WHAT is this Chatbot Stuff and WHY Should I Use It?

If you’ve been creeping on my Facebook page, you’ve probably seen me mention “Hope”, my new chatbot assistant a few times. You may be thinking “So?” or “I don’t know what this is so I’m ignoring it”. Don’t run away yet! I’m going to give you a quick crash course on what chatbots are and how they can help you get information quickly and easily:

What is a “Chatbot”?

Basically, it’s a little computer robot that can understand your questions, provide answers, and complete tasks for you. Kind of like your own mini-servant, always ready to assist you. It’s pretty similar to Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s iHome, and Google Home. A Facebook Messenger bot lives in and interacts with you through Facebook Messenger, no separate app to download and take up space and data on your phone.

Why interact with a chatbot when I can just do a Google search for information?

Well, you certainly could just do a Google search, however you would have to search for the business, hope they have something set up in Google to show you all the info first thing, if not, scroll until you find the website, click on the website, find the business hours and services, …………. or you can click on the business’ Facebook page, hit “Send Message” and actually have a conversation that provides you with all of that info and more! Let’s say you wanted some information about Road to Hope Counseling’s’ services (shameless self promotion) but didn’t really want to write a comment on the page due to confidentiality. You would click the blue “Send Message” button, Facebook Messenger would open, and “Hope” would greet you and give you buttons to tap to explore your options. You don’t even have to talk to a real person! (Unless, you want to, then you would type “Talk to Human” and you would actually talk to me.)

When Can I Start a Conversation With a Chatbot?

Anytime! Chatbots are ready and waiting to assist 24 hours a day. It doesn’t matter if it’s 7:00pm at night or 3:00 in the morning. Did I mention it’s free? There is no cost to start a conversation with a chatbot. Businesses may send you promotions or sale alerts through your conversation, but Facebook has put pretty harsh restrictions on how many times a business can send a “promotion” as a message. It’s really more about starting conversations and giving everyone resources and content that will actually help them rather than just spamming them with sales and discounts on product.

OK, Fine. I’ll Try It. How Do I Get to it Again?

There are a few different ways…

  •  Go to Road to Hope Counseling on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/roadtohopecounseling,Click on the blue “Send Message” button, start your conversation! (Hope will guide you through)
  • Click “Send to Messenger” in the purple pop up that slides in from the right side of my website.
  • Click  Open Messenger Now!

I hope you are more comfortable with Chatbots now! Have fun!

5 Tips for Mindful Online Dating

On a scale of 1-10, how sick are you of the current dating scene? Most of you will probably say 11. Talking heads on television rant about how our addiction to our phones and tablets are ruining society and while I won’t go that far, I do believe that they are having a negative effect on relationships.  We have allowed social media to infiltrate our lives and we can’t get enough. Dating apps, in particular, play on the popularity of the “hookup culture” as well as reducing human beings to statistics. How many times have you or your single friends deleted their dating apps in frustration only to download them again later? The companies behind these apps know how to hook you and keep you in the game. How can you stay “in the moment”  as you navigate this maze?


1. Instagram stretches the truth. If you scroll through long enough, your idea of what real men and women are supposed to look like will (subconciously) change. Of course, you KNOW these “instagram influencers” are using lighting and editing effects, but the brain starts to see them as normal the more it is presented with the images over and over. Keep that in mind when you meet someone on the first date. Are you comparing their hair, nose, arms to an ideal image that isn’t even real?

2. Use your five senses. If you are on a first (or second, or third) date with a person and you find your mind wandering, bring it back by engaging your five senses. Recognize the feel of something you are touching, the smell of the restaurant, the sound of your date’s voice, the taste of your food/drink, and maybe actually looking at the color of your date’s eyes. Yes, your mind might be wandering because the person across the table is painfully boring, but they are still a person who has made time in their life to be here, just like you. They deserve your full attention, rather than half of it because you are wondering if that other guy/girl has messaged you back yet…

3. NO CELL PHONES DURING A DATE. Keep it in your purse or pocket. No putting it on the table. The temptation to check is too much. Put it on silent and leave it alone. “But, what if there is an emergency?” True emergency situations (threat of loss of life or loss of life) are rare. Your friend texting you a meme is not an emergency. An Amazon notification that your package has shipped is not an emergency. A new Snapchat story about what your friends are doing tonight is not an emergency. Your kid calling because he/she can’t find their shoe is not an emergency. If you see that your date has their phone out, say something like “ Do you think that we can spend this time together without our cell phones?” If they refuse, finish the date but don’t agree to a second. Obviously, engaging with and learning about you is not that high on his or her priority list.

4. Stay away from hookup sites (unless that’s what you want). I’m not going to say that dating just to have sex is wrong. If you really feel you can have sex with someone with absolutely no emotional attachment, be safe and go for it. But, don’t go on a site notorious for hookups and think you are going to find a quality, committed relationship. Take a second and think about what you are looking for and what you are not looking for and spell that out in your profile. You may not get as many hits than if you said “just looking for fun” but you will weed out the men/women who are just looking for something physical.

5. It’s ok to hate dating. Just know that you can’t change it with frustration. It takes around 10 years for a societal shift to happen, you throwing your phone across the couch and swearing off relationships isn’t going to change that. The only thing you can do is be mindful about how you want to be treated and how you treat other people.

FIne! We’re Going to McDonalds! How to Compromise on Dinner Tonight



Usually the text conversation goes something like this: I don’t feel like cooking tonight. Ok, what do you want to do? I don’t know. Where do you want to go? I don’t know, where do you want to go. Bob Evans? I thought you said you didn’t like that place? What? When did I say that? I never said that. Yes, you did. When we were at Erin’s house last month we were talking about pancakes and you said you didn’t like Bob Evans pancakes. How did you even remember that?

AND it goes from there until everyone is irritated and someone just decides to go through McDonalds. A evening that could have been relaxing and a prime time to connect with your partner just ended with lukewarm french fries. Learning a format to compromise might help some of these plans turn out the way you envisioned them. I like to work this out on paper when I’m working with clients in my office, but you can probably do it in your head.

  1. Figure out what each of you won’t budge on. (Honestly, if you are already in the car, just pull over somewhere to work this out). If you hate Chinese food and your partner hates Indian food, mark those off the mental list.
  2. Hopefully, you have narrowed things down a little now. Suggest a restaurant and say something like “Do you think there is anything you might ENJOY there?” Asking someone if they WANT something can be too much pressure. “Enjoy” sounds like a softer word. If your partner says “No” move on to another suggestion. If your partner says “Yes”, then go there. Please DO NOT say, “Ok, but I don’t want to hear you bitching when there isn’t anything there that you like.” You are asking for a fight at that point. Just let your partner order what they want, even if it is 3 side dishes rather than a full meal. My sister used to order mashed potatoes and key lime pie and was perfectly happy.

Sleep Deprivation and Relationships

I know a lot of you out there have infants and toddlers, so I’m sure the topic of sleep deprivation is not a new one for you. Those of you who have a partner that snores or tosses and turns can also attest to not getting enough sleep. Here are a few ways that lack of sleep can effect you and your relationship.


When someone is deprived of sleep, it is harder for the brain to process daily activities and stimuli. This makes it easier for us to become overwhelmed. When we are easily overwhelmed, this spells trouble for our relationship.

We tend to hurt the ones we are closer to more than others and when we are overwhelmed it gets easier to complain or to say something hurtful. When we are tired, we don’t read other’s facial expressions as well and may not pick up clues that our partner is happy,sad,angry,etc… This can lead to a higher chance of misunderstanding and possible conflict.


  • Keep children and pets out of your bed (I know, this is a hard one)
  • Limit screen time ( put down phones and turn off television 20 minutes before going to sleep. If you need the sound, white noise machines are an inexpensive option)
  • Attempt to come to a compromise or schedule about taking turns getting up with infants during the night
  • It is completely ok to sleep (or have your partner sleep) in a separate room or on the couch if snoring and tossing/turning is bothersome. This does not mean your relationship is in trouble! Have a honest conversation with your partner, make time for cuddling and affection early in the bedtime process, then move into the other room. Your relationship will run much more smooth if you both get your sleep!

Is Your Smartphone Damaging Your Relationship?


Smartphones, tablets, and watches keep us more connected to the world now that ever before, but are all these gadgets keeping you less connected with your partner? More and more couples come in to my office with concerns about a partner’

s social media use. It’s not necessarily all about that person being unfaithful, but about more quality time being spent with the phone and not the loved one.

Have you tried to have a conversation at dinner with your partner about your son’s report card while they have one eye on their Facebook feed? Or asked your partner to do something for you at the same time a new Snap chat comes up? Which is paid attention to first?

It’s pretty easy to see, that in these moments, the phone or tablet is more important than you are. This isn’t a big deal every once in a while, but if it happens consistently over time, resentful feelings and doubts start to come up and communication between partners becomes less and less.

It is important not to jump right to “No One Can Have Their Cell Phones Anymore!” Sit down with your partner (this part can be sans cellphone) and talk with them about how their social media use is affecting you. Make sure to examine your own electronic use and take responsibility for times that you may have been guilty of ignoring your partner. Decide together when and where electronics use is appropriate and not appropriate. Try and set aside some time, maybe starting with once a week, to do something together with cellphones, tablets, and watches turned off. This can be as simple as sitting on the back porch together with some wine or coffee or cooking a meal together. It’s all an effort to stay face to face, fully present, and connected with your relationship.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Managing In-Laws During the Holidays


If you have been with your partner for a period of time, meeting the in laws is a right of passage and an important one, at that! If this year is your first time going to your partner’s parents for a holiday meal or you’ve had a not so great time in years before, it is normal to be nervous. Each family has their own traditions and guidelines of doing things and it can be tricky to navigate what is appropriate or not with each household. Tensions may arise and it is important to handle yourself well. This post will discuss three common scenarios and some ideas on how to get through gracefully.

Your partner grew up in a difficult family
It might be stressful and uncomfortable to go to your partner’s family’s home if it will be a negative situation. It is important to talk together before you go (not in the car on the way there!) about things you are not comfortable being around. If a cousin usually drinks too much and becomes rude or violent, it is probably a good plan to leave before that happens. It is important for you to try and be open and willing to learn about family members. Overlook rude comments and ask questions about other’s lives, try to draw them out so that they start to feel comfortable with you. Kindness and patience are the keys in this situation.

Your partner refuses to engage with your family
When your partner doesn’t like your family, it can make a stress filled situation even more challenging. After weeks of pleading and convincing, your partner has agreed to go to your parent’s house, but then acts cold, whiny, and sarcastic to family members. Grin and bear it if you are already there and try to make a early exit. If you are still in the planning stages, talk with your partner about the situation. Something along the lines of “Dinner at my parents is next Thursday, I know you aren’t comfortable around them. So, I’m giving you the option to not go. I will miss you while I’m there, but I will understand” should do the trick. Go to the dinner by yourself, relax, and don’t worry about your partner not being there. Enjoy your time with your family.

Your partner’s parents don’t like you
This situation can hurt a lot. It’s important for you to remember that they do not HAVE to like you. Certainly, it would be so much better if they did, but you can’t please everyone. It’s not fair to yourself to act like someone different just to live up to someone else’s expectations of you. Again, it is important to communicate with your spouse about your painful feelings and your perception of the situation. There may be nothing either of you can do or say to make the situation better.
Here is the hard part. Leave yourself and your life open for your in laws to learn more about you. If they reach out and would like to spend time with you, try it. You can always leave if things get too uncomfortable. If they continue to be distant, accept this. Grieve the relationship and focus on your family.

I hope these tips help you in the upcoming weeks. Happy Holidays!

2 Ways to Connect With Your Partner

What can you do right now to become closer to your partner? 

You could buy her some jewelry or you could buy him a new smartphone. Both of those things would remind them of how much you love them, right? Probably not. How many times have you used “stuff” to attempt to make the relationship better? It might seem like it works, but usually the next day or the next week, it’s back to the same “I feel like we are roommates” situation.
Instead of looking to your credit card, look at how much you are showing fondness and admiration. Think about how much you pay attention to aspects of your partner’s life that don’t involve you.

1. Bids for Connection
When your spouse asks you “How was your day?” the standard response is “Fine”. By asking you, your spouse just made a “bid” to connect with you. If you shrug and walk away, you have rejected that bid. That seemingly insignificant rejection causes more distance between the two of you. Instead, put down your phone and say “let’s sit down for a minute and I’ll tell you about it.” It might seem inconvenient at first, but you have no idea how much that few minutes of connection might mean to your spouse.

2. Understand Each Other’s World
Couples who have been together for awhile tend to assume that their partner feels heard and known. You don’t have to be a mind reader to understand your partner, but you do have to put in the work to help your partner feel they can trust you and open up. The key to understanding each other is to ask questions, listen and respect the  answers (even if you don’t like it!), and ask more questions about the topic to make sure you understand. Watch out for your own defensiveness during these conversations. If your partner trusts you enough to tell you the truth about what is bothering them, it is up to you to continue to provide a safe space for sharing.

3 Tips to Make Compromise Easier

Compromise with your partner can be tough. Some issues are easier than others, but even small things that seem trivial can blow up if not discussed with respect and a open mind and heart. Here are 3 tips to help next time you and your partner go toe to toe.

1. Do Your Best to Know Your Partner
You might be thinking, ” of course I know my partner, we’ve been together for years!” But, do you really? Are there things that you once knew about your partner that may no longer be true? People change over the years, including their hopes and dreams. Before you get to a issue that needs compromise, it is important to lay the groundwork. If you know your partner’s inner world (their desires, dream, fears, dislikes), it can help you better understand where they are coming from during a disagreement.

2. Be Prepared To Be a Little Disappointed

Being upset about the way a compromise worked out is completely fine. However, it is not fine to allow that disappointment to color the rest of your relationship. No snide remarks or pouting. No ” well, you had your way last time, so now it’s my turn!” Your relationship is not a competition! There is no winner and loser, you are both on the same side. When in a discussion, think about ” What part of my partner’s request am I comfortable agreeing to?” You don’t have to agree with everything and you don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept and respect your partner’s point of view.

3. Focus on your goals

So many times in a compromise situation, we get bogged down in the details and the emotion of the other person’s request. We get defensive, anticipating a threat or how this request will inconvenience OUR lives in some way. Try to identify your shared dream or goal in the interaction. Does the fact that your partner wants you to work less hours because they are “selfish” or is it because they are lonely and want to spend more time with you? Is this something that is important to you, also? It is important to trust each other enough to get down to the dream or the need that may be buried somewhere deep.

Positives and Negatives in Relationships


Anyone who has been in a relationship for a period of time can tell you that there are ups and downs. Sometimes you drift apart and then drift closer. In relationships where one or both partners are unhappy, there is a tendency to focus on the negative and not the positive. There is also a tendency to see negative qualities as huge issues that are detrimental to the relationship and to minimize positive words or behaviors. Partners may think ” he’s just saying that because he knows he should” or ” she gave me a kiss but I know she didn’t really mean it.” To change your attitude regarding your partner, you must change your way of thinking. That process starts with yourself.

Here is a simple way to help your brain start to think in a more positive direction. Every time you see a negative quality in your partner, try and see that same negative quality in yourself. If you feel your partner whines about their job too much, think about how much you whine and complain about your job, your sister, your lack of sleep, etc. On the flip side, every time you see something positive in your partner, think about things that you have said or done that represent that same quality. When you see your partner pick something up that someone else has dropped in the grocery store, think about the last time that you helped out someone else. The more you look for and are present in the positive, the more positive you will see, and the better you will feel (about yourself and in your relationship.)

5 Reasons Pre-Marriage Counseling is a Good Idea


Just the word “marriage counseling” make some people feel queasy (especially men). Why go to counseling when we aren’t even married yet? Here are 5 reasons why you and your partner might want to consider at least a few sessions:

1. Learn new ways to show fondness and admiration
As we proceed in relationships, sometimes we forget to show our partner how much we admire them. We forget to tell them or show them how much we like them as a person. Women, especially, need verbal validation of love and admiration. Counseling can help uncover new, fun ways to show how much you mean to each other that go beyond the standard ” I love you, I love you too”.

2. Get the “little irritations” worked out
There is not a couple, married or unmarried, that doesn’t deal with something their partner does that irritates them. Dirty sock balls left on the floor? Discarding dirty clothes right BESIDE the hamper? Leaving hair in the bathroom sink/shower drain? Little annoyances that are not worked out or compromised can build into bigger feelings of resentment and disrespect. No one wants to start a marriage with any more baggage than necessary.

3. Understand and manage conflict
According to multiple, long term studies completed by the Gottman Institute, 76% of issues in a relationship are perpetual. This means that 76% of the conflict you have with your spouse will NEVER be resolved. Wonderful, huh? So, if we know that a good chunk of relationship issues aren’t going anywhere, it’s probably a good idea to be able to fight with each other in a positive way. Because you will fight. Counseling can help take it from a “fight” to a “disagreement” and hopefully a “compromise”.

4. Uncover your partner’s life dreams and aspirations
You may think you know everything about your partner. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be planning a wedding, amIright?! You would be surprised how many married couples I have worked with that have no idea what dreams their partner has for their lives. Knowing that your partner dreams of turning their wood working hobby into a furniture business is something that is not only important to talk about, but knowing puts you in a position to be fully supportive in the future.

5. Deepen your friendship
A relationship usually changes at least a little bit after marriage and a whole lot if the decision is made to bring children into the picture. It is important to continue working on the friendship part of your relationship. Your partner does not have to be your best friend, but hopefully they are in the top 5! Counseling helps to re-ignite that friendship that might have gotten a little tarnished by wedding planning, moving in together, and just life in general.

I hope this post alleviated some fears about couples counseling. Counseling does not have to be dreary and negative, it can actually be a fun and fulfilling journey if given a chance!