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125 Ash St
Lino Lakes, Mn 55126

(651)263-2930

By providing a safe and effective therapeutic environment, Amanda Nephew Therapy Services is a catalyst of change for men, women, couples and families to engage in personal growth, to create healthy identities and to strengthen their relationships.   

Blog

Engaging in personal growth to create a healthy identity is a journey. Keep checking back here for things I find inspiring and helpful. 

And everyone wins

Amanda Nephew

Over the weekend I had my 9 year old nephew staying here. After a full day of watching Spongebob, a game of bowling, geocatching in a few parks, going to two different arcades, playing card games and eating all of our meals in a tent in the living room, I made him do his assigned 20 minutes a day of reading. Yep, I am that mean aunt who made him set the timer and read for 20 minutes. I even took it a step further. I made him read…out loud. As I laid on the couch and was falling asleep (I mean resting my eyes) he read to me. Since I have 100 books on therapy and theology and only one other book, he had to read the other book. It happened to be Where the Sidewalk Ends. As he read this particular poem, I laid and listened. I listened differently to this one though. It was meaningful to me. I could see the faces of specific couples who have been in my office and who, at one time, engaged in a relentless game of tug o’war but who are now are in a place of attachment and mutual winning. I couldn’t help but softly smile as I reflected on these people and their stories.

 

When my couples come in, they are fighting. They are fighting about a lot of things. Some small, some big. But, what they are fighting FOR is connection. So, as I look back at these winning couples, I look forward to another year of replacing glances for gazes, crossed arms for holding hands and losing for winning.

 

 

“I will not play at tug o' war.

I'd rather play at hug o' war,

Where everyone hugs

Instead of tugs,

Where everyone giggles

And rolls on the rug,

Where everyone kisses,

And everyone grins,

And everyone cuddles,

And everyone wins.”

Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

Intimacy Needs To Be Intentional

Amanda Nephew

With social media so accessible it’s easy to follow authors, speakers, pastors and others who have inspiring thoughts. A couple times a week I’ll read through them, but a few months ago I read something that stopped me in my tracks. Gary Thomas, the author of “Sacred Marriage,” wrote, “Married couples: the small patterns of relating you set today become the concrete realities tomorrow. We can get used to living without intimacy.” Ugh. That last part is what got me: We CAN get used to living without intimacy. This invaded my thoughts, my emotions and it made me reflect in a couple of ways.

I thought about one of the most common presenting problems I hear from couples: feeling emotionally disconnected. The problem with disconnection is that it does not just happen after a big event or a more vulnerable time in the marriage but it can often occur at anytime (slowly and often unnoticed). The impact of living without intimacy can cause us to feel lonely, rejected, unsettled, unsecure and unknown. So, what is the antidote?

Well, that’s a loaded question, but a main way to fight against loss of intimacy is being intentional. A few ways we can be intentional is

1.) Stay curious. When we start to make assumptions about what our spouse is thinking or feeling, we allow the slow leak to start. We keep the slow leak going by then acting on those assumptions instead of asking for more information or clarification. We put more weight on what we believe is reality instead of what our spouse is really experiencing.

2.) Be affectionate. You might not always feel like it, but that is the perfect time to dig deep and show your love and care. When we allow a pattern to play out of not being curious and not being affectionate, we can pull away and find ourselves disconnected. The harm is that, like the frog in the boiling pot of water, we keep adjusting to the lack of intimacy so slowly that we don’t even realize it’s occurring.

Being intentional will create and maintain intimacy. 

Scanning our world for the positive

Amanda Nephew

After listening to a brilliant TEDTalk by Shawn Achor and thinking back over my own 2014, I am wondering, "Is my brain first scanning my narrative for the positive or for the negative?" Based on research by Achor we learn that Dopamine (which floods into your system when you are positive) actually makes you happier AND turns on all the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.  

So, you may ask, "How do I become positive?" Well, focusing on gratitude is a good place to start. Here are two easy ways to use gratitude to boost your positivity as we enter a new year :

1.) Journal about just the great (big or small) things that happened to you during 2014

2.) Write someone an email to tell them you are grateful for the time you spent with them, the house they helped you unpack, the meals you shared together or the way they loved on your kids. 

Let's start this year out right!

 

You love 'em, but do you like 'em?

Amanda Nephew

Friendship in the context of marriage has seemed to be a big theme in my work lately. I have many couples come into session and tell me that their problem is communication. They’re right; they may not communicate well. But, there’s usually more to the story. After exploring their relationship and figuring out where the communication hits a snag, I often explain that I can give them an arsenal of really practical and helpful communication and resolution skills. But, there’s more to it. Friendship needs to be at the foundation of the relationship in order for these skills to create intimacy and connection.

John Gottman, who is a renown marriage therapist and researcher, wrote an important book called “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” In it he concludes that 70% of couples said that the quality of friendship with their spouse was the determining factor in the level of their marital happiness.

It makes sense, right? If you are friends with your spouse, you are more likely to actually use the tools to communicate better and actually get to a resolution after fighting. Friends are more likely to have empathy and listen better than just simply react. If you like each other, you will fight together against things such as depression, financial issues, family drama, or other difficulties. Friends are allies. They join forces and they fight against the exterior issues without turning against each other.

I understand there are certainly complications and exceptions to this. But in general focusing on growing the marital friendship has a long lasting and rich outcome which can be the launching point for other aspects like better communication, emotional safety and sweeter quality of time spent together. The Bible says it best. Ecclesiastes 4:9 reads, “Two people are better off than one, for they help each other succeed.” 

We put so much importance of friendship with our gal pals or our work buddies, but do we lose that importance with our spouse? 

Self Care

Amanda Nephew

The phrase “self care” can be interpreted as doing something boring or unproductive because you are too weak to do what you really need to do. Quite the opposite! Self care is really doing what you enjoy in order to keep yourself going strong. Here are a few guidelines that I follow in my own life to keep myself well and present for my clients, my family and myself.

1.)   Listening to my body: Because I suffer from hypoglycemia and am on a strict diabetic diet, I keep very aware of what my body needs. If my sugar levels are dropping, I quickly take care of it. It’s not a chore or a burden, but instead something that I do to feel good and be a more effective therapist and nicer friend. Many of my clients have seen me reach for a protein bar mid-session. With a little or no explanation, we just keep on going. No problem.

2.) Listening to my emotions: I know the limits of how much I can handle hearing in a given day. When I tap into what my experience is at the end of a day, I make a decision then about how to recharge. It can be peaceful or it can be fun, but it’s always enjoyable. Sometimes I choose being alone and quiet, going for a walk, getting out and meeting people for dinner or other times it’s just watching some Netflix. Whatever you do, it’s important to find what works for you. Not everyone likes to run and that’s ok. Not everyone likes to write and that’s ok. As long as it’s healthy, do what works to help you recharge.  

3.) Creating transition times: This has been one of the most difficult ones to figure out, but also the most helpful! I schedule in time to transition into and out of  “work mode.” A few hours before my first client of the day I begin thinking about the clients I have on the schedule, reviewing past session notes and penciling in new thoughts. It proves helpful as I can enter into sessions feeling prepared and focused. I also NEED transition time out. I hardly ever plan events directly after work and if I absolutely have to do something, I make sure I have ample time to adjust. I feel better internally if I can be “all in” wherever I am and this is how I have found success. 

Take these tips and make them yours. Be well!