Diving Into Our New Blog Series – Coping in Crisis

Diving Into Our New Blog Series – Coping in Crisis

I’m thinking about you all as we are going through this environmental crisis that is hitting close to home for all of us.

Some families and couples that I’ve checked in on are rallying together against this common enemy and are feeling stronger in their relational dynamics than usual. This is wonderful news! Other families/couples are struggling more than usual because this crisis is surfacing any crack in their relational foundation and it’s hard for them to get through the day without their negative cycle getting triggered. My heart especially goes out to these families who are feeling that heaviness, and I’ve wanted to put together a series of blogs that gives some coping tools to get through this crisis together as a family.

Blogs 1-3 start with three very different but common strategies many of us utilize for coping: Secure, Anxious and Withdrawn. Obviously we can fluctuate between them at different points, but we often land on one or two that are most comfortable for us in times of uncertainty.

In blog 4 we dive into recognizing our own personal and unique family strategies – this will help give an idea of how your family would like to receive love based on their coping strategy, and what comforts them best during this time of stress (and how you best receive it!)

For our final blogs we get to talking about the virus specifically. I’ll go through questions we should be asking as a family and ways to prepare, ways to utilize play therapy techniques with your child to check in on how they are doing, and finally talking about how the elements of “challenge” and “trauma” play into this difficult time.

My hope in this blog series is yes, to help everyone learn coping techniques, but to also bring light and recognition, perhaps a few “aha!” moments, and awareness of how to better get through this individually and together!










image above from cyber playground blog
Breathing Well: What Most People Are Doing Wrong

Breathing Well: What Most People Are Doing Wrong

Breathing is one of the most natural and healthful functions of the body.

The inhalation of oxygen creates the beginning of an exchange as the gas moves into the millions of alveoli in the lungs, then on to the blood in the surrounding capillaries where it moves carbon dioxide from the blood to the alveoli. Breathing is, in most case, automatic.
The brain and small sensory organs signal when oxygen levels are too low or carbon dioxide levels are too high. In response to this signal, the brain increases the speed and depth of breathing. Deep breathing exercises have been used for years as a way of relaxing the body. Anyone who has ever noticed how an infant’s abdomen rises and falls with each breath has experienced the art of proper deep breathing.

Most adults today tend to fill only the upper chest when they breathe and thus miss how the increased oxygen intake relieves tension and improves metal alertness. By employing some of the more popular deep breathing exercises listed below you can strengthen the lungs, relieve bronchitis, improve circulation, oxygenate the blood and minimize the reoccurrence of respiratory ailments.

One of the fastest and most effective stress-relievers is the “4-7-8 breath”
1. Place the tip of your tongue against the bony ridge by your upper front
2. Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts

3. Hold your breath for 7 counts

4. Exhale through your mouth (making a whooshing sound) for 8 counts

Repeat this cycle 4 times, twice a day

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from Pexels
San Diego Therapy Resources

San Diego Therapy Resources

Families in the area are Navigating Emotional Health so beautifully through the use of San Diego Therapy!

Having practiced as a Marriage and Family Therapist and a part of San Diego Therapy for over ten years, I can see the culture changing when it comes to family life and approaching therapy.

I’m so proud of this city and the emotional health that I see around me.

I’m so impressed with the families in this city and how intentional people are in growing emotionally intelligent children.

The kinds of intake calls that I have received over these past ten years of providing San Diego Therapy has changed dramatically, indicating the shift in how people are approaching emotional health. At first the calls I’d receive were mostly parents calling to request treatment for their children. The ‘can you fix my child’ philosophy, and I would need to spend a lot of time on the phone explaining that I didn’t work with children alone, that I would need to meet with parents first. That parents should want to know who their child was meeting with, and should request updates to their child’s treatment. That parents should interview the therapist first and make sure they felt comfortable about who’s hands they were entrusting their children to.
About five years ago, the requests began to change. Instead parents were calling in asking for family treatment. “Can you help us as a family?”, with parents more than willing to be involved in treatment, and understanding they should attend the first session on their own. When I explained that I always assess a child in the context of their family system, this started to make more sense to parents too, and they easily engaged in the systemic treatment process.
Most recently I’m seeing parents be more proactive in getting help. As many parents consider getting a divorce, they are coming in to consult with me so that they can best prepare their children for the news. Some even come in to get information about how to tell their children, and how it might affect their children, before they make the final decision about their marriage (click here to see related blog articles and Youtube interviews about this issue!) And so this gives me so much hope for the world that we live in. I think that healthy societies are made up of healthy families. San Diego can be a tough city to live in relationally, as far as the culture goes and often times the lack of extended family support. But I, as a family therapist, love being here to help support your families. And I think, San Diego, you’re progressing just beautifully!
It seems that raising children with emotional intelligence has really become a goal for parents, and this is likely because the public is more educated about emotional health. I think that books like ‘Raising Emotionally Intelligent Children’, ‘Parenting from the Inside Out’ and Siegel’s newer book ‘Mind Sight’ have been so helpful in educating the public and giving them practical skills.

I wonder if having a city full of MFT’s has also made a difference. It’s said that you can’t throw a stone in San Diego without hitting a therapist. Perhaps with so many people in therapy crushing the stigma of seeking help, and having so many MFT’s who are passionate about family health, has made a difference in spreading the word about the resources that are available.

I am grateful to my colleagues for the amazing work that they do with families and children. I am blessed by these fellow therapists in the San Diego area for their continued support and inspiration – and love sending recommendations their way!  Lori Underwood Therapy is one of my all time favorite referrals, as she does such effective work in her clinical practice. Mary Cipriani-Price at San Diego Institute for Couples is one of the pillars in the therapeutic community. Mary trained most of us therapists, and has been instrumental in raising up therapists for many years. I also think of amazing powerhouse Jennine Estes and her group of therapists and Associates at Estes Therapy. They are quick to respond and are all so well trained, and have inspired me in the importance of spreading the word about therapy (check out their amazing marketing!) And of course, Jussi Light at New Growth Counseling in Carlsbad is always my top referral source for North Country families! He has so much experience working with families and teens and a skillful & sharp clinician who is not only well-known, but well-liked!

Bethany Noble Lindsay and her partners at Cultivate are serving the community in such a wonderful way. I especially love hearing about her amazing work with teens & young adults in the area! Rebecca Bass-Ching at Potentia Family Therapy , focuses on such important work at providing help to those who struggle with food & body issues. Her message of being all in it together, and the importance of saying goodbye to shame in your life has truly shaped the area for the better. Jennifer Chappell March of Chappell Therapy is a friend & colleague in the EFT field, and runs an effective practice focusing on couples and relationships. She truly excels at providing specialized couples treatment! And Elaine Martens Hamilton at Soul Care House runs the most wonderfully warm practice, with well-trained clinicians that offer help in a wide range of issues. Not only is she an incredible therapist – but an author and offers a podcast as well!

All in all, San Diego Therapy & Families, you are well on your way in being an emotionally healthy city… and you have the most wonderful resources to support you in this endeavor!

Helping Our Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality By Understanding Our Own

Helping Our Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality By Understanding Our Own

Part of helping our kids develop healthy sexuality is looking at what we as parents are bringing to the table.

For a lot of us, the thought of talking to our kids about developing a healthy sexuality is hugely anxiety producing. Now part of that may be that it’s just new; anything thats new and never experienced before is going to inherently make us a little nervous because we can’t fully predict what’s going to happen – that’s totally normal! Also normal is that this feeling might come from a sense that we’re not equipped to have the conversation. For a lot of us, we might no have had the best examples to follow. For most of us I would imagine, our parents or caregivers or community didn’t do an adequate job talking with us about sex.

For me, this looked like my mom sitting me down over a bowl of ice cream, I had to have been 8 or so, and reading Dr. Spock’s “Where did I come from?”. It’s a picture book with funny illustrations that says an orgasm feels like “a sneeze, but much better”. I distinctly remember laughing out loud when she told me a man’s penis goes inside a woman’s vagina. I’m pretty sure I thought the whole thing was really funny at the time. As I got older though and had a lot of questions starting to build up about sex, but I never quite felt it was okay to bring up again. From my perspective, my mom sat me down very formally and basically said here’s this big secret that adults know and kids don’t and then never brought it up again. It felt very similar to when she told me that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy weren’t real. Both those secrets though had few lasting consequences in comparison to the complexity of sex. This feeling of secrecy made it difficult for me to know it was okay to ask questions when I started to have experiences around sex, like when I stumbled upon pornography watching tv late one night after my parents went to sleep, or when I hugged a boy in 8th grade and felt that he had an erection.

This feeling of not being able to ask questions forced me to get my sexual education elsewhere and what I was hearing really scared me. Though I was not raised a Christian, from an early age I actually chose decided not to have sex until marriage because I was afraid of it, though I still had some. And because I didn’t have a healthy view of myself sexually I ended up having some very damaging experiences in late high school and early college. Then I became a Christian and heard the whole “no sex before marriage” business and I REALLY became scared. I never developed an understanding of sex as being a good thing.

Needless to say when I got married, my husband and I have had to work on a few things after we got married. But the important thing is we have. Over the past six and a half years Dave and I have spent many hours in long conversations and in individual and couples counseling tending to the unhealthy patterns that developed in our sexual lives, among other things. And because of this I can stand here and confidently say that sex is a beautiful, sacred part of my life where I find joy and intimacy. And it is also something I will be journeying through for the rest of my life.

Now imagine for a minute if I hadn’t invested all of that energy coming to a more healthy place sexually, what kind of message do you think I would have offered my kids about their sexuality? If I allowed the fear of sex to be my only understanding of it? What I know is that fear breeds fear. Our kids look to us as a guide for what is safe and healthy and good and if sex is not one of those things for you right now, despite how much you might want something different for your kids, it might be difficult for them to get that message.

Your story may not look like mine. There may have been shame, abuse, confusion, anxiety, addiction or there may have been confidence and support and wholeness and self love. But whatever it was and is for you right now, we have to understand that it is going to affect the way we present sexuality to our kids. So my hope for you is that not only do you desire to look at your own sexuality for the sake of your children, but that you might be encouraged to understand yourself in this area for your own emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Some helpful questions to consider (some adapted from Parenting from the Inside Out):

  1. What did your parents, family, and community teach you about sex?

  2. What examples did you witness of sexuality?

  3. How did that information shape your view of your own sexuality?

  4. How have your childhood experiences around sexuality influenced your relationships as an adult?

  5. Are there elements of your sexual past that are particularly difficult to think about?

  6. What would you like to heal or change about the way you understand your own sexuality?

Best wishes in this important season for you and your family. We’re here to journey with you through it,

Mariah McQueen

Is _ Okay?

Is _ Okay?

I get asked this question in its various forms, especially in Christian circles, all the time.

Is maturbation, same-sex marriage, sex before marriage, pornography, etc. okay? All these difficult sex conversations can be difficult to answer as a family. Please let me preface this conversation by saying that I am not going to give you an answer at the end of this post. My hope however is to give you a little bit of a road map on how to come to a more comfortable and confident stance by giving you some questions to ask yourself (and your partner). See, when it comes to uncomfortable conversations, often times our first response is to look for a quick yes or no answer – is it okay or not? But in reality, this does little for us in the long term because it doesn’t answer the “why?” part of these conversations, which in my experience, is essential to finding lasting wholeness and creating positive habits. If you take the time to answer “why?” for yourself and your family, regardless of someone else’s opinion, you can stand firmly on yours.

So, how do we get there? First, know that it will hopefully be through a series of conversations, rather than happen overnight. On a couple of these issues, my husband I have spent months talking through their many layers. In some instances, we sought out the counsel of trusted others whose wisdom and guidance helped us find confidence in our positions. The process can be slow, which requires patience and diligence, but the payoff is absolutely worth it. You will find yourself confidently owning your convictions, knowing you put in the work to get there, which makes having conversations with your kids around these topics way less anxiety producing!

Here are some helpful questions to consider as you discuss these (and other) nuanced issues related to sex:

  1. What is your belief in the purpose of sex?

  2. What is your personal experience with _________? Is there any healing that needs to happen around that area?

  3. If you are coming from a faith background, what evidence do you see regarding God’s posture towards it?

  4. Does this action (or acceptance of an action) help you love yourself and others more freely, and does it allow you to love God more deeply and with more of yourself? (Question from Tara Owens of http://www.anamcara.com/)

  5. If it is an action, is this part of our life known? Do we have a support system outside of our family to seek guidance if issues do arise?

I want to acknowledge that these issues are nuanced and complicated in nature, making firm answers hard to find. My hope for you is that this would not bread anxiety but that you would have peace knowing you have done hard work on your journey of seeking truth.

Blessings to you!


Intensive Couples Therapy Retreats

Intensive Couples Therapy Retreats

Couples benefit so much from our Intensive Couples Therapy Retreats as it means getting an expert couples therapist to themselves for an extended period of time.

Give your relationship the gift of being assessed, and get a treatment plan that is tailored just for the two of you.

Couples therapy takes time, and getting to a couples therapist once a week for an hour, can take a lot of effort. Dealing with scheduling, getting through the traffic, running into session out of breath, can also contribute to the stress that created the couple’s problems to begin with.

If this is the case for you, consider going to an Intensive Couples Retreat in San Diego. Because here, you get to create a schedule for your retreat. So you get to come in on a weekend, or a day of the week that you pick, and put aside 4 – 6 hours per day to work on your relationship.

You will be hosted in a beautiful office space, where you have a room to yourselves during your breaks, make yourselves at comfortable on the couch in our kitchen area, bring food to put in the fridge, heat up your lunch, or enjoy the balcony and get some sunshine and fresh air.

You might wonder if you are the right couple for this experience?

We always do an assessment over the phone first, taking some time to talk with both of you, to understand what your goals are, to get an idea of your dynamic, before setting up the intensive.

Call me now to get started with setting up the intensive:

Step 1: Call me to set up the intake Assessment phone call

This starts on the phone with a 15 min conversation with each of you, we discuss your goals, your history, any injuries that have come from the relational history.


Step 2: Let’s book a time for your Intensive Couples Retreat

We will find dates that work for the three of us, and I will put that time aside. I will only charge you for the time that we spend doing therapy, and we will work on giving you needed breaks between appointments. Some couples go on a lunch break, others bring in lunch and enjoy the balcony, others go back to their hotel for a nap.

Step 3: Taking part in the Intensive

First 2 hrs in Session:

We will start together as a couple, and I will want to get to know your relationship. Where do you connect, how do each of you define closeness, when have things gone well or gone poorly.

I will then meet with each of you individually, to assess some more specific parts of your relationship: how do you each think and feel when you are feeling attacked in the relationship. What do you like about the relationship and what is not working for you. What would you change about your spouse if you could? At the end of this assessment time, you will get feedback, and we will lay out your treatment plan. Together we will decide how much of this treatment we want to get through during your time in San Diego.

Follow up:

This can happen with a therapist of your choice back in your home city. I will sign a Release of Information and share what we have done with your home therapist. Sometimes I support you as a couple with a follow up Intensive, or a follow up Online Call (using Skype or Zoom).


Let me know if you are interested in doing an Intensive with me, and we will create the schedule together!