Faith Based Therapy with Kensi Duszynski
When did you last do a health check on your relationship? Are you doing everything you can to ensure it doesn't break down? How is your communication, intimacy and self-care within your marriage? Read on as I share some insights from Kensi Duszynski about how to avoid massive issues in your relationship, what to do when you do have a problem, what intimacy is and isn't, how to improve communication with your significant other, why self-care is such an important part of showing up in your marriage and other relationships, and most importantly, how to stay in faith through it all.
Kensi is a rockstar! She is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a certified professional coach and the host of The Brave Marriage Podcast. I met her recently through a full day marriage counseling event that Derick and I went to with her. I ran up to her after and told her I had to speak with her further - her intentionality with relationships and the tools she gives people to build up their relationships and prevent them from getting ugly are so impactful. The workshop was all about having courageous conversations in marriage and it was incredible, just like Kensi! It immediately changed our relationship dynamic and communication for the better and I'm so dang grateful. Kensi has a private practice in Lexington, Kentucky called Brave Marriage where she does marriage therapy, couples coaching, and workshops.
The Journey Of Finding Your Calling
As a teenager, Kensi felt called into Ministry of some sort but wasn't quite sure what that was. Through middle school and high school, she had people come to her with different issues they wanted help with and some people even told her she should be a counselor. She didn't give it much thought, but then she felt a specific calling to marriage counseling when she attended a Beth Moore conference with her mom. Something came up about Matthew 9:37 where Jesus is talking to his disciples: "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few." In that moment, for some reason, she just heard 'marriage counseling' and from that point on she pursued it. When she was sitting at that conference with her mom, the penny didn't exactly drop. It has been a massive work in progress - slowly, but surely, she has pieced all the bits together.
She began reading relationship books and then went to college and got a psychology degree and masters in marriage and family counseling. The first time she ever worked with a couple about 7 years after feeling that initial calling, she called her husband straight away and told him she just knew this was what she was made to do. She'd had this passion for a long time and she finally understood why.
I just love how this whisper in her ear was so clear. A lot of times (in the service industry especially) we don't realize what we've been called to do until later on. Some people know what they're meant to do at a young age and some don't. The important thing to remember is that we all have different paths and I have to remind my clients this all the time. Its a relentless pursuit; we must just keep going after what we can in the moment with the resources that we have and let God continue to work in and through us. You are on the right path. It might not be as clear to you as it is to others, but you're on track all the same.
It doesn't elude Kensi how special it was for her to have had this call early on. She is super grateful, but she also knows that's not everyone's story, nor does it need to be. The Lord has us in different seasons and positions to teach us what we need to learn to make us even more impactful.
Having Courageous Conversations In Marriage - How Kensi's Career Transpired
Initially, Kensi offered 1:1 therapy and then began workshops where she was getting rooms of couples together. When she was in grad school, she trained under someone who specialized in relationship enhancement - therapy education and coaching. This woman worked with underprivileged couples and families and found a way to teach relationship skills as skills - the idea that these things can be taught and you don't have to be educated or come from a good family background is super empowering. Kensi had the opportunity to use some of these skills and lead workshops at churches in different community settings and found that it was a really good way to help people.
While 1:1 allows us to work with people in a nuanced and very specific way where you can delve deep, group settings allow for feedback from other couples which enhances the learning in a lot of ways. It helps people to think about things in a way they might not have if it were just 3 people in a room.
From my own perspective, sometimes it can feel like Derick and I are the only couple in the world dealing with the issues that we are, but when you're in a room of other couples, you realize everyone deals with the same thing (or something similar) which is really comforting.
I'm a huge advocate for community in general, especially when working on vulnerability. A lot of people don't have a space to speak or the chance to hear others' perspectives. Most of what we are going through is only going on within. Kensi understood this and knew the need existed, and that's one of the reasons why she started Courageous Conversations. She also knew that a lot of people can't afford monthly or weekly counseling yet, so this was an accessible way for people to begin doing the work. And it's also a much more preventative tool - going to a workshop doesn't feel as scary as committing to therapy, so people are likely to come much earlier! It doesn't have the connotations attached to it that the words 'therapy' or 'counseling' tend to.
Courageous Conversations are 6-hour workshops where people learn skills that build on each other during the day and helps couples get the most benefit in a short amount of time. People will leave with new insights and things to implement straight away. And it's KEY to go and implement these things right away, or you'll easily end up back where you were. The only consequence of this short, sharp session is that you might need some time afterward to chill - it can be really emotionally draining, but that's how you know you're doing the work!
Kensi's Courageous Conversations Marriage Retreats are designed to help people tackle how to be brave and have more open communication in their marriage. Derick and I didn't go to the event because we needed counseling. We just wanted to be working on ourselves because our marriage is a massive priority in our lives. We've even carried on our courageous conversations...every Tuesday we sit down together to talk about the real stuff.
Kensi's philosophy for these workshops is that she would much rather couples come in at the start of their marriages to determine what they need to set themselves up well. Having a healthy relationship from the beginning can change the trajectory of where you're headed for the better, and you might not have even known that you needed it.
I loved seeing Kensi get emotional at the end of the workshop we attended - she got to see God work so fast within all these people, and to her, that was so special. I felt like Jesus was telling her in that moment "well done good and faithful servant, this was a good day of work for you". This work is so meaningful; the difference she can make in such a short amount of time is incredible, but she knows she can't take full credit.
She really cherishes what a gift it was seeing the transformation in her parents' marriage through their 10 years of marriage counseling when she was young. Being on the other end of therapy as a couple leaves a legacy - it can really shift things for all the people whose lives cross with yours. If you're the one doing the work, it's not only you benefiting and that is the most beautiful thing.
Intimacy - What It Really Is And How To Cultivate More Of It
At its core, intimacy is a mutual exchange of being fully known and fully loved - we can't be fully loved if we're not fully known. That's why I try to cultivate vulnerability in the Chasing Freedom Community; for people to be fully known in ways that are often uncomfortable but have great reward. In marriage, being vulnerable and being known allows your spouse to fully love you, have compassion and show you unconditional love.
Sexual intimacy and emotional intimacy are different, but within a marriage, they do go hand in hand - we are never going to have a more intimate relationship than we do in marriage. This is why I love talking about marriage and it's why Kensi loves working with these relationships. However, sometimes we think that marriage automatically earns intimacy but that's not necessarily true. You can have an intimate relationship and not be married and you can be married and not have an intimate relationship.
There are ways that Derick doesn't get super vulnerable very easily and that's why Courageous Conversations really helped me. I now know how to structure conversations so that he has space to be vulnerable. It highlighted to me that sometimes I spoke over him, or I was wanting something from him that was more than he was ready to give. Knowledge is power, ya'll!
Kensi's advice for anyone who has a partner who is more closed off than they are or they themselves don't know how to open up is to first develop awareness. Realize that perhaps you're not creating space for your spouse to express their feelings or thoughts. Create space for them. This can look like asking intentional questions such as "what was good about your day?" or "what did you struggle with today?". Simple little things where your spouse can answer something specific that indirectly gives you an insight into how they're feeling without them actually divulging their feelings outright.
I used to ask Derick "how was your day?" and I wouldn't get the response I was hoping for because it wasn't a very direct question. Now, at the end of each day, we share our biggest wins and struggles with each other. I've learned so much about him and what's going on in his life recently! I've learned that marriage may not always be easy, but that doesn't mean it won't always be fruitful.
Women are way more conditioned to be in touch with and share their feelings in general, so a lot of times when we come to marriage, that's the first time men have ever had a safe space where someone really wants them to open up and know what they're thinking and feeling. The more that they have this experience; the more he's being asked questions and he feels safe to share; the more it will reinforce the feeling of intimacy.
For the couple who isn't getting along, Kensi suggests trying to look for ongoing patterns or perpetual problems. Then start with the easy things you can do from home: read blogs and listen to podcasts that help you work on the communication piece, AND call a marriage counselor and schedule 1 or 2 sessions to step outside and see your dynamic from a different perspective.
A marriage researcher, John Gottman, found that on average, couples wait 6 years too long to come to marriage counseling. If we think about this in health terms, here's what it could look like...if you start having chest pains and you don't go to a doctor because you just pass it off as anxiety and you push through and ignore it, there's a risk that if you misdiagnose yourself, then you could have a heart attack. So when most people have the chest pains, they go to the doctor to avoid this because the risk is so high. But when people have relationship pains that aren't visible, external pains, they think it'll be okay, that it'll go away, that its normal, and usually they don't seek help until after they've had a marital heart attack. Then there's a lot of recovery and repair time before they can even start to rebuild. So, if things aren't currently going so well, why not go and get a quick tune up, rather than risking the damage that could be done!?
Self-care And Why It's Crucial For Loving Others
The term 'self-care' has been getting thrown carelessly, all over the place recently. Put simply, self-care is about making sure that you are your best for others. Especially in Christian culture, we're conditioned to just give and give and love and only think about the fact that if we're loving others, we're loving God. But a lot of times what gets missed is the 'self' part. You can't genuinely love others the best you can if you're not at your best. At some point you'll end up giving from an empty tank and that's not going to be good for you or the people you're trying to help. Self-care doesn't have to be selfish and narcissistic. It's whatever you need emotionally, physically or spiritually. And it's not just about self reliance. It's also putting yourself in good community and letting other people care for you.
Self awareness is a big part of self-care too - we first need to notice that we need to give ourselves some attention. I have clients who tell me they feel guilty for spending their time going to the gym for themselves, but they have no problem constantly filling up their schedule with other people's things. To truly understand the character of God, all we have to do is look at scripture; Jesus went off many times by himself to make sure he was filled up in preparation to serve more people. Let us not rest when we're exhausted, let's rest in order to run well. This perspective changed recently for me. I'm such a go getter who wants to do all the things, but I've had to accept that I can't do all the things, and in fact, in order to do what I am called for and to do it well, I need to make sure I am prepared well in all the ways.
Expressing our desires is a level we don't get to often. Think about how often you tell the people you love exactly what you desire or need. And then think about how many times you have voiced that and how you felt afterward - was their guilt attached? There often is from my end. Who are we to tell others what we need when we are meant to serve others? But just as we are to help others, they are to help us - how are we meant to know what each other needs if no one is voicing it?
Finding A Neutral Heart Posture
When we hear the first inkling of a lie from that critical voice in our heads, we don't have to completely replace that thought with the direct opposite. Sometimes we just need to find a neutral thought/heart posture - we can't just slap scripture over a lie and expect it to be fixed. Ask yourself where the lie came from and ask why you're no okay with the thought that came to your mind - why did you just think that? Change happens in the pause. When you can pause and ask yourself 'why', you allow yourself to pivot. Sometimes we just need to tell ourselves "I am improving" rather than "I have overcome".
If you see your body and you think to yourself how much you don't like it, instead of telling yourself that you have the best body ever, just tell yourself "I have a body". Plain and simple. And then be grateful for the fact that you do have a body and get to live and move in this world.
You can connect with Kensi on Instagram @kensiduszynski or check out her website bravemarriage.com and take her free quiz to shed light on where you're at in your relationship right now bravemarriage.com/quiz.
P.S. On Friday 13 December, the Freedom Method Mentorship is officially open to the public. It's the only way to work with me in 2020 for health coaching. Join me on a 6 month (starting 6 Jan 2020) walk of faith, where you will experience massive transformation and find true freedom in your body and mind - register here.
If you liked this post, check out episode 77 of my podcast - The Chasing Freedom Show. You can find it on Spotify, iTunes, or SoundCloud. If you love the episode, screenshot and share it with me on social media @trainertanner #chasingfreedom.