Tag Archives: personal growth

Thank You

Majestic sunset in the mountains landscape. HDR image

You may have noticed that I haven’t written any new blog posts in quite awhile. I’ve been putting my energy elsewhere in order to re-design my counseling website. The photo above captures the new colors and theme of Liberating Choices.

I will still be writing and coaching you to turn life and relationship challenges into opportunities for growth. Before I begin migrating my blog migration to it’s new site, I want to share my gratitude with you. When I started Liberating Choices in 2010, I had no idea if anyone would read it. Little did I know that people would read my blog from around the world. And I am grateful for your interest in hearing my thoughts over the past 6 years!

My biggest surprise was meeting so many other bloggers along the way. Some of us exchanged guest posts or wrote a collaborative project. While we encouraged each other along the way, it was much more fun doing this with each of you. I wish you each the best on your passionate life journeys whether with blogging or new endeavors and seasons.

So just because I’m moving my blog to a new location, doesn’t mean you will be forgotten. I still want to hear what ideas resonate with you and what topics you wrestle with the most. And I’m even interested in hearing from you if you have a different perspective than I do.

My writing reflects my personal and relationship growth as well as the challenges I have faced. While I enjoy reading blogs like many of you, it’s when we choose to do something with the information that transforms us. Take the time to reflect, listen to your own wisdom, and decide what you want to work on. And know when to work with someone who will coach you step-by-step along the way until you find your own clarity.

If you want to stay in touch, please follow me on Facebook or Twitter. And if you subscribe to my monthly newsletter, you will still receive article updates. You won’t miss a thing. I have much more to write about. Just note that Liberating Choices’ articles will eventually be housed at a new location: http://marcipayne.com/blog/.

8 Ways to Make the Most of Counseling

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” ~ Paul Romer

You’ve taken the step to schedule your first appointment with a psychotherapist or a counselor. However, you are nervous and worried you may not know what to do when you get there.

You have all these thoughts running through your head, like”Will they judge me? Will it really help?” You consider cancelling the appointment, but you’re in a crisis or trying to prevent a crisis. In the end, you decide you are going even though you are nervous.

Each counselor has a little different approach and personality. So once you find a counselor that is a good match for you, I know you want to get the most out of your investment in time and money. Here are some ideas on how to make the most of the counseling experience once you get started.

Tip #1: Be Honest

You have nothing to lose by being honest. The counselor works under strict client-therapist confidentiality laws to keep everything you discuss completely private (unless you are a danger to yourself or others). Tell them about yourself and be as open as you can about your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Most therapists aren’t in this business to judge you, but to lend a hand by guiding and coaching you to greater clarity and mastery of your goals.

Tip #2: Identify Counseling Goals

Know what goals you’d like to work on in counseling. While counselors’ specialties vary, your goals can include the following areas: emotional, relational, behavioral, health, career, or work. Identifying your goals will help you focus what you most want to talk about in your sessions, and it will help you talk about progress toward your goals as you move forward.

Tip #3: Keep a Counseling Journal

Often counselors ask questions in session that you may not have the answer to, but you want to reflect on it later. Decide if you want to use a password-protected file on your phone or a paper journal to record your counseling goals, reflections, attempts, and progress. It’s just as important to focus on problems as it is progress. Keeping a personal record of your emotional and relational goals and reflections will help increase your focus, motivation, and self-awareness.

Tip #4: Prepare for Sessions

Get your journal or notebook out before your session and reflect on what you’ve been working on, thinking about, or stuck on. Write down any questions you have or any topics you want to focus on in the next session, so you can start the session focused on what’s most important to you. Thinking space can be challenging to carve out these days with the demands of every day life, but it will help you make the most of your time in session.

Tip #5: Speak Up Before End

Speak up if you are ever thinking about ending counseling, whether it’s due to making progress, financial challenges, or personality clashes. Let the counselor know that you are done for now, so you can have time to summarize and celebrate all your hard work. Or if the counseling isn’t going well for you and you feel stuck, speak up about this too. Even if you are confused or hurt by something that was said in session, it’s good practice for being open about difficult topics. If the counselor-client isn’t a good match, this gives the therapist an opportunity to offer other options.

Tip #6: Own Your Progress

In a crisis, we often want relief as soon as possible and feel like we’ve run out of options. When a person feels really uncomfortable, they may put pressure on a helping or medical professional to fix them. Pressuring the therapist to fix you will leave you feeling more hopeless and frustrated. And getting advice can rob you of the opportunity to find your own solutions and develop more confidence when faced with challenges. Instead of pressuring the therapist, own your problem and your progress, and collaborate with your helping professional.

Tip #7: Keep Counseling Private

Establish boundaries around your therapy sessions. Wait to share what you are working on in counseling until you are starting to make progress. Also resist the urge to use the therapist’s expert opinion to speak up to loved ones. Instead work on defining yourself to your loved ones, not leaning on your therapist to speak for you. It’s very different to say what you are going to do vs what your therapist thinks you should do. Letting the expert prop you up blocks confidence, empowerment, and intimacy from growing.

Tip #8: Try Mental Health Prevention

Lastly, you don’t have to wait until there is a crisis to come to counseling. While a crisis is motivating and a time where patterns are more easily observed, you can also attend counseling before your marriage or emotions are at a crisis point. Many people come to counseling to receive coaching on personal or relationship growth goals. Others continue counseling on an as needed basis to help maintain changes they’ve made. Counselors don’t just offer diagnoses and treatment plans, it’s a place to gather clarity, stay motivated, receive encouragement and a new perspective.

“A crisis is like a low tide at the ocean. When the ocean recedes you can walk far out of the sand and see all manner of debris littering the ocean floor; but you also spot the occasional treasure – a pristine, glimmering shell buried in the sand.” ~Lynn Grodzki

What questions do you have for me about how you can make counseling work for you?


Marci Payne, MA, LPC offers individual, marriage and family counseling in Independence MO (near Kansas City MO). Schedule a free 15 minute phone consult to determine if she is the best counselor for you and/or your family.

Growing Through Divorce


Divorce is not a failure, it’s an ending or changing of a relationship with different degrees of cutoff. Some divorces involve complete cutoff (or avoidance), while others are friendly and cooperative.

There will be many changes to adapt to and emotions to work through. And it can take 1-3 years to adapt to the changes that divorce brings in order to return to your pre-divorce state of well-being. Many people want to speed up the divorce process in hopes that this will make them hurt less, but the legal divorce is not the same as the emotional divorce.

In divorce process, you grieve the loss of a relationship and future plans together, but some day you will make new plans and new memories. It is possible to grow through the divorce if you have the courage to take responsibility for your well being outside of this relationship. In my coaching and counseling work, people have shared with me what’s helped them along the way of adapting and growing through their divorce.

4 Ways to Cope When Trying to Grow Through a Divorce:

When emotions are flooding you, it can seem impossible to get on top of the way you feel. But our amazing brain has the ability to override emotions by accessing the thinking part of the brain. By focusing more on goals and functioning, you can’t stop the hurt but you can keep living and connecting.

1. Focus on Daily Functioning – While you can’t stop the hurt from following you around, you can focus more on your functional goals. The more you focus on your goals and functioning, the less you focus on the discomfort of living through the breakup. Then, you begin to realize you aren’t just worried about living without that person, but you are making it without that person.

Set simple goals like: 1) getting out of bed, 2) taking a shower, 3) going to work, 4) eating even when lost appetite, 5) helping kids with homework, etc. List 1-3 small daily goals. The goals must be so important to you that you need to do them even though you feel miserable right now.

2. Get More Connected – When you are losing someone, you lose an emotional and social resource. It’s more important than ever to get more connected. Reconnect with friends and family you’ve lost touch with or join a group to meet new people. In developing relationships, you find reassurance that you are less alone than you thought. You also hear how others navigate living through their ups and downs.

3. Set Emotional & Relational Goals – At some point, most people decide they don’t want to be done in by their divorce. Begin setting long term goals to help guide you through the rough waters that lie ahead of you. Possible goals are endless but may include: a) letting go of resentment, b) not putting kids in the middle, c) take responsibility for own happiness, d) finding cooperative ways to communicate with your ex, and e) not viewing differences as a threat.

4. Make Sense of Marriage Ending Without Blame Assignment –  People feel very strongly about divorce and find it hard to not take sides or pass blame back and forth. Some will blame the other while others will take all the blame themselves. Neither way of thinking is completely accurate. Both people play a part in co-creating the marriage relationship or environment, but neither is solely responsible.

If you take all the blame, you will have a hard time letting go of guilt. And if you blame the other, you will have a hard time letting go of anger. But if you take responsibility for just your part, then you will have something you can work on either for yourself or in future relationships.

Accept the Invitation to Grow:

At some point, you will begin to accept the reality of your loss without feeling hopeless about adapting to the divorce. When you accept the invitation to grow yourself without taking all the blame, you will start to notice that you are making it without your significant other. One day you will let go of the fantasy to reconcile to be happy and you will find you can be happy without that person. It is gradual and you can’t force it to happen, as there are no quick fixes when adapting to loss.

It may be hard to imagine, but some day you will be able to let go and move on. The more you turn this difficult time into an opportunity to learn about yourself, the better off you and your future relationships will be.

Many people find meaning once they go through hard times. They realize they can do hard stuff. Divorce invites you to re-evaluate your life, to reinvent yourself, and to try new things, including how to relate in different ways.

Please share what has helped you cope, adapt, and/or grow through a divorce.


Schedule a mental health checkup today either face to face or online with Marci. She offers individualized coaching to help you meet your own relational and emotional needs.

Photo Credit: “Sunflower Rain” by H. Koppdelaney