5 Ways to Effectively Address Conflict

Recently, one of our clients (we’ll call him Jeff) had the opportunity to address a conflict with a friend of his. Jeff completely disagreed with the way his buddy was handling a situation.  But rather than speaking directly to his friend, Jeff gathered 4 other buddies who agreed with Jeff that his way was the better way. Together they confronted Jeff’s friend—guns blazing. When his friend became defensive and rejected their intervention, Jeff was bewildered and grew angry, swearing that the friendship was over.

As this example shows, conflict is a reality in our relationships. It’s inevitable. We face conflict daily, from a disagreement with a co-worker or boss, to an argument with a friend or spouse. There is plenty of day-to-day tug of war happening around us. We are imperfect people, living in a world where much is out of our control. If you are like me, sometimes you do not handle conflict well… okay, I’ll be honest; it’s most of the time.

So, how do we effectively address conflict in a way that the other person will be receptive, promote understanding and resolution of the issue, and foster a closer connection? The following is a list of 5 things that may help positively change your approach to conflict so that it is fruitful:

1. Explore Your Family of Origin – Think back to your childhood for a minute. How did your family deal with conflict? Did your father, mother and sibling(s) tend to avoid it, address it through a third-person, or address the issue with the person directly? And, how did they engage? Did they wait until emotions calmed and approached you gently, or was their an immediate reaction and accusatory approach? Did family members tend to “bottle it up” until a seemingly tiny incident totally set them off? Who can you relate to the most? Chances are, after answering these questions you will begin to see consistent relational patterns. Exploring this may give you valuable insight into how you currently view and engage in conflict.

2. Take a Personal Inventory – Now, here comes the hard part. Time to focus on you. Ask, “How do I respond to conflict?” When someone hurts you, how do you initially react? What is your typical coping mechanism or way of managing painful emotions? How do you work through the issue with loved ones, with classmates or colleagues at work? When you hurt someone, how do you initially react when they approach you to talk about it? How do you typically work through the issue with them? There are many questions here, but I encourage you to take your time and write down your answers. You may be surprised at what you discover.

3. Take Personal Responsibility – Ultimately, you cannot change other people. You can only be open to change yourself. When you focus on someone or something that is out of your control, you feel powerless. By focusing the conversation on what the other person is doing wrong, you will likely elicit a defensive response. However, when you switch your focus to yourself and what is in your realm of responsibility, you will feel more at peace. By focusing the conversation on what you are responsible for, your own thoughts, emotions, and actions, you will likely elicit a receptive response. You are responsible for yourself first.

4. Identify and Communicate Your Thoughts and Emotions – When you can differentiate between your thoughts and emotions during a conflict, you are less likely to be influenced by your emotions in the moment, and more likely to calm your emotions in order to think and effectively work through the situation with the other person. This is not easy—for anyone. It takes practice to develop this skill. One way to practice is to track the major events (good or bad) of the day, listing them in a journal. Thinking back to a specific event, describe your thoughts (message you received from the other person’s actions) before, during and after the event. Next, your emotions (e.g. excitement, joy, fear) before, during, and after. Finally, your actions before, during, and after. The tracking may look like this:







As you practice this skill of differentiating, you will recognize your patterns of relating. Once you can identify your thoughts and emotions in the moment, you can communicate them to the other person. Here is a simple but useful way to address the issue with another:

“When you do ___________ I think it means (your thought) and I feel (your emotion), so I’m asking you to do ___________, and/or I’m going to __________.”

The idea is to practice deliberately separating emotions vs. thoughts so you can more clearly communicate.

5. Set Clear Boundaries – In times that you have been hurt, or even when you have hurt another, setting a clear boundary is of paramount importance. The last two blanks above are an example of setting a boundary. Boundaries help protect yourself and others, while making it easier to enjoy the relationship. So how do you know what is in your control, and what is not, in order to set a boundary? Your relationship with God can provide the answer to such a difficult question. When trusting and yielding to His will, you may find that you will learn more about yourself, and He will teach and guide you through a situation. The serenity prayer speaks to this: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” In addition, you may seek wise counsel from a family member, close friend, minister or mentor. This person can provide much needed guidance on what course you can take.

Now this is not meant to replace the need and benefit that can come from talking to an objective therapist about more complicated or painful issues that arise in life. It is also not meant to apply to circumstances such as abuse or neglect. If this ever occurs, please contact the authorities or an outside third party that can provide immediate help.

Here at i360, we believe change occurs in the context of relationships. We offer a variety of ways to address the conflict in our lives that so often plague us. Our various support, process groups, and counseling opportunities provide a safe environment, and help mimic a real world experience that allows clients to experiment with new behaviors, learn how a variety of people perceive them, and explore different styles of relating. The groups and workshops we offer provide a great opportunity to place the client directly in a community of a diverse group of people. Here, not only do clients learn how to meet their therapeutic goals together, but they also learn how to address conflict in different, more effective ways so that they can carry these skills forward into future relationships—and ultimately live more satisfying and fulfilling lives.

Written by Mitch Isle, LPC & Client Advocate


  • Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
  • Extraordinary Relationships: A New Way of Thinking About Human Interactions by Roberta M. Gilbert
  • Understanding Group Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom

Facing Difficult with Simple

I love the story about the ancient leader who had a really terrible case of leprosy.  Someone who worked on his staff knew of a man who could possibly solve his problem and heal him. The leader packed up gifts, food, and other “wow” factors to win the favor and wisdom of the man with curative skills. A slight problem arose when the leader who had traveled far and wide finally arrived in the town of the healer. Instead of meeting the healer himself, he was greeted by the healer’s administrative assistant. What?!  He was not going to walk outside of his office to greet this famous leader? No, he sent word instead. And the word was this: go to the local river and dip in the water seven times to be healed. This river was known for being filthy. The leader was furious and ready to head home disappointed, angry, insulted, and embarrassed.  This wasn’t at all what he expected. However, his staff member asked him if he would have done a more difficult task than taking a plunge into a river in order to heal had he been asked? Maybe he thought that just because it seemed so simple meant that it couldn’t further him along in his healing. After thinking about that for a moment, the leader made his way to the dirty river, dipped seven times, and came out of the water completely well.

How many things do we avoid doing because they seem too simple to effect change? In reflecting on this, I came up with areas where simple might be a great solution to difficult.

Take Deep Breaths

Getting a fresh dose of oxygen to the brain can be a helpful tool when learning how to stop distorted thoughts, change thinking patterns, and manage anger and destructive responses. When we get angry or scared we have a tendency to take shallow breaths or even hold our breath slightly. This limits the oxygen available in the blood supply and thus to the brain. Our brains need rich oxygenated blood to fire more efficiently and effectively.  It really is a simple way to help our brains function better as we process something difficult.

Connect and Join

So often we avoid connecting with or joining a group or friend for fear of being vulnerable. However, connecting authentically with someone creates an opportunity for empathy and deeper relating. Getting close to others can feel as though our fears and flaws are exposed. But avoiding community can hinder the change we desire in ourselves and in others. Connecting can be as simple as listening to someone’s uniqueness and finding a way to identify with them. As a mother of eight and grandmother to eighteen, I find that connecting to family members can be as simple as listening to their favorite song and talking about why they like that song. It is a pathway to communicating that is actually quite simple.

Shift Perspective

How we view a situation can be a simple pathway to healthier relationships. Recently I was delayed in the Denver airport with my daughter, her husband, and their nine year old, six year old, and four month old. Upon hearing about the delay, the nine year old burst into tears and began to fret about work that would be missed the next day at school. The six year old sat quietly for a moment while his brother worked himself into a frenzy. After about 15 minutes, the six year old announced that this was the “best day of his life!” He decided that the Denver airport was a GREAT place to have his next birthday. He wanted to entertain his friends at the smoothie store, the chocolate store, and the store where they sold bears, knives, and slingshots. He finished his party plans with the observation that the  “moving sidewalks” were far better than a bounce house! The nine year old knew he would have make up work, but the six year old’s perspective helped relieve the immediate attention on the negative.  Shortly after planning a fun birthday event, we all talked about the way to approach the work that would be missed. Perspective is a simple way to approach a difficult situation and begin the resolution process.

The next time something difficult presents itself, don’t hesitate to try a simple technique or tool to begin the journey to change. It may not be simple the whole way, but simple things can get us started and keep us focused on the big picture while we work to see change in our own lives and the lives of those around us. It only takes the first step, however simple the task may be….

Written by Lila Long Pond, M.A., LPC at Restoration in Fort Worth

Lila Long Pond is a therapist at Restoration in Fort Worth and Dallas. She and her late husband have raised eight children and blended a family over the past thirty-six years. She also has eighteen grandchildren and two great grandchildren. As a mother of a blended family of eight, she is passionate about breaking the cycle of hurt that is so often generated in blended families.


Talking to Children about a Parent’s Addiction

An astounding 28 million people are children of alcoholics. These kids are four times more likely to become an addict themselves, and yet as scary as those stats are, addiction isn’t being talked about in most homes. At Innovation360, we host the Betty Ford Center’s Five Star Kids Program which teaches children that “it’s not your fault” – your dad’s drug problem, the family’s breakup, your parents’ shaky relationship, your mother spiraling out of control.  Children are usually the first hurt and the last helped in the midst of the disease of addiction.  The Five Star Kid’s Program helps create the best possible opportunity for healing for the whole family. This is an invaluable program opportunity for children of addicts, but we still want to address the issue of why this disease isn’t being brought up in conversation at home?

In this article, Dr. David Sack, CEO of Elements Behavioral Health, has brought to light what parents, teachers, and other adults can say to children to explain this cunning disease. Click here to read how you can approach the subject of addiction and recovery with young kids who have been exposed to a very dark potentiality. We especially liked the Seven C’s of Addiction that children need to know:

    • I didn’t Cause it.
    • I can’t Cure it.
    • I can’t Control it.
    • I can Care for myself
    • By Communicating my feelings,
    • Making healthy Choices, and
    • by Celebrating myself.


We hope you found the article helpful. Remember, if you or a loved one struggles with addiction or mental health issues, reach out to us. We want to help you establish a healthy and fulfilling life – drug and alcohol free. Article Resource: David Sack, M.D. is board certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. He is CEO of Elements Behavioral Health, a network of mental health and addiction treatment centers. This article was written in the Huffington Post on 1/31/13: How to talk to a Child about a Parent’s Addiction. 

Written by Lauren Barnett, Dir. of Marketing


Overcoming Procrastination: The Art of Conquering Your To-Do List

Federal tax returns must be postmarked every year by April 15th.  Although Kathryn is acutely aware of this deadline, if she wasn’t, the Statue of Liberty mascots and inflatable advertising balloons various tax preparation services place on virtually every corner would, no doubt, alert her to the impending deadline.  It’s not that she doesn’t know when her taxes are due each year; it’s just that she detests doing them!  She has a full 365 days to gather her receipts, documents, and papers, and organize, itemize, and deliver them to the accountant in time to meet the 11:59 PM deadline on April 15th.  Nevertheless, every year Kathryn—and the rest of the people making the late-night run to the post office—waits until the absolute last minute to file her federal tax return.  What’s worse, she makes herself miserable in the process!  She stresses about doing her taxes for weeks preceding the deadline as she transfers the word “taxes” to each new day’s To Do list.  Kathryn feels guilty each weekend that passes without making any progress on her taxes.  But it doesn’t have to be that way!  Given that procrastination is a problem that effects so many of us, here are a few concrete strategies to help us tackle those issues we dread, just in time for tax season.

  1. Discover why you procrastinate – While there are many explanations for why we procrastinate, the three most common reasons are: fear of the task, dislike of the task, or lack of knowledge about how to perform the task.  Figuring out the reasoning behind our procrastination enables us to break the cycle and tackle the task head on.
  2. Figure out how to do the task, how to make it more enjoyable, or why you fear it. – For tasks you don’t know how to do, conduct a bit of research.  Do a web search, check out Youtube for a tutorial, or enlist the help of a friend, relative, neighbor, or professional with knowledge or expertise of the task.  For a task you know how to do but just don’t want to do, think of creative ways to make it more enjoyable, challenging, or interesting.  For example, create a feel-good environment by lighting candles, preparing a snack, and turning on music or your favorite TV program before sitting down to organize and file your receipts.  Challenge yourself by making a game of it or by setting a timer and seeing how fast you can get it done.  Estimate the amount of time you think something will take you and see if you can beat your own estimate.  For those tasks you avoid out of fear, make a list of what you fear about the task, what the worst possible outcome could be, and develop a plan of attack for those outcomes.  Then, make a note of the potential consequences for avoiding the task and not doing it.  Finally, anticipate how you will feel after completing the task and compare the lists.  Often, the result of not doing the task is much worse than whatever you fear about doing the task.
  3. Timing is everything – Break the project down into manageable sections and schedule a date and time for each step.  Sometimes, the first step will be to gather all the materials or tools required for the task.  Often, just getting organized and creating a clear vision of the steps for the task is enough to get you going.  If not, write out the steps in sequence and enter the deadlines for each step of the task in your agenda or your mobile phone’s calendar, and post reminders on sticky notes in prominent areas where you will constantly be reminded of the impending deadline.  If the task is one that requires focus and concentration, schedule it at the time of day when you are most alert and energetic.
  4. Be good to yourself – Make a list of things and activities you enjoy, places you want to visit, and friends with whom you enjoy spending time.  Assign one of these rewards to each step in the process of your task.  After gathering your receipts, for example, treat yourself to a coffee break, game of tennis, movie, relaxing bath, or phone call to a friend.  Reinforcing the desired behavior in this way will make it more likely you will tackle the next step in the process.
  5. Recruit an accountability partner – Enlist the help of a trusted friend, colleague, or family member.  Explain the task you have been putting off, the steps required to complete the task, your self-imposed deadlines, and the rewards you have outlined for each step completed.  Ask your accountability partner to either join you for a work session (sometimes, just the mere presence of someone—even if that person is working on something completely different—can generate productivity) or to call, text, or email you for progress updates.  Most of us would rather let ourselves down than another person, which makes this an incredibly powerful motivator!
  6. Develop routines and habits – Putting things off doesn’t make them go away, but getting things done does!  There are immediate benefits from tackling a task and completing it:  completion generates energy, makes us feel competent, and improves our mood.  Learning to implement habits by associating new behaviors with those that are part of our regular, daily routines is extremely beneficial and can prevent tasks from snowballing and getting out of hand.  For example, most of us remember to get our mail every day.  Therefore, if we link the activity of filing the day’s receipts to the activity of opening our mail, and do it every day immediately after opening the mail, we can very effectively make receipt filing a habit.  Taking 3 minutes every day to file a handful of receipts after opening the mail is far easier, less time consuming, and infinitely less daunting than waiting until a year’s worth of receipts has accumulated into a pile the size of Mt. Everest.
  7. We all procrastinate to some extent every now and then – For Kathryn, taxes are her nemesis, but what is it for you?  Take a few minutes to write out a plan for dealing with the task you are most prone to put off as long as possible.  Identify why you procrastinate, strategies for figuring out how to accomplish the task or how to make it more interesting, what steps are involved in the task and when you will complete each of the steps, how to reward yourself when you follow through with your plan, and who can help hold you accountable for sticking to the plan you’ve created.  Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!  So stop putting off until tomorrow what can be done today.  Tackle that To Do list and reward yourself along the way!

Today does not have to take second place to the possibility of tomorrow: Overcoming “Stuckness”

Will I ever change?

“I’m tired of always struggling with the same stuff. I’ve been working on these issues for over a decade of my life. Will it ever end? If the answer is no, then why even bother to work on it in the first place?”

It was with these pointed, rhetorical questions that a fellow therapist started our conversation the other day. “Oh, friend,” I thought to myself, “If only you knew how many times I have asked myself these very questions regarding my own struggles.” The truth is that these fleeting, nagging doubts occupy my mind more often than not.

  • Will I ever learn how to let go?
  • When will I be able to leave these past mistakes behind and no longer be constrained by them?
  • What will it take for me to give up these old ways of coping that I know without a doubt will not take me where I want to go?
  • At what point in life will I become the person I want to be so I can enjoy my own company when all distractions are gone?
  • When, when, when?…

As a therapist, I make my living helping people change, coaching them into this mysterious process whereby they are morphed into healthier, more satisfied, and fuller versions of themselves. And yet… Here I am confessing that I myself struggle with lack of change in my own life. Isn’t that like a driver who admits to not knowing how to drive or a carpenter who does not quite know how to build things?

Not quite so.

My clients have taught me that struggling with change is an essential part of the human journey. In our own way, we all long for the day when things will change—our circumstances, our loved ones, and especially ourselves. Craving change and feeling stuck is not something that automatically goes away based on one’s occupation, IQ, age, or even—dare I say it—bank account. Stuckness, as I call it, is an equal opportunity foe.

But here is the good news: we don’t have to wait until “it” changes (whatever your “it” may be) before we can start enjoying life or living it purposefully. This is, in fact, one of my utmost goals for both my clients and me—that we all learn how to live fully in the present even when situations outside of their control remain the same. To do otherwise is to neglect the present while waiting for a future that may never be. The mother of the alcoholic teenager can learn to find meaning and to take care of herself even though her son is struggling. The single young adult can pursue his interests and develop a rich life while still longing for a romantic partner to fill that hole in his heart. I can enjoy the close relationships I have now, at this moment, around me, even though I am thousands of miles away from my family and friends in Brazil.

Just to make myself clear: accepting the present does not mean that I quit fighting for a different future. To embrace my stuckness is not the same as settling or giving up.

You see, stuckness is OK. It’s just a feeling. And as with all feelings, it comes and goes. No feeling stays forever. The key to being able to move on and change while feeling stuck is this: learn to embrace the tension between letting yourself feel…while not letting your emotions control you. This requires learning how to live in two places at once. On the one hand, it is good for me to take a close look at my stuckness when it surfaces in my heart: What’s prompting it? What other feelings are connected with it? What is this stuckness telling me I cannot do? How is it trying to limit me? At the same time, while acknowledging the longing for what is not, I must also reconnect with my values and dreams: What kind of person do I want to be today, at this moment? What is important to me now? What values do I want to pursue today for my relationships, my life, and myself?

In the end, our options are really quite simple (though not necessarily easy). We can wait until things change before living the life we want… Or we can learn how to live said life even when we are feeling stuck.

When I become mindful of my present while still staying committed to my priorities, I learn that change happens even when there is no change. We can grow even when feeling stuck. Today does not have to take second place to the possibility of tomorrow. And if you are feeling stuck, I’d advise that you seek professional counseling which can help guide you down a more joyful and fulfilling path.

Written by Joa Braga, LPC-S


Fighting Fair: 10 Tips for Couples

Whether you have been married for 30 years or in a serious relationship for 3 months, conflict is difficult.  Many of us were raised without role models or even a template for “fighting” with our significant other. Many of us grew up with parents who brushed everything under the rug or punished each other with silence.  Some of us experienced the opposite:  yelling, blaming, shaming, all with no resolution.  When it comes to arguing though, it is a good idea to have some rules in place, and to establish and agree upon them before those arguments even occur.  This can help you come to an agreement more quickly and avoid unnecessary hurt feelings and resentments.  Listed below are some good rules to discuss.  If these don’t fit your “coupleship,” find some others that do.

1.  No blaming.  It distracts you from the problem at hand and illicits defensiveness from your mate.  “It’s your fault I come home late because I don’t want to come home to your bad mood.”

2.  Never start your sentences with “You.”    The other person is automatically on the defensive.  You will benefit greatly by starting your sentence with the word, “I.”   i.e., “I feel so angry when you stay out late and don’t call.”  “I feel so scared when you drink and drive.”

3.   No name calling or degrading language.  When you intentionally verbally injure your partner, you are telling them they are not safe with you.  Sports have rules to prevent injury.  So should marriage and relationships.

4. Never use the word always.  No one ever does anything every time and always. These statements are too eternal.  “You always forget our anniversary!”

5. No yelling.  Couples have different definitions of yelling based upon their own family. If your spouse experiences your statements as yelling, then it is indeed yelling.  Perception is everything when it comes to arguing. Be aware of the volume of your voice.

6.   No use of force.  Pushing, shoving, cornering, and certainly hitting or slapping is completely and totally unacceptable and against the law.  Do not let anger take over and spiral into violence.

7.   No talk of divorce or splitting up.  In an argument, talk of divorce or leaving is usually manipulative.   It can quickly erode your partner’s confidence in your commitment to the relationship and truly leave deep scars.

8.  No walking out or leaving.  When necessary, use time-outs.  It can give you much needed perspective.  “I am not leaving, but I need 10 minutes to calm down.” Don’t just get up and disappear.

9.  Stay in the present.  Do not drag events of the past into the present.  Resist the urge to use this occasion to bring up other issues from the past.  We can’t change the past; only the present.

10.  Take turns speaking.  Let one person speak at a time.  When one is speaking, the other should be listening…really listening.  Avoid the urge to be planning your rebuttal.

Also keep in mind, It is never good to argue at the end of the day when both of you are tired.  Similarly, it doesn’t work to argue on an empty stomach.  Definitely, do not argue when one or both of you have been drinking alcohol.

It is hard not to try to win an argument.  Many times we just want to be right and we can spend endless hours and emotions trying to accomplish this.  It does not solve anything and creates more distance in the relationship. When arguing within a relationship, consider this theme: “You don’t win, I don’t win….We win.” It’s not all about winning or being right. Sometimes working so hard to ‘win’ can damage the relationship beyond repair, and then you both lose. If you and your loved one are struggling and seem to argue frequently with no resolutions, you may want to consider your own “fair fighting” rules.  If you feel that you need help with this, contact a therapist who specializes in couples’ counseling.   It truly helps to have a safe, neutral space to solve differences and to have an objectives party assist you in processing the issue.

Blog written by Pam Newton, MA, LCDC. Pam provides individual and group counseling with a focus on addiction and recovery for families. Pam also spearheads educational groups for clients, families and community members focusing on the unique challenges often paired with addiction and recovery.


What is Love?

Around Valentines Day, the word “love” gets thrown around constantly. It’s on balloons, cards, candy and flowers. While there is so much focus on the romantic and commercial idea of love, it’s helpful to look at what love actually means. The Roxbury Guys from SNL spent countless nights pondering the question, and, no doubt, many of us have as well. My experience as a counselor working with couples and families has given me some good examples of things that are and aren’t love. These are examples from romantic relationships as well as friendly and family ones. Identifying what does and doesn’t represent love will not only help us avoid some of the pitfalls, but also teach us better ways to love well.

Not Love

  • Giving in to Every Demand – This can be a tough one. It might look like love to give someone what he or she always wants, but eventually, you’ll look more like a doormat than a person. You have the right to be assertive and vocalize your requests, too.
  • Buying Gifts – I’ve worked with many families who are very well off and find it easy to give into the temptation of giving gifts instead of time. When you miss your dinner date because you instead had to work late, and you bring home flowers thinking that it portrays how much you love her, that is not love. Instead of spending your time and energy doing things, planning fun activities, or experiencing life with your family or significant other, you instead give a material gift that requires you spend money, that is not love. Don’t confuse your presence with something you can buy.
  • Sex – That’s right. Sex. You may have sex with someone you love, but just because sex happens does not mean love exists. If you’re trying to show you love someone only through sex, it’s time to get more creative.
  • Romantic Gestures – Just doing something romantic does not equate to love. Often we expect something in return for this and it can lead to resentment when we don’t receive it. Just because you are romantic does not mean you love the person, regardless of what romantic comedies tell us.
  • Flattery – Telling someone what you think they want to hear may tickle their ears, but they will start to sniff out the flattery eventually. It also comes with the added bonus of having to experience actions/words/foods you don’t enjoy because you’re not honest about your true feelings. Along Came Polly comes to mind. Ben Stiller’s character, who suffers from IBS which is set off when he eats ethnic food, continues to go with Polly to her favorite Indian restaurant and is quite miserable afterwards, hiding it though, going along with whatever she wants because “he loves her taste” in restaurants…Don’t be that person.



  • Dedication – Love has everything to do with commitment and perseverance.  If you love someone, be willing to stick with him or her through mistakes and tough times. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, “just another shade of brown.”
  • Setting Boundaries – In contrast to being a doormat, setting boundaries with others reminds them we have self-worth. It is also a great example for them to have their own boundaries, which helps keep both individuals healthy. And to be able to better name your limits, tune into your feelings – when you feel discomfort or resentment, that is a sign that you need to set boundaries. “If you put your dirty clothes in the hamper by 9:00 Saturday morning, I’ll be happy to wash them for you.” Setting clear expectations is a display of love as you are vocalizing your needs and hearing theirs too.
  • Doing What’s Best for Them – Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for someone is let them experience life without absorbing the blow for them. It’s hard for us to learn perseverance without struggle. Be there for them, but don’t necessarily do for them.  “I love you and I’m not willing to call in sick for you when you’ve been drinking.”
  • Speak Truth (Out of Love)  – Tougher than it sounds. That doesn’t mean you should always say what you are thinking. Before speaking truth, ask yourself if you are doing it to help the other person or to hurt them. Sometimes saying something honestly will hurt in the short term, but help in the long term.  Before you speak, THINK. Is it True, is it Helpful, is it Inspiring, is it Necessary, is it Kind?Love is certainly more complicated than these few examples, but in this season of lovey-dovey everything, let’s keep a little perspective on what true love looks like. Love is not easy. Love is not bought. Love can’t be earned by getting run over. Love seeks the best for others, and for us. Love displays itself through healthy and well-rounded relationships.But you might still want to make sure you buy those flowers!

    Written by Michael Sweeney, LPC. If you or a loved ones is seeking therapy for your family or marital concerns, please contact us at Innovation360.


Accepting and Experiencing Freedom

If you are anything like me, you are probably juggling what feels like a million things between a full time job, school, family, and of course the to-do lists – – the ones that just grow longer each time you cross something else off. With all of the busyness in a day, it is easy to get put off by others who are having a bad day or making choices that affect you or to simply get overwhelmed with all that your day entails. At the end of the day don’t we wish that we could simply be free of negativity and the stress of a crazy schedule?  What I have truly learned in the last couple of years is that acceptance is the key to freedom.

On a daily basis we each have the opportunity to choose how the day will play out. Now don’t get me wrong, we all have bad days where things seem impossibly unfair; but in those same moments, we still have the choice to enjoy an outlook that allows us to have a good day despite the uncontrollable situations in life.

I know it’s much easier said than done. I am one who struggles with this every day. But I choose to refuse to let actions of others, (driver who cut me off, or the rude checkout lady at the store) take away the peace and joy that I otherwise get to experience during the day.  I promise, it gets easier each time that I choose to not get frustrated with the things that I cannot control. I can accept those things as “life” – sometimes life doesn’t play out the way we plan or as smoothly as we’d like it to – but the more I accept life as it presents itself to me each day, the more free I can be to experience peace and appreciation…and freedom from pessimism.

I dug deeper within myself while teaching my six year old this very lesson.

I challenged her to choose to have a good day even though she was not going to spend the night with her cousin. She was mad that the answer was no, so she refused to get out of the car to play on the playground as we had planned. I simply gave her two choices: stay in the car and choose to be mad, or get out and enjoy your day! She actually chose to stay in the car; she is very strong-minded, but it reminded me that I need to be sure I can exhibit the same behavior that I am asking of my six year old!

I enjoy knowing that I can still experience freedom and peace despite all the things that can rub you the wrong way during the day! You can too. Don’t let external forces dictate your feelings of happiness. Welcome things that push you out of your comfort zone and try to have a positive outlook despite how you feel or how others around you are acting. I promise it is rewarding in the end!

Written by Kayla Proffitt, Life Development Team at i360.


5 Ways to Slowly Destroy Your Own Marriage

A simple list…

1. Confronting your spouse like a honey badger. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this ferocious little booger, the honey badger rushes into battles with full beehives, deadly snakes, and other various gnarly animals. The honey badger only has one goal in mind: the kill… He doesn’t have any sense of timing, tact, or gentleness. And from time to time, we all go fearless honey badger style on our spouses!

“But Doug! I never get loud or aggressive with my spouse! I never yell at my mate,” you might be saying. While I love your enthusiasm you perfect little spouse, I’d bet a large sum of money that if I were to bunk up in your house for a few weeks, I could point out passive statements and actions that have the same devastating honey badger effects.

Maybe you start confrontations with Why questions, like “Why did you do this or that?” Maybe you use passive You statements. “You are so selfish. You just don’t listen to me.” Maybe when you are with other couples, you “joke” about your spouse’s flaws or say things at home like, “You forgot to do…again.” Or, perhaps you do what my wife and I do: you send messages to one another by talking through the dogs. “Oh Johan! Mommy is being a real jerk isn’t she?” Try bringing up grievances or annoyances by clearly stating what it is you want in a gentle manner…even if you’ve done it a thousand times before.

2. Worshiping your children. While you may never say your child is your god, your actions scream it out loud. When your date nights become scarce, you only spend time with couples who have children, and your weekends are jam packed with sports, recitals, and performances…you send the message to your kids, “You are more important than your mom or dad, and I would rather keep you entertained than develop my own friendships or marriage.”

You do your children a massive disservice by leading them to believe that they are the center of the universe…because no one else outside of your family thinks they are! Children who think they are the center of your world will have trouble forming friendships, yielding to authority, holding a job, and even adapting to marriage. Your children will unsuccessfully spend their entire lives searching for people who think they are as incredibly amazing as you told them they were. They may turn to unhealthy, codependent relationships or live unsatisfied lives full of continual disappointment from never being loved the way they “deserve” to be loved.

Not only does this parenting style alienate your children, but it alienates your spouse. A daughter once asked her wise father, “Daddy, if you were in a raft and me and mommy were drowning, who would you save?” The wise father instantly replied, “Honey, not only would I swim and save your mother first, but I would make sure she was completely dry and comfy before I came back for you.”

3. Avoiding sex talks.  When sex becomes a routine A-B-C affair (I do A, you do B, and voila…we have C!), it’s time to talk about what’s getting in the way of sex being exciting, passionate and intense. Marital sex is an amazing gift. It gives us the opportunity to express our love in a physical way, connect deeply, and become vulnerable in the most intimate way possible.

We all fall into predictable routines, but it’s never OK to stay in a place of laziness and inactivity. Don’t ever buy into messages from magazines and TV shows that portray marital sex as boring, unexciting, and mundane. If your spouse and you both truly feel as though you are in the trenches, working together and connecting well outside the bedroom, then you will feel the same way inside the bedroom.

4. Choosing Facebook over your spouse. Are you tweeting, texting or on Facebook when you have a real live person in the same room? By doing so, you rob yourself of connecting with your spouse by living in digital worlds and TV shows with people who really, at the end of the day, don’t care much about you or know much about you. “Liking” or “sharing” someone’s narcissistic picture of the food they ate or the amazing place they’re “checked in” at doesn’t make them “friends.” Ditch the Facebook stalking and engage with your spouse. When is the last time you whipped out a board game, snagged some DQ Blizzards, or called up some friends for an impromptu hang out with your families? When is the last time you did something truly fun and impulsive with your spouse? If the two of you are spending your time with fake versions of real people on Facebook, you miss the real version of your real spouse in the here and now…

5. Having your emotional needs met by people other than your spouse. Very few of you will ever cheat on your spouses or even say anything inappropriate to the opposite sex. But, many of you will, at some point, miss out on valuable opportunities to connect with your spouse. Rather than turning toward your spouse and allowing them to remind you that you are beautiful and lovely in God’s eyes, you will turn to others to get the job done.

Do you find yourself putting on cologne, perfume, or a certain outfit on certain days and not others? Is there someone at work that seems to make you smile just a bit bigger? Do you find yourself mildly complaining about your spouse to a member of the opposite sex? Do you ever find yourself walking away from a conversation thinking, “That person really gets me!” or “He/she thinks I’m really funny!”

Or maybe it’s more subtle, like naturally gravitating towards certain people at church, school or work. While these interactions may seem purely innocent, always ask the question, “What am I getting from this conversation? What is this person feeding me?” While I’m not advocating that married men and women can’t have friends of the opposite sex, I do strongly advocate monitoring interactions to avoid the risk of obtaining self confidence and worth from others instead of looking towards your spouses.

Most of us have a deep seeded terror that we might not be lovable, worthy, acceptable, or “good enough.” We attempt to calm these doubtful voices by performing well at work, being good parents, drinking, exercising, or even, in this case, using others to validate ourselves.

Perhaps it feels more exciting or fulfilling in the moment. But there is nothing more fulfilling than returning home, looking deep into your spouse’s eyes, and knowing that no one else captivated your heart but them…even if you weren’t together. Move towards your spouse when they aren’t around by always pretending they are around…

If you are newly married, transitioning into a new life stage, or have been married a while but have fallen into unhealthy routines, please seek professional counseling. Counseling isn’t meant to always be a “check engine” light fix. Think of counseling more as routine maintenance. Just like an automobile, if you put the right things in your marriage, you get so much more out of it…

Written by Doug Chisholm, LPC


Addiction in the Family Business

Family Business Review

Drug abuse in any business is destructive and complicated, but in a family business, it is even more devastating. Alcohol and other drugs can be a family’s biggest competitor for profits and business longevity. And the problem is compounded because of the close personal relationships and the perceived stigma of admitting a problem within the family’s ranks.—Bork (1986a, p. 60)

Readers of Family Business Review are well aware of the prevalence of family enterprises around the world, but are they also aware of the prevalence of addiction in family enterprises? In our society, quietly in the background, reliance on addiction and drug abuse is widespread, pervasive, and common. Based on interviews with more than 43,000 adults in the United States, researchers at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2009) reported that 3 in 10 drink at levels that put them at risk for alcoholism, liver disease, and other health and emotional problems. Thus, it is important to understand the silent growth of addiction and drug abuse in society, antecedent factors, and consequences for family enterprises.

This article discusses the available research on the prevalence of addiction in the United States, reports the findings of a study of the prevalence of addiction in one consulting practice, and calls for more research on this important topic.

Prevalence of Addiction

The impact of alcoholism and addiction in the United States is significant. The cost of excessive alcohol consumption in the United States came to $223.5 billion, according to a 2011 Centers for Disease Control study. The primary cost (72%) came in lost workplace productivity, followed by health care payments for problems caused by excessive drinking (11%), law enforcement and criminal justice expenses (9%), and cost of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes (6%).

The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2011) of the U.S. Department of Health reported that in the month prior to the survey, 58 million Americans aged 12 years and older or approximately 23% of the population older than 12 years participated in binge drinking (five or more drinks on a single occasion) and 23 million used illicit drugs.

Although the prevalence and impact of alcoholism and addiction on society at large and business are well known, there is little research to describe its impact on family enterprises. It is difficult to assume that family enterprises would entirely escape the damaging effects of alcoholism and/or addiction both in the family and business systems. However, more systematically derived evidence has been lacking, though some practitioners such as Bork (1986a, 1986b) and Kaye (1996) have written on the topic since the 1980s.

Based on their review of more than 2,200 family enterprise articles published between 1985 and 2010, James, Jennings, and Breitkreuz (2012) observe the increased dominance of research from business perspectives and the near disappearance of family perspectives, despite compelling arguments in favor of the need to better understand the “family” dimension of family enterprises.

Amid such trends, the neglect of research on addiction is not surprising. However, addiction and abuse have a significant impact on the survival of family enterprises. This article aims to raise awareness of the extent of prevalence of addiction and its impact on family enterprises, thereby encouraging research in this direction.

Causes of Addiction in Business Families

A host of issues related to the long-term sustenance of family enterprises, including succession, have long dominated both scholarly examination and practical application in family enterprises. A prominent concern has been how to maintain, in later generations of a family business, a level of commitment similar to that found in founding generations. Based on the authors’ perspectives, one of the factors implicated in lower quality management in later generations is addiction. One of the paradoxical findings of research into addiction is that it may be to a significant degree a consequence of family business success as well as a hindrance to the continued effective operation of a family enterprise.

Substance use and abuse have been found to be more prominent among youths of upper socioeconomic status than in youths from economically deprived, inner-city neighborhoods (Luthar, 2003). Among the likely explanations for this phenomenon, researchers have suggested that potential causes include pressures to achieve and isolation from parents. Luthar believes that children of high-achieving parents are subjected to higher expectations.

At the same time, specifically because of parental achievement and subsequent demands on parental time, children lack access to sufficient time with the parents. As a response to the combination of greater parental expectation and lower parental attention, she suggests children often turn to drugs and alcohol. Among business families, pressures to achieve and pressures on parenting time commonly coexist. In this way, the success of a family enterprise potentially breeds within itself the seeds of its later difficulties when it comes to transition and succession. When it comes to addiction, these seeds bear fruit in a particularly potent and poisonous fashion.

Consequences of Addiction in Family Business

Periodically, calls have been made to better understand the role of family in business from different perspectives. This has taken the form of a suggestion to include family effectiveness as a key variable in the study of business effectiveness (Dyer & Dyer, 2009). More broadly, commentators have requested articles that make substantial contributions to theories of family enterprise (Reay & Whetten, 2011). We propose that research examining the impact of addiction on family effectiveness and, in turn, business effectiveness responds to both of these appeals.

Addiction can be a powerful factor when it comes to the effectiveness of a family enterprise. Indeed, when addiction resides in the executive suite or among the key decision makers, it is often a definitive contributor to the ultimate failure of a firm. It is asserted here that addiction is unlikely to carry any positive benefits for the long-term effectiveness of a family firm.

The consequence of addiction behavior is often seen when communication breaks down. As Bork (1986b) noted, the presence of an addict acts to divert, shrink, and sever lines of communication among family members. This affects both family members who are active in the business as employees and those whose role is restricted to ownership. The situation is particularly difficult if the addict is the founder, patriarch/matriarch, or leader of the business. When a family firm member abuses alcohol or drugs, the power and influence of the family often protects or enables the individual by not allowing others to intervene and, in some cases, even denies the destructive effects on the individual, the family, and the workplace.

A family member in the business may attempt to address a family member’s addiction but may not have the power to establish meaningful consequences or require the individual to receive treatment. This scenario can negatively and persistently influence the overall culture of the company in a manner considerably worse than may be found in a publicly owned firm. In publicly owned firms, leaders are more likely to be chosen on merit than on family ties. Similarly, if poor choices and actions because of addiction harm the company’s culture, they are more likely to be removed. In some family enterprises where substance abuse is present, the entire family will collude and deny that the addiction is real, avoid talking about it, and protect abusers from consequences. This permits a culture-damaging leader to remain in a position of influence, leading to negative effects on corporate culture.

Preliminary Findings From One Consulting Practice

In an attempt to address this shortfall, one of the authors conducted a review of consulting engagements over a 17-year period from 1996 through 2012. The findings described in this article come from that study conducted by ReGENERATION Partners, a North American consulting practice focused on family enterprises. A total of 92 client families with whom the consulting firm had in-depth engagements lasting more than 6 months and included biweekly interactions were closely studied. Addiction had significantly affected 52 of these families (56%). A careful examination of the 92 cases reveals seven factors that had the greatest impact on the eventual outcome of the consulting engagement, suggesting areas for future research:

1. Family relationships, for example, a high level and/or long-term relationship conflict that greatly interferes with the consulting outcome (59 cases, 64%)

2. Emotional disorder, such as depression, bipolar, anxiety (56 cases; 61%)

3. Presence of addiction, either past or present (52 cases; 57%)

4. Financial strength, the ability to fund necessary change (37 cases; 40%)

5. Health of the key individuals, active major health worries such as cancer, transplant, or extended hospital care (24 cases; 26%)

6. Presence of alter ego, such as an individual who is not present in the family or business but attempts to direct the actions of someone within the family business system (19 cases; 21%)

7. Issues of aging, such as Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and Parkinson’s (15 cases; 16%)

It is notable that many family business consultants are retained to work with a family where conflict is present. Thus, it is no surprise that relationship conflict was prevalent in most cases, followed closely by the identified emotional disorders. The high percentage of cases with addiction issues was a surprise. It was interesting to note that addiction was a culprit in 90% of consulting engagements that did not achieve the predetermined goals as it was a root cause of poor communication and trust issues within and among family members. This finding is supported by Kaye (1996), who reports discussions with three noted family business consultants with similar preponderances of addiction in their practices. However, numerous conversations with professional family business consultants indicate that few suspect the presence of addiction is as high as this study suggests, reinforcing the need for scholarly attention on addiction.

Call for Research

Alcohol and drug abuse and dependence affect a large number of individuals across a diverse socioeconomic demographic. When addictions are present, they have a dramatic and significant impact on families and employers. When viewed in a knowledgeable light, addictions can be approached and treated like a number of other issues. However, denial and lack of knowledge make treatment difficult. These obstacles affect not only families but also professional advisors.

Addiction among family enterprises is a prevalent and important issue that deserves attention both from scholars and advisors. Among the questions that future research could address are the following:

Different forms of addiction and their relative potency and consequences

The extent of addiction prevalent in enterprising families of different generations and regions

The causes of addiction in family enterprises

Moderating and mediating effects of family enterprises on addictive behavior among family members

The effect of addiction on business performance and family functioning

The effect of addiction on consulting effectiveness/ outcomes

Available addiction treatments, their effectiveness, and their appropriateness for enterprising families


This article benefited greatly from the feedback provided by the Family Business Review editor Pramodita Sharma, associate editor Trish Reay, and assistant editor Karen Vinton.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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Dyer, W. G., Jr., & Dyer, W. J. (2009). Putting the family into family business research. Family Business Review, 22, 216-219.

James, A. E., Jennings, J. E., & Breitkreuz, R. S. (2012). Worlds apart? Rebridging the distance between family science and family business research. Family Business Review, 25, 87-108.

Kaye, K. (1996). When the family business is a sickness. Family Business Review, 9, 347-368.

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Author Biographies

James Olan Hutcheson is the founder and president of ReGENERATION Partners, a consulting group devoted exclusively to working with family firms. He is a Family Firm Institute Fellow and recipient of the Richard Beckhard Award.

Dennis Jaffe, PhD, is the founder of Dennis Jaffe Consulting and a professor at Saybrook University. He is a Family Firm Institute Fellow and recipient of the Richard Beckhard Award.

Kevin Gilliland, PsyD, is the founder and president of Innovation360®, a mental health treatment program based in Dallas, Texas.


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© The Author(s) 2013

Reprints and permissions:

DOI: 10.1177/0894486513478871


71Family Business ReviewHutcheson et al.

1ReGENERATION Partners, Dallas, TX, USA

2Dennis Jaffe Consulting, San Francisco, CA, USA

3Saybrook University, San Francisco, CA, USA

4Innovation 360®, Dallas, TX, USA

Corresponding Author:

James Olan Hutcheson, ReGENERATION Partners, 3811 Turtle

Creek Boulevard, Suite 300, Dallas, TX 75219, USA.

Email: [email protected]

Addiction in the Family Enterprise

James Olan Hutcheson1, Dennis Jaffe2,3, and Kevin Gilliland4

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