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John

Gottman and Nan Silver is a book that beautifully explains his research over the past 40 years on how to make marriages thrive. These principles are the foundation of what Dr. John and Julie Gottman train clinicians around the world in how to treat couples.

I use these resources to help couples learn how to reconnect, get to know one another again, remember their fond memories of one another, improve communication and addressing their needs, and so much more. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is when a person or couple has read this book and are in treatment with me. The person/ couple tends to dive deep in to the work and has more motivation for using specific techniques at home and in their daily lives.

One of the most frequent things that I hear from clients is that they do not feel loved, or feel like their partner is making an effort to make them feel appreciated or loved. Yet when we explore what makes them feel loved, they are often stumped and unable to come up with specific and concrete examples.

I love recommending The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This allows the individual and the couples to first explore what makes them feel loved (which later helps with identifying needs), and then they are able to understand their partner when they express what their needs and "love language" is. I also love that after reading the book/ audiobook they can take the free online quiz on their website. It's fun to go over this in session, and see the couple give examples of times they attempted to express love and totally misunderstood one another, or times they totally nailed it!

These next books speak more to passion and intimacy in relationships. Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch explores some of the common issues with intimacy in long term committed relationships, and how to address these issues. He gives readers more clarity in how to re-ignite that passion and intimacy, or how to keep it burning for years to come. Hold me Tight by Sue Johnson is highly recommended as another resource for exploring the attachment and emotion between a couple. Find exercises that are recommended for developing that connection and enriching your relationship.

The Dammit Doll.

The first time I came across the dammit doll was in the office of one of my supervisors when I was working at an agency. My first thought was "omg, she has a voodoo doll?!" I asked her what that was, and she told me all about the funny little poem, and the approach to using humor when you are frustrated, overwhelmed or angry. I LOVE using this doll because no matter how annoyed I am, if I actually pull this out, I always laugh or crack a smile because it just feels so ridiculous and silly. It diffuses the situation a bit and gives me the opportunity to step back from my thoughts and take a deep breath.

I also love using this with my couples who struggle with anger, yelling and outbursts when they are trying to communicate. If the couple feels like they do not like this form of communication, I often give them the Dammit Doll to use as an item to squeeze, play with or use as a communication tool ("if I am holding the doll, I have the floor to speak and be heard", then I pass it along). It's a great way to start practicing really listening to your partner without interruption, reflecting and validating and then getting the same opportunity to be heard when it is your turn to talk.

This book was recommended to me by a colleague, and it has been an incredible asset professionally and personally. If you would like to explore or understand how trauma affects the body and brain, this is one of the best reads. This has been incredibly healing for many people I have worked with. I highly recommend this read for clinicians and anyone interested in exploring how trauma impacts the body and brain.

If you have ever had session with me, you have probably heard me rave about all things Brene Brown. She does an incredible job with speaking about shame, guilt, vulnerability, courage and living whole heartedly. I recommend her books to all who are exploring themselves, their relationships and wanting to gain insight on where our actions, behaviors and feelings come from. Besides the books I've listed below, she has done wonderful TedTalks which can be found here. Her website also has links to her youtube videos.

What do you think about these items? Have you ever tried them?

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