Category Archives: therapy


The idea of the gift of presence has been in my heart for the past few weeks, even coming up on last weeks blog. Perhaps it’s nostalgia, my personal desire to pull my past into my present with those who have gifted me with presence. Or, with the passing of the holidays and extended time off, presence seems more easily available over coffee or lunch. Or maybe it’s because amid my introverted nature, I long for deep connection, conversation, and communion. And while I’m not sure the motivation, I am sure about my passionate value of presence.

As I sat down to write, my dog reminded me of the need for presence. Stella is what veterinarians call a “social eater,” meaning she really isn’t interested in regular feeding times but rather eating around when she can remain socially connected to me. It took us quite a bit of time to figure out her routine, as she would willingly forego food for days so long as to stay connected to her humans. The easy solution of letting her free-feed 24/7 has become difficult with the inclusion of a dog food-eating cat into our family. And so, in order to gift her with my presence during eating, she is currently on the floor less than 2 feet from where I sit writing on the couch, happily munching away while I protect her from the cat.

The gift of presence with Stella seems silly and at times inconvenient. I’m sure it has cost me some undue anxiety and concern, alongside the need to rearrange my living situation and daily schedule. It certainly has received it’s fair share of questions and judgments from others. And while I’d like to say, oh that’s just the cost of presence for a picky spoiled dog (fair enough) I think there are plenty of similarities in gifting others with our presence as well. Maybe gifting our family and friends with our presence is just as involved as gifting my “social eater” pup.

So what exactly is presence? I admit that while Stella ate, I continued typing and paid little attention to her. This presence may nearly always work with dogs but often much less so with our friends, our spouses, and our children. Because presence is a feeling and a reality, a way of being and a way of being with the other, it requires some degree of intentionality. For, it’s not only our existence that matters but also the manner in which we do so.

To be present is to be invested in seeing and knowing the other.

Let that sink in because it is not just a nice idea. It is a way of connecting and doing relationship. Seeing and knowing the other means asking the hard questions and leaning in; it’s getting involved when maybe you’d rather not. It’s seeing past outward appearance and glimpsing the heart in love and care. It’s a way of knowing beyond facts and data that requires time and tension, awkwardness and availability.

Hopefully, this idea of seeing and knowing, along with being seen and known, makes your heart stir. It’s scary, it’s risky, and it’s chalk full of vulnerability. It risks exposure and rejection. Presence comes with fear and uncertainty riding shotgun and a desire to steer you away. And yet, it is where shame dies, where belonging begins, and where freedom is found. Presence, being seen and known and seeing and knowing, is at the center of healing, reconciliation, and redemption. It’s meeting the other in the depths and saying I’m with you. It’s reserving judgment and instead offering yourself.

This is, of course, a two-way street, with the gift of presence allowing for movement in the first place. The gift of time and possible inconvenience, of attention and rearranged schedules or priorities, all accompany and preceded seeing and knowing. There is intentionality behind creating space between you and another, be it getting coffee, having date nights, or co-creating homework projects. The true gift of presence never just happens because one must pursue the other, leaning in and learning them, seeing and knowing them through questions and shared experiences.

Biblically speaking, to be known by God is one of greatest gifts of relationship with Him. As Curt Thompson writes in The Soul of Shame, “Paul indicates that being known by God is the signpost that we love him. And to be known necessarily means that we are willing to expose each part of us, especially those parts that feel most hidden and that carry the most shame… In contrast, to be known is necessarily to be vulnerable, to open ourselves to God’s love. It is to be asked questions. To be observed. To be seen.”

This model of vulnerability, of being seen and known, serves as an example of how we thrive relationally. Though counterintuitive to risk betrayal, isolation, and abandonment, only by risking these, are we best connected and free to live fully. From our thriving, we also practice knowing and pursuing, we practice asking, listening, and seeing, and we practice the sometimes inconvenient and often uncomfortable willingness to be present for others.

Presence. The work of getting involved in others lives in a way that meets, encourages, and honors them. It is one thing I hold fast to offering all my clients; the willingness to see the ugly, sit in the dark, and be with. But it’s also the way I live outside the office doors. Having both those who know me well, the good, bad, and ugly, and those who I deeply know and see, isn’t optional for—which is perhaps why I am so passionate about presence.

While you ponder the idea of presence in your life, I encourage you to do so this within the counsel of others. This isn’t an invitation to be seen and known by all, nor a suggestion to extend your presence to those who may not respect you in the process. It is, however, a hope for you to look inward and outward as to how you can offer yourself and your attention fully, with cell phones away, TV off, emails ignored, and others postponed, to the ones in your life that need to be seen, heard, and known, and to those in your life who desire presence with you.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

For more info on presence, please contact me today.

On Being a Job Comforter

It seems that perhaps I have a therapist heartbeat; a drive and determination to being with others in a way that offers hope and help. With this lot, I’ve learned to accept the blessings and burdens of connection with clients and relationships lost. I’ve wrestled alongside addiction, anxiety, adolescence, and abuse and together with clients, take on suffering, sorrow, separation, and sexuality. Folks come and go, some better, some sober, some frustrated, and some who don’t make it. And in it all, I must admit, sometimes I wonder if there is more.

For within this, it’s become foundational to both my personal and professional life that I must hold tightly to the belief that I do not change people; for that is not my lot nor within my control. Rather, I deeply respect the honor and privilege it is to walk beside others in their struggle as they try to adjust to new thoughts, feelings, and actions. In this, I take seriously the role entrusted to me and do my best to be faithful towards others and myself. Living my values gives me the courage to balance academia with intuition and humor with directness. And I am beyond thankful for those willing to take a chance on a relationship with me in hopes of finding healing for their own heart.

But maybe even beyond all of this, beyond the joy of seeing folks grow and attain the lives they desire to live, I am drawn towards brokenness itself. And maybe this is my lot.

“I am, you see, a Job’s comforter. Far from lightening the dark valley where you now find yourself, I blacken it. And you know why. Your darkness has brought back my own. But on second thought I don’t regret what I have written. I think it is only in a shared darkness that you and I can really meet at present; shared with one another, and what matters most, with our Master. We are not on an untrodden path. Rather, on the main road.” –C.S. Lewis, Letters To Malcom

This Lewis quote seems to so soundly capture much of my role and my heart for counseling. While I can rarely provide clients with the easy outs, the quick fixes, or step by step instructions, I can attempt to invite them into presence; a presence with our Maker and myself. And it is here where folks are at that I sit with them amid the anger, defeat, pain, and fear interrupting their lives. For in joining together in the dark, together we find a way out.

Though scary as hell, there is connection in brokenness and I have always found purpose, comfort, and place by entering into that space. This is likely due in part to the ways my life has been shaped. For I am a therapist, not because of the ease my life has afforded me, but rather the struggles God and others have helped me through which brought me to such work. I want to comfort by reflecting the comfort I have received, amid a life that seems desolate, destructive, and defeating.

And so my hope is to, in humility and my own limitations, provide space where others feel seen, heard, known, and supported—where they are encouraged and invited into new ways of interacting, relating, and being validated.

I acknowledge my bias that everyone should be in counseling, yet still hold tightly to the benefits it offers. There is such joy to have someone to celebrate the seemingly small changes that we work so hard to attain; changes that the world outside the walls of therapy might not acknowledge, yet impact us to the core. And the journey, oh the journey. The journey and hard work that no one can take away from you is a gift to both yourself and me.

So perhaps my lot is to come alongside and comfort in the darkness and deep. Though outcomes are always out of my hands and therapeutic work comes with ethical limits and guidelines, I am a Job comforter because of the peace I find being a part of the work. And as I eluded to earlier, I am certain there is more; there is definitely always more. But meeting folks in the present, in the midst of heartache, hurt, or hopelessness is a lot I am thankful to have been given.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

If you or someone you care about need a safe and confidential place to be heard and helped, please contact me and we can find a fit for someone to join in your story.

The Hopes and Fears of All the Years

This Christmas, while singing carols, this line stood out to me in a new and unusual manner. “The hopes and fears of all the years…” And while having heard it and sang it all the years of my life, it struck me with it’s opposing nature as the words escaped my lips. How can two seemingly opposite emotions and states of being be brought together? And how do we live in that place, year after year?

My DBT training has taught me well to live the tension of conflicting thoughts and feelings, and so perhaps for me, it is less about the “how do we do it,” and more about the “but do I have to…?” I don’t want to live this way, in the tension of hope and fear. I want to live freely in hope and hope alone. I want to let fear go—it not getting a place in my life outside of keeping me safe and alive. I don’t want to live scared that I may fail at this, might not get those, or may lose that.

Plainly put, I want to find hope that is certain and without the accompanying partner of fear.

Yet, as I sit writing at the start of 2018, I can quickly and easily think of many things in which I am both experiencing hope and its companion fear about for the coming year—hopes for my personal life, my professional life, my spiritual life. And as much as I think I can control my destiny, work hard enough, choose wisely, or make fewer mistakes, when all is said and done, I cannot control the outcome of many of my hopes and fears.

They simply are.

And so I must choose to accept the feelings that come. To live in peace during the holidays, the new year, and beyond, I must actively accept the hopes and fears that swirl into and around the reality I am living. Though I may prefer hope and must fight the urges fear suggests of hiding and setting hope aside, I deliberately welcome both instead of trying to pick one. While choosing fear might seem safer and keeps the heart more guarded, it isn’t, however, the way that leads to a true life worth living. And holding hope alone is near impossible given its uncertain nature. I must invite both, I must hold both, and I must grasp both with open hands.

Not to be overlooked, the ultimate understanding and acceptance of hopes and fears as conveyed in the Christmas carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, points at the birth of Jesus. The hope realized and the fears assuaged, all were met together in Christ. And, Jesus, the anchor of hope that can bear the weight of my fears was not lost on me this Christmas. For when we have hope bigger than ourselves, our fears seem to shrink back and find their rightful size and place. This and this alone is where we tighten our grip and hold on for dear life. For it is here and Him that will see us through the hopes and fears of all the year.

As you begin 2018, I encourage you to see how you are letting hope in, holding fear loosely, and what anchor keeps you amid the two. What do you cling to when fear grows and consumes your heart? What do you clutch for the answer to your hopes? And is there space for the two to collide and coexist, hope and fear crashing into one another while you withstand the impact?

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC


Worth Some Pain

Have you ever gotten a really good massage? You know, the ones that leave you a little sore and even hurt a little in the midst of receiving. The massage therapist pushes on muscles that have been under or overworked and you breathe deeply to take your mind off the soreness radiating from the tissue deep within. Sometimes it tickles, sometimes you tense up, and sometimes it simply feels on fire. Your body releases tension and toxins, and slowly but surely your body relaxes and realigns.

This may sound terrible to some of you, and that’s fair, but I invite you to stick around and keep reading. It is true, this kind of massage is not for everyone. It certainly may not be the relaxing experience that you had imagined for a day at the spa. The deep tissue work that hurts can be too much for some people and they happily prefer, and are most content, with a Swedish massage. Perhaps you even think pain is a waste of money when calm unwinding is on the agenda. And in the realm of massage, this is fine and good.

But what about the rest of your life? Are there places you avoid pain and this avoidance also keeps you from relief, joy, perhaps even freedom?

There are things in every part of our lives that require a bit of pain to reach the goodness and enjoyment on the other side. Be this getting into an exercise routine, working out the pain of your marriage, learning guitar, even going to the dentist. Our muscles are sore from lifting weights, our hearts are tender as we try new ways of interacting with our spouse, our fingers hurt and our frustrations high as we strum a guitar for the first time, and our mouth poked at, maybe even bleeding, as the dentist assures the health of our gums and teeth.

We learn to withstand these things because we trust they are ultimately for our good or things we want. We accept the temporary pain and make peace with it. What seems like a terribly uncomfortable experience actually leads us to a greater joy. And yet these experiential learning labs don’t necessarily transfer to the emotional side of our life. When the possibility of feelings of rejection or insignificance arise, we dodge and manipulate with the best of them. Why do so many of us actively avoid pain?

Because it hurts.

And that’s the point.

Not all hurt is equal and not all hurt is bad. Our relationship with pain is of utmost importance because pain usually accompanies growth. The saying “pain is temporary” couldn’t be truer and our mindset around our ability to tolerate the temporary nature of pain must be strengthened. We must learn new ways to accept pain as necessary for the lives we want to live and the men and women we want to be. We must practice ways to endure pain for the pleasure, peace, and possibility that lie on the other side.

This is not a call to run haphazardly into foolish relationships and unsafe experiences. Pain will find us; we do not need to run head on into it. However, it is an invitation to not avoid pain at all costs. Pain often times isn’t good or bad, it just is. It’s a part of our experience and a part of our life. We are not given the choice of pain or no pain, and yet we are given the complete ability in how to respond. Our journey is how we respond. Our growth is how we allow for and dare I say, embrace, the pain that comes our way.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

For more on creating a new relationship with pain, email me.


Learning to Let People Down

It’s been over a month since I’ve written much. Not just a blog, but anything. The last blog was a bit hard and though well-received, it didn’t make life easier. I have been busy and tired. I have had to renegotiate my schedule and stay true to my own boundaries. I have had to sacrifice keeping my word at all costs and release the irrational belief that I have control over what folks think about me and how I impact them.

Ultimately, I have had to learn to let others down for the sake of myself and my sense of well-being.

I typically blog weekly and have multiple blogs in waiting for weeks when life does get chaotic and busy. It helps to eliminate the pressure on myself and allows me a comforting cushion on a self-imposed deadline. I also blog not only for myself but for others who have encouraged me and share my writing. I have folks holding me accountable for taking the risks of putting my thoughts out there, all of which keep me on a schedule.

For the most part, I love this. I find joy in connecting with others through struggle and story. The creativity of saying possibly recycled thoughts in new ways, ways hopefully folks can relate to, has fueled me. I literally have 43 titled and unfinished blogs in waiting because I get ideas after a session or in conversation with a friend or over dinner with my husband and start something I don’t have time to complete. I enjoy the process. I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy the regularity. I enjoy the creating. I enjoy the writing.

But life happened and I got behind.

As weeks passed, my computer closed and my will lacking, guilt and shame stated to creep in. The days I typically post a new blog would come and go and my inner voice would whisper words of disappointment. I’m a failure who can’t keep her commitments. I knew I shouldn’t have taken this on. I was probably just lucky folks liked them anyway. Maybe it’s best to stop while you’re ahead. After allI had committed to something and here I was, having only made it a few months.

It wasn’t only here that I found shame creeping in. I also wasn’t able to take on some of the workload I wanted. I had to create gaps for the exhaustion and boundaries for my schedule. I had to say no, often followed by an apology and plea for forgiveness and grace. I passed on commitments or showed up the best I could because in this season that I was struggling to give my all.

Life was forcing me to let others down. Life was forcing me to choose me.

The feelings of guilt and shame and the thoughts that something was wrong with me because I couldn’t hold and do it all pulled on my heart and made choosing me difficult. I tried to push myself while knowing the truth. If I didn’t let go of somethings, it was going to cost me a lot of things. My values would be compromised and I would ultimately be much more distraught with myself.

So I picked me and I made hard decisions. I let things slip and I passed on offers for more this or that. I negotiated responsibilities that others tried to give me. I allowed the space for the feelings and fears, yet kept true to the woman I want to be, the wife I want to be, the counselor I want to be, the daughter I want to be, the friend I want to be, and ultimately the disciple I want to be.

While, I can never truly know if I let others down, my heart says I did. Most people report that I did no such thing; their grace and mercy abounded. I experienced kindness and care from my inner circle and few questions from those impacted. Nothing and no one, other than myself, suggested that anyone was let down by my need to take care of me. I was intentional in how I let others down and perhaps the manner in which I did so helped as well.

Change is tough and learning, like all growth, tends to be uncomfortable, if not down right painful. Learning to let others down, to possibly disappoint family and friends, co-workers and clients, it isn’t easy for a great deal of us. After all I am in the helping profession–I come alongside others and help shoulder their burdens for a season–so it’s reasonably hard to have to limit those I can help. Especially because I love what I do.

However, I am a better woman when I take care of me first. I am a stronger woman when I let go of the fear of letting others down and choose what I need. I am a content woman when I act on my values. I am a healthier woman when I listen to my body, heart, and head. I am an intentional woman when I know what I can and cannot give. I am a grounded woman when I live in balance and mindfully negotiate my priorities. And I am a more complete woman when I learn the beauty of letting others down.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

It is hard to let others down and yet it is so freeing when you allow yourself the grace and space to accept it will happen. To talk more about this journey, contact me today.

When It’s Hard to Hope

I recently had coffee with a good friend and we discussed marriage, travel, ideas for an upcoming talk I have; the normal things between long-standing friends. We laughed about memories and made plans for us and our spouses to get together. I knew we had connected to discuss a recent loss in my life and yet talking about the normal things felt safe. I wasn’t exactly intentionally avoiding, but I wasn’t just letting things out.

And then she asked how I was doing.

Not good, ok, heart-broken, better… they were all the truth. It depended on the hour and who I was with. It depended on the last time I had cried and what I was doing. Sometimes even I didn’t know how I was doing because sometimes life throws you a curveball that you don’t see coming. And while you want to talk about the struggle, sometimes you want to just talk about the other stuff and pretend your world is normal.

The pain that occurs with loss can be overwhelming. You wrestle with your reality throughout the day and perhaps finally come to terms with it only to go to bed and awaken with the pressure to reaccept it once more. The world continues to turn, to celebrate birthdays and baseball games, to gather and go to school and work. No one seems to pause and take note of your grief. And the heartache makes it hard to move forward with hope.

So, what do we do and where do we turn when heartache makes it hard to hope?

In the days following the news I alluded to, I noticed my dueling desires. I wanted to be alone, watch TV, and not face the rising sun and incoming day. This was alongside my longing to connect, to have someone reach out and ask how I was doing, to gaze into friends lives on social media, and constantly check my email and texts. I wanted to exercise, to run, sweat and push myself. I also wanted to stay in bed and not even move so far as to the living room. I wanted to cry and I longed to laugh. I wanted to give up and I was desperate for hope.

And somedays I didn’t know what I wanted or where to turn. But I did know this: Whatever you do, Linds, keep on going. For it was necessary to be together and necessary to be alone. It was important to laugh and important to cry. It was helpful to push myself physically and helpful to give myself grace. And it was essential to continue on, both continuing routine and creating space to pause. Even amid the truth of it being hard to hope, we have to keep going.

And as we keep going and allowing for the different twists and turns our heart takes us on, we turn to God, to friends, and to those who have walked a similar journey. We let others know of the ache and risk being a burden to allow others the gift of caring for us well. Slowly an hour turns into an afternoon and an afternoon into a day and we realize we are still going. We become less annoyed at the morning and more willing to step out and show up. As we hold onto our basic values and practices, share with others, and allow space for feelings, heartbreak slowly gives way for hope to return.

However, hopes return is not without going through the mess, the feels, the ups and downs, and the risks. Hope is a scary thing. Hope has the potential to let us fall and fall hard. Hope has the ability to leave us embarrassed, hurt, lonely, sad, and wrecked. When it’s hard to hope, we may be tempted to throw in the towel, but little is to be gained from giving in and giving up. Hope, even when it’s hard, must return to propel us on onward.

A life without hope is simply no way to live. We have to have hope. And ultimately, when it is hard to hope we must connect. This may be to others and is most fully with God. Hope in things and outcomes, like all hope, has the potential to leave us heartbroken. Yet hope in something bigger than ourselves allows us to get out of our own disappointment and pain to a hope that sustains. We accept we are not alone, we navigate the pain and sorrow, and we show up to answer the question, “how are you doing?” and we make way for hope once more — because hope embodied does not disappoint.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

Three Thoughts On Choosing A Therapist

Last week, a dear friend of mine in another city inquired about what sorts of things to ask for and learn about when trying to find a therapist. She sent me the following message: “‘I got three counseling referrals from my pastor/friend, but I don’t really know what questions to ask to know which one is the right fit. Explain exactly what I want to learn more about with anxiety support?”

It was such a great, simple and yet actually complex question; one that many first time therapy seeking folks must navigate. I was eager to assist because not only do I love my friend, but I also love the therapy process and think the right fit and right relationship are essential. And though this is not an exhaustive list, it is a few thoughts on what you may want to ask a therapist before working together.

  • How do you view change? Most folks are headed into therapy because something isn’t working. If you are able to identify what it is in you that you would like to change — be it how you feel, relationship patterns, anxious thoughts, etc — that’s a huge first step. Getting curious about how the therapist views change is then the next. Personally, I view change as a longer, relational process. I have learned to be upfront with clients that while I can offer some quick skills and possibly even help with this or that, I believe true change only comes in long-term (think a year+) work where the therapeutic relationship has space to work on the roots issues.
  • What’s your approach? Not only is this a question regarding what theory or practices a counselor uses, but also one in which to get curious about them as a person. Some therapists allow clients to talk while giving minimal feedback and others are more directive and take the lead. Ask if he or she is more directive if you want that sort of engagement. Additionally, consider asking the counselor what he or she thinks a good therapeutic relationship looks like and see if you agree. If you don’t know what you want, perhaps think of the friends and folks you turn to when you are struggling and think about how they respond to you.
  • Ask yourself: How do I feel in and after this conversation? As you talk to a potential counselor, notice how you feel. Feeling a bit anxious is absolutely normal, but does it seem like the therapist “gets you?” Do you feel like you could tell them things and they would listen well? Do they make you laugh, do you feel safe, are their words comforting? Do you feel respected? In some ways, trust your gut. Feeling nervous, uncertain, and a bit uncomfortable is common. But if in the midst of that you think and feel like the person on the other end can help with those, give it a try. Most therapists want a good fit and are happy to help you find that if things don’t work with them.

Be aware of counselors who make big promises and speak into your situation without much information. Learn what your referring friend liked and disliked about their work with the counselor in consideration. There are techniques, experience, and style that all play a role in great therapy, but without relationship, I believe little is to be gained. At the end of the day, I hold fast to the following: They won’t care what you show them until you show them that you care.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.