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Photo by Michael Fenton on Unsplash

My 26-year-old counseling client is complaining about her latest boyfriend, “He’s so selfish! Does he really think I’m going to sit around and wait for him to finally focus on us?” There are many ways I can respond: empathy, validation, support or seek more details. Instead, I choose to ask her a question.

“Do you notice any similarities between this relationship and your last boyfriend?”

Because, truth be told, it’s exactly the same story she was sharing in her sessions 6 months ago with a different name inserted. Maybe you’ve seen friends date or marry a clone of their last…


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Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

As soon as I heard his voice I knew he needed help. It was monotone and lifeless. Occasionally, it changed to edgy and defensive.

“I don’t trust anybody,” he said. His sentiment was understandable considering he had survived a mass school shooting one year prior. At 18, he was attending college, hanging with a small circle of friends, playing video games and generally getting by. But was he?

I was listening to his story on the radio in which the reporter was doing a one-year follow up on the tragedy and its aftermath. The boy revealed more: the shooter killed…


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“blue eye photo” by Daniil Kuželev on Unsplash

Her eyes were deep blue and her hair fell in messy, loose curls around her shoulders. I can’t remember her name, but I will never forget what this nine-year-old girl said to me.

She was in a group of girls I was working with in my job as a counselor. We were talking about body image. I had asked them if they had ever heard their mothers talking about their own bodies. The blue-eyed girl said yes, she had overheard her father saying mean things to her mother about the way her mother looked. Afterwards, the girl privately told her…


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You know the drill. You meet someone at a business or social gathering and in making conversation you ask, “So, what do you do for a living?” I’ve asked, and have been asked, this same question countless times. I never considered it to be rude or offensive.

So, imagine my shock when, at a recent professional conference, I inquired about a woman’s job and her steely-eyed response made it clear that I had deeply insulted her.

“Don’t ask me what I do for a living,” she said.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“If you really want to learn more about me…


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The 16-year-old girl sitting in my counseling office was typical of those I had seen recently: capable, competent and motivated to achieve…nothing.

“Are you excited to get your driver’s license?” I asked.

“No. I don’t want to get my driver’s license.”

Not long ago, this answer would have surprised me. As a teenager, I couldn’t wait to get my license, gain freedom, and explore the world. Today, I’m talking to more and more teens that express zero ambition for such things. They prefer to be chauffeured by their parents — so much less stress! …


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I was sitting at the kitchen table drinking my morning coffee when she said it. We were having our regular before-school banter, chatting about schedules and work, and she just blurted it out. Five words. Gabrielle, my 17-year-old daughter, strung those words together like it was nothing. Then she was gone. I remained sitting for several minutes as if in a game of freeze tag, unable to move. My brain could not process what I had just heard. Soon I was uncontrollably sobbing. I would never have dreamed of saying that to my own mother.

“Tell me about your mom,”…

Susan Fee

Susan Fee is a counselor, speaker, and author living in Seattle. Learn more by visiting www.susanfee.com or contact @SpeakerSusanFee.

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