Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I am ever grateful for the intense training I had and for my continuing commitment to study in Bowen Family Systems Theory. Here is a favorite quote I keep in the back of my mind when working with couples at www.cunninghamtherapy.com

“When any member of an emotional system can control his own emotional reactiveness and accurately observe the functioning of the system and his/her part in it, and can avoid counter attacking when he is provoked and when he can maintain an active relationship with the other key members without withdrawing or becoming silent, the entire system will change in a series of predictable ways.”

Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, page 486, Dr. Murray Bowen, pioneer in marriage and family therapy.

Systems couples counseling can result in transformative marital dynamics. Call Dr. Barbara Cunningham at 619 990-6203 for a complimentary telephone consultation.


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In my San Diego counseling practice at Cunninghamtherapy.com, I have observed a client have a “lightbulb moment” quickly when I have spontaneously come up with a good metaphor. It is sometimes effective to come up with metaphors that are related to the client’s occupation.Most of the time, a good metaphor advances a deepening dialogue and can even access unconscious material. Below are some examples of metaphors I have used (although I have never met a phor I didn’t like!)

…You are just flying through some turbulence. This, too, shall pass.

…You are actually in the vestibule (hallway) of positive, groundbreaking change if you can just find the hidden nugget in this current challenge

…Would you rather be right or be connected?

…What is your partner up against being in a relationship with YOU?

…A tug-of-war doesn’t work if only one pulls. Can you let go?

…Your dynamic is like a teeter totter. Think about your cycles of opposite postures: distancer/pursuer/ or overfunctioner/underfunctioner, or saver/spender, etc

In illustrating the dynamic in an affair, I point out to clients that a three legged stool is more stable than a two legged stool but ONLY in the short run. The relief one gets in the short run (eg “Whew, I’m not broken in love after all!”) often creates just enough complacency to gel into place the chronic problem between the original insiders and keep the problem alive.

…Marriage and family therapy is different from other mental health disciplines. It is broader. It is like climbing to the top of the bleachers to see the game from afar. Now one can see how each individual in the system plays into the gestalt instead of the typical view of the individual practitioner, who tends to view the game from the fifty yard line.

…When a client softens into a more vulnerable posture, I may tentatively ask softly, “How old are you now?”

…Use my red, Russian nesting doll set on the end table and invite thoughts of how the preceding generation in one way or another informs the next. Ask what comes to mind about that. Also, might ask a nervous client to handle the dolls—twisting and untwisting—in session.

I invite you to call me for a complimentary telephone consultation at 619 9906203. Take advantage of the seasoned services of Dr. Cunningham, MFT and begin your couples counseling or individual counseling experience with Cunninghamtherapy.com in this brand new year. You will be glad that you did!

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 Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point in their lives.

Although these are daunting statistics, the good news is that the majority of women can survive breast cancer if it’s discovered and treated early.

Women who hear the words “You have breast cancer”are catapulted into a new reality immediately upon receiving their diagnosis. It can help to talk to a professional about your feelings, thoughts and fears. Please do not hesitate to call me if this is what has happened to you or to a loved one. I have walked that road and have the wisdom, training, and life experience to offer compassion, empathy, and direction. You can reach me at 619 9906203.Look around my website to learn more about me and get some free tips just for stopping by at http://www.cunninghamtherapy.com

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I am an MFT at the doctoral level. In my work at Affordable Relationship Counseling, I encourage clients to work on their current relational challenges by researching their multigenerational family stories. Over the holidays, I picked up a novel entitled BREAD GIVERS by Anzia Yezierska. I opened it without any more interest than that it was set in 1920’s Lower East Side New York and that, like the earlier experience of my maternal grandparents, it described the Jewish journey of immigrating to the U.S. from Russia during that historical period. Little did I know that within these pages, it would seem as if my mother was communicating with me from heaven about what it was really like for her as a young, Jewish girl and as a teenager. Fiction and nonfiction merged in my brain and my eyes were awash as I imagined how important the sense of belonging and material safety must have been to children of immigrants.

To differentiate a self as protagonist Sara Smolinsky did eluded my mom. Mom was a redheaded beauty. Appearances were of prime importance as providing carte blanche to becoming a successful homemaker with the means to be comfortable. My mother was the third of four. She had one sister, twelve years her senior, a brother who was nine years older and a brother three years younger.

Life was tough in NY for Jewish immigrants like the Smolinskys. Like my grandfather, Sara’s father was pious (he was an Orthodox rabbi) and also very poor. Like Sara’s mother, my maternal Bubbe did not want her daughters to waste time or money to educate themselves. She worried about them having a good life. A secure life, unlike her own hand-to-mouth struggle from day to day. She hoped that her girls’ future would be secured by a good marriage to a successful, Jewish man. This chronic anxiety about her daughters’ mating outcomes had a multigenerationally transmitted quality and, as theoretically predicted, my mother had transmitted it to me in spades. Such anxiety is rarely useful when one is of the age to settle down and be of calm enough mind to intelligently choose a mate.

After I read the last page of this novel, my understanding about so many mysteries about the marital failures in my own family had deepened. It was as if this piece of historical fiction offered me the insight I might have gained if I had gone back to visit my Mom in a Time Machine. Thank you, Anzia Yezierska!

For more information about Dr. Cunningham‘s model of practice, call 619 9906203 0r visit www.cunninghamtherapy.com

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San Diego Relationship and Marriage Counseling

Model of Therapy and Theory of Change: Underlying Philosophy and Theoretical Assumptions

My guiding principle as a clinician is Bowen family systems theory (BFST).  I believe that family dysfunction is rooted in the extended family system.  Unresolved conflicts from past generations and from childhood continue to be acted out in relationships in the nuclear family.  It is assumed that external systems often determine intrapsychic feeling states, and that it is important to understand both the “. . .historical process in the family and the larger social context in order to transform family relationships in the present” (McGoldrick & Carter, 2001, p. 282). Furthermore, it is assumed that “. . . if one person changes her or his emotional functioning in the family, the system will eventually change.  In this framework, family relationships are forever, and it never makes sense to write off a family member once and for all” (McGoldrick…

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Affordable Marriage Counseling San Diego

Dr. Barbara Cunningham, licensed marriage and family therapist, urges couples to seek marriage counseling sooner rather than later. Here are three reasons why:

1.: Research suggests that couples do better when they do not “stonewall” or turn away from one another when upset about an issue. Counseling provides a safe “holding” environment to discuss and process the “tough” stuff in a way to move your relationship forward instead of getting stuck in the mire.

2. Marriage is worthy of your best effort. It is not “automatic” to succeed at marriage. If it were, there would not be such a high divorce rate. Get professional help to give your partnership the best odds of success.

3. Marriage involves going from independence to interdependence. This may require a bit of coaching during the first year.

Barbara is happy to answer any questions you may have by phone to see if it makes sense to book an initial appointment. Call her at 619 9906203 or visit her website at http://www.cunninghamtherapy.com for more information


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At Affordable Relationship Counseling in San Diego, CA , licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Barbara Cunningham, often sees clients who present with issues of loneliness around the holidays. It seems that people feel a heightened sense of loss around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Television, movies, magazines, and advertisments seem to emphasize pictures of happy families that are a stark contrast to what people wish they had in their own lives. Often times burned bridges and broken dreams come into bold relief at this time of the year and make it most difficult for people to get through the days of gift giving, Christmas carols, and holiday mirth. Allowing people a safe holding environment to process feelings of vulnerability may be a beginning point.  It takes courage to begin the therapy process. Talk therapy is a proven way to begin. Research has shown that isolation is not good for one’s overall health. If one is not connected, or feels isolated, one is at risk for myriad health problems. Human beings are a social species.  Adaptation to loss can, over time, bring increased integrity and deeper meaning to life. To learn more about Dr. Cunningham’s strength based model of practice, call 619 9906203 or visit her website at http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com to get more information.

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Sex addiction is on the rise in India“Families with multiple generations of addiction often tell ‘war stories’ about the previous generation. Frequently, stories are told as jokes because they are so improbable. If grandpa was so drunk he missed the garage and drove into the living room, the family laughs as a defense against the tragedy and chaos of the event. For a child listening , such pandemonium can be concerning, but the child’s reality is everyone is laughing. The incongruity may make it hard for the child to ask questions. After all, if the situation is scary to you, but funny to everyone else, then there must be something wrong with your perceptions.”

-Dr. Patrick Carnes, Recovery Zone, Vol 1. (Pg 137)

Since San Diego’s Mayor Bob Filner has been a heated subject of controversy, the topic of sex addiction has dominated the air waves in our town. I have often depicted sex addiction as a disease of intimacy. Like all forms of addiction, I consider it an escape from uncomfortable emotions associated with close relationships with significant others. Addictive patterns that trigger compulsive behaviors often result in surges of neurochemical highs, whether from behaviors such as sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, eating, etc., and such behavioral habits can rarely be addressed in short term behavioral therapy. It took a long time for people to be wired by their formative experiences and it will take a long time to rewire their brains to react differently.

Make no mistake, I am a great believer in the transformative power of psychotherapy. I just do not believe in tips, tricks, tools and techniques…psychotherapy should not be “showtime.” It is process. I ask my clients to trust in the process. I ask them to be patient with the process. Developing insight takes time. Hard work. Asking the right questions should generate more questions. Sex addiction, like other addictions, is an ineffective coping mechanism used to self soothe and to escape from the discomfort of intimacy.  Those who would have sex without considering longterm, potential consequences to their behavior have an opportunity to look for ways to heal the wound within, so they can, over time and with a lot of hard work,  increase their capacity for intimacy. To learn more about Dr. Barbara Cunningham, MFT, visit her website at http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com or call 619 9906203 for a complimentary telephone consultation.

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At Affordable Relationship Counseling, , Dr. Barbara Cunningham offers couples counseling to couples expecting their first child. She encourages new parents to seek counseling as insurance, knowing that such transitions can add stress and create challenges going forward into new roles and responsibilities. With evening hours to accommodate working couples and affordable rates, Dr. Cunningham can work with couples to get them onto a path assuring success. As wonderful and miraculous as a new baby is to both parents, all change brings with it accompanying adjustment and resultant stress. To learn more about her expert marriage counseling services, visit her website at http://www.cunninghamtherapy.com or call 619 9906203 for a complimentary telephone consultation.

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At Affordable Couples Counseling in San Diego, California, licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Barbara Cunningham offers couples the opportunity to strengthen the foundation upon which their relationship rests. Research suggests that couples wait an average of six years before seeking help when their relationship is in trouble. The stigma attached to seeking professional help is still ever present in our society. Yet it is far cheaper and the course of therapy may be significantly shorter if couples begin sooner rather than later when their relationship becomes “stuck” in unhelpful patterns.

Premarital therapy offers couples opportunities to discuss hot button issues in a safe, holding environment with a neutral third party. Professionals can facilitate discussion and encourage the respect for difference typified in the healthiest of marriages.

Interestingly, one of the least happy times in marriage may be after the birth of the first child. Often times, the father may feel pushed to the “outside” with the demands of a newborn. Working on the marriage during the pregnancy and preparing for the birth may be a wise investment. A division of labor generated in advance, for example, is one idea that may be helpful.

Distancer/pursuer cycles can create chronic problems that increase the intensity of dissatisfaction on both sides. Such problems are better addressed early on.

To learn more about Dr. Cunningham’s marriage counseling and couples counseling services, visit her website at http://wwww.Cunninghamtherapy.com or call her at 619 9906203 for a complimentary phone consultation

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