Category Archives: Counseling

Counseling is solution-focused, Marriage and Family Therapy offered in the mid-western Michigan region.  The emphasis is upon relational, interpersonal systems within which we all live, work and play.

Areas served include the communities of Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, North Muskegon, Grand Haven, Ferrysburg, Spring Lake, Fruitport, Ravenna, Bridgeton, Twin Lake, Dalton, Whitehall, and beyond.

Insurance, Private Practice, Security and Marriage & Family Therapy

SteveB&WCropped
Stephen P. Pylkas, MTh
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

My brief marriage and family therapy private practice does not accept insurance and places a high value on security and privacy.  There are many advantages to this.

  1. You get what you pay for.  To get your money’s worth, you may be more invested in finding solutions and fixing problems as soon as possible.
  2. Fewer therapy sessions.  People want what they pay for and the therapist knows it.  We work to solve problems within ten sessions.
  3. First appointments schedule sooner.   We usually schedule the first appointment within a week of your call.
  4. Your information is private.  No reports go to your employer or insurance company.  No electronic transfers of information without your expressly written consent.
  5. Your records are secure.  Personal information and clinical notes are all handwritten with pen and paper.  All testing and assessments are manually scored by the therapist himself and stored in a secure place.  There is no risk of hacking or breeches of online data security when there is nothing online to find.
  6. First session is free.   We both need an opportunity to weigh the options before deciding whether this is the best course for you at this time.

To schedule your first appointment call 734-676-3775, email me at steve@southshorecounselor.com or complete the confidential form below and I will usually respond within 24 hours.  

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Extramarital Affairs

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Extramarital affairs are among the most powerful disruptors to marital relationships.  The stories can be complex but the messages can fall into at least four categories.

First: I want out!  When a partner has finally given up, lost any interest in starting over or attempting to resurrect lost feelings, they may begin devising an exit strategy.  In this out-of-the-door scenario there are several options to choose from beginning with the direct approach of honestly reporting the status of the relationship to one’s partner.  On the other hand, intimidated by the consequences of honest discussion another person may initiate an affair, leaving obvious clues to one’s partner, anticipating that they will discover them and initiate the termination of the marriagefor them.  While neither of these possibilities are necessarily fatal to the relationship, they are among the most challenging for couples to reconcile.

Second: Listen to me!  In some cases the partner who is stepping out on the marriage wants desperately to receive the attention from their partner; but, they no longer feel that they are being heard.  The affair almost becomes an act of desperation for action, moving the relationship into the fast lane for change.  The hope for the best is what motivates it.  The fear of the worst is what keeps it secret until it is discovered.  When it is discovered and they are finally confronted by their spouse there is almost a sense of relief mixed in with the grief of a broken trust and the guilt and shame over not having the courage to live honestly with their partner.

Third: I did it for our marriage!  There is a logical leap that occurs when a partner actually believes an extramarital affair can help his or her marriage.  It begins with one partner’s dissatisfaction with the relationship.  Attempts to help it change for the better have failed and even made the relationship worse because of the vulnerability that one invites when they verbalize their discontent.  Punished or snubbed by their partner, they decide that attempts to reconcile will not work, they remove this topic of discussion from the table, and they submerge into going-through-the-motions numbness.  The affair opens the door to a life of excitement and intrigue on the side while they spare their partner the pressure to bend to theirdesires.  Indeed, their marriage may even improve for a while as the affair continues, taking pressure off the relationship for change; but, in the end, the revelation of the affair will be explosive and potentially catastrophic to the marriage.

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Fourth: “I’m in love!”  No matter what may be the reason for the affair, the spouse engaged in the affair can become emotionally torn between his or her love for their spouse and the infatuation found in their newly acquired partner.  This can be one of the significant magnets for the affair.  Realizing they will have to choose between one or the other they prolong their agony by deciding not to decide.  While straddling this fence of decisive indecision, the chances are pretty good that the illicit relationship is not encumbered with normal family pressures such as children, mortgages, credit card debt and the other usual household responsibilities and interpersonal tensions.   Indeed, the false sense of unencumbered affection–that is an illusion–is hypnotic in its attraction.  At the same time, their spouse is aware of their foibles and failures, good and bad traits and propensities.  Add to that the full weight of maintaining a household and the daily grind of working through multi-leveled responsibilities can create a sameness that pales in comparison to the heady excitement of secret trysts and dangerous rendezvouses.  ‘Falling in love’ with the illusion while ‘falling out of love’ with the one to whom they vowed fidelity forever,  they finally announce: “I have fallen out of love with you.  I’m in love with another person.”

If you know someone who is engaged in a ‘secret’ affair–or if you are in the midst of one yourself–there is helpful advice available to increase the probability of saving the marriage.  One helpful example is an article by Joe Beam entitled “How to Confess An Affair Without Losing Your Marriage.” Living with honesty, trust and integrity are important values that contrast sharply with keeping secrets and deceiving one’s partner about something that goes to the heart of the marriage relationship. 

In the end, there are many factors that can contribute to extramarital affairs.  When the affair is revealed the offense can often mask the factors that led the affair until trust is restored and a shared working agreement between partners is established.  Marriage and Family Therapists have been specially trained to help couples work through the issues in a constructive way.

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Boundaries in Marriage

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In their Boundaries in Marriage* Workbook, Cloud and Townsend offer ten laws to guide couples in establishing boundaries and respecting the boundaries of  others as well as eachother.  Here are the ten ‘Laws.’

Law #1: The Law of Sowing and Reaping

The things we do will impact those we love.  When we act in loving, responsible ways we draw closer to each other.  Conversely, unloving, irresponsible actions will drive relational wedges between people.  Choose to act in loving ways that honor and encourage each other and the relationship will flourish and grow.  When one or both partners begin to choose to do things that irritate and aggravate the other a negative feedback loop can develop, breaking down the relationship into never ending payback and score-keeping.

Law #2: The Law of Responsibility

Being responsible to each other is very different than being responsible for each other.  While helping each other through the challenges of life is a significant part of a loving relationship it is important that each partner ultimately takes responsibility for their own responsibilities.  Taking responsibility for a partner’s lack of responsibility feeds a co-dependency that can become unhealthy, skewing the relationship in ways that cause the enabler to lose their own identity.

Law #3: The Law of Power

While we can influence others we are powerless to change them.  What we do have power over is our own actions and reactions.  Self-awareness and taking the initiative to adjust our own hurtful behaviors is an important part developing as a person of integrity, honesty and dependability.  The locus of power is within ourselves and the choices we make based upon our own personal values and principles.

Law #4: The Law of Respect

Respecting each other is such a fundamental ingredient in a civil society and there are few other areas in life where it is more critical in our marital relationships.  Just as disrespect breeds the same in others, so also, respecting each other gives impetus to respectful responses from others.  It is illogical to expect others to respect our boundaries when we practice disrespecting theirs.

Law #5: The Law of Motivation

A grudging “Yes” in response to pressure to conform is not the same as wholesale endorsement.  Without permission to say “No” there is no wholehearted “Yes”.  Choosing to give to each other is most precious when we give to each other freely based upon our own values and principles; it is most destructive when given under coercion or fear.

Law #6: The Law of Evaluation

The simple decision to establish our own boundaries can cause pain in others.  Stated simply, when a person says “Yes” to any one thing they are, at the same time, saying “No” to other options.  Sometimes those boundaries can cause pain in others and it is important to discern whether the pain they feel will cause injury to them or whether it will lead them to growth and maturity.

Law #7: The Law of Proactivity

Proactive people solve problems based upon their own values, wants and needs.  When a person takes takes responsibility happy-couple-david-castillo-dominicifor a problem-solving action based upon his or her own principles and personal boundaries a quiet word with conviction can displace blowing up, anger and confusion.

Law #8: The Law of Envy

The opposite of envy is contentment.  When we set boundaries around our marriages it is important to be satisfied with working within those boundaries to improve, grow, mature and prosper as individuals and as a family.  A danger to this is envying others for what we perceive others to have…which we want.  Envy both devalues what we have within our relationship and creates a hunger for something that we desire outside of those boundaries.

Law #9: The Law of Activity

When we are hurt by our partners it is important to actively work to resolve the pain honestly, always examining ourselves as we evaluate the hurt caused by another.  Giving up and becoming passive in reaction to our pain lays the groundwork for resentment and stepping outside of our boundaries for resolution.

Law #10: The Law of Exposure

Love struggles when we are not aware of each other’s boundaries.  Communicating those boundaries to each other and exposing our personal preferences can make a significant difference in connecting with each other as we choose to respect them instead of accidentally stumbling upon points of offense of which we were not preventatively aware.

* Cloud, Henry and Townsend, John.  Boundaries in Marriage Workbook. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 2000, pp. 31-46.

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Heavy Holidays

happy-holidays-greeting-santa-claus-17263657Holiday advertisers would have us think of this time of year as a happy, care-free time to live extravagantly, to buy things and to eat well.  This is supposed to be a time to kiss the blues goodbye, to celebrate family, to be filled with good cheer, to let go of the past and to look to the future with joy, hope and a sense of glorious anticipation.

For most, this is a time of celebration and good cheer.  For others, however, this time of year can be filled with heavy challenges that contribute to the holiday blues.  What’s more, having a tough time when everyone is expected to be happy can increase the sense of isolation and intensify  the depression.  Here are some examples.

Death and Dying – Hospitals and funeral homes don’t close over the holidays because people still have accidents, get sick and pass away.  It is not necessary to detail all of the things that can go wrong; we all know too well that struggling through the first Thanksgiving or Christmas without a loved one can turn a festive occasion into a time of mourning.

Unproductive Conflict – Sometimes conflict is a good thing when people obey some basic rules and focus on learning to appreciate differences of perception and opinion.  At other times conflict can be painful and very difficult.  Old family issues, deep personal wounds and other skeletons in the closet can surface when families come together.  If those matters are not addressed in an open, healthy dialogue, they can often deteriorate into painfully predictable patterns of conflict that dishearten those who ‘just wanted everyone to be happy.’

High Expectations – During the holidays it is easy to get hopes up that this year it will be different than it has been in years past.  When anticipations for joyous homecomings border on wishful thinking, the let down can be particularly discouraging when reality shatters hopes for change.  We all have a sense for how things ‘ought’ to be….

Divorce and Step-Family Tensions – So many issues can arise when families have to cope with child visitation agreements and step-family dynamics.  Broken agreements, unilateral pronouncements and favoritism–whether perceived or real–can introduce real pain in situations where anger, resentment and bitterness already hang over a home like a dark thundercloud.  Forced smiles mask the deep hurts that lie beneath the surface where kids fall victim to a couple’s ongoing retaliation against their former spouses.stressful-family

These and other matters can uniquely arise with interpersonal relationships as best intentions are misinterpreted and reality shatters hopeful anticipations.  The holidays can, indeed, be discouraging; even heart-breaking.  Even when everyone is relatively happy, one family member who struggles with depression–whatever its root cause–can cast a pall that brings everyone else down.  This, in turn, can add to the sense of isolation, guilt and even shame that already burdens someone who ‘just can’t get over it.’

Marriage and Family Therapists are specially trained to help couples and families discover ways to cope within the context of interpersonal realities and individual differences.  Many times a simple listening ear of someone who stands outside of the family dynamics can clarify issues, foster an inner resolve and fortify coping skills that, many times, clients already possess but may have forgotten or got lost in the fragmentation that is happening around them.  So many families become locked into dysfunctional patterns that sometimes need  ‘simple’ interventions to get back to the normal patterns that are familiar, helpful and hopeful.

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Hidden Issues

NotTalkingEvery couple has issues they need to discuss.   Sometimes, however, the only time they are able to talk about those issues is when they are fighting over the issue itself.  Consequently, afraid of starting a fight, they choose to avoid the topic until it forces its way to the surface in the form of a disagreement, an argument or a conflicting behavior.

Couples who want to change this behavior realize that there are issues that they need to address together and they make a decision to do something about it.  Without helpful, constructive skills in place, however, they run the risk of watching their best of intentions descend into the valley of one more contentious exchange or silent withdrawal.

Markman, Stanley and Blumberg (Fighting for Your Marriage, 2010) suggest that there are certain clues to tell us when to beware of hidden issues that need to be addressed but that we tend to avoid.  Of course, their recommendation is that people learn the necessary skills to make sure that those issues receive air time in a way that is helpful and constructive.  Here are some of the signs of a hidden issue:

Wheel Spinning – Suddenly, you find yourself thinking: “Here we go again!”  In the pit of your stomach you know how the discussion will unfold, who is going to say what and how it will end.

Trivial Triggers – The issue itself is so trivial until it  unravels into another escalating conflict that leaves everyone scratching their heads asking, “How did we ever get to this point over something so silly?”

Avoidance – There are topics that are simply avoided, often having to do with cultural or experiential differences such as personal appearances, family backgrounds, religious preferences, feelings about ex-spouses, envy, and so much more.  Avoidance is choosing not to bring it up because you already know how the other person will respond…at least you think you know….  The key is that bringing up the topic can challenge our fear of being rejected–at least not accepted–because of our opinion or belief.

Score Keeping – When someone starts keeping score of offenses and infractions it could be that a hidden agenda is working beneath the surface to get even, to balance the scales or to make a point.  A clear indicator is when the recitation of points scored seems so disconnected from the issue at hand.  It could be that the common thread that ties them all together is too difficult to talk about with one spouse hoping the other clues in on the matter before it’s too late.

The question is, how can we surface these issues and address them in a way that leads us to greater intimacy and greater appreciation for our differences and similarities?  A couple of important keys lie in one’s ability to seek to understand rather than to be understood coupled with a dedication to refuse to try to ‘fix’ the problem too early.  The opposite of these (i.e., seeking to be understood rather than seeking to understand and the desire to fix a problem before we grasp the significance of the challenge) is more the norm and explains why so many issues go unresolved and develop a life of their own in spite of each person’s desire that they would just go away.

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Why Will You Not Listen?

ListeningListening is a challenging communication issue we face every day.  Often we assume that  communication is only about how we talk to one another.  Because we want to know how to help people better understand what we are trying to say we take communication classes and public speaking and speech classes.  These, it is thought, will help me say what I want to say so people can understand me better.
This point is often verbalized in many ways, such as:
“He won’t listen to me!”
“Talking to her is like talking to a brick wall!”
“I don’t think he gets me!”
“Why can’t she understand?!”
NEWS FLASH: Communication involves more than talking.
It could be that people who talk when no one seems to be listening could be talking to themselves or talking on a bluetooth cell phone headset….or they are talking to people who aren’t there.  Without a listener, talking does not make a lot of sense except to the one who is doing it.
Listening problems are not unique to western culture.  It seems to be a part of the nature of man to want others to realize that they have something important to say.  Good examples of poor listening skills can be found in the Bible and were a constant problem for a God who wanted to create a people who would listen to His instruction and do what He said.
Indeed, one would think that when God Himself spoke, everyone would listen.  But, in Psalm 81:8 God is quoted:  “…if you would only listen to me, Israel!”
Even God Almighty struggles with people who will not listen to Him…which is quite amazing to me, really.  If I were God I am not so sure I would be quite so patient!  When God’s own people would not listen to Him He made it clear that He would not exercise judgement upon them for one reason and one reason alone: “For I am God, and not a man— the Holy One among you. I will not come against their cities” (Hosea 11:9).
Something about God’s nature caused Him to go even further to communicate His love so  He took on the form of a man in Jesus Christ (e.g., John 3:16).  Yet, in exasperation with His own disciples, Jesus said:  “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?” (Mark 8:17-18).  Translation: “You still don’t get it!?”

Michael Card: “Will You Not Listen?”

I’m reminded of so many parents who have been given a front row seat to God’s pain and frustration with Israel.  Who hasn’t struggled to deal with a family member or close friend who just does not listen and, therefore, does not understand.   Or when a loved one does  listen and understand yet chooses to disregard the words of others who love and care about them.

If it were not so sad it would almost be humorous when these who will not listen are heard to complain, at the same time, that no one listens to them.

The bottom line, for me, is that listening is as important a skill–if not more important–as talking.  One of the things I truly appreciate about the PREP system of communication training is the stress they place upon the skill of active listening.

It doesn’t take long to distinguish between the person who listens from the one who will not.  The evidence for which approach to life works best will be found in the consequences that follow.

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Brief Marriage and Family Therapy

Signature:2a0f6d0366f291694bd9cc422bff24b12e1d3afd88bc0ed09c9a8814df3c0837People are often surprised when I tell them I can usually schedule an appointment within a day or two.  Part of the reason this is possible is because of the nature of my practice of Brief Marriage and Family Therapy.  Another expression used to describe this approach is “solution-focused” therapy or strategic, goal-directed therapy.

Therapy begins by focusing upon defining the problem as it functions within the family system and examining what a solution to the problem would look like.  Beginning with the goal in mind, I will often make a proposal for how we might be able to get there during the first session.*  Stated simply, we know we have finished therapy when the goal is achieved, usually within less than ten sessions.

Marriage and Family Therapy is optimistic about marriages and families.  The reason we believe that marriage and family therapy should be brief is because a core belief is that families mostly get along fairly well most of the time, even though all families struggle with problems.  From the budgeting of time, moneycoupleestranged and other resources to making simple choices such as what to have for breakfast and prioritizing to-do lists, the very fabric of marriage and family life is woven with choices and decisions.

But, every once-in-a-while, families get stuck, marriages go into crisis and relationships become difficult and even unmanageable.  The role of the marriage and family therapist is not necessarily to re-write the family script by keeping them locked into a therapeutic contract for extended periods of time.  The key is to focus on the present challenge, find out how it functions in the marriage and family and help everyone involved devise a strategy for change that can help the family move on.

Because we are solution-focused we don’t normally spend a great of time working through childhood issues, trying to determine who is right or wrong, good or bad, or at fault.  Nor do we typically spend a great deal of time reviewing family histories.

As fascinating and informative as these approaches to marriage and family therapy can be, this is not to say that these things are not important.  Furthermore, there are times when it is important to give more attention to these aspects of family life because of the bearing they  have upon the present circumstances of the family.  This is especially true when couples and their children are intensely involved in conflict and challenge within their families of origin and their relationships with other relatives.

Stated very simply, individuals, couples and families come to Marriage and Family Therapists because they want to relate to each other better; but, something is in the way of helping them achieve their goal.  Often they feel stuck or stagnant.  At other times someone is caught up in a behavior or perception that is having a negative impact on others, threatening the stability of the relationships involved.

My goal as a brief, solution-focused, strategic Marriage and Family Therapist is to help them solve the problem and to get on with life.

So, to answer the original question, the reason I can schedule clients with fairly short notice has something to do with the fact that my practice is all about helping families solve their problems and then getting out of the way.

Logo for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
AAMFT

For more information why not set up a first appointment and we can discuss how this approach may help you address some areas in which you wish to move forward but…..  The first appointment is always free.

Stephen has been a Clinical Member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy since 1991 and he is Licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist  in the State of Michigan.

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The Serenity Prayer

Young Woman Thinking --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

THE SERENITY PRAYER

By Reinhold Niebuhr

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it,
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will,
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next,
Amen

Over the past several months I have been helping a local congregation begin a Celebrate Recovery program. Broader in scope than the normal 12-step programs of Alcoholics Anonymous, the purpose of the program is to help people find healing for their ‘hurts, habits and hangups” with a clear emphasis upon identifying the “Higher Power” as Jesus Christ.  The teaching is further based upon fleshing out “The Eight Principles” of the beatitudes in Matthew 5.

Every week the group recites the Serenity Prayer which is such a powerful tool for helping us focus upon discerning between the “things I cannot change,” asking for the courage to change the things that I can.  Indeed, a key to coping with the challenges of life is developing the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.

So much of our dysfunctional coping skills emanate from trying to manage or control things that are outside of our “sphere of influence”, as Steven Covey distinguished it in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  It is so easy to desire the best for others. It is quite another thing to take responsibility for their ability to change in line with our desires.

What makes this especially difficult is when the people for whom we desire only the best begin to make choices that lead in a direction other than where we think they should go (key word: should).  So, out of our frustration we are tempted to use every tool in the shed to attempt to force them to make better choices.  Within reason, these are the last-ditch attempts to help someone alter their course, do a U-turn or to come around 180 degrees.  As loving, caring people, we must use these tools, fully aware that the person we are trying to influence is likely to reject them.  There is some value in knowing that we gave it our best shot against the odds.

But then there comes a line that is easy to cross if we are not careful.  We find ourselves lying awake all night worrying about their problems, their decisions, their choices.  If we are not careful, we risk losing our selves as we invest in their problems and begin to neglect our own needs.  Better to help someone from a position of strength than to become so immersed with their problems that everyone loses.  Someone has to stay strong in order to be available when it is necessary to rescue….

Mistakes in life are tremendous learning opportunities that usually involve some degree of pain and suffering.  “Wisdom to know the difference” may mean watching a loved one suffer the consequences of choices they have made and being clear about what you can and cannot do to help.

Of course, the goal is to allow them the opportunity to benefit from the experience.

What often keeps us engaged is the fear we have when we consider the potential severity of the consequences.

 

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The Double Bind

Man Scratching HeadThe Double Bind is defined as “…a psychological predicament in which a person receives from a single source conflicting messages that allow no appropriate response to be made” (Merriam-Webster.com).  Wikipedia.com correctly credits Gregory Bateson with the exploration of the concept back in the 1950s as systems theory began to form the basis for Marriage and Family Therapy.

For example, the mother who complains because her son does not demonstrate his love for her, pushes him away when he reaches out to give her a hug.  It is a type of schizophrenic messaging that leaves the child confused about correct responses that will please his parent.

In reality we all give off double-bind messages to one degree or another.  Wanting a child to do his or her chores is one thing.  Insisting that they enjoy doing their chores may not be an effective strategy for making sure the job gets done.  Or asking someone to choose where to go out to eat and then shooting down every suggestion they make puts the person in a double bind; i.e., no right answer.

Families taking pride in their openness and transparency can sometimes discourage the very thing they want.  This can often be because of poor listening skills that unintentionally communicate very different values.

Alcoholic families often wrestle with these mixed messages.  For example, the father who comes home drunk explodes in anger over the most insignificant infractions in the family; sometimes over nothing at all.  At the same time he might totally ignore the most horrendous behaviors among family members. Add a healthy dose of unpredictability and the family is constantly in a state of confusion about family rules for day-to-day functioning and simple tasks.  These patterns of behavior can become so entrenched in families that, long after substance abuse has stopped, the alcoholic family dynamics and belief systems persist for generations.

To the outside observer, the family’s attempts to cope with these double-bind situations of mixed messaging and unpredictability look illogical and even irrational.  Within the family system, however, the unusual behaviors actually make sense at some level.  Try those unusual behaviors in other settings, however, where predictable, logical rules are applied in a consistent way and the unusual behaviors don’t make any sense at all.

The most common reaction in these situations, it seems to me, is to withdraw and isolate one’s self from the tensions they perceive in the family.  People get quiet, go underground, retreat, stuff their feelings and even slump into depression.  On the other hand, family members who attempt to confront the family’s system are sometimes ostracized and labeled as “the problem.”

The double bind is just one of many examples of the types of challenges Marriage and Family Therapists address frequently.  It is all part of how relationships work in marriages and families.  But, more than that, you can also see these dynamics in many social structures such as in church, government, the workplace or school.  In whatever setting, there are things that can be done to confront the double bind systems that we deal with every day, encouraging healthy communication and consistent messaging while also reconciling conflicting ideas and addressing cross purposes.

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Southshore Counseling’s First Year

SouthshoreCounseling, LLC
Southshore Counseling, LLC, 2736 Chelsea Street, Trenton, MI 48183. (734) 676-3775.

Celebrating its first year anniversary at its Chelsea Street location in Trenton, Southshore Counseling continues to be dedicated to helping downriver families overcome obstacles, manage transitions and reach their potential.  It is owned and operated by Stephen Pylkas, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has been a Clinical Member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy since 1991.

Marriage and Family Therapy sets itself apart from more conventional counseling approaches in its view of problems, typically diagnosing and treating mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples and family systems.  A wide range of tools are available to assist couples with learning to turn their challenging personality issues into complementary tools for win/win scenarios and improved communication.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Stephen P. Pylkas, MTh, LMFT

Stephen noted: “If the relationship issues are not addressed then lasting individual change becomes even more challenging.  Conversely, small changes in the family system can have a dramatic impact upon individual family members.”  While it would be natural to assume that only couples and families participate in the therapeutic process, marriage and family therapists often meet with individuals; but, it is always with the other interpersonal relationships in mind.

Treatment is generally solution-focused which means it is brief (usually complete in under 10 sessions) and goal-directed, “beginning with the end in mind.”  Marriage and family therapists are optimistic and enthusiastically supportive of the family system because most families carry on their day-to-day activities with great efficiency and interpersonal care and respect.  “But, every once-in-a-while, families get stuck,” says Stephen, “and they are in need of specific attention to what relational factors are going into maintaining the obstacles and hindering the natural transitions that families need to work through in order to make progress towards their potential.

Logo for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
Stephen Pylkas, MTh, LMFT

“Because of my emphasis upon brief, solution-focused marriage and family therapy,” he noted, “the duration of treatment is shorter and scheduling is much more responsive to hurting people.  So, usually I am able to schedule the initial, free appointment within a few days.  In that first session I begin the process of diagnosing the problem and offer a tentative treatment plan.  This way the client is in full control and can decide whether or not to commit to beginning therapy from an informed perspective.”

Therapy typically begins with the initial, free interview with an individual, couple or family.  The next step is to gather a general family history from each person’s perspective followed by a family meeting where treatment options and recommendations are presented and therapy begins working in a dynamic, interactive way to help the family bring about the needed changes to help them achieve their goals.  As progress is achieved, Stephen quickly moves to spread out appointments to help the family consolidate gains and adjust to the changes needed to achieve their objectives and maintain progress.

Most recently, Stephen has teamed up with his wife, Pamela Pylkas, to provide one-on-one tutoring services for pre-school to elementary aged children of families in the downriver area.  Pamela has worked with the pre-school department of Trenton Public Schools for more than ten years and is now is the Teacher and Program Director of the Riverview Co-Op Pre-School.  In addition, this child-oriented office space provides unique opportunities for Stephen to conduct family therapy with younger family members as a part of his treatment options.

Since opening for business at its convenient location on Chelsea Street in Trenton, Steve’s practice has helped families navigate through a wide variety of challenges.  The location is easily accessible on the north side of West Road, just west of Fort Street in a discreet residential area, providing privacy to its clients in a natural but convenient setting.

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