Vanessa Bell, PhD  Individual Therapy, Couples Therapy, Family Therapy
Therapy in Encino California
Individual Therapy, Couples Therapy, Family Therapy  

Therapy Examples

Birth of the First Child

Having children is a challenging, rewarding and life enriching experience that can bring both joy and unanticipated stress to a relationship. Many couples benefit from couple therapy before or after the new baby arrives.

Immediately after the baby is born both parents are usually joyful. When the parents have experienced the birth together, the best result aside from a healthy baby is that the parents have strong mutual feelings of respect and admiration. They may deepen their commitment to the marriage.

Anxiety begins when the couple leaves the hospital. Each spouse may worry about the other’s parenting ability. The man may also be anxious about whether his wife will return to work or wonder if she will neglect him as she devotes herself to the baby.

The woman may feel angry or sad that her husband sleeps through the baby’s crying. She wonders if he will be sensitive to the child and to her. Will he help her enough? Some women feel unattractive, exhausted, and need to regain their strength after childbirth. It may be as long as a year until she feels like herself again. There are women who have overwhelming fears of their husband leaving, or of being left alone with a child.

Sleep deprivation intensifies negative feeling states. Partners may feel trapped at home. They can’t go out often or as readily as before. Real changes in life-style occur.

One or both parents may become so focused on the baby that they stop giving attention to their relationship. Each one may experience feeling neglected and unappreciated. Their sex life may suffer.

It is a mixed blessing having lots of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins suddenly much more involved in your life than ever. They may be helpful and loving, yet often it becomes the task of the new Mom and Dad to set limits they hadn’t needed before.

A few sessions with an understanding therapist can help this new, unsettling time of joy and change.

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One Person – Therapy For Two

It is wonderful when two people decide to work on a relationship together. But there are times when one partner is not willing to engage in the process. The good news is that there is hope for a relationship even when only one partner comes for treatment.

Maybe there is one person who can accept the situation the way it is while the other feels deeply troubled. Or both partners find it impossible to discuss their problems in the same room with each other. Or one wants the other to accept blame

Changing your own behavior is a way to begin affecting a relationship in a new way. It will help to talk the situation over with a therapist who can offer a fresh perspective. You may be unaware of some choices that will affect your relationship and allow you to feel more satisfied. No matter how severe another person’s faults are, you can change how you behave.

A simple example: If you are the one who is always suggesting activities for the two of you, or the one who always wants to talk, and your partner says no to joining you, or doesn’t want much conversation, there are solutions that can help. You can begin to make plans with others to do those things you most enjoy and find other people to talk to. You will feel less frustrated. It does not mean you will lose your partner. By taking some of the pressure off, you may be surprised to see your partner coming around.

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Talking to Children about Divorce or Death

Parents often feel stymied when they must tell their children these hard and sad facts of life. Very young children do not understand what the words mean. Talk to them anyway and answer their questions truthfully without being brutal.

Talking to your children about divorce requires sensitivity and age appropriate language and details. Be patient. Allow your child to feel sad or cry. Adults have to deal with their own grief to help their children. Reassure your child that the divorce is not their fault and that each parent will always love them. In the future they will have two homes instead of one. Feelings of loss change as time passes.

It is helpful if you have the opportunity to prepare a child for the death of a loved one. Use examples from nature when you can, such as leaves falling from trees in autumn, seasons that change, and animals that die.

Children understand death from a child’s perspective, and depending on the age of the child, will respond differently than an adult. A young child may be engaged in a game, happily playing with friends moments after being informed that Grandpa, whom they love dearly, has died. A child will ask more questions and understand more about death over time.

When talking with your children avoid euphemisms, but use language and give details that are age appropriate and can be understood by your child. Be sensitive to how they may interpret your explanations about death. A child may become fearful upon hearing that “Grandpa got sick and died,” and wonder if the same thing will happen to them the next time they get sick.

Loss is a part of life. It helps if children are surrounded by loving parents or others who can deal with their questions openly and honestly, with gentleness and compassion.

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Growing Up In A Dysfunctional Family

You can use help dealing with the after-effects of your childhood. Some people think because the past is over, they can forget it and move on. Often this strategy doesn’t work.

In our childhood families we learn trust and intimacy by the way others and we are treated. We develop a self-image and a way to process our thoughts and emotions. Despite leaving home, we tend to repeat old ways automatically, without awareness, and they fail to meet our adult needs. Early survival patterns can interfere with happier experiences and better relationships in our adult life.

In therapy, either alone or with a partner, you come to understand your feelings and behavior. You learn more about what happened and how it is affecting you today. You can find better ways to relate with loved ones, friends, and at work. It is an opportunity to come to terms with feelings you have about your parents, and recognize that as an adult you can take responsibility for your own life. Now the choices are your own.

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Bringing the Best into Your Relationship

A person who has examined his or her own life and has developed skills for living has the best chance of ensuring a stable and satisfying long-term relationship. What follows are some qualities found in successful relationships.

Both partners understand themselves and are open and interested to learn about their mates. There is a lot of conversation, not only about personal issues, but about ideas, events, other people and general information. Each partner listens to the other and is able to engage in a mutual dialog.

Both feel free to disclose personal information and are minimally critical of each other. The message that comes through is one of respect, acceptance and love.

The good news about these qualities is that they can be the result of self-exploration, self-awareness and acceptance. They are skills that can be learned.


Beginning today, Dr. Bell can help you improve your sense of emotional and mental well being. Get started by phoning Dr. Bell’s San Fernando Valley ofices in Encino or Sherman Oaks office at (818) 986-3993.

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Encino Therapy for individuals, couples, families
Vanessa Bell, Ph.D.
16550 Ventura Blvd.
Suite 405
Encino, CA 91436
Tel: (818) 986-3993
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