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Women's Counseling

© 2021 Richard Chandler, MA, LPC, Masters in Psychotherapy, Licensed Professional Counselor

Women's Counseling Therapy for Improving Boundaries, Romantic & Family Relationships & Life Balance

Woman from St. Paul doing an online therapy session

Therapy has the power to make a significant positive difference in your life—even if you're not currently dealing with a mental illness. Clients come to me for counseling in many areas of their lives. Some of the most common issues I encounter include emotional intimacy, anger management, and deciding whether to stay in a relationship or get divorced.

While men and women seek help for many of the same issues, women often face unique challenges, especially when it comes to professional, family, and romantic relationships.

7 Ways Therapy Can Help Women Form Strong Relationships & Enjoy a Better Life

  1. Setting clear boundaries and convincing others to take those healthier boundaries seriously
  2. Balancing work and personal life
  3. Navigating relationships with step-kids and their biological parents
  4. Rebuilding confidence after a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or fiancée has an affair
  5. Dating again after the loss of a romantic partner
  6. Rediscovering your identity after raising children is no longer the focus
  7. Managing the stress of caring for children and elderly parents

A standard life coach might offer guidance in some areas, but counseling therapy addresses these issues on a much deeper level. In my professional practice, located in Minnesota, I help women identify the source of their problems and how to address them.

Online counseling therapy is an excellent way for women to gain confidence and create new possibilities, direction, and connections. Let's take a closer look at the most common issues I help my clients overcome so they can move forward, feeling ready to navigate any challenge life might bring.

Setting Clear Boundaries with Husbands, Romantic Partners, Children, Friends, Coworkers & Bosses

Setting boundaries is challenging. Women may find it even more challenging to set boundaries. While men are socialized to be entitled, women are often under-entitled.

Some of the top reasons women struggle with setting boundaries include:

  • Feelings of guilt
  • Fear of not belonging
  • Fear of missing out
  • Denying their wants and needs
  • Not asking for help
Woman in Golden Valley, MN scheduling a therapy session

According to Jenn Kennedy, a licensed marriage and family therapist quoted in Healthline, "Boundaries give a sense of agency over one's physical space, body, and feelings." The article also lists different types of boundaries you can set, such as physical, emotional, time, and intellectual boundaries.

Woman drinking tea outside at her home in Golden Valley, MN

 Setting healthy boundaries can help women:

  • Gain a higher sense of self-worth and self-esteem
  • Avoid overcommitment
  • Hold less anger and resentment
  • Have the time and energy to do things that nourish and bring them joy

The struggle women experience when setting healthy boundaries is that it can conflict with their values. The way forward may include changing how they view their situation.

For example, according to Kirsten Lee Ed.D., LICSW in Psychology Today, "[you might find it hard to set boundaries], if you're the type that always wants to be there for people you care about, it's because you value relationships. If you're the one at work who says yes to every project, it reflects how much you value learning."

Lee also reminds us of the hard truth that "When we only say yes, we might be missing chances to invest our time and energy in ways that help us take our values and goals to new levels."

Women May Overcommit Due to FOMO, Perfectionism, & Social Conditioning

For many women, fears of missing out, (FOMO), perfectionism, and social conditioning can explain why they say yes too often. FOMO, can be a significant factor in over-commitment. Lee elegantly describes this reaction as "a desire for excitement, mobility, connection, and adventure."

On the other hand, you might feel obligated to overcommit because you're worried about letting someone else down. Additionally, you might believe saying no is a sign of moral failing or weakness. These reactions point to perfectionism, which can cause significant inner turmoil when you strive for excellence in all you do.

Social conditioning can cause problems for boundary setting when there are cultural norms around self-sacrifice and gender roles.

Woman feeling overwhelmed in her home in Maple Grove, MN

Women are often unfairly regarded as:

  • The ones who orchestrate holidays and celebrations
  • Responsible for Keeping household conflicts and cleanliness in check
  • Ensuring that the kids' needs have been taken care of

It is overwhelming for you as a woman to do everything you're "supposed" to do to be a "good" wife, mother, friend, sister, or daughter to others.

The Consequences Women Experience from Overcommitting

Feeling like you're not as productive as you should be can lead to intense feelings of guilt, stress, and defeat. It can feel tempting to overextend yourself when you're stuck in a cycle of self-criticism, but doing so can cause significant harm to your relationships.

One consequence of overcommitting is that you might have difficulty staying present with your family during quality time. You might even feel the need to cut back on quality time with your family all together. It's important to remind yourself that no one can do everything, and it's okay if you didn't check everything off your to-do list today.

Woman frustrated in a counseling session in Maple Grove, MN

Counseling Therapy Helps Women to Set Healthier Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries can be a great way to protect yourself from things like overcommitting. Firm boundaries can also help guard against anyone who might attempt to coerce, gaslight, or otherwise devalue you.

People who are out to take advantage of your low self-esteem or empathy will do so if you don't set boundaries with them upfront. An example of this could be that your boss regularly asks you to work longer hours even though he knows it exceeds your time limit.

Another example of someone who might take advantage of your lack of boundaries could be a frequently rude or inappropriate roommate. You might be forgiving of her behavior because she shares stories about her struggles or hard past. In situations like these, where you haven't established healthy boundaries, you can quickly find yourself allowing behavior that would typically be unacceptable.

Woman stressed out at work in Eden Prairie, MN

How to Know When Someone Is Crossing Your Boundaries

Sometimes it can be hard to recognize when someone is crossing boundaries to take advantage of you. At that moment, you may feel annoyed, upset, or hurt by someone's actions without knowing exactly why.

An excellent way to know when someone is crossing your boundaries is to note how your body reacts. Do you tense up or clench your fists? Next time you're feeling blame, shame, or doubt during a conversation with someone who could be violating your boundaries, look for your physical warning signs.

These signs can help you identify anyone in your life who doesn't respect your boundaries. Once you've done that, you can create a plan of action to address these issues. A great place to start is to practice saying no. But don't forget to be kind to yourself. Setting boundaries is difficult for everyone.

Balancing Work & Personal Life - A career woman's Challenge

Do you feel like life is a constant scramble? Are you often overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted by the number of things you need to get done in a day? With today's technology, it can feel impossible to separate your work life from your home life. I've worked with many clients who struggled to find a healthy work-life balance. Women struggle with this topic because they typically handle household duties plus full-time careers.

I often see clients who have defaulted to placing thier work and family above their own needs. The goal of finding a work-life balance is to ensure your many roles enhance one another rather than conflict. When your work and personal lives conflict, the adverse effects can take a significant toll.

The consequences of not prioritizing your own needs can cause psychological distress, reduced happiness, and burnout. To avoid this, you must find a work-life balance that works for your individual needs. Many times, working with a licensed therapist can help you achieve this.

Woman out for a run at a retreat in Duluth, MN
Woman working with a colleague in Excelsior, MN

Why is a Healthy Work-Life Balance Important for working women?

It's crucial to establish a healthy work-life balance because it can impact the well-being of you and everyone around you. Work can be meaningful, but make sure to rejuvenate and nurture yourself too.

When you take time to care for yourself, it becomes easier to manage for others. It can feel tempting to sacrifice your own needs over those of your family or work. But when you never give yourself a break, your stress will compound over time.

Thanks to today's technology, the workday never ends. Your boss can contact you at all hours of the day. The line between work time and personal time is a blurry one. I see many clients who have a hard time disconnecting from work. It may seem innocuous to respond to work emails while you're at the park with your kids. Yet, it can still have an impact on your relationships, mental health, and happiness.

Creating a healthy work-life balance means separating your work and personal lives. This separation will lower your stress and make you more productive at work. Most importantly, it decreases your chances of burnout.

The Impact of Burnout on Your Health,  Happiness & Wellbeing

Burnout can happen when you take on an unsustainable workload without allowing time to recover. In this situation, it's important to recognize when your productivity expectations are unreasonable. Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself can cause unnecessary mental distress when you fail to meet those goals.

Another common cause of burnout is feeling you have an unfair workload. The trouble comes when you stay in that unhealthy work environment even though the early signs of burnout are on the horizon.

Woman out for a hike in Minnetonka, MN

Working with a counselor can help you balance the demands of work and home life while maintaining your economic and mental health. Don't wait until you are experiencing burnout to seek help. Burnout will significantly impact your happiness and performance on the job and with your family. Side effects can last for weeks and even months. If you are experiencing burnout, a counselor can help you identify the best approach for your needs.

 

How to Find Your Work-Life Balance

A healthy work-life balance looks different for everyone. What works for you will depend on your career, age, family, and personal needs. When you're working towards a better work-life balance, it's vital to start small. Identify what is most important to you. Then, set goals that will help you achieve the things that matter most. Over time, you can work towards those goals and gradually improve your work-life balance.

 

Tips for Balancing Your Personal and Professional Lives:

  • Change your Schedule: One way to balance your professional and personal life is to look at your schedule. Are there different work hours that would work better for you? For example, if you need to pick the kids up from school, could you accommodate this by getting to the office earlier? Maybe you need to cut back on work hours entirely so you can focus on what you value most. Could you decrease spending somewhere to allow for less pay?
  • If you can't afford to cut back on work hours, avoid overbooking your schedule by delegating tasks. It might be time to ask your partner to take on more household duties instead of trying to do it all yourself. This request can be uncomfortable, but the way forward is possible through individual and couples counseling therapy.
  • Take a Break: Saying "no" can be challenging, but it's good to know where your limits are. Set clear boundaries between your workday and leisure time. Establish a recharge time where you unplug from all work communication to focus on non-work activities.

"Accept that you're not going to be able to do everything that you want to do. If your emotions are telling you that you're overwhelmed, that's a good time to take a step back." - Jonathan Huppert, Ph.D., assistant professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.

Make sure to schedule more extended periods for vacations, personal development, and quality time with family and friends. While it might feel like you're neglecting your responsibilities, time off can help you perform much better when you're back in the office.

  • Set Boundaries: Establish a schedule and stick to it. Let your boss and coworkers know when your work hours are and when you will be unavailable. In contrast, let your friends and family know when your work hours are and that they shouldn't contact you during that time. If you respect your schedule, others will too.
  • Practice Self-Care: Practicing self-care can help you let go of stress, perfectionism, unrealistic expectations of yourself, and negative thought patterns. Research by the American Psychological Association shows that "self-care can help create balance and can contribute to good physical and mental health and improved quality of life."

Your self-care practice can be as simple as meditating for five minutes a day or taking an evening walk around the neighborhood.

  • Work with a Counselor: The most effective way to find a balance between your personal and professional lives is to work with a counselor. Having strong support and a sympathetic ear can make all the difference. Finding a work-life balance is hard, but you don't need to tackle it alone. I can help you set a schedule that enables you to work towards the goals that matter most.

 

Finding a balance between work and life takes time. What works for one person doesn't always work for the next. There isn't a one-size-fits-all strategy. That's why it's helpful to speak with a counselor if you're struggling to balance your personal and professional lives. An unsustainable work schedule can quickly lead to burnout. Finding a fulfilling work-life balance will improve your productivity, happiness, and relationships.

A Brief Women's Guide for Stronger Relationships with Stepkids & Their Biological Parents

Stepmom braiding child's hair in Chanhassen, MN

Developing a strong relationship with your stepchildren can be quite a challenge. As a stepparent, you now have all sorts of obstacles to navigate—including your relationship with the stepchild's biological mom or dad.

On top of that, you might feel like a parent that doesn't have any real authority. You could find yourself grappling with disrespect from the kids or criticism from the biological parent.

This dicey dynamic may be worsened by your spouse wavering between your needs and those of the biological parent.

How to Connect With Your Stepkids

You'll want to keep in mind that your stepchildren didn't sign up for this. No matter how great you are, they are likely not thrilled to have divorced parents, two houses, and a stepparent. It's important to take cues from them to understand where they're at and whether they are ready to begin a relationship with you.

It's usually best to start building a relationship with your stepchildren the same way you would with any other relationship. Try to refrain from jumping in headfirst. Like any other relationship, it takes time to build trust and respect.

Kelly Chaplin, from HuffPost, says, "The most realistic goal for the first few years of your relationship with your stepchild is to be friends." She adds, "And remember: the relationship you share with your stepchild doesn't have to resemble the one they share with their birth parents, nor does it have to compete with it."

At first, you may feel like an outsider around the stepkids. Make sure to avoid hiding or making yourself small.

As Jenna Korf from HuffPostnotes, "Many stepchildren grow up not knowing their stepparent's favorite color, food, or activity. Because stepparents often feel rejected by their stepkids, sometimes they start hiding themselves or clamming up the children's presence. They end up excluding themselves. Instead, when the opportunity presents itself, speak up about things you enjoy doing."

 

Stepmom and stepdaughter smiling in the kitchen in St. Paul, MN

Simple Ways to Engage With Your Stepkids:

  • Ask them about their hobbies
  • Find activities they enjoy that you can do together
  • Incorporate them into family traditions

How to Overcome Conflicts With Your Stepchild

Every once in a while, you might find yourself feeling envious of your stepchild. He may even seem to receive more attention or affection from your spouse than you. It's critical to keep these emotions in check and communicate how you're feeling from a position of positivity and desire to enhance your relationships.

However, there will be times when you reach a frustrating place with a stepchild. If you're losing your patience, it's a good idea to take a break. When you come back, don't forget to maintain a sense of humor and be persistent. Healthy relationships take time to build, but they are well worth the effort in the end—especially considering your stepchildren are likely be a part of your life long into the future.

Stepmom with both step kids trying to get her attention while she's working on the computer in Hopkins, MN

The Importance of Women Regaining Confidence After An Affair

Regaining confidence after an affair with a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or fiancée can be incredibly difficult. It can feel like your entire world has shattered after someone you trusted so closely betrayed you. This discovery can bring up powerful emotions of depression, shame, anger, guilt, or remorse.

Affairs can occur for several reasons, and while learning more about why they happen won't change your situation, it can help bring about a new perspective.

Relationship expert April Masini from Insider says, "It's easy to play victim, but more often than not, the cheating happened because the cheater felt neglected or mistreated or not valued. That doesn't excuse that person's behavior, but it explains it, and it shows that the cheating was a symptom, not the main problem."

R. Scott Gornto from Psychology Today says the three main ingredients that often cause people to have affairs include:

  • Your partner or spouse has fallen in love with a fantasy version of this other person. In their mind, this person will meet every one of their needs.
  • Your partner has a deep longing for external validation. Receiving praise can help them "fall in love" with this new version of themselves.
  • Your partner may become intoxicated by the feeling they get with each new encounter. His brain releases three chemicals during this initial stage of the affair—dopamine (also activated by cocaine and nicotine), adrenaline, and serotonin.
A couple almost holding hands in Elk River, MN

After you discover the infidelity, you will need to figure out how to confront your romantic partner. In the process, make sure to take care of your emotions. Gather evidence about the affair so your partner can't easily deny it. Finally, identify the purpose of this confrontation and what you want the result to be. Afterward, you can evaluate what you've learned from the conversation and decide if you'd like to schedule another. Once you've received all the information you need, you can figure out how to move forward from the affair.

Your decision to choose to leave or stay in a relationship after an affair is enormous and will significantly impact your life. It will be dependent on both your willingness to work through it and rebuild and repair your relationship. Each relationship will be different. A good question to ask yourselves is, "Does losing your marriage motivate you both to work on the relationship's shortcomings?"

Deciding whether to share this pain or keep it private is a difficult choice as well. While you may be able to forgive your spouse eventually for this grievance, others you share this with may not. In this type of situation, it can be beneficial to have someone to be a soundboard to you and offer outside opinions and advice. Marriage counselors are great for this. However, you do want to be careful in picking them out. Asking them questions about their education, personal beliefs on marriage, and the percentage of their clients that ended up staying married versus getting divorced is all useful information to gather.

A Women's Journey Into Dating After Loss of Romantic Partner

Psychology Today points out that "according to the Holmes and Rahe Scale of major stressful life events, losing a spouse is rated as the most stressful." You lost someone incredibly significant to you. This person was there for you in ways no one else was. That type of mourning doesn't go away overnight. To add to the stress, your family and friends may ask about when you plan on dating again or "Don't you feel like it's time to move on?"

Everyone grieves in different ways, and it can take years to be in a place to start dating again. "Dating after the death of your spouse is often fraught with strong emotions, not the least of which is guilt," says Dr. Marilyn A. Mendoza. Even if your spouse encouraged you to find someone new before their death, you could still not be ready. Some widows decide to never be in another relationship again because they don't want to risk getting attached to someone new that may end in another loss.

Couple on a date in Chaska, MN

How to Know When You’re Ready to Date Again

It's important to remember that loving and grieving can happen simultaneously and that guilt will lessen in time. Often it is feelings of loneliness and a strong desire for a deep connection with someone that motivates people to get out into the dating scene again. Be patient with yourself. It's okay to move slowly or to wait to date until you are ready (if ever).

If you do decide to try dating, you're starting over. You'll have to reset your expectations. You're not picking up where you left off. Anyone you date will not be a clone of your spouse. Don't feel like you have to jump into dating to make connections. You can always just casually chat with people. However, if your grief over your spouse dominates the conversation every time you go out, and you aren't interested in learning about your date, you're probably not ready.

Throughout this process, you'll want to check-in with yourself and listen to your heart. While you're in the early stages of the grieving process, you may only need some good friends and a few new hobbies to help ground yourself in the here and now. Later on, you may feel more ready to pursue a relationship. Counseling therapy can help you navigate through this process.

Just be honest with yourself and anyone you decide to date. Communication is the key to success in any relationship.

 

Rediscovering Your Identity After Devoting Your Life To Raising Children. How Women may reinvent themselves111

When so much of your time is devoted to raising children, it can feel almost like you've lost part of your identity after they leave the nest. This feeling is particularly intense for stay-at-home mothers.

When your life revolves around the kids, you can lose your identity once they're gone.

As Rachel from A Mother Far From Home says, "There's a difference in your daily routine revolving around the kids and the entire meaning of your life revolving around them. You can still be on duty 24/7 and be involved in other things."

How Women Get Back in Touch With Their Deeper Individual Identity

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a mother who gave up her career to stay home with the kids can also develop identity issues. She might feel like her life has slowed down, and she has lost the freedom she used to have. Her social life might grind to a halt. All of these factors can affect how she sees herself.

Other issues can arise when your identity revolves around your fulfilling career. Even if it is your choice to be a stay-at-home mom, it can be hard to lose the validation and satisfaction of a job well done. Being a mother doesn't necessarily have measurable results, or it might not feel as meaningful (it doesn't pay as well either). Sleep is another major factor that can increase stress and identity issues for stay-at-home mothers.

Working to ditch the guilt about taking time for yourself can be challenging. Still, once you realize that taking time for yourself can help fuel and strengthen relationships instead of taking away from them, you may think differently about self-care. Practice being kind to yourself while you rediscover your identity. But be realistic about your expectations. It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing approach.

To start finding yourself again, you can work on connecting to who you are, not just your role. Find creative ways to see friends through things like book clubs, coffee dates, or park meet-ups with the kids.

Woman reading a book at Lake Minnetonka, MN

Ways to Reconnect With Yourself When Working as a Stay-at-Home Mom:

  • Find fulfilling hobbies
  • Stop comparing the present to the past
  • Get help with the kids from babysitters or family members
  • Take time for self-care

Women Often Juggle Multiple Care-giver Roles For Aging Parents & Their Children

Complete Homecare shares that, "According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 50% of the adults have aging elderly and kids to support, and often find themselves sandwiched between home and office, parents and kids." Coping with caring for elderly parents while raising kids is quite the task. Your obligations feel divided between the two that seem equally important.

Taking on caregiving for a parent can be very emotionally taxing. It's essential to look out for signs of caregiver stress.

Daughter with her elderly mother in Eden Prairie, MN

Signs of Caregiver Stress:

  • Depression
  • Withdrawal
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Insomnia
  • Exhaustion
  • Drinking or smoking more than usual
  • Getting sick often due to a weakened immune system

Good ways to manage the financial and emotional stress of caring for parents include discussing and delegating tasks between siblings. You may want to consider remodeling your parent's home for accessibility and safety. Also, including your children in this process can help them feel important.

Setting boundaries and saying "no" to requests and obligations that are draining and stressful can help you cope with your caregiving responsibilities. It's essential to accept your limitations. There are things you can't change, such as your loved one's age and disabilities.

A daughter with her father in Brooklyn Park, MN

If taking care of your parents while raising kids is taking a toll on you, it is vital to seek help from home care providers or long-term care facilities.

An aspect of caregiving I cannot stress enough is to take care of yourself and be gentle. Tending to your physical and mental health will help you stay sane during these trying times. It can also significantly decrease your stress, so you're more calming to be around. Watching TV, reading a good book, or grabbing coffee with a friend can all offer opportunities to reduce the pressure of your caregiving stress. It's like the old saying, "You can't pour from an empty cup."

Women Clients Find Support, Insight & Creative Approachs through Counseling Therapy

A woman outside looking happy in Red Wing, MN

If you are struggling with any of these issues, don't hesitate to reach out and accept help. I can help you set clear boundaries, build healthy relationships with your stepkids, advance your career, navigate an affair, heal your feelings of loss, manage the stress of caregiving, or rediscover your identity outside of motherhood.

I offer a "no-cost" phone consultation to ask any questions about what it might be like to work together. Call at 320-223-9481 or by email at richardjchandler@gmail.com. Please note that I also work with clients in Minnesota for counseling therapy and life coaching or nationally for life and executive coaching via video conferencing.

As a Woman's Counseling therapist, I provide:

  • A perspective steeped in working with both men, women, and couples
  • Flexible appointment times, including daytime, evening, and Saturday sessions
  • Same day - same week availability
  • A premium, secure, confidential online healthcare platform to give you a high-quality online counseling experience
  • Please text, email, or call me to have a short, no-cost consult to answer your questions about counseling therapy

"Richard has a very logical and professional outlook on any situation. Along with being a great listener, Richard was wonderful to work with."

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