What is My Therapist Thinking?

Therapist Thoughts

Do you ever wonder what your therapist is thinking? What is behind that note pad, pen, and concerned look? There is a lot more than processing, analyzing, and theory application that goes on in a therapist’s mind during a session! After reading “If I was your Therapist” (http://loveandlifetoolbox.com/if-i-was-your-therapist/) by Lisa Brookes Kift, LMFT, I decided to add a few more to the list to share just what goes on in the minds of therapists!

We are often humbled …

We are always very humbled by the practices of the families we see. Many families or parents come in thinking there are doing a terrible job, or that their family is so dysfunctional, but that is certainly not the case, or the whole story. We see many families that, despite some of their challenges, do or practice some amazing things. No matter who is sitting in the office, there is always one positive thing we learn from them, that we try to practice more of ourselves.

We are emotionally touched…

Many people come in to therapy thinking that their therapist is annoyed by their thoughts or that the therapist is bored, but this is quite the misconception. As therapist, we are truly touched by your stories, and so much so that we are often left feeling a bit emotional. We hold back tears, we form sincere smiles, and we feel real pain.

We are rooting for you all the time…

We don’t just think of you in our allotted time in session; we think about you outside of the session as well. Our hopes and concerns travel outside the 50-minute session and into our weeks, as we are rooting for you all the time. And when successes are made, we are ecstatic. Even if it is just a small realization that was had, we are ready to throw up confetti and start dancing, because your progress is always on our mind!

We know your care…

No matter how many damaging things you tell us about yourself or how broken you may feel, we know that deep down inside you are a good person, with the best of intentions, and you care. Despite feelings of inadequacy or immorality, we see you just as you are: human. We know you care, and that is enough for us.

We appreciate your dedication…

Therapy is work, and it is a team effort. The best progress made is when both parties are actively working towards goals, and we notice when our clients are working hard outside of session.

We do not think your stories are weird, and you are not broken…

Therapists are the first people to understand that there is no such thing as normal, and no one is perfect. There is never a point in session where we are shocked or surprised at what we hear. We are all human, and everyone has challenges in life to face. We do, however, feel compassion, understanding, and empathy in what we hear, and that is the truth!


Vanessa Lemmingnessaer M.A., LMFT 53937
Marital and Family Therapist

© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist LMFT53937, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist LMFT53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

This blog (https://vanessalemminger.wordpress.com/) is for informational and educational purposes only. No therapist-client relationship arises. The information provided and any comments or opinions expressed are intended for general discussion and education only, even when based on a hypothetical. They should not be relied upon for ultimate decision-making in any specific case. There is no substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health specialist, or even a physician, who could best evaluate and advice based on a careful, considered evaluation of all pertinent facts. Likewise, it is understood that no guarantee or warranty arises from the information provided or discussed on this (https://vanessalemminger.wordpress.com/) blog.

Resource for Parents: FREE IEP Evaluation Day!

Here is a great resource for parents in San Diego County! Thomas Nelson is a Special Education Advocate and Attorney that offers an array of services from Special Education Advocacy, IEP appearances, legal representation, Regional Center Claims, and much more.   Thomas Nelson offers a variety of seminars, workshops, and even a free IEP evaluation for parents in San Diego County.  See the flyer below for more details on how to take advantage of these useful resources!

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This free event is held once a month on Saturdays, and offers parents of children with special needs with the following opportunities:

*  Free Individual appointment (one-hour block) with a special education attorney;

*  Includes review of their child’s IEP, including progress, goals, as well as the services and placement their child is receiving.

*  Ask any questions they may have regarding their child’s special education program.

Parents can RSVP to edlaw5@yahoo.com or by calling 858-945-6621 to reserve a one hour block from 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

The event is open to both English and Spanish speaking parents. Just visit www.specialedlaw.us/seminars.php (or http://specialedlaw.us/sp/seminars.php for Spanish) to view the flyer for the event, or send Thomas Nelson an email and he will forward you the flyer. You can also visit his website at www.specialedlaw.us.

Expectations for Therapy

Expectations for Therapy

            Coming to therapy can often be intimidating.  The treatment you receive from a therapist is much different than going to an appointment at your family doctor or the dentist, but the treatment is just as important.  To get the best out of your experience, it is helpful to know what to expect from your therapist, and what not to expect as well.


What you can expect:

Informed consent. The first thing your therapist should do is provide an informed consent form to review and sign.  This form details your participation in therapy, and covers areas such as confidentiality, reporting laws, and your fee agreement.  If you are not asked to sign an informed consent form, this should be a red-flag.

Review of confidentiality.  Every therapist should review the limits of confidentiality, and how it applies to you specifically.  There are different laws and ethical guidelines surrounding confidentiality that differ depending on whether the client is a child under the age of 12, a child 12 years of age or older, an adult, a couple, or a parent.  It is important to know how confidentiality works, and what the legal exceptions are.  If your therapist has not reviewed this with you, ask him/her to right away.

Clear understanding of fees and scheduling. The therapist should review and confirm with you their fees and scheduling policies.  It should be clear exactly what you are paying, how long the sessions last, the policy for going over the designated session time, and any cancellation or rescheduling policy.  It should also be clear as to what methods of payment are accepted, and if you are able to use your insurance.  Often times this information is listed in the informed consent form, but if you have any questions or are not clear on everything, do not hesitate to ask your therapist for more information.

Right to end treatment.  You should never feel forced to go to therapy or that you have to complete a certain number of sessions.  A therapist will certainly recommended a desired number of sessions that would be necessary to complete your specific treatment goals, but you are never obligated to, nor should be forced to complete a set number of sessions.  Each and every session is voluntary and you should never feel pressured to continue treatment if you are not comfortable.  The only exception to this is with court-mandated treatment or treatment of a minor.

Setting goals.  It is important to set goals at the beginning of therapy, and define what it is you want to work on.  Depending on the therapist’s theoretical orientation, goals may be more specific or more general.  If you have a preference as to how you would prefer to set goals and how you want your therapy experience to feel (more concrete and structured, versus more abstract and introspective), ask your therapist what his/her theoretical orientation is, and how that affects his work as a therapist.  Some therapists are more involved and work more as an agent of change, while other therapists take a more collaborative role, working side by side with the client.  This is also dictated by the therapist’s theoretical orientation.  Find out what type of therapist and theoretical approach you are more comfortable with or that matches your style.  Often therapists work from several theoretical approaches and have a more eclectic style.  Let your therapist know what works well for you, and they can use the theoretical approach that fits best with your style.

Support.  In the therapy room you can expect to find support through the challenges you are experiencing.  Coming to therapy can help reduce feelings of isolation.   Therapy goals almost always include increasing support systems as well, as it is important that the client receives support as they work through the challenges they face.

Empathy.  Therapy is also a place where you can expect to receive empathy.  Everyone experiences challenges and seeking help does not make you weak or damaged.  Therapy provides a non-judgmental space to address your challenges, while also providing feelings of validation and understanding through the process.

Expect to work.  Part of the therapeutic process involves making changes, and to do so requires work from both you and the therapist.  Reaching your goals is going to require you to make changes, put plans into action, and require you to step outside your comfort zone.  Some therapists, depending on their theoretical orientation, will also assign homework in addition to what is worked on in therapy.  This homework works in conjunction with what is done in session.


What NOT to expect from therapy:

Answers. Unless your therapist takes a very direct and authoritarian-type position, you should not expect to get “answers” to your problems in therapy.  Your therapist is not going to tell you whether you should stay with your partner or separate, nor whether you should quit your job or not.  Therapy is a process that results in personal growth, something a Magic 8 Ball cannot do.

Quick fix. Therapy is not a quick fix either.   One or two “power sessions” are not going to work out your marriage conflict.  The minimum amount of sessions to expect for almost any goal is at least 4, and longer for more complex relationship concerns.  If you are not quite ready to make a commitment, consider attending a workshop.  Many therapists offer a wide variety of one- or two-day workshops that address a variety of different themes: communication, intimacy, confidence, etc.

Tips and tricks.  Often parents come to therapy looking for tips and tricks to fix their “problem child”, and they are often disappointed.  The “problem child’s” behavior is almost always the result of the entire family’s dysfunction.  A more realistic expectation for parenting concerns or behavior management in therapy would be developing positive parenting strategies and reducing family conflict.

Change your partner. Therapy is not a place to find an ally to take your side during arguments with your partner, nor is it a place to “change your partner.”   Coming to therapy will not “fix” your partner or make them “see it your way.”   A more realistic expectation for therapy would be to learn how to appropriately mediate arguments, improve communication, and clarify expectations for your relationship.


Having a clear understanding of what therapy entails, what to expect from therapy, and what is not likely to happen in therapy, will make scheduling an appointment much less distressing.  Therapy is a place to feel relief from stress, experience empathy, and find support.  Having a clear understanding of the therapy process will help maximize those feelings and move you close towards your goals.


    Vanessa Lemminger M.A., LMFT 53937
Marital and Family Therapist


© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist 53937, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist 53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Dealing with Divorce as an Adult

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The Way They Were: Dealing with Divorce After a Lifetime of Marriage by Brooke Lea Foster

Brooke Foster’s book, The Way They Were: Dealing with Divorce After a Lifetime of Marraige is an essential read for adult children experiencing the pain of parental divorce.  In fact, Foster’s book may be* one of the only books on the experience of adult children of divorce.

Foster’s book explores the loss one experiences in adulthood when they are thrust into the often messy and painful experience of watching their parent’s relationship dissolve, and the expectation of how adult children are supposed to respond.

Foster’s book hits home for many adult children of divorce as she speaks of the “insignificance” many adult children feel.  She calls the book, “a guide to rebuilding relationships and forging ahead.  A place to feel reassured that your pain is real, that you’re allowed to hurt.”

The Way They Were: Dealing with Divorce After a Lifetime of Marriage is a compilation of stories, interviews, and experiences from several individuals who have experienced the pain, anger, and sadness of parental divorce in adulthood, with points to remember at the end of each chapter to summarize the important pieces to take home.

Foster’s book is a great read for those looking for reassurance that the pain they are experiencing is justified.  Her book provides connection and reassurance in the similarities of others experience, without watering down the pain each individual reader is experiencing.  Foster’s book is both therapeutic and educational, while also providing helpful strategies for navigating through the messy emotional process of separation.

The Way They Were: Dealing with Divorce After a Lifetime of Marriage can be found on Amazon.com in the paperback or Kindle version here!


   VaneVanessa (16)ssa Lemminger M.A., LMFT
Marital and Family Therapist




© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist 53937, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist 53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Featured on Xcite Steps: “Making the Most of a Social Outing”

Head on over to Xcite Step’s website to read my latest article on making the most of a social outing, for parents of children with ASD!

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Vanessa Lemminger, M.A., LMFT 53937
Marriage and Family Therapist


Autism: Support for an Entire Family

Time magazine posted a great article online by Barbara Cain titled, ‘Autism’s Invisible Victims: The Siblings’.  Cain speaks about the taxing role of being a sibling to a child with autism, and the endurance siblings need to cope with such a complex disorder.  Although Cain highlights the role of sibling can lead to positive outcomes as well, she emphasizes the importance in recognizing that autism is not just an individual condition, but a condition that effects an entire family.  The entire family deals with autism, and the entire family needs support.

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I would like to reiterate how important it is for parents to find support for themselves as well.  Parents of children with multiple barriers are the most self-sacrificing individuals, and because of this they are likely to disregard their own needs for support, for the needs of their children.  It is important for parents to remember that their needs for support and self-care are essential for providing the best care for their children.  Think about this: When are you more likely to get irritated and yell at your child?  When you are tired? Or when you are feeling refreshed? I am guessing this is an easy answer.  How you feel and the care you take for yourself will reflect in the relationship and care you provide your child.  Whether it means taking an hour out of your day to do something you enjoy, like reading a book or going for a walk, or spending an hour talking to a supportive friend, self-care should not be neglected.

Vanessa Lemminger, M.A., LMFT 53937
Marriage and Family Therapist


The holidays are here!

The holidays are here, and for some people that involves getting gifts for little ones. With different trends, age recommendations, educational aspects, and personalities, picking out the right gift can be challenging, no matter who it is for.  In my own flight to find a gift this year, I stumbled upon a toy company called ‘Fat Brain Toys’.  Yes, that is their actual company name.  Putting their name aside, the company has ‘toys for children with special needs’ and provides unique categories for their entire selection of toys ranging from Autism, Brain Injury, and Dyslexia, to Oral Motor Ability, Fine Motor Skills, and Self-Esteem.  Although I believe many of these toys are appropriate for children of all types, not just children with special needs, I found it very admirable for the company to consider how different children can benefit from different types of stimulation they get with a toy.   With categories such as ‘Life Skills’, ‘Sportsmanship’, and ‘Self-esteem’, these toys are a great idea for any child needing some extra support in a specific area.  It was a great reference to finding perfect and unique gifts for all the perfect and unique children on your list!

Here is a link to their site: http://www.fatbraintoys.com/special_needs/index.cfm?source=msn&kwid=toys%20for%20autistic%20children

Vanessa Lemminger, M.A., LMFT 53937
Marriage and Family Therapist

Challenge Walk MS

I spent the weekend volunteering at the Challenge Walk MS hosted by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society here in San Diego.

Each walker trekked 50 miles, from Carlsbad to Point Loma, to raise support and money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society!

Here is more information on the walk if you are interested in getting involved, or just finding out more information: http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR?pg=entry&fr_id=18766

Events like this are a great way to meet others who share a similar passion or experience in life, and connect with a community of support!


Vanessa Lemminger, M.A., LMFT 53937
Marriage and Family Therapist