Banishing Burnout

I want to talk about a topic that is garnering lots of attention, but still lacks clear solutions – burnout. It’s on the rise, affecting an astonishing number of Americans with symptoms like mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion, decreased productivity, feelings of dread, and increased likelihood of being susceptible to illness. 


Frequently we hear about burnout being related to the workplace, and it certainly is. A poll conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that upwards of 52% of people reported feeling burnt out at work. However, I think it’s more helpful to take a broader perspective, and consider that workplace overwhelm is just one part of the burnout puzzle. I have personally found that it’s also the mental load of being a parent, the hundreds of activities to not only organize for my family, but to also to be present for. It’s the desire to want to stay connected to friends and family who are important to me, which requires regular communication, planning and time spent together. It’s the responsibility of giving back to the community through volunteering to causes that I hold dear. It’s the need to carve out time that is just for me and my own wellbeing and development. 


Earlier this year, I felt myself teetering on the edge of burnout. Cue the imposter syndrome – I’m a LIFE COACH, I help people get out of burnout, how could I have let this happen!? Well, I suppose I am only human after all. I share this to illustrate that I do this work for a living, I practice what I preach, and I’m still not impervious to experiencing burnout. 


As a care-giver both in and out of the office, feeling emotionally connected to others is crucial for me – it gives my life purpose and meaning. When I noticed myself feeling emotionally depleted, I knew something had to change. 


I admitted to myself that I had pushed too hard, said “yes” too often, and miscalculated my time and energy. In hindsight, it’s a pretty honest mistake, and simply acknowledging my feelings felt like it lifted a weight. As our Medical Director, Dr. Frock said in a previous blog post – “it’s important to normalize and validate burnout so that you don’t spiral deeper into those feelings. Reminding yourself that it’s probably okay to feel what you’re feeling, and to bring some commonality to the situation, ‘If 100 people were put in this position, how many of them would likely feel the way I feel?’ Often, the answer is that 95+ people would feel the same way.” This all reiterated that I’m just a well-intentioned human doing the best I can to make the world a happier place. 


Next, I turned to my trusty tools. My favorite time management tool is the Eisenhower Matrix, which helps bring so much clarity and space to the never-ending to-do list. Framing my tasks this way is an instant stress relief, and I was beginning to see more clearly.


But, here’s where the big mindset shift happened. I regrounded myself in a quality over quantity approach that I had been veering away from little by little. How would my plan for the week change if I were to focus on the top 20% of my tasks that were most rewarding – financially, emotionally and mentally? It’s not a perfect science, and sometimes you can’t completely delete the bottom 80%, but it helped me to reframe how much energy I needed to spend on less critical tasks. Scheduling blocks on my calendar for those bottom 80% tasks, helps me to be able to create more space to focus on the 20% that truly mattered. 


All of this has cleared space for me to reground in my why personally and professionally. It has allowed me to feel re-energized, inspired, purposeful and connected to the bigger picture. Life has a way of teaching us lessons over and over again, and reminds me that no matter how much I am in the ‘teacher’ role, the role of student is perhaps the most important. 


7 Steps to Minimize Burnout: 

  1. Name what you’re feeling
  2. Normalize and validate it
  3. Bring commonality of experience into your perspective
  4. Prioritize your life/workload, delegate and delete 
  5. Asses – What are your top 20% most rewarding tasks?
  6. Schedule intentional time for the other tasks, and don’t let them creep into your top 20% time. 
  7. Reground in your Why



Building Healthy Habits for Mental Wellness

You have probably seen or heard lots of different suggestions on what to do if you are feeling down, depressed or anxious. I.e. “go outside”, “exercise”, “journal”, etc. It can be frustrating when we know the things to do, however, we just can’t seem to do them. Or we struggle to do them consistently. If you have ever found yourself feeling frustrated for “falling off” of a healthy habit, this is for you! 


First- Identify the healthy habit you are wanting to start.

Make sure it is small, measurable, and reasonable. 


Second- Identify why this habit is important to you.

Make sure your answer to this is personal and bonus points if you can identify what value it is aligned with. Try to avoid your reason being “because it is good for you” or “because someone told me to”. Yes, these can be the initial reasons, however, if the only reason we are doing something is because we “should” we are not likely to stick with it. Try to dig deep and find a personal connection to this habit/action. For example, if your healthy habit is to journal daily 1 positive thing and 1 thing you struggled with from that day. You might connect this with your value of balance or value of gratitude. By connecting our habits with a value, we have more buy in to continue to engage in the healthy habit. Another option is to align your healthy habit with a larger goal you have. This could be exercising or training for a race.


Third- Identify what time of day you are most consistent.

For some of us, we are most consistent in the morning because we have a morning routine we engage in prior to work. If you have a more fluctuating or busy morning, you might find more consistency in your evening routine. Once you have identified the time of day you are most consistent, pair your new healthy habit with an already established routine. This could be when you take your vitamins or medicine, or when you wash your face in the evening before bed. 


Finally- Be realistic with yourself.

You are not going to engage in your healthy habit 100% of the time. It is important to remember you are human. If you are too black and white, you will not be successful. If you miss a day, give yourself grace and re-commit for the next day. If we beat ourselves up for missing a day and give up, we are going to stay stuck. 


Remember, building habits take time. The more you connect and align with your habits, the easier it is to stick with it. Don’t forget you can always go back to the drawing board. If a habit is not working for you, come back to this and try again. You may have picked something too big or not aligned fully with your values. Start small, stay mindful, and you will succeed!




Amy Narusas, LCSW is drawn to helping clients process difficult events, find their meaning in life, heal from past experiences, and cope with anxiety, depression, and life transitions. She has a specialization in substance use and mental health and is trained in Cognitive Behavioral TherapyAcceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.


Book with Amy

Perinatal Mental Health

Becoming a Mom can be a beautiful experience of newness, bonding, and awe of this new little being and what your body was able to produce. And yet simultaneously this season can also hold unexpected loneliness and difficulty both physically and mentally.

Up to 85% of women experience mood fluctuation shortly after delivering, which can include increased tearfulness, anxiety, or irritability. 

This means that most women who have a baby have shared this feeling of overwhelm. For some, these symptoms go away on their own after a few weeks. Others of us, however, may not experience relief, and instead those symptoms don’t dissipate.


What is important to understand from this is that you are not alone. 


Perinatal Mental Health Basics

  • Psychiatric disorders are considered perinatal when someone experiences symptoms (even pre-existing symptoms) during pregnancy or up to a year after delivery.
  • There are several mental health disorders that can develop or worsen in the perinatal period including depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or psychosis.

We’ll do a deeper dive into perinatal depression and anxiety here due to their prevalence, but if you suspect any of the other disorders listed above in yourself or someone else, please seek professional support.


Perinatal Depression

What is Perinatal Depression?

Perinatal depression is a decline in mood during or shortly after pregnancy that lasts longer than 2 weeks and is noticeable most days. This 2 week marker differentiates it from Baby Blues, the term for those less-severe mood fluctuations in the first two weeks after delivery. 


How do I know if I have Perinatal Depression?

If you have concerns that you may have perinatal depression, please reach out to your OBGYN, therapist, or psychiatrist to complete a depression screening.

Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Frequent tearfulness
  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of motivation to complete every-day tasks such as getting out of bed or showering
  • Difficulty bonding with the new baby
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Lack of interest in activities that used to bring you joy
  • Suicidal thoughts


Perinatal Anxiety

What is Perinatal Anxiety?

Perinatal anxiety is persistent worries that interfere with everyday life.


How do I know if I have Perinatal Anxiety?

Similarly to a depression screening, your OBGYN, therapist, or psychiatrist can complete an anxiety screening with you.

Symptoms to watch for: 

  • Racing thoughts
  • Incessant worry
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Bodily tension
  • Shortness of breath
  • Avoidance of activities such as leaving the house


If any of this describes your postpartum experience, please know that there is hope.



What can I do about Perinatal Mental Health Disorders?

First and foremost, if you suspect you may be experiencing a perinatal mental health disorder, please tell someone- whether your doctor, therapist, friend, or family member. There are several treatment options for perinatal depression and/or anxiety, many of which are beneficial when utilized in combination with one another:

  • Therapy
  • Medication
  • Support groups 
  • Yoga and other body/sound work
  • Good sleep hygiene
  • Asking for help from friends and family
  • Utilizing Coping skills



  • Postpartum Support International
  • National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-9-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262) 
  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: call or text 988 if you have any thoughts of hurting yourself




Hannah Schonewill, LMSW is experienced in trauma, depression, anxiety, and perinatal mood disorders. She cares deeply about walking alongside mothers as they walk through all phases of the perinatal journey including pregnancy loss, the prenatal period, and the adjustment to motherhood.

Book with Hannah Here



What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, is a type of psychotherapy adapted from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. DBT is a skills-based therapy that focuses on mindfulness, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance. Through practice of DBT, we learn to accept the things we do not have control over and focus our energy on the things we do. 


The major players in the DBT world are Marsha Linehan, the original developer of DBT, and Lane Pederson, a psychologist who developed the first organization to certify DBT providers and accredit DBT programs. Dr. Linehan developed DBT after struggling with her own mental health issues. Dr. Linehan found that to build a life worth living, we have to practice both acceptance and changing our behaviors. 


Who can benefit from DBT?


DBT was first developed for the treatment of chronic suicidality in adults. We now have research supporting the use of DBT in adults with personality disorders, eating disorders, treatment-resistant depression, substance use, and a variety of other disorders. DBT is also evidence-based for the treatment of adolescents with various mental health disorders. 


If you are wondering, is DBT right for me? It is important to know that a formal diagnosis is not required for DBT skills to be helpful. If you are struggling with self-sabotage, unhealthy relationship patterns, struggling to cope with big emotions, poor impulse control, or engaging in risky behavior, or if you just feel like you’re getting in your own way, DBT might be just what you need.


When is it helpful?


The answer to that, from a DBT therapist, is always! 


DBT skills are often looked at as life skills. They are skills to help regulate strong emotions, build the ability to tolerate distress, engage in healthy and adaptive relationships, and build mindfulness skills for everyday practice. DBT can be most helpful when someone is struggling with managing and regulating emotions. 


Where is DBT offered in Nashville?


DBT can be offered along with other therapeutic approaches in psychotherapy sessions led by clinicians with the appropriate training and credentials. DBT is offered at The Happy Hour! DBT is most commonly offered in individual therapy and group therapy settings.  The skills are usually taught in session with a therapist and then practiced in your everyday life. Some DBT programs utilize Diary Cards to track the use of skills and severity of symptoms. 


For many, when starting out with DBT skills, it can feel difficult and frustrating when the skills don’t immediately click. I like to think of it as using a new muscle, at first it is difficult and hurts, but after time, it becomes easier and takes less energy to use that muscle. With DBT skills, we have to practice the skills for them to become effective and easy to use.


How does DBT work?


The original research on DBT supported a structured DBT approach to treatment, also known as standard DBT. Standard DBT was originally offered as a combination of individual therapy, skills group training, and client coaching. 


Through additional research and real-world practice, it was found that DBT is still effective in a more integrative approach. This means that you can see a therapist who practices a variety of modalities in combination with DBT in order to find the strategies and tools that both challenge and work for you. 




Curious to see how DBT could help you move out of your way, so you can live the life you know is meant for you?

Check out our upcoming DBT group, led by therapist, Amy Narusas.

Four Ways to Avoid ANTs when Dating

Think about the last time you went on a first date. Right after, where was your headspace at? Did this person all of the sudden become a really big deal?  Did you start planning your next date, your wedding, your life together?? Did you find that this person’s opinion of you has somehow become more important than you initially anticipated?


Yup, this is normal.


It’s funny how we can get ourselves wrapped up in a first date. Putting a lot of pressure on ourselves and the other person afterwards. 


  • What if I don’t hear from them?
  • What if they didn’t like me?
  • I wonder if we will go on a second date.


I’ve been guilty of these thoughts too, we ALL have. If it doesn’t work out, we are subject to feel hurt or think that there is something wrong with us – cue the Automatic Negative Thoughts (also known as ANTs)! Automatic Negative Thoughts or ANTs are a composition of internal narratives or ‘go-to’ thought patterns that compel individuals to interpret situations in unbalanced ways without examining the actual evidence at hand. In dating, this can look like you always being the problem. ANTs can come at all stages of dating, i.e., during the online dating chatting, while on the date, after the date, and at every stage of a relationship. Here are some examples: 


I’m boring, that’s why he isn’t responding to me.”

“She doesn’t seem to be into me.”

“If I looked like  ______ , or had a different _____, I would have more matches.”


ANTs can definitely ruin your picnic, but learning to challenge and overcome negative self-talk will help you to have a better relationship with yourself and be more confident in the relationships you have and desire to have.


Here are 4 tips to help you reground yourself if ANTs start to creep up after a first date.


1. Reality check: Check in, how does the actual person and their opinion stack up against the community and the relationships that you already have. Herein lies the problem: The idea of them meant a lot to us. The idea of my future with this idealized person meant a lot to me. The actual person? Well, that could be a different story. There’s nothing wrong with being excited about someone you’ve met. But there is a difference between being excited about someone you met, and being excited about the idea of someone you met. And it’s important to know the difference.


2. Keep it simple. The first date doesn’t have to be anything more than getting a coffee, going to a farmers market, or meeting for a walk (public places though!!) By setting yourself up for a familiar experience, you are also setting yourself up for a lower level of stress about what the activity itself will be. Therefore allowing you to show up as yourself a little more. 


3. Be a better listener. Remember, this isn’t all about the other person liking you, you also have a say. Listening and observing is the best way to learn about another person. Listen actively and respond accordingly. This is the path of least resistance to learning about the other person. Asking questions that are the result of active listening shows that you are interested in the other person. Look for the other person to ask you questions as well. The first date can be as simple as two people who have the mutual goal of getting to know each other better. 


4. Remember that you have just met the person. THIS. This right here is the key to being unbothered in dating. It’s a lot easier to stay resilient, keep dating, or avoid changing yourself for another person when you haven’t built up your dream future with someone after just a few dates. It is also a lot easier to avoid negative self-talk and navigate ghosting or bad date experiences if you remember that you are two strangers who have just met. Their actions are more of a reflection of who they are as a person, not you. It’s also easier for you to spot red flags and make good choices about dating this person when you can see them clearly (which you can’t do if you’re in your excitement and fantasy). 


Lastly, I would recommend having a solid community to help you through the dating process. Dating can be hard, and it can certainly make us doubt ourselves at times. Having close friends that can support you through it all is one of the best palate cleansers I can recommend. Surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, who will celebrate your victories and sit with you in the shit. This will help you see that there is potential for someone to love you just the way you are. 




Need someone in your corner while you navigate the dating world?

Our life coaches can help you actually enjoy dating again.


Better Relationships with Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)

From the cradle to the grave, humans desire a certain someone who will look out for them, notice and value them, soothe their wounds, reassure them in life’s difficult places, and hold them in the dark.

Sue Johnson, Ph.D., creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy


Ah, Valentine’s Day. A day full of expensive dinner reservations, flowers, and candy, but often also full of expectations that may or may not be fulfilled. Often in my work with couples, I see unmet expectations from one or both partners, and the inevitable deterioration of connection as a result. As you may imagine, most couples’ dissatisfaction is rarely about the flowers or candy, but the absence of a feeling of connection, love, and being valued.


I recently completed an EFT externship at Trevecca University, and was blown away by the work of Sue Johnson and others regarding attachment, conflict patterns, and restoration of connection in couples. The intensive 4 day training reinforced a belief I already knew in my heart- that couples don’t struggle because one person likes to spend more money than the other, or one person leaves the dishes in the sink. They struggle because they are insecurely attached to one another and are not experiencing the connection humans are born needing.


So, what is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT)?

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a therapeutic approach designed to enhance the emotional connection and security within relationships. It focuses on identifying and reshaping negative patterns of interaction, fostering communication, and ultimately promoting a more secure and satisfying bond between individuals.


How can Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) help me and my partner with our connection?

Think of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) as relationship magic. It dives deep into the emotional stuff, helping couples figure out their quirks and needs. EFT transforms the “weird tension” moments into a tag-team of understanding, so partners can communicate better and trust more. 


How can I get started on repairing connection with my partner?

I cannot recommend ‘Hold Me Tight’, by Dr. Sue Johnson enough as a starting point! Check it out here. Couples therapy is also helpful to bring in an unbiased guide to reconnection.





Book couples therapy and explore Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) with Amy Jackson, LCSW-MPH here.

Surviving SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s that time of year again…where the cold, cloudy weather day after day seems to go on forever. When it’s time to start the day, you realize you have no motivation to get out of your cozy, warm bed. And later, you’re convinced it’s time for bed, but then realize it’s only 4:30pm.  As wonderful as this time of year can be, for many, it is a season for feeling down, depressed, and blue.


If you’re feeling this way, there’s a good chance you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD shares many many similarities with a diagnosis of depression, but is seasonal dependent, striking people around the same time each year, late fall/winter months. While it’s uncommon, some people do experience SAD in the summer months (called summer pattern SAD). If you are someone who is impacted, you’re not alone, about 5% of people in the United States experience SAD.


Scientists believe that SAD is caused by biochemical imbalances in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in the winter months. Also, as seasons change, people experience a shift in their biological internal clocks (or circadian rhythm) that may cause them to be out of step with their daily schedule. Sunlight impacts our serotonin levels, which directly impacts our moods. (Can you start to see a pattern?) For most people, SAD lasts about 40% of the year! That is a large part of a year not feeling your best.


So what are the typical symptoms of SAD?

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
  • Changes in appetite; usually eating more and craving carbohydrates or sugar.
  • Change in sleep; usually sleeping more.
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue (despite increased sleep hours).
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., inability to sit still, pacing) or slowed movements or speech.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Feeling worthless or guilty.
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.


The good news is there are a lot of options to support yourself when SAD occurs

  • Just like depression, SAD can be treated with both therapy and medications to help reduce symptoms.
  • Light therapy for as little as 30 minutes, can help encourage your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (hormone that makes you tired) and increase the production of serontin (hormone that affects your mood).
  • Vitamin D supplementation can impact mood, anxiety, and overall health.
  • Dawn simulators (devices that product light gradually like the sun) have shown to support people with SAD.
  • Essential oils like lavender, bergamot, and lemon could lessen symptoms by influencing the areas of the brains that is responsible for controlling moods and body internal clock.
  • It’s also important to stay consistent with a routine (same bedtimes, regular balanced meals, exercise/movement).
  • Take a look at your workplace set up. Are there ways to include more light? Also don’t forget to get out and move!
  • Reconstruct your thoughts about this time of year. How can you change your story around winter? Find ways you can appreciate the season. By identifying what you like, you can begin to create new pathways in the brain that are negative prone to positive.
  • Use affirmations to stay in the present moment and get you on the path to a more positive mindset. The more you repeat them to yourself, the more you will believe it.

Need a recommendation for a dawn simulator or essential oil? Check out our Amazon Storefront.


It’s important to note that SAD is not the “winter blues”. If you suffer from SAD, you notice significant impairments on your daily life so its crucial to get treatment. If you need support, make sure to reach out to a professional to get the help you need.


To help prepare yourself for this season, take a few moments to journal and reflect:

  • What am I most excited for in this upcoming season?
  • Who am I grateful to have in my life?
  • What aspects of myself do I love?
  • If I begin to have one or more symptoms associated with SAD, what will be my action plan to get the treatment I need? Which tools listed above resonate most with me?

Need some more ideas? Check out this blog, where our team shares some of their tips for surviving the colder months.






Our world is seeming evermore fractured and scary, emotions are raw and real, knowing the “right” thing to say is unclear, and collectively it feels like we are walking on eggshells. Here at The Happy Hour, we have noted and sensed what our community is feeling: anger, fatigue, fear, injustice, and a general sense of “when is life going to feel normal again?”. We agree, times are stressful, and the world can seem like a knot too complex to untangle. 


Despite our best efforts to keep routine and normalcy in our daily lives, the influences we encounter on social media, in the news, through our social circles, or even the energies we absorb from others can significantly shape our experiences. And while engaging as an active citizen, exercising your rights, and vocalizing your opinions are significant, it’s helpful to grasp and attend to the mental and emotional impact that uncertainty and discord may have on us. Understanding the impact of these triggers can help you to take care of yourself in the moment and to find tools for tending to your overall mental wellness.


We think it’s important to acknowledge the collective weight our community is feeling and offer guidance on understanding, tending to, and navigating the intense emotions that may arise in challenging times. Here are some tips that can help when the world feels too much.


Allow yourself to disconnect

It’s important to be knowledgeable about world events and participate in causes that are important to you, but there are limits. Humans are not designed to absorb all the world’s sadness and despair. From an evolutionary perspective, humans used to only be aware of the issues in their closest geographical location. Now, we are pummeled with tragedy after tragedy due to our 24 hour news cycle, and that can be very damaging. Our advice is to limit news to a manageable amount a day (10 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever sits right with you that day), and practice a small act of resistance or engagement into an issue when you have the space to do so. Give yourself permission to disconnect some to preserve your mental health. Acknowledge this privilege, act and help where you can, and practice gratitude for the peace you can create. 


Practice “Fierce Compassion”

This is when anger is used to alleviate the suffering of oneself or others, or standing up for what is right. Compassion in this sense allows us to seek clarity about issues in our world, but keeps our perspective fair and balanced. Most people and situations don’t fit squarely into “good or bad,” because humans are complicated. Fierce compassion allows us to stand up to injustice without adding to the hatred of the world. (For more on this, see Dr. Kristin Neff, “The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook.”)


Use this as a reminder to check in with yourself and your people

Everyone struggles, and many people often feel alone in their suffering. After acknowledging your own emotional space and capacity, turn that care to others by offering a space for them to feel heard. 

We certainly don’t have all the answers, not even close. But the care you extend to yourself can ripple into healing for those in your immediate circle, your community, and beyond. In these moments, we must choose love over fear. 


Please note: We are not a crisis resource.

If you are feeling unsafe, please call 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471) and you will be routed to a trained crisis specialist in your area. 


Listed below are other resources for urgent matters:

  • Emergency – 911 If the person in crisis is already hurt, attempting to hurt themselves or others, and must be removed immediately.
  • Psychiatric Assessment Service – 615-327-7000 Dedicated psychiatric emergency room.
  • Mental Health Mobile Crisis Service – 615-726-0125 or 855-274-7471. If the person in question is suicidal. This service will pick them up immediately wherever you are in Greater Nashville.
  • Vanderbilt PCC On-Call Crisis Response Line – 615-322-2571
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)



Couples Therapy: Not Just for Rough Patches

Choosing to go through life with someone by your side is a wonderful thing, but that doesn’t mean relationships aren’t hard work. Couples therapy is a great way to strengthen or rebuild your connection, navigate tough times, and check-in to nip issues in the bud before they become a problem.  


Think of your relationship as a car and your therapist like a mechanic. You’re not going to wait until the wheels fall off before taking it to a mechanic, right? You’re going to go for regular oil changes and tune ups so that the car can keep running smoothly without you being blind-sided by problems. And if the wheels do come off? Well, then it’s definitely time for some overdue maintenance and repairs.


We spoke to The Happy Hour therapists Amy Jackson, LCSW-MPH, and Jeannette Diddens, LCSW, to get the inside scoop on couples therapy.


1. Who can benefit from couples therapy? Is it just for married or premarital couples?


AJ: It’s my opinion that EVERYONE could benefit from couples therapy! It’s so crucial to get a baseline of effective communication, understanding and friendship to promote a long-lasting relationship. Of course, those who are suffering relationship wounds (i.e. infidelity, substance use, and other trust issues) would benefit from a longer duration of sessions and intervention. 


There’s also no reason to wait until something goes wrong- even dating couples can see positive results from a neutral third party perspective on their most common relationship conflicts. In fact, it’s protective to have early intervention and practice in communication.


JD: I love it when I see a couple come in for premarital therapy. They learn some tools before big life events happen, so they can be prepared for what’s to come. 


2. What are some common issues or topics that you see in couples therapy?


AJ: Other than the common issues of trust violations (infidelity, dishonesty about substances or money), a loss of connection is a big issue I see. Friendship is central to the health of a relationship, and it’s also the easiest aspect to fall to the wayside with the busyness of life. One thing I love working with couples on is how to reconnect to your partner and rebuild that friendship- once fondness and admiration are re-established (Gottman’s theory), couples are better able to engage in productive conflict resolution. 


JD: I used to say I was going to write a book titled  “Sex and dirty dishes”, because for a while I saw a trend of couples arguing about those 2 topics. The frequency of intimacy and the distribution of household chores seem to come up often. What lies beneath that is loneliness in their marriage or feelings of not being valued. 


3. You both love the Gottman methods and theories – what’s so great about it?


AJ: I love anything research-based and practical, and Gottman’s theory delivers so many great exercises and tips. I also find it to be approachable for people who are new to therapy, which is a big plus for people who may feel hesitant with vulnerability. 


JD: It’s the best that we have as far as 50 plus years of data from couples counseling. You can’t argue with data. 


4. What can I expect in a couples therapy session?


AJ: I like to get a thorough history of the relationship and always want to incorporate what actually works in the partnership. It’s so easy to get bogged down by the stress and turmoil of the day-to-day that I find it helpful to investigate what connection is still there (whether it be past or present). After gaining a thorough knowledge of the couple, I like to give ample time to both parties to explore their biggest issues in their relationship, and ensure each partner feels heard. I am also a big proponent of homework for couples therapy. There’s only so much that can be accomplished in a 50 min therapy session; the couple is on the hook for the hard work of rebuilding their connection. 


JD: I am a strengths based therapist, so I start with identifying their partners strengths. I try to set a great foundation in the room so we can all come to an understanding of why it is, we care enough about each other to be in couples counseling.  


5. Can couples therapy help people who are in the process of divorce (or already divorced) co-parent more effectively?


AJ: 100%. The communication issues don’t go away once you divorce; in fact, unless some of the resentment and hurt is worked through, more suffering is inevitable. I can help couples come up with a plan that works for both of them while centering their children’s needs. Children are just innocent bystanders in a relationship dissolution, and it’s crucial that their lives are as undisturbed as possible with the foundation of a co-parenting plan. 


JD: Yes. Couples therapy can play a valuable role for individuals going through a divorce in several ways. They learn how to communicate better, they can gain co-parenting assistance and they can gain more understanding of themselves to take to their other relationships. Overall, I think it also provides closure for each person going forward.


If you’d like to learn more about couples therapy, give us a call at the studio, 615-953-3934, or book online.



The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

Dolly Parton once said,

Love is sent from Heaven to worry the Hell out of you.

Dolly, using her usual wit, is correct; love makes life worth living, but also can create pain. While difficulty in our personal relationships is an unavoidable part of life, it is possible to develop an understanding of healthy relationship dynamics and enact positive change in your relationships. 

So, what makes a healthy relationship? How do we recognize and understand our unhelpful communication patterns? What steps can we take to ensure that the relationships we are in can be as good as possible?

Luckily for those of us who decided to pursue lifelong partnership, Drs. John and Julie Gottman have spent over 40 years studying couples and their dynamics. Through their incredible careers, they have developed Seven Principles that, when committed to and maintained, foster healthy and happy partnerships over the lifespan. 


Here is a breakdown of the Seven Principles:


What in the world is a love map, you ask? It’s the familiarity and fondness you have and cultivate for your partner. The stronger and clearer our love maps, the more intimacy and care exists in the partnership.


Your partner needs to know you actually like him/her! This is not groundbreaking news, but something we all neglect from time-to-time.


This is based on the idea of staying connected, and positively so.  It’s all about making positive deposits in our “emotional bank accounts.” If you are feeling connected to your partner, you’re better able to handle conflicts as they occur. 


Do you always need to win in an argument? This may indicate that you’re not accepting influence from your partner- you just want to be right.  Unsurprisingly, this stubbornness is often met with harshness and withdrawal from the other partner, creating even more distance.


 This section focuses on understanding the types of conflicts. How can we solve the solvable conflicts and accept the unsolvable conflicts?


Every couple has that “hot issue,”- that fight that just keeps coming back up, over and over. Gridlocks happen when people’s life dreams (hopes, aspirations, wishes) for their life are not being addressed/respected by each other. This section will offer practical tips to work through that dreaded gridlock.


Maintenance is just as important as learning the new skill.  The Gottmans teach us about the importance of creating “rituals of connection” and how to continually apply the principles in your everyday life.


I’m so excited about this workshop because I truly believe in its worth. Good relationships aren’t just built without effort, and problems just don’t “go away.” Join me in at our next Seven Principles workshop to make a positive difference in your relationship!







Take a deep dive into building a stronger relationship with Amy Jackson, LCSW-MPH as she leads the groundbreaking workshop, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.