Rhett Smith Podcast

Therapist + Writer + Speaker In this long-form interview format Rhett explores the lives of various thought leaders to discover what helped them thrive in multiple areas of their lives, and what lessons we can learn from them. Rhett is particularly interested in the intersection of self-care and relationships, and he loves to explore how one can thrive physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. He interacts with people such as therapists, athletes, spiritual leaders, entrepreneurs and many others, covering a variety of topics from fitness, leadership, mental health, and spirituality. What would your marriage look like when you are thriving? What does your parenting look like when you are thriving? What does your work look like when you are thriving? What does your faith look like when you are thriving? When we thrive in these areas of our lives we become people who are "life-giving." And when we are "life-givers" we impact all the relationships around us in positive ways. So engage the podcast and discover how you can thrive personally and relationally.
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Feb 21, 2019

This episode is somewhat of a continuation of Episode 115 where I reflected both theologically and psychologically on the biblical text found in Genesis 1-3 (and a little of 4). Those opening chapters have lots of insight and implications for us relationally.

In this episode I want to pick up on some of those themes, especially the idea of self-differentiation, and focus on how Restoration Therapy lends itself nicely to this concept. I think you will find this a helpful episode in understand you and your relationships better.


Feb 13, 2019

I had the opportunity this last Monday to record a video on anxiety with another therapist, and one of the pastors at Preston Trail Community Church in Frisco. And then a few hours later, I talked to a group of parents at Legacy Christian Academy in Frisco about anxiety and depression.

It's obvious that anxiety and depression are prevalent issues affecting our culture today. One only has to read the latest headlines, look into the most up to date statistics, or have a conversation with someone you know....everyone seems to struggle with anxiety and depression at some point in their life.

This is an issue I have talked about a lot, and I continue to talk about it, as it's something I am very passionate about. There are lots of angles to approach this topic, but the most important in my mind is that we reframe the conversation around anxiety and depression as one being about shame and something being wrong with it's something that affects all of us, and we need to be able to bring it out into the open, and talk about how anxiety and depression can be used as an opportunity for growth.

In this episode I dive into what anxiety and depression are, how to reframe it, what tools you can use, and much more.

I hope you find this helpful.

Some of the Things Mentioned in This Episode

Kevin Love on his battle with anxiety

The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good?

The Concept of Anxiety

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Things Might Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong: The Guide to Life Liberated from Anxiety


Don't Panic with Andrew Johnson

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain


Feb 2, 2019

As I mentioned in a previous podcast, I thought I would take some time this year (on occasion) to stop and reflect on my reading of the bible, and how it connects at the intersection of theology and psychology.

So in this episode I want to take some time and just reflect on Genesis 1-4 and some insights that may be helpful for you and your relationships.

Enjoy the episode.

Books Mentioned in this Episode

Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1-3 by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

On Being Human: Essays in Theological Anthropology by Ray Anderson

Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf

Feb 1, 2019

It's been about 5 months since my last podcast episode, as I was needing to take a break for a while why I focused on some other goals.


But it's time for a new podcast season, and in this episode I talk about some new topics I am going to explore this season, as well as some new goals that I have been working on, and how I am using a paper journal to help me stay focused and on track. I hope that this episode motivates you in the new year, and gives you some new ideas to accomplish all that you set out to do.



Sep 19, 2018

"Love consists in this, that two solitudes, protect and border and salute each other." -- Rainer Maria Rilke


A couple of weeks ago my wife and I returned from a "marriage adventure" on the Inca Trail in Peru. This adventure (through WinShape and Intrepid), led us for four days and 3 nights hiking along the 33 miles to Machu Picchu.

This was an unbelievable experience for my wife and I as we led four other couples on this marriage adventure. But probably one of the most transformative aspects of the trip was the moments (sometimes very long moments -- hours at a time) of silence as I walked along the trail. And what struck me most was the moments of silence between my wife and I. A comfortable silence where neither of us felt the need to talk or crack jokes, or lighten the levity with noise. But instead, it was that silence that drove me closer to God, and closer to her. And it was in that silence that I really grew.


In this episode I reflect on the importance of silence in relationships, which is something that I'm trying to work on and get better at in my own life.


In the episode I mention the wonderful book by Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart: Connecting to God Though Prayer, Wisdom and Silence.

And I also mention the book by Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.



Aug 23, 2018

As many of you know from listening to my podcasts, or reading my blog over the years, is I'm pretty obsessed with the novels of Susan Howatch. Particularly her Starbridge Series of which I'm about to finish my 9th reading of the series in the last 15 years. It's that impactful and transforming in my life.


But I talk about one book in particular in this podcast episode (Absolute Truths by Susan Howatch), and more specifically about one verse. The verse is Romans 8:28. The NIV translation is as follows:

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.


The Scottish theologian William Barclay translated the verse the following way:


“God intermingles all things for good for those who love Him.”
(Romans 8:28, translated by William Barclay)


I'm particularly drawn to this translation of the Greek text, especially as it tends to communicate that God takes all the bad and good, all the light and dark, all the negative and positive, and mingles them together. God weaves them together for good. God doesn't necessarily remove all the dark, but in mingling them together creates a beautiful tapestry of our lives that contain both the light and the dark. The implication of the translation has very different trajectory and understanding for one's life, than another translation.


With this in mind, I reflect in this episode on this translation.


In the episode I also talk about an article my dad wrote called Our Intermingling God, which I find particularly insightful for what is being discussed in this episode.

Jul 18, 2018


"I'd like to know more, of course, but I've accepted that there's nothing more he has to say; I've accepted that there's a limit on our knowledge of even those who are closest to us. The older one gets the more one realises how saturated life is in mystery, and the biggest mystery of all, it often seems to me, is the mystery of the human personality." -- Lyle Ashworth


Scandalous Risks by Susan Howatch

In this episode I explore the mystery that are people, and how it's not really until we create a safe space for others, become curious about them, and acknowledge that not all is to be known about ourselves and others, can we truly live in grace with one another.


Mentioned in the Episode


Susan Howatch

Starbridge Series

Glittering Images

Glamorous Powers

Ultimate Prizes

Scandalous Risks

Mystical Paths

Absolute Truths

Dallas Willard

Renovation of the Heart

Jean Marie Rilke

Letters to a Young Poet

Kalil Gibran

The Prophet

Jan 17, 2018

One of the things that happens at the beginning of every year, or at the start of a major transition, is that you see people setting goals. If you were like me you probably thought about all the goals you wanted to achieve in the New Year, and you might have even taken the time to write them down. But if you are also like me, it's possible that you have declared goals in the past, but never quite saw them to completion.


I count it a privilege that I get to spend about 1200 hours a year in session with people because I get to learn all kinds of helpful tools and tips from them. Though they are coming to get help from me (and I hope they find it helpful), I too am learning from them.


So in this episode I want to share with you 8 principles that I have found to be helpful in setting and completing goals. These are principles I've gleaned from reading, and from clients and colleagues and friends, and most importantly, they are principles I have put into action and had success with in my own life.


So in this episode I share with you these 8 important principles when it comes to goal setting:

  1. Focus on a limited number of goals (ex. 1-4 goals).
  2. Allow goals to build sequentially over time, or have "baby steps" built into them.
  3. Be very specific. (i.e. not I want to be fit, but rather, I will run this specific 5K).
  4. Attach goal to a bigger purpose/vision (i.e. I want to be able to keep up with my kids, etc.)
  5. Create accountability.
  6. Write the goals down
  7. Re-Evaluate the goals along the way (i.e. have a check-in process)
  8. Celebrate the accomplishing or achievement of the goal.


Resources Mentioned in This Episode

The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family by Patrick Lencioni

Palo Duro Trail Run

Charity Water

Scott Harrison interview on the Rich Roll Podcast

Jan 10, 2018

The new near can bring forth a lot of varying emotions from people. In my experience, a large number of people come into the new year very excited about change and all the potential possibilities that await them. It's often a time to start anew. But there is also a large number of people who come into the new year with a lot of fears about what awaits them, perhaps because the prior year was so challenging. And when I think about these varying experiences I think about anxiety. Anxiety is both an excitement about something new and that we care about, but it can also be about things that create fear for us. Anxiety can be healthy or unhealthy as I have written about and said many times before.


In this episode I want to explore some principles and strategies that you can implement for yourself, or help others with this year. So if you work with a group of people this could be very helpful for you. And to do this, I primarily "piggyback" off a recent article I wrote for the Fuller Youth Institute called Helping Adolescents Work Through the Rising Tide of Anxiety.


In the article and in this podcast I explore:

  • Create space and give permission to talk about anxiety.
  • Help identify the roots of anxiety.
  • Provide tools to help manage the anxiety.
  • Reframe anxiety as an opportunity to grow.
  • Practice working through the anxiety.


Resources Mentioned in This Podcast

Helping Adolescents Work Through the Rising Tide of Anxiety

Downloadable PDF of the Pain Cycle (i.e. feelings/emotions)

Feeling Word Vocabulary (Think 2 Perform)


Nov 13, 2017



Often when I'm working with someone in session I try to think of visual and tangible ways that they can remember some of the things that we are processing together. And what I have noticed a lot about relational interactions is that there tends to be this movement that I have found to be helpful for people.


This movement goes something like this: a) Ask for what you need/want/desire; b) But then let go of expectations of what you just asked for; c) And then hold on to yourself. Basically the posture is about opening yourself up to be vulnerable in relationships to communicate what you desire, while at the same time not demanding or holding your spouse to that request. And as you do that, learning to emotionally regulate yourself ("hold on").


People who are able to do this in their relationships tend to have very healthy and successful relationships in my opinion.


So in this episode I talk explore what it means to:

  • ask for what you want/need/desire
  • let go of those expectations
  • hold on to yourself
Nov 13, 2017



As many of you know, I love to run. And over the last 3-4 years I have been getting more and more into trail running, as well into ultrarunning (which is technically anything over 26.2 miles). And about a month ago I finished my second ever 50K race, and my second race ever at the Palo Duro Trail Run. My first 50K was the Cowtown Ultra, and a year after that I ran my first race in Palo Duro which was a 50 miler. This time I decided to dial back a bit in terms of race mileage for several reasons...but primarily so I would finish earlier in the day and have more time to hang out with my family, since camping is a big part of this trip.


And like any long race I've done, I usually learn some amazing life lessons that help me grow as a person. And often these life lessons I am able to apply into my counseling practice with others, and help them grow as well. In this episode I talk about:

  • The importance of preparation and training and practice for any goals we are trying to achieve. And how all of our practice over time helps us gain insights that help us continue to refine the preparation phases.
  • The reality of setbacks in our preparation as we try and achieve goals, and what you can do when you come upon a setback, which in my experience, we all inevitably do.
  • The importance of having a good "team" around you (i.e. family, friends, colleagues, etc.)
  • The importance of "waiting things out" when you hit a setback. We all have to persevere, and sometimes it's just about "waiting things out."
  • Why setting your goals in the context of a larger narrative (i.e. bigger picture), as well as the importance of enjoying the pursuit of your goals.



Links Mentioned in the Episode

Palo Duro Trail Run

Nov 9, 2017



Over the last several years my wife and I have begun a new journey in our life. That journey has involved a couple of elements: 1) Trying to incorporate more adventure into our marriage (i.e. trips, taking on challenges, etc.); 2) Working on ways to partner together in marriage. And last month we took another step closer in combining these two elements when we went away for a few days to WinShape Marriage to be trained as a leaders to lead their marriage adventures.


What is a marriage adventure? Imagine sailing on a catamaran in the BVI's for 8 days with 3 other couples, why you work on your marriage with daily activities and conversations, all while taking on daily adventures. This was something my wife and I were invited to participate in 3 years ago, and it was an experience that changed our life.


Or imagine leading couples through Machu Picchu in Peru, or leading couples on a contemplative pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, or working with other couples in orphanges in Guatemala?


Well today's guest is the one who oversees WinShape Marriage and all their adventures, and I was excited to have him on to talk about why the element of adventure is so important in marriages. Also, Matt has taken quite the trajectory to get to where he is today, working in some of the most paradigm shifting organizations in the field of marriage.


In this episode we discuss:

  • his love for combining psychology and theology and its integration into marriage work.
  • his work with Gary Smalley and marriage intensives.
  • his time at Prepare and Enrich and what he learned about marriages.
  • he and his family selling everything and moving to Peru for two years.
  • his experience of doing a personal intensives at OnSite and how that changed his life.
  • his current work at Winshape Marriage.
  • what are the keys to a successful marriage.
  • how you and your spouse can get involved with WinShape Marriage.

Resources and People Mentioned in the Podcast

Gary Smalley

Prepare and Enrich

Todd Sandel

The Hideaway Experience


WinShape Marriage

Oct 5, 2017



One of the reasons many couples can't solve conflict in their relationship is because they often get stuck thinking that their argument is really about the topic at hand (i.e. money, sex, parenting, work, inlaws, etc.). And as long as they believe that, then they will stay perpetually stuck. What I've learned in my experience as a therapist is that the problem isn't about the topic, but rather the problem is the negative pattern of interaction that the couple has created over time in their relationship as they try to work through problems.


I'm obviously not the first to come to this conclusion, but this point has become more clear to me day by day in my work. I think that many of us counselors are guilty of sometimes just focusing on better communication techniques (which are super important), rather than helping a couple understand their underlying destructive pattern of interaction. My work in Restoration Therapy really helped me understand how guilty I was of this, and it helped provide me with a new framework to use in relationships with the Pain and Peace Cycle which I have talked about in many podcast episodes.


When a couple can become aware of and understand their destructive pattern of interaction (their Pain Cycle), and they can construct and practice a new positive pattern of interaction (their Peace Cycle), then they are ultimately able to create a safe connection, which will lead to the solving of issues if that was their primary goal (because sometimes the goal is just to connect).

People and Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Terry Hargrave and Restoration Therapy

Oct 2, 2017



This is a very short podcast episode, but it's a really important one.


One of the most important tasks I have in the counseling room is to help people to discern between what their feelings and coping behaviors are. In fact, I spend a lot of time helping people understand their feelings, and what coping behaviors they often lead to. When a person understands this level of awareness, they are often able to do deeper work and gain not only the insight they desired, but achieve the transformational change they were seeking.


But one of the things I started to learn during my training under Terry Hargrave in Restoration Therapy, is that not only the feelings that I thought were feelings....were really feelings. For example, I always classified anxiety and anger and depression for example as feelings. You would find me saying things like "I'm feeling really anxious right now", or "I woke up feeling depressed today." And people I work with in my office would often say the same thing.


Terry Hargrave helped me really begin to understand that those things that I thought were feelings, were really coping behaviors. For example, I wasn't feeling anxious, I was becoming anxious (I was doing anxiety if you will), because underneath the surface I was feeling inadequate.


Now if someone comes into my office saying they feel anxious, or feel angry, or feel depressed for example, I will run with that for the time being as I'm trying to understand them. But my work as a therapist (especially if I'm going to be a therapist who can help them), is to really help them distinguish between feeling and action. I don't want to get caught chasing what I think is a feeling, and is really a coping behavior. Then I end up just focused on the behavior and trying to provide more tools for someone to work on that behavior. Instead, what I want to do is address the core underlying feelings of that behavior. When I can help someone do that, then I'm that much closer to really helping them get on the pathway to healing.


There are other coping behaviors often disguised as feelings, but I see anxiety and anger and depression come up the most.


So in this episode I took a little bit of time to talk about this, and why I think it's an important distinction. <

People and Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Restoration Therapy Terry Hargrave

Sep 22, 2017

I talk a lot about anxiety on this podcast. And sometimes anxiety can seem vague or too theoretical, unless one really has experienced. And even then, just talking about it can seem like an intellectual exercise.


But today I had a personal experience that really makes concrete what I mean when I talk about a good anxiety...the kind that is there in the midst of peace, and just reminds you of the quality of your relationships. In that case, that anxiety I believe is a's a reminder of what you have.


In this episode I share my experience of dropping my wife off at the Dallas Ft. Worth airport as she was flying to Rwanda. So check out this episode as I share about the anxiety that I experienced as I dropped her off and why I cherish it.

Sep 22, 2017

I have recently been thinking a lot about the intertwining of vocation and anxiety. What I mean by that is that it seems that part of the journey towards finding vocation is that anxiety is often along for the journey.


In my writing and speaking on anxiety, and in my work with clients, I talk a lot about listening to the voice of anxiety. I believe that anxiety speaks to our life and if we listen to it, it can help guide us along our life's journey. The problem is that we live in a culture that wants to bury and numb out anxiety as much as possible. And when we drown out anxiety, we can't hear how it is informing our life.


But there's also this other voice, and that is of vocation. Parker Palmer in his wonderful book, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, talks about the Latin root of vocation, which is voce. It's literally a voice that is summoning you towards it.


And in this episode I want to explore how these two voices interact with each other and why that is important. I discuss:

  • the voice of anxiety
  • the voice of vocation
  • how these two voices interact with each other
  • the importance of discernment in distinguishing the voices and how they are guiding you.



Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer

The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good? by Rhett Smith

Aug 29, 2017

One of the most prevalent topics that I come across in my counseling and when I'm speaking, is the topic of technology and relationships. Specifically, the technology of the smart phone/iPad/computer...but usually the smart phone. And along with this technology there is typically a conversation around the online tools that are used with it...mostly, social media (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.). And the reason these topics come up so often is because so many people find themselves with an unhealthy relationship to their technological devices which often impact their relationships. I spend a lot of time helping couples navigate their technological devices and how it's impacted their relationships, and talking through how to put proper boundaries on it. But one area of life that I think can be the most challenging for people is trying to know how to parent kids in an age of the smart phone and social media. Not a week passes where I'm not working with a teenager who is struggling with pornography (and it's not just boys who are dealing with this), or a teenager who has sexted or shared some nude image via text to a person or a group of people. This is a huge issue and I think most parents believe this will never be a challenge they have to face...and then inevitably they are sitting across from me in my office with this challenge.


I really feel for not only parents, but kids growing up in a world with instant access to not only some amazing things, but some of the darkest things on the internet. And so knowing how to parent in these times can be confusing and overwhelming.


I have spent the last 22 years working with kids and their families in both the church and clinical setting, and from about 2003-2013 I would often do workshops and seminars, and speak at conferences on the role of technology in our lives. In fact, my first time to have something published in a book was in 2008 when I wrote a chapter on Facebook and Youth Ministry for the book, The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting for Christ. But probably my deepest understanding of the role of technology in our lives came when I met my good friend John Dyer. John is one of the most brilliant thinkers I know on technology, and especially from a theological/psychological/philosophical perspective, and we had the opportunity to team up and do some workshops together. So I owe a great debt to him, and you will hear about that in this episode. In this episode:

  • I discuss how technology is neutral (neither good nor bad), but how it shapes us regardless of it's use.
  • I discuss how to think through how technology will impact you when you bring it into your house (i.e. giving your kid a smart phone, using social media, etc.)
  • I discuss the various ways parents have tried to parent when it comes to technology.
  • I discuss the various tools parents have used in parenting with regard to technology.
  • I discuss what some potential steps might look like when you are thinking about allowing your kids to have a technological device (i.e. smart phone, iPad, computer), and to use social media.

Resources and People Mentioned in this Episode

John Dyer

Adam McClane

From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology by John Dyer

A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media by Adam McClane

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd

Right Click: Parenting Your Teenager in a Digital Media World by Art Bamford and Kara Powell

Disconnected: Parenting Teens in a MySpace World by Chap Clark HURT: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers by Chap Clark

Covenant Eyes Safe Eyes (no longer available)


Open DNS

You can also check out Episode 24 of my podcast where I talk about, How Technology Shapes Us, Informs our Identity, and Some Boundaries We Can Implement As We Use It (also check out all the links in the show notes)


Aug 17, 2017

Wow! I can't believe I am already at Episode 100. I published my first episode back on March 24, 2015, with the goal of trying to get at least one episode published per week. With that in mind I was hoping to hit 100 episodes right around the two year mark, if not before. But, things don't always go as planned, and two years and five months later we come to 100.


I set out doing this podcast, not really knowing what I was doing, or where I was going to go with it. And it probably took me a good 55 episodes or so before I began to even feel like I was finding my voice.


So in this episode I talk about that journey we all take where we are trying to listen closely to what our next steps our. The Latin word for vocation literally means voice. That is, there is a voice that calls us, guides us, directs speaks deeply to us and compels us towards our vocation, whether it be professionally, or a service, or a hobby. But it can be hard sometimes to hear that voice, and we often find ourselves waiting around, fearful to take the next steps unless they are clearly laid out for us. But what I am finding is that the most valuable things in life are rarely clearly laid out for us. Instead, we often take a step because we feel called to do so, and we wait to we are called to take the next step. It's that little (or maybe sometimes booming voice) that speaks to us and leads us, if we listen.


In this episode I explore some ways to listen more carefully to this vocation...this voice in our lives:

  • I discuss in this episode the role of journaling and reflecting upon the journaling as a tool to better listen for vocation.
  • I discuss in this episode the role of inviting others in and asking them to help give you feedback towards vocation.
  • I discuss in this episode the role of experimenting, and just taking next steps that are unknown.
  • And last, I discuss in this episode the role of silence as a way to create space to listen for vocation.


Resources Mentioned in Episode

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer

Jul 27, 2017

Sometimes I have thoughts that I have been processing and I just want to explore out loud with others. In this case, the others is you. So in this episode I explore what it looks like to wrestle with taking the next step in your life, and how you discern what the next step is. Though this could be the case for many things, I mainly look at the next step in terms of work, vocation, hobby, etc, rather than relationships for example.


In my counseling practice in Plano, TX I work with a lot of individuals and couples and families who are trying to do this very thing...explore their next steps. So in this episode I lay out a tentative, in the process...working framework of:

  • exploration/experimenting
  • committing and refining
  • doing the work/putting in the hours/mastering the craft
  • letting go
  • and being open

Check out this episode and let me know what you think.

Jul 27, 2017

A couple of weeks ago, my colleagues and I at Thriiive Practices did a lecture for the Meadow's lecture series on emotional regulation.


What is emotional regulation? It's essentially one's ability to control or manage their automatic, reactive responses to an emotional trigger, and instead, respond accordingly (and in a healthy manner). That is my definition of sorts, though I say it a lot of different ways. My mentor Terry Hargrave in my training for Restoration Therapy said at one point to our training group, "emotional regulation is the name of the game." And it is. As you look at the mounting research on the brain, especially through fMRI scans and other data, we find that one's ability to emotionally regulate themselves is the key to healthy relationships. If you want a more thorough definition, read this.


Or if you want a really good, but simple understanding of it, check out Dan Siegel's demonstration of his strategy of name it to tame it. I've also written about this strategy here.


In this episode I talk about what emotional regulation is and why it's so important.

Resources Mentioned in Episode

Terry Hargrave

Restoration Therapy

Dan Siegel

Tina Payne Bryson

The Whole Brain Child

Jul 19, 2017

I read a lot of books, but I don't consider myself the best book reviewer. Even though I read with pen in hand and underline and take notes throughout my books, I'm not great at writing about the details. But what sticks out to me are those big ideas in a book...the ones that you can't stop thinking about. The ones that cause paradigm shifts within. Those I obsessively think about, and figure out ways to practice them in my own personal life, and in the work of my clients in my therapy practice.


Over the last two years, four books have stood out in my mind like no other because of some lasting ideas that have created big change for me. Some of these books are fairly new (like this year) and others are a few years old. But their thoughts are ones that I have been writing and speaking about a lot the last 18 months. And I have found ways to implement the ideas into multiple areas of my life (parenting, marriage, running, therapy practice, etc.).


So I want to mention these 4 books to you and the big ideas that are sticking in my brain and impacting my life. And then I will also mention two other books that have stuck with me, but if you have to read only 4...then I'm sticking with the original four I'm discussing.


Book 1: Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance by Angela Duckworth --This book was absolutely amazing. But there is one thing I keep coming back to time and time again. In the book Duckworth talks about the importance of deliberate practice and flow. The takeaway for me is that we can never reach a flow state, or become great at what we do unless we deliberately practice over and over and over again. This has absolutely changed how I work with clients. Even though I always gave them things to practice, I'm now convinced more than ever that change doesn't occur without this practice. Michael Jordan doesn't reach that flow state in a playoff game unless he deliberately practied 10,000's of hours. Michael Phelps never reaches that flow state unless he swam lap after lap after lap, and visualized himself swimming every stroke of a race before racing. Couples don't change negative patterns of behavior (pain cycle) and create new ones (peace cycle) without deliberate practice. But when they do, the flow is beautiful to watch in a relationship. She writes, "First, deliberate practice is a behavior, and flow is an experience."


Book 2: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown --This book was also amazing. I had already been listening to The Minimalists podcast and been exploring this idea. I have always been attracted to minimalism and it's aesthetic, but he takes the understanding of essentialism and brings it into real practical, real world examples that I could employ. A lot of things stood out to me, but I loved this quote, "Remember that if you don't prioritize your life someone else will.” I started realizing that if I didn't take control of my life and prioritize what was important, I would never accomplish the big goals in my life. And prioritizing helped me really come back to the essentials and what I wanted to do in my marriage, parenting and work.


Book 3: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport --I only read this book back in March or so, but it has already changed a lot of how I work and how I think about work. His recommended experiments with social media abstinence already produced higher levels of focus and output in my life, and it has helped increase my enjoyment in life and my connection with other people. Newport makes a compelling case for the future of work will be dependent on those who are able to stay focused, cut out distractions and work at a very deep level. Those who can't do this will find it ever increasingly hard to find work. He writes, “If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive—no matter how skilled or talented you are.” Newport also gets a lot into the brain science behind distraction and deep work, and it resonates deeply with the work I do with Restoration Therapy. This is just one of those books you read and you keep saying "", and it lead to a a lot of conviction that created healthy change.


Book 4: Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness --I just finished this book in June while on vacation. What I loved about this book the most is that I felt it was a culmination of the three books above, but they take it a step further. They get into the importance of deliberate practice and flow, and they talk about why it's important to become an essentialist, and they talk about the brain science...but then they put it all into a real practical framework that you can start practicing yourself. Their chapter and tool to help you develop a personal purpose statement is worth the book alone. This book just brought everything home to me in a very powerful way. I highly recommend this book.

The corresponding themes that these books contain, and what resonates so powerfully for me in my own life and my therapeutic work is this:

  • they all get the importance of the newest brain science and how emotional regulation is everything. In my work, a client or couple who can't emotionally self-regulate won't be able to create change.
  • they all get the importance of essentialism, and minimalizing your life in order to really focus on what is important.
  • they all get the importance of working at a deep level, void of distraction.
  • they all get the importance of deliberate practice and how that leads to flow.
  • they all get the importance of purpose.

And all these things are crucial in counseling and therapy, and in creating change and getting to transformation.  


I talk about two other books in this podcast episode as well, but I don't write about above are:


The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family: A Leadership Fable? About Restoring Sanity to the Most Important Organization in Your Life by Patrick Lencioni. I read this book back in 2010 and have written and talked about it extensively, and even recorded a podcast episode on it last year. I love the book, but I feel that the purpose stuff in Peak Performance is easier for people to complete than in this book. But I love this book and highly recommend.  


Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why? by Laurence Gonzalez. This is a great book filled with stories of survival and tragedy. Gonzalez dives in real deep to how our brain works in survival/panic/conflict situations, and why the ability to remain calm (emotionally regulate) means everything often to who survives. This book just reiterated even more the work of emotional self-regulation in therapy work, but is attached in the context of wilderness stories. It's a great read.

Jul 19, 2017

One of the things that I hear as a counselor a lot, typically near the end of an intake session with a client, is the question, "How is this going to look?" The question can be asked in a variety of ways, but what is implicit is usually either some form of anxiety over the next steps, or just a general curiosity about what people are signing up for when they enter into counseling.


Counseling can vary greatly from counselor to counselor, and with that, there can be a variety of varied expectations then that people going through counseling have. Some people have been to a lot of counseling and all their experiences are different, while some people have still not been to counseling, and wonder what that experience will look like.


Something I have tried to do a lot more in the last 4-5 years of my private practice is properly set expectations with clients when they come into see me for the first time. Whether they ask the question first, or I initiate the conversation, I usually try to walk clients through a general "roadmap" or "pathway" of what counseling might look like. I let them know that things can always change, and this is only a first session, but here is what I think will work best based on what you are telling me, the goals you have, and the experience that I bring to our sessions. I also always follow up with every client via email after the first session (usually within a few hours, but rarely longer than 24 hours later). In that email I talk about our first session, what I heard, the goals that I think they have, the issues we could explore together. And in that email I lay out a big overview of the counseling process, listing the significant pieces, as well as narrowing down on the next steps. And I usually always attach some type of "hoomework" in that initial email so that client's can begin engaging in the process.


Based on all my experience as a therapist both pastorally and clinically, as well as my experience in training and sitting across from a therapist in my own counseling, here is what I find to be most helpful in terms of a "roadmap" for counseling. Now of course, I hope to continue to grow and learn as a therapist, so these thoughts are only a point in time, but I think most of the framework will always exist for me, with tweaks along the way.


First, I think it's important that the therapist helps the client engage in some type of work in and out of session that involves the work of insight, which is simply, the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing. This type of work can be done in a lot of ways, but for me it usually involves work around one's family of origin issues (i.e. family genogram, etc.), as well as walking through someone's personal stories and experience.


Second, I do the work of helping a person take that insight, and I help them identify and create their Pain Cycle. This Pain Cycle is often referred to by other names, but in the work I do with Restoration Therapy, that is what it is called. It's essentially the process of helping one identify their negative pattern of behavior by helping them locate their core feelings and the coping behaviors that flow from them. This is often us in our most primal, reactive state. When you think of fight or flight, and the amygdala getting triggered, this is the pattern that comes up. Though not all of our reactive states are negative, a lot of them are in relational conflict, which is what I work a lot with both in my work with individuals and couples. If I frame it from a faith perspective, this is the old self at work that Paul refers to in Ephesians 4:22.


Third, I do the work of helping a person take their insight, and I help them identify and create their Peace Cycle. The Peace Cycle is also referred to by other names in other theories, but in Restoration Therapy this is what we refer to it as. The Peace Cycle is ourselves when we are emotionally regulated. Think about what you are like when you are living in your truth, or think of yourself in a centered and grounded state. When you are in this place, what actions flow from that. This is you in your Peace Cycle. Again, if I frame this in a faith perspective, this is the new self at work that Paul refers to in Ephesians 4:23. The Pain and Peace Cycle is part of the work of insight, and the Peace Cycle is the step that helps up a person move from emotional dysregulation to emotional regulation.


Fourth, as we are doing the work of insight and the Pain and Peace Cycle (because though I'm laying things out in a linear fashion...therapy, or growth itself is not always linear. I find that all these steps are engaged consecutively in the therapeutic process), I help clients find ways to practice the insight that they have. What I believe is that you can have all the insight in the world, but if you don't practice it in some way, you don't change. You don't get transformation. In the Restoration Therapy model I use the 4 steps to help clients practice: 1) Say what you feel; 2) Say what you normally do; 3) Say your truth; 4) Say what you will do differently (your action) and do it. This is one way that I help clients practice. I literally map out their Pain and Peace Cycle on my whiteboard in almost every session to some degree. I also draw up their cycles and steps on a large poster sheet that I ask them to take home and hang up in their closet so that they see it everyday and start to not only become more aware of it, but practice it. There are lots of other ways to have people practice insight from a variety of tools to experimental exercises. Regardless of what tools I give them to practice, I believe practice is essential.


Fifth, we come to transformation. I believe transformation is the culmination of taking one's insight and putting it into practice. And though we could think of transformation as the ultimate goal, it's really just the beginning. Once someone experiences transformation in one area of their life, then they often become excited to seek transformation in other areas of their life as well. So if there is a visual roadmap I give to clients and that I work short it is something like this.


Insight + Pain Cycle + Peace Cycle + Practice = Transformation.


There are lot of details and nuances in these steps, but this is what I have found to be most helpful. So if you come work with me in my private practice in Plano, Texas, you will most likely hear me talk about something like this.


Whether you come in for marriage counseling or individual counseling around anxiety and depression, I will probably lay out some roadmap for you that looks like this.


Check out this podcast to find out more about this process. In this episode I discuss:

  • the importance of a therapeutic roadmap
  • the work of insight in therapy
  • the Pain Cycle work in therapy
  • the Peace Cycle work in therapy
  • the work of practice in therapy
  • transformation in therapy


Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Restoration Therapy: Understanding and Guiding Healing in Marriage and Family Therapy by Terry Hargrave and Franz Pfitzer

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Jul 11, 2017

This past May I had the opportunity to speak at Pepperdine University for the annual Bible Lecture's series. It's primarily a gathering of a combo of lay and professional ministry leaders, and as this event I was able to talk to them about one of my favorite topics...anxiety.


Anxiety is a huge issue both in and out of the church, and in fact, Walter Brueggemann has stated that it's the primary pathology in our culture that church leaders must deal with (see the excerpt starting at the 41:50 minute mark); I also believe anxiety to be one of the primary issues that our culture struggles with, and it can especially become toxic in a church culture where an extra stigma is attached to it.


In this lecture I walked the audience through several main points to better help them not only understand anxiety, but how to help them reframe it in a positive light, and what tools they can use, and steps they can take, to work with people who have anxiety. In this lecture I:

  • help them identify the importance of what everyone's anxiety story is and how that informs not only how they handle anxiety, but how they perceive it and work through it.
  • help them define what anxiety is and is not.
  • help them define how to best understand anxiety.
  • help them with the key ways to work through anxiety.
  • help them normalize anxiety.
  • help them reframe it as God at work in their lives, and as a friend, not a foe.
  • help them understand how violations of love and trust inform anxiety.
  • help them with tools to work with anxiety.

  If you are someone who has struggled with anxiety yourself, or know someone who does, and you want to be of help...then check out this episode.  


Resources and Tools Mentioned in this Episode

The Concept of Anxiety: A Simple Psychologically Orienting Deliberation on the Dogmatic Issue of Hereditary Sin by Soren Kierkegaard

Be Not Anxious: Pastoral Care of Disquieted Souls by Allan Hugh Cole Jr.

The Courage to Be by Paul Tillich

Things Might Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong: A Guide to Life Liberated from Anxiety by Kelly G. Wilson and Troy Dufrene

Bill Mounce's Exegesis of the New Testament word Merimnao (anxiety)

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Basel van der Kolk

Restoration Therapy: Understanding and Guiding Healing in Marriage and Family Therapy by Terry Hargrave and Franz Pfizer

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

The Meaning of Anxiety by Rollo May

The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good? by Rhett Smith

Existential Psychotherapy by Irving D. Yalom Failure of Nerve: Anxiety in the Age of the Quick Fix by Edwin Friedman

May 24, 2017

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to share with the ReEngage Ministry at Hope Fellowship the topic of forgiveness. It's such an important topic not only in all of our lives, but especially in the context of marriage where one's ability to forgive becomes an essential practice. In fact, forgiveness is the only topic that ReEngage covers on two different weeks.


In going into this talk I wanted to do something different on the topic of forgiveness. I have given other forgiveness talks in the past, but I know that when it comes to speaking to an audience they are probably more likely to remember the talk if it is embedded in an image and a story. So to do this, I reflected on Rembrandt's famous painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son. I did this by reflecting on the story of the prodigal son in the gospel of Luke 15:11-32, and by looking at Henri Nouwen's famous book on the topic, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.

In this podcast I reflect on:

  • 3 postures on the journey of forgiveness that I believe are reflected in the text and painting.
  • seeking forgiveness
  • withholding forgiveness
  • offering forgiveness
  • the varying ways that Rembrandt captures the story of the prodigal son in his painting.


Resources Mentioned in the Episodes

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen

Luke 15:11-32

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

May 10, 2017

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to a group of employees for Marriott Hotels here in the local Dallas area. It was a great opportunity to help others understand how to have healthy relationships in and out of the work place by beginning to take care of themselves.

So in this podcast episode I share what I shared with them:

  • helping them understand how they are part of a larger system in which they are an emotional unit of.
  • helping them understand that we are all "wired" from our early experiences, especially in our family of origin. I talked about our "wiring" around Love and Trust from the work of Terry Hargrave in Restoration Therapy.
  • helping them how they are specifically "wired", by helping them identify their violations of love and trust and connecting their feelings to their coping.
  • helping them to understand what self-care is, and how the practice of it can help them better emotionally self-regulate, therefore, helping them have a better relationship with themselves, and those in and out of the workplace.
  • and ultimately I gave them some practice steps to take home with them.


Link to Episode 93

Resources Mentioned in Episode 93

Restoration Therapy

Violations of Love and Trust

Self-Care and Relationships

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