Finding Heart and Soul Connection In A Barn

I found my heart and soul connection in a barn.

      Hear this post on Therapy Chat Podcast  !

  Hear this post on Therapy Chat Podcast!

Note: this was originally published in 2016 and updated with information on the June 2018 2 day Authentic Self Retreat I'm hosting with Charlotte Hiler Easley, LCSW in Lexington, Kentucky. Register here! 

Yesterday I had a new experience which was a game-changer for me. I've been saying for at least 10 years that I want to take horseback riding lessons. I talked about it on an episode of Therapy Chat earlier this year, vowing that I would make it happen.

 Image credit: Eduard Syslynskyy/Shutterstock

Image credit: Eduard Syslynskyy/Shutterstock

I've ridden a horse maybe 5 times in my whole life, all between the ages of 10-13 years old. For a time I was obsessed with them, as many children are. I grew up in the city but close enough to rural areas that there was one horse farm many of us knew to visit. 

Recently as I've learned more about equine-assisted therapy and the benefits of spending times with horses, I've become determined to increase the amount of time I spend with horses. I'm now 44 years old and my body has changed quite a bit since I was 13. I think it's safe to say that my heart hasn't changed much, if at all, though, as I learned through this experience. 

Before I tell you what happened, let me give you some information from Equine Assisted Growth And Learning Association, also known as EAGALA. From their website, www.eagala.org:

 

 

How Does Equine-Assisted Learning and Growth Work?

  • Horses are bigger and stronger than us. They are powerful creatures, and being around them can feel intimidating, which creates an opportunity to get up close and personal with our fears.

  • Like humans, horses are social creatures who live in herds. They have a social hierarchy in terms of how they relate to one another in the herd. Working on how we relate to horses is a way to work on how we relate to other humans and ourselves.

  • Because horses are prey animals, they rely on non-verbal cues to stay alive. Their lives depend on accurately reading these cues. Humans are predators. Yet for some reason horses are willing to interact with us anyway, if we let them know we are safe.

  • Horses know when what we are saying and doing don't match what we are feeling and sensing, even though we might not know. They reflect back to us what we are feeling and sensing, or the incongruence between our feelings, sensations, words and actions, even (especially) when it's outside of our conscious awareness.

The Shadow...Again?

Horses can bring our Shadow to our awareness. Yes, the Shadow again. As a wise person told me, once the Shadow is out in the light you can't ignore it anymore. I am finding this to be true again and again.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out these episodes of Therapy Chat podcast: Episode 53; Episode 38 with Renee Beck, LMFT; Episode 40 with Lourdes Viado, MFT, PhD; Episode 42 with Keri Nola.

So this is what happened yesterday. I went to a workshop on learning with horses. I gathered in a barn with a group of two other women, the instructor and the horse trainer. I really didn't know what to expect, because I haven't done anything like this before, although I have heard about it from fellow therapists. The whole experience was on the ground, not on the horses. 

We were introduced to two horses, a darker colored one and a lighter colored one. I felt super vulnerable and nervous. I wanted to know what to do and not to do, and how, and what was going to happen. I told myself to sit with the discomfort, knowing that this is where growth happens. Part of me wanted to relax, be in the moment, let go and see what happened. Part of me wanted to know, to check whether or not I was doing it right, if I was okay, to understand, to know why. These parts of myself battled for that entire two hour period. 

When we walked up to each horse I had lots of thoughts. I wondered how to touch the horse, if it was okay to touch him, and whether he would hurt me. I was acutely aware of how large and heavy he was, and that he could kick me, bite me or step on me if he felt like it. Then, I went a little deeper into my emotions. I suspected that he didn't like me. I felt self-conscious about being uncomfortable and worried who could tell. I was pretty sure he could tell, though he didn't say anything. I felt his soft, velvety coat and tangled mane. I noticed that he was beautiful and he looked like he had been through some things. I decided maybe he wasn't judging me as harshly as I was judging myself. This all happened in a span of maybe 2 minutes. Feeling a little softer toward myself, I approached the other horse.

One of the other women was standing with the horse, and I felt protective toward her time with him. I held my hand out to him, wondering if he was okay with me petting his nose. He gently nuzzled my hand. I didn't know if this was what they always do, or if he liked my touch. I awkwardly stood there for a few seconds, continuing to let him smell my hand and nuzzle it.

Then something surprising happened. He tilted his head toward me and sort of snuggled up to my neck. I don't even know what to call it. Immediately, tears sprang to my eyes. I felt seen and understood, probably better understood by the horse than I was understanding myself, at least in that moment. I had the strange experience of a felt sense - when you just know something that is coming from within. Your inner wisdom, your soul, your wisest self, whatever you want to call it, it tells you something from within yourself. It's more than just a thought. The felt sense told me "he knows I'm sad."

 Image credit: Melory/Shutterstock

Image credit: Melory/Shutterstock

One of the reasons it was weird is because I hadn't known I was sad until that moment. I felt apologetic toward the other woman standing there, because the horse was giving me more attention, and because I was fighting back tears, which is pretty uncomfortable any time, but especially in front of a stranger. At the same time, I was incredibly grateful to the horse. 

As Brené Brown says, "Vulnerability is courage."

All of that happened in the first 30 minutes of this experience. After that we alternated between activities with the horses and seated in chairs. But more strange things happened. During the time we were seated in our chairs as a group, the horses were free to roam this indoor space. 

We were talking and I was continuing my struggle between the parts of myself that wanted to avoid the discomfort of this new experience and the parts that were trying to be open and let it unfold. I'll point out that while this experience was new, that struggle is not. In fact, it is quite familiar, if I'm honest.

I practice mindfulness by checking in with myself many times throughout a given day. I notice what I am thinking, what I am feeling, what my body is holding. I frequently ask myself what I need, or what my body wants me to know. There is always an answer, if I listen. What I often notice is this struggle to know, to have the answers. It is something that pops up when I am in situations where I feel unsure. It is an attempt to avoid discomfort. I don't do it consciously, it is a defense that I'm sure developed quite early. I know I was always praised for being smart. This quality is one that I never doubted I had, and I received much attention, love and acceptance around being smart when I was a child.  

I felt very uncomfortable quite a lot of the time during childhood, so this defense (it's called intellectualization) served me very well back then and it has helped me many times since. But it does get in the way. I'm grateful for my intelligence, yet I need to ask the part of myself that wants to know to step aside quite frequently so I can stay in the moment. It's okay to be curious, as long it doesn't take me away from the current moment. 

The Most Powerful Moment

So now I'll get back to the most powerful part of the experience in the barn. After the horse snuggled up against me, while we were sitting in the chairs as a group, the horses moved around the barn. Slowly they moved toward us. Eventually, both horses came to stand behind me. While we talked, one by one they slowly crept forward until both horses were standing with their heads over me. I wish I had a picture, because to the others in the group I must have looked funny with one horse's head coming over one shoulder and the other horses's head coming over my other shoulder. They kind of crossed their heads in front of me.

It was so strange, with a result that I couldn't see the other group participants. The group leader noted that the horses could have stood anywhere they wanted, and for some reason they chose to stand over me that way. They remained that way until we stood to do another activity, and then when we returned to sitting, they did it again, just as gradually as the first time. I can't really say what happened, other than the horses knew I needed something. But that can't be all because I'm sure the other group members were having their own emotional experiences in their seats. Yet the horses gravitated to me.

I think the leader was suggesting that they knew I needed either comfort, protection or something. She didn't come right out and say it (I think she wanted me to figure it out myself). All I know is I was in love with these horses. I felt like they got me. I felt like we had a connection. I am laughing as I write these words, but I really mean it, and I still feel that way, even though more than 24 hours have passed. In fact, I've had more experiences of self discovery (what I like to call shifts) since doing that. I am eager to do more work with horses and see what happens. It was truly a magical experience.

Why Am I Sharing This?

 Image credit: Rob Strok/Canva

Image credit: Rob Strok/Canva

You might be wondering why I'm sharing this. There are a few reasons. First, I want to document this magical experience for myself. Also, I want people to know that spending time with horses can be incredibly powerful, almost unbelievably so. Some things you just have to experience for yourself, and I hope this article will encourage some of you who are reading to try Equine Assisted Learning and Growth. Lastly, I'm sharing this because it's important as a therapist that I live the way I encourage my clients to do. I've been on a journey of personal growth - intentionally only for the past two years, but probably for my whole life.  

I believe we never stop growing and learning (unless we refuse to try), and that we must continue pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones, because that is where growth happens.

I can't take my clients anywhere that I haven't been. The more I allow myself to be vulnerable and expose myself to new experiences allowing me a deeper connection with myself, the more capable I become of walking alongside my clients as they are on that journey. I have seen this to be true, and I know as my connection with myself deepens my skill as a therapist will deepen as well. 

Next week I'm taking time to venture deeply inward as I spend time with an intuitive coach in California to reflect on the direction of my business in the year ahead and do more Shadow work (gulp!). This will also be a reunion with some beautiful souls who live across the country and I am so honored that I will be spending time with them there. More is ahead, as I head to the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York in November for a retreat with horses and fellow therapists and other healers. I can't freakin' wait. Honestly, I have been bitten by the horse bug now and I can't wait for my next opportunity to spend time among these amazing creatures. And yes, I am still planning to take horseback riding lessons. It will happen! I'm currently exploring various locations to learn with horses in a different way. That will be a new arena (literally!) for me. I know what Brené Brown means when she talks about Daring Greatly. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out her book by that name.

So that is the story of how I found my heart and soul connection, with two horses and with myself, yesterday in a barn. I hope it somehow inspired you to get more connected with yourself. Let me know in the comments!

If you're interested in walking together on your journey of personal growth, and you live near Baltimore, Maryland, get in touch with me. You can also follow my musings on social media. You'll find me on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. And don't forget my podcast, Therapy Chat

And, if you would like to have your own experience of deep connection with yourself and with horses, join Charlotte Hiler Easley, LCSW and I in Lexington, Kentucky June 1-2, 2018 for a retreat combining The Daring Way™ with relational equine assisted learning. Get all the details and register before May 10, 2018 for best pricing! 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Doing Hard Things

Doing Hard Things

We Can Do Hard Things Glennon Doyle Melton

Today, I did something hard. Have you heard Glennon Doyle Melton say "We can do hard things"? Well, we can. I can. I think. It's not always something huge - for me, today, it was trying something new and very challenging.

Fulfilling a promise I made to myself and to listeners of Therapy Chat (talk about accountability!), I took my 45 year old body which has not been on the back of a horse for 32 years - and even then, at age 13, my experience was limited to two or three times I rode a horse while someone held on and walked it - and had my first horseback riding lesson. My first lesson, ever. It was clear that the people at the barn and at the shop where I bought my helmet today expected I had SOME kind of experience on a horse when they were talking to me. They kept saying "so you're coming back to riding?" I was like, "no, I'm an absolute beginner. I've never done it at all." 

I like knowing.

I'll be honest, I hated how it felt to admit that I didn't know ANYTHING about horsemanship. I am realizing more and more - I LIKE KNOWING! Not knowing is totally uncomfortable! At this stage of my life I feel like I KNOW in most situations. Maybe it's because I'm a parent and I've become comfortable in that "bossy know it all" role. Maybe I don't push myself out of my comfort zone often enough. Yet I do challenge myself fairly often! In fact, when discussing this with my husband he noted that it seems easy for me to do new things. Not really! Recent experiences of stepping into unfamiliar territory have reminded me (i.e. I've reluctantly accepted) that it's okay to be a beginner. But I am not going to lie, I strongly dislike that feeling. 

It seems like a metaphor for what it must be like for my clients to come to therapy. And what it has been like for me to go to therapy. It's vulnerable!!! Vulnerable is an understatement. Vulnerability makes my skin crawl.

In fact, the more I know as a therapist, the harder it is to be the one on the couch. Yet I also know that I will be my best self as a therapist when I continue exploring the parts of myself that I don't really enjoy looking into. For all of us, those parts are there and they are either in the shadows, where we don't see them as they are calling all the shots, or they are in our conscious awareness and we can manage them more effectively. [Listen to previous Therapy Chat episodes on the Shadow here, here, here and here]

So today I was struggling with not knowing, being a beginner. Pretending I don't feel that way - or avoiding noticing this overwhelming sense of wanting to know - might seem easier. I certainly don't need to write about it here! I'd rather play it cool. I could just have this private experience and not say anything about it publicly. I am sharing it here because I hope it will help you sit with that discomfort when it comes up in your life. You can turn toward the discomfort - feel it - or turn away from it - avoidance.

It's much more fun and interesting, from my perspective, for me to sit back and tell you how much I know about what you might want to try doing differently so you can feel better in your life. But what I really know all comes from my own experiences of struggling and figuring stuff out the hard way. Yes, I have a lot of training and experience but if I couldn't apply these lessons to my own life something would be missing. So showing you that I struggle too is a way I hope to help. 

How did I get here?

How did I end up on the back of a very large horse today? I've been talking about wanting to learn horsemanship. I've been talking about it for more than 10 years. I talked about it in a previous blog and Therapy Chat episode.  I've told myself that all I need to do is sign up and get started. True. So this year I signed up. I got started today. And this is what happened:

Spoiler: it wasn't all rainbows and butterflies.

I was scared. I was nervous. I struggled with not knowing. I found myself using self-deprecation while purchasing a helmet at the Saddlery and while learning how to groom and tack at the Equestrian Center. I probably won't remember how to groom and tack and will have to re-learn next time. I judged myself - fairly harshly. I told myself my body isn't able to do this - even while knowing that my body is strong. I kept telling myself I am too big for this - too tall, not slim enough. Maybe the people who ride are slim because it's great exercise. Maybe I will become slimmer too. Maybe I won't. Maybe they aren't all slim. Maybe it doesn't matter.

A horse weighs over 1,000 pounds. The horse did not seem troubled or disturbed to have me sitting on his back. He wasn't groaning at holding me up. I watched myself in the mirror, thinking, "ugh, do I look like that?" even while knowing my body is strong. Knowing I've never done this. I don't have muscle memory for this. I will learn this. I am strong! But I was judging myself. Judging my appearance. Judging myself for judging myself. Yes, I'm serious. 

Getting up on that horse was HARD. It was SCARY. It was really high up! I was afraid I wouldn't be able to mount the horse. I literally felt like I felt when I went skiing at age 13 and I fell, and I didn't think I would be able to get up. It is not easy to follow verbal directions in that kind of situation when the animal you are trying to climb onto is moving and you can't really see where to place yourself. By the way, getting down was even harder and I almost fell. But I didn't. And even if I did. so what? Even if I got hurt?! I will be okay.

There is an element of trust to this. I'm working on it. Do I need to trust the horse or trust myself? Maybe - probably - both. As my daughter said to me today when I was telling her how hard it was, "Not everything is a therapeutic experience, Mom." Well, true. But I am convinced that this can be. And I am struggling - so apparently it already is. 

 Image courtesy of Shutterstock. Copyright: Petri Volanen

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. Copyright: Petri Volanen

[Click here to listen to my episode with Charlotte Hiler Easley, LCSW on Equine Assisted Psychotherapy]

When my hourlong lesson was over today, I wanted to be like "this was so amazing!" But I didn't feel like it was amazing. I had about 5 seconds during the whole experience when I was like "Wow, I'm doing this!" I also thought "Does this horse like me? I'm grateful he hasn't tried to throw me off of his back. Am I doing this correctly?" That last thought occurred at least 20 times. I said it maybe 5 times to the instructor. I wanted to say it like 100 times, at least. I judged myself for feeling scared and unsure. I wondered how the horse and the instructor were judging me.

Judging, judging, judging

When I got in my car, I felt like maybe I wanted to quit. Maybe I can't do it. And I was judging myself for feeling that way. Are you confused yet? Me too! I hated feeling like this vulnerable kid who doesn't know how to do things and doesn't believe in herself. But I allowed myself to feel that way instead of pretending it was different. I was telling anyone who would listen - my friend Anne, who I talked to after the lesson; my husband; my daughter; the saleswoman at the Saddlery; the riding instructor  - how hard it was, and how discouraged I feel. As I was telling them my feelings I was judging myself for feeling that way. At home I felt exhausted. Bone tired. Emotionally worn out and physically worn out. An Epsom salt bath is in my future. 

Has this ever happened to you in any situation? How often do you push yourself outside of your comfort zone? Do you like it? Hint: NO.

So why don't I just quit this silly horsemanship idea? Well, I actually believe that I will get better at this. I believe that I will have the experience of learning how to do something new, overcoming my doubts, and it will result in not only a sense of mastery - eventually - but also it will remind me that I can do hard things. I am strong. I'm stronger than I think I am. Emotionally and physically. Cognitively, in my logical brain, I know this. The part of me that is a scared little girl is just one of my parts. There are also other parts of me that are confident. Somewhere in there a part of me knows that this will be FUN! One day! If I keep at it. I am giggling to myself as I write that. Somewhere inside I know that's true.

No Mud No Lotus Thich Nhat Hahn

Again, it's like therapy. You go through the hard parts because you know something better is on the other side. Or you believe it is. You hope it is. And it is. Something good will come from it. I realize therapy isn't all fun and games. But it's better than staying where you are and what comes from the hard work is so beautiful, indescribably so. And you're permanently changed - you can never go back to who you were. As Thich Nhat Hahn says, "No mud, no lotus." That is true of large and small experiences of discomfort over our lifetimes. And what's the alternative? 

Embracing what is (?)

So I'm going to treasure this experience of being so new at horsemanship. I'm going to try to enjoy this feeling of being a beginner. I'll remember that once I didn't know how to do this at all. One day I'll be on the back of a horse, galloping through a field, maybe even jumping. Who knows? The sky's the limit. I have a long life ahead of me and I am going to do hard things, even when I'm scared. I mean, I don't actually know how long my life will be. Of course, no one does. But in this moment, I did this hard thing. And I am embracing that feeling, in all of its glory. The good and the bad.

I hope this will inspire you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, too. That is where the magic happens. That is where we grow. And that is really what life is all about - a journey toward self-actualization, whatever that means for each of us. It's going to be okay. 

My next lesson is on Thursday of this week. Wish me luck.

If you want to read more of what I write, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. You can also visit iTunes to subscribe to Therapy Chat. There you'll hear me talking about what I talk about and interviewing other people about what I'm interested to discuss. Or you can listen to Therapy Chat on my website, or on iHeartRadio, Stitcher or Google Play.

If you're in Maryland, and you want therapy to explore the vulnerable parts of yourself that are in need of healing, check out my website. You can also call me at 443-510-1048 or e-mail me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. I look forward to connecting! In the meantime, take care!

Warmly,

 

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

5 Podcasts To Listen To Now

It's International Podcast Day! Find out why you should be listening to podcasts, how to do it, and get started today with these 5 recommendations!

International Podcast Day image Canva

It's International Podcast Day! To celebrate, I created this list of 5 podcasts I recommend to clients and other people in my life on a daily basis. If you are interested in emotional health, wellness, family, parenting, relationships, trauma and improving your most important relationship - with yourself - you will find at least one on this list that you will enjoy. I think you'll love all of them! I do.

First Things First.

Have you wanted to start listening to podcasts but you're not really sure how it works? I felt that way too - and look at me now, I'm a podcaster myself! Listening to podcasts is easy! There are so many ways you can do it. Here's a mini tutorial and then we'll get to the list of recommended podcasts.

How Do I Find Podcasts?

Podcasts can be found in many different places - I'll use my own podcast as an example to show you. Each podcast is posted in various places, depending on the preference of the host. They are usually available on the host's website - see example of my podcast here. You can find almost every podcast on iTunes (mine is here); they are also found on Stitcher; iHeartRadio; Google Play Music; and even YouTube! There are many other places to listen to podcasts. Once you find one you like, see which places it's hosted to find your favorite.

What Can I Use to Listen to Podcasts?

Your Smartphone - You can listen to podcasts using a smartphone with a podcast app. There is a podcast app built into iPhones which connects directly to iTunes. There are other apps you can download to your iPhone or Android phone which have various features making it easy to subscribe to your favorites and make playlists. The great thing about listening to podcasts on your phone is that you can take it with you to the gym, on a walk, or while you are making dinner. 

 Image credit: Pixabay

Image credit: Pixabay

Your Computer - If you're not a smartphone user or you spend more time at a desk than out and about, your computer is another great option for listening to podcasts. iTunes is available on both Mac and PC, but if you don't like iTunes you can also open up YouTube and listen that way. You can learn more about topics you choose while performing other tasks on the computer.

In Your Car - Here in the DC area, where I live, most people have long commutes from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Podcasts are perfect for listening in the car. You can bring up the podcast on your phone and plug it into your car's Aux port, connect it with Bluetooth, or just listen through the phone's speaker. Many newer cars have built in music players where you can access podcasts now, and more will be coming in the future. If you have a long commute but don't drive, that's fine too! That's an excellent time to listen on your phone. 

Why Should I Listen To Podcasts?

Variety - You can hear anything on podcasts: how to cope with anxiety; listen to comedy performances or the news; learn a new language; hear TED Talks; get help falling asleep (not while driving); start building a business; find out what your favorite sports team is doing; and many, many more subjects. There is most likely a podcast for any subject you are interested in. If not, why don't you start one? Nothing's stopping you! Anyone can podcast! 

Control - If you don't like a certain episode you can skip it. Unlike radio, if you miss the newest episode you can listen to it later. Many podcasts have ads, but far less than radio, and you can skip them if you choose. You can listen over and over to your favorite episodes and share them with your friends by sending them a link in an e-mail or text message. You also have privacy. If you want to think about how to cope with erectile dysfunction but you're uncomfortable talking about it with anyone, even your physician, you can bet there is a podcast out there on that subject. You can listen without anyone else even knowing. By the way, if there isn't a podcast on ED yet, somebody should get on that because I'm sure it would be a huge hit! 

Free Content - Most podcasts are free to listen to, and you can listen as many times as you want. Some podcasts have membership sites where you can make a donation or pay a minimal subscription fee to support production costs, and if you love a podcast and want it to keep going you can feel good knowing you're helping out. 

Okay, so now you know how to listen and why you should start listening to podcasts - so let's get to the nitty gritty! Here are 5 podcasts I frequently recommend to my therapy clients as well as my friends and family members. Full disclosure - I've been a guest on every one of these (and one is my own). Read on to find out what you can expect on each of these podcasts and why I love each one. Then add your favorite in the comments!  

My 5 Most Frequently Recommended Podcasts:

1. Women In-Depth with Lourdes Viado, MFT, PhD 

I love this podcast. Lourdes Viado, MFT, PhD is a Jungian psychologist in Las Vegas. Her podcast, Women In-Depth, is focused on discussing some of the subjects that women talk about amongst themselves, as well as many topics that are off limits in polite company. I talked with Lourdes about how to respond when your child discloses having been sexually abused. Some other recent episodes have covered the issues of spiritual abuse, infertility and midlife crisis. I recommend this podcast to someone almost every day - and here's a secret: it's not just for women! Many of the topics are applicable to everyone! Check it out on iTunes here.

Click on the image to listen to my interview on Women In-Depth on how parents can support their children who disclose sexual abuse.  These are the kinds of uncomfortable, but super important, discussions that happen on Women In-Depth.

      Image credit: Lourdes Viado, LMFT, PhD

     Image credit: Lourdes Viado, LMFT, PhD

2. Mindful Recovery with Robert Cox, MA, PLPC

Robert Cox, MA, PLPC is a counselor in Missouri who is in recovery himself. He is super down to earth yet passionate about mindfulness, substance abuse recovery and trauma. He also has a specialization in working with individuals who are on the Autism spectrum. On Mindful Recovery Robert moves between offering mindfulness tips, psycho-education about substance abuse, trauma and other important subjects, and interviews with fellow professionals and experts. One episode I frequently recommend is on the subject of process addictions. Robert and I share a passion for advocating for survivors of sexual abuse, and you can hear us talking about it soon on Mindful Recovery. I recommend you check out Mindful Recovery Find it on iTunes here. 

3. Launching Your Daughter with Nicole Burgess, LMFT

Launching Your Daughter podcast with Nicole Burgess, LMFT is a podcast about parenting, with a unique twist. Nicole focuses her podcast on the issues specific to parents raising daughters into adulthood. Nicole and her guests talk about topics related to improving parents' relationships with their daughters. Nicole and I recently talked about sexual violence, an issue that can affect women at any age (as well as men and people of any gender identity), and I'm looking forward to that episode being released. Nicole interviewed Sharon Martin, LCSW about embracing imperfection in episode 15, which is here.  Find Launching Your Daughter on iTunes here.

4. Parenting In The Rain with Jackie Flynn, LMHC, RPT

Play Therapist Jackie Flynn, LMHC, RPT hosts Parenting In the Rain, another parenting podcast I frequently recommend. Jackie covers subjects that are relevant to the parents' emotional experience - when a parent struggles with depression, for example, as well as that of the child, like helping a child with back to school anxiety. Jackie interviewed me about emotional abuse not too long ago. You can listen to Parenting In The Rain on iTunes by clicking here.

5. Therapy Chat with Laura Reagan, LCSW-C (that's me)

I'm obviously biased, but I frequently recommend my own podcast, Therapy Chat. I talk about the subject of psychotherapy, often interviewing fellow therapists who are practicing in ways that are outside of what people usually think of when they consider going to counseling. I've interviewed therapists and other experts on the subjects of mindfulness, trauma, self compassion (with Tim Ambrose Desmond), attachment (with Dr. Jonice Webb) parenting, perfectionism (with Sharon Martin and Dr. Agnes Wainman), self care and worthiness. Dr. Dan Siegel talked to me about his upcoming book The Mind. In the next six months I'll post a series on trauma treatment and a series on attachment, and I published a practice building series for therapists this past summer. You can find Therapy Chat on iTunes here.

So what's your favorite podcast? Let me know in the comments! 

Wholeheartedly, 

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 26: Using the Body to Process Trauma

Welcome! My guest today is Lisa Ferentz, LCSW-C, who is in private practice in Baltimore and specializes in treating child and adult survivors of trauma, abuse, and neglect. She’s a nationally known author, speaker, trainer, and consultant. Click here or on the image below to listen to today's episode! 

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • After 32 years in private practice, Lisa knows that trauma survivors use coping strategies such as eating disorders, addictions, self-mutilation, depression, anxiety, and relationship problems. 
  • Lisa does consulting work for clinicians in the US and Canada; she has written two books and has two more in process. Lisa is an expert on Dissociative Identity Disorder and consulting with her is a great way for clinicians who are less experienced in this work to help their clients most effectively.
  • Early in her practice, Lisa realized how important it is to approach her work from the viewpoint of being a good student and learning from your clients.
  • In the exciting world of therapy today, incredible connections are being made between trauma and the impact on the brain.
  • Lisa advises that clinicians be more aware and mindful in working with the body in trauma work.
  • Lisa explains “dual awareness,” meaning being aware of what’s happening in both the client’s and clinician’s body during therapy.
  • Lisa explains the “vasovagal zone” of the body and tracking sensations in the area that houses 80% of emotions.
  • Trauma is stored visually and viscerally, and can present with actual physical pain, such as:
    • Limb pain
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Chronic migraines
    • Stomach/GI upset
    • Fatigue 
  • One technique is to start with the body and work your way into words to deal with trauma.
  • Movement and expressive arts can also be used in trauma therapy.
  • Simplistic art therapy strategies can open the door to visually-based modality when a client is unable to communicate with words.
  • Lisa uses drawing, collaging, and sand tray art so a client can SHOW their narrative, share a memory, or process an emotion.
  • Clinicians have to refrain from interpreting the client’s art for themselves.
  • Lisa explains the stigma associated with borderline personality disorder as opposed to identifying the same client as a “trauma survivor.”
  • Lisa introduces her books: Treating Self-Destructive Behavior in Trauma Survivors: A Clinician’s Guide and Letting Go of Self-Destructive Behaviors: A Workbook of Hope and Healing. One is for clinicians and one is for laypeople.
  • In treating trauma survivors, you have to give them new tools to replace self-destructive behavior—other ways to self-soothe and regulate their pain.
  • Lisa explains why she doesn’t like standard safety contracts because they introduce a power struggle between client and therapist.
  • “The goal is that trauma therapy doesn’t re-traumatize.”
  • Lisa gives details about her Institute in Baltimore, in its 9th year of offering certification programs in Advanced Trauma Treatment, working with expressive modalities and traditional talk therapy. The Institute offers ethics training and has graduated 700 clinicians. Her website includes a calendar of CEU training and the details about Trauma Certificate Levels 1 & 2.
  • Find out more about Lisa and her work: www.lisaferentz.com

I hope you enjoyed this episode, which was all about healing trauma. I'm so grateful that Lisa agreed to be interviewed. If you liked this episode, please visit iTunes to download episodes, rate and review! You can also listen on Stitcher and Google Play (available now in some areas). And for more of what I'm doing, please  sign up for my newsletter, and follow me TwitterFacebook, Pinterest, Instagram & Google+If you're a trauma therapist you may be interested in my new Trauma Therapist Community, forming now. Click here for the info. I look forward to connecting! 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

The Epidemic of Childhood Trauma

The Epidemic of Childhood Trauma - A Public Health Issue Which Is Preventable

On Episode 19 of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast I talked about a subject which is extremely important to me. It is an issue I talk about every day in my psychotherapy practice, as I specialize in helping people who have experienced childhood trauma. Many of us have experienced traumatic events in childhood and think "that was a long time ago, I should be over it by now," or "it happened before I was old enough to remember so it can't be affecting me so many years later." But whether or not we consciously remember traumatic events, they can still affect us. 

 

 

Click here to listen to this discussion in podcast form on Therapy Chat (formerly known as the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast)!

  CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO EPISODE 19 OF THERAPY CHAT!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO EPISODE 19 OF THERAPY CHAT!

And these effects are not only emotional - although the truth is that childhood trauma can have long-lasting emotional effects, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yes, you read that correctly - PTSD, which we usually associate with veterans who have experienced combat, can be caused by experiencing childhood trauma too. 

In additional to the emotional effects of childhood trauma, a large study has found a connection between childhood trauma and physical ailments as well. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (also known as ACES), which was conducted beginning in 1987, found that people who had experienced childhood trauma had higher rates of suicide, mental health problems, addiction, autoimmune disorders, heart disease, lung disease, obesity and other chronic illnesses contributing to shortened lifespan than people who had not experienced childhood trauma.

The study also illuminated the fact that childhood trauma is much more common than most people realize. Sixty-four percent of adults have at least one traumatic event in their childhood history, according to the study. 

I'm passionate about intervening as early as possible to help people who have experienced traumatic events in childhood, which is why I decided early on to work with children as well as adults. It is never too late to work on healing childhood trauma, but the earlier the better. 

If you're in Maryland and you'd like some support in healing trauma click here to see if working together would be a good fit. You can also e-mail me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com or call me at (443) 510-1048.

Want to hear more of what I have to say? You can sign up for my newsletter. I'm not one to bombard you with newsletters and clog up your inbox. I send them every so often when I have something to say that I think you might find useful. You can also follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterest & Google+

To listen to Therapy Chat, where I discuss trauma as well as mindfulness, psychotherapy, worthiness, perfectionism, self compassion and many related subjects, click here! Please consider subscribing on iTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or Google Play if you like it!

Sources:

National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (n.d.). Effects of complex trauma. Retrieved from: http://www.nctsn.org/trauma-types/complex-trauma/effects-of-complex-trauma

Stevens, J.E. (n.d.). ACES 101. Retrieved from: http://acestoohigh.com/aces-101/

Stevens, J.E. (n.d.). Got your ACE score? Retrieved from: http://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/

United States Centers for Disease Control. (2014, May 13). Injury prevention and control: Division of violence prevention. Retrieved from:http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/

 

Finding Safety in An Unsafe World

Update: As of March 4, 2016, the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast has a new name: Therapy Chat! It's still found in the same locations online - my website, as well as iTunes, Stitcher and (soon) Google Play.  So when you listen to the podcast episode attached to this article, don't be confused! 

Finding Safety in An Unsafe World

There have been a lot of horrible things in the news lately. There was another mass shooting just yesterday. Terrible things are always happening: violence, hatred, fear, oppression...they all seem to go together, don't they? Is this inevitable?

These are scary times.

Scary things are going on. We're more aware than ever before of our shared humanity. Has it gotten worse or was it always like this? Globalization is bringing our world together. Our young people are growing up learning that people all over the world share the same feelings. We all want to be safe and free. 

I remember when I was a child of about 9 reading a short news article in our local paper. It said that a large number of people - maybe 1000, or 10,000 or even 100,000 - had died when a landslide happened in East Asia. I wondered at this story, feeling sad and scared. I was reassured by an adult who told me that it was nature's way of correcting the overpopulation in that country. Those humans who died were individuals with their own stories, their own hopes and dreams, just like me. Their lives mattered. But in that time, we were so detached from a reality of life different from our own here in the U.S. that it could seem as if people in faraway places we never saw were not actually humans like ourselves. Those people who lost their lives were not "others." That concept creates an artificial distance between us. Distancing ourselves from others' pain can help us feel safer, but it also creates disconnection.

Those people who died that day, and everyone who has died before and since, regardless of geographic location, culture, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, sexual identity, skin color, hair color, eye color, language or any other characteristic wanted safety, belonging, connection and control over their own lives just like you and I. 

Now, thanks to global 24-hour news and the internet, we can see the devastation and pain when an earthquake or tsunami destroys a town, or when flooding or tornadoes hit and people lose shelter and suffer injury or death. We see the humanity of those who are affected. We witness their pain and loss, and we can feel empathy for them and gratitude that we were not directly impacted. But it can feel like too much.

Sometimes it feels like too much.

It's too painful. Watching and reading news of terrorist attacks around the world is so painful. We may want and need to turn away because the pain is too much for us to bear. We begin to fear that we may be at risk of experiencing this same pain and loss. What if terrorists attack here? How will we be safe? How can we keep our loved ones safe?

Please know, if you have trauma, such stories can trigger trauma symptoms which can sneak up on you. Not sure if you might have trauma? Read this post.

I talk about this often with my clients.  Suddenly you have a general sense of unease which becomes a feeling of being unsafe. Next thing you know you've switched into autopilot, survival mode. When you're in this mode you're usually not consciously aware of it. So check in with yourself: Am I absentmindedly checking Facebook? Obsessively checking e-mail? Wanting to micromanage my kids or my spouse? Suddenly forgetting about self care? Feeling stuck, immobilized? Click here for a short body scan mindfulness exercise to help you get centered and grounded in your body. 

I'm scared! What can I do?

So why do these bad things happen? The world's problems are so complex. Are the natural disasters caused by climate change? Well, if so, what can be done about that? Some are saying our planet isn't going to survive unless something changes. It's a terrifying thought! What can be done to protect the Earth for our children's children? It can feel hopeless. I see the feeling of powerlessness to effect change as the result of our overwhelming anxiety and fear. In other words, although it may feel like a hopeless situation and you may feel powerless to make a difference, that is not reality. You can take action if you want to change the way the world is.  As Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has!"  That's one of my very favorite quotes. 

  CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO THERAPY CHAT PODCAST EPISODE 13!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO THERAPY CHAT PODCAST EPISODE 13!

Using the example of climate change, if you feel worried about it, ask yourself what one small change you can make that will have a ripple effect. Can you teach your children not to litter? Can you make a change in what you consume? Can you donate old clothing instead of throwing it out? Post a Facebook status that raises awareness of the problem? Make a donation to an organization that is working to address the problem? Volunteer to pick up litter on a road in your town one Saturday? 

Many of us are feeling fear and a sense of helplessness from the violence we see and hear about. Most recently the terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris this month have created fear that we won't be able to stay safe. With so much anger, hatred, violence and talk of vengeance, are these problems ever going to get better? And will we be safe? 

  Image copyright Laura   Reagan LCSW-C  Psychotherapy Services, LLC 2015. All rights reserved.

Image copyright Laura Reagan LCSW-C  Psychotherapy Services, LLC 2015. All rights reserved.

I'll quote Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that." Our discussion about terrorism and violence in general tends to be overly simplistic. We break it down into "good guys" and "bad guys." There are no good guys and bad guys! There is just us! We can do good things and we can do bad things. 

We look at people who do bad things with disgust and wonder how they can be so cruel. Are they just bad people? Maybe they were born bad. How can they hurt others and seemingly not care? How can they be so heartless? It would seem that people who commit acts of terrorism actually take pleasure in hurting others, torturing them and seeing them suffer. This is incomprehensible to most of us.

Yet some voices call loudly for vengeance, saying the only way to solve the problem of terrorism, to keep us - the good guys - safe, is to blow 'em up! Nuke 'em off the face of the earth! Or capture them and torture them until they admit who their leaders are so we can kill them! Harsh, yes, but they deserve it for what they've done to the good guys! Bad guys deserve what they get! We hear a lot of bloodthirsty cries for justice - swift and deadly. I'll be clear that these are not my views. I feel that anyone who hurts someone else should be held accountable with a justice process that is fairly and evenly administered. However, violence begets violence. If we react with vengeance instead of understanding the cause of the behavior and addressing that, we do not resolve the problem. 

Often people who use violence and vengeance to express their pain use their interpretation of religious directives to justify hateful and destructive behavior toward various groups based on ethnicity or culture. We, the good guys, know this is wrong. But Xenophobia (defined as fear of what is strange or different) tends to be our knee-jerk reaction. How is that any different from the attitudes driving terrorists? 

Then what's the answer? Or is it hopeless?

The opposite of this hatred and fear is empathy and compassion. What if we believe that the people who commit acts of terrorism and violence are human beings like ourselves who feel justified in their actions? What if they think their behavior is justified because of their own desire for vengeance related to some hurt and pain they feel? What if we could look at the conditions that create whole groups of people who fear and hate other groups of people and address the underlying causes? I know that sounds complicated but it really isn't as hard as it seems. 

Sociologists and other human behavior researchers have been studying the causes and solutions to these issues for years. What if we looked at the causes of violence, oppression, racism, misogyny and actually addressed the underlying reasons for those attitudes and behaviors? What if we looked at each other as fellow humans, regardless of what makes us different from one another? Could we live more peacefully, feeling safer and having more freedom and ease if we were able to consider that everyone else is doing their best in a given moment? I'm no better than you and you're no better than me. What if we are all equally worthy of love, acceptance and approval? Because, whether or not we believe it, it's actually true. As humans, no one is better, and no one is less than another. How might things be if we lived this way?

Wanting everything to be okay

As for feeling that we need to have some reassurance that we will stay safe and that nothing bad will happen to us or the people we love, we don't get that. There is none. Bad things will happen. We will hurt. And we will get through them and we can be okay. 

I used to believe that a good life is one in which I would always be happy, or at least content, and nothing bad would happen to me. I still want to believe that I can get through life feeling safe from pain and most importantly, that I won't lose the people I love. I don't know if any of you have felt this way. I know I'm not alone in the feeling. But I don't feel this way because it's how life is, or how it's supposed to be.

I feel this particularly deeply because of the fact that in my early years I did experience loss of people who were most important to me. It took a long time for me to process how these losses affected me. So the worry about losing the most important people in my life comes from that early experience. Now that I know that and now that I've processed the pain of that loss, I can live in the reality that nothing is certain. No matter what I do, there is really no way to insulate myself from the possibility that I might lose the people I love. 

In some small ways, my children growing up can be an experience of loss. It's a process of losing the close connection we've had their entire lives. It is tempting to try to hold on to them in a way that prevents them from becoming independent adults, to serve my own desire to feel connected and loved. But that's actually not healthy for them or for me. Being conscious of that feeling of wanting to keep them close to fulfill my own needs keeps me in check, and I set boundaries on my role in their lives to create a healthy relationship. Setting boundaries (defined as what's okay and what's not okay with me) isn't just a one time thing. As we all grow, the boundaries are re-drawn. The relationship isn't static, so the boundaries must change too. 

So how do we live with the reality that we can't possibly prevent every bad thing from happening, no matter what we do? How do we go through life and be okay, even when something bad can happen that might take us by surprise? Well, one way to do it is to live your life worrying about every possible risk and taking steps to avoid it. I wouldn't recommend this strategy since it could eventually make you feel afraid to leave the house with no one wanting to be around you because you worry so much you make everyone else nervous. 

 Image copyright Laura Reagan LCSW-C  Psychotherapy Services, LLC 2015. All rights reserved.

Image copyright Laura Reagan LCSW-C  Psychotherapy Services, LLC 2015. All rights reserved.

Another option is to pretend everything is fine even though inside you're dreading the moment when everything falls apart. This strategy often leads to feeling disconnected from yourself because you get so good at ignoring that constant worry that you don't really know how you feel anymore. People who do this will sometimes say, "I don't know who I am anymore. What do I like? I have no idea." Those of us who do this frequently find ourselves taking temporary comfort in numbing out through watching TV, becoming absorbed in social media, binge watching DVDs, compulsively eating, shopping, using sex, gambling or substance abuse to escape. But does it make you feel safe? Not really. There will be loss. You will suffer at points. It's the human experience.

Getting grounded 

So what does help? How can we go through life trying to be okay if we can't be 100% sure that nothing bad will happen to us or the people we love? For me, two things have helped. First, healing from the traumatic experiences of my life by working for much of my adult life (starting at age 29) to process my trauma from those early losses I mentioned and other painful experiences has helped me to feel much safer in the world. The second part of my healing, and I share this in hopes that it will help you too, is implementing a self care practice.

Being grounded means being in the present moment, in your body, here and now. From what I've experienced personally and witnessed in others, any regular practice which makes you feel grounded is key to being present in your body, mindfully aware. I can say unequivocally that when I feel grounded and centered in my body I feel safe and I'm not worried about anything happening to me or the people I love.  I wrote a blog post about getting grounded when trauma symptoms are triggered. It, and the graphic above, explain basic grounding techniques. Click here to read the post.

Here and now. This moment is literally all we have. We truly cannot know what's going to happen next, in any area of our lives. Having control is only an illusion. I saw a beautiful quote by Johannes Wolfgang von Goethe which read, "I say to the moment: 'stay now! You are so beautiful!'" But do we really stop and appreciate the moments of happiness we experience? I've found myself in the middle of a joyful moment worrying when it's going to end rather than just being. Have you ever done that?

Finding gratitude

So how can you feel okay, knowing there is no guarantee of what will happen next? Well, let me ask you - are you safe right now? Can you be okay in this moment? Check in with yourself. What are you feeling? What are the emotions? The thoughts? What body sensations do you notice? What do you hear? How is your breathing? Can you experience gratitude for this moment that you're allowing yourself right now, just to feel how you are? Can you be okay right now, even if everything is not okay? Right now you're safe. In this moment, there is nothing you have to do or be other than just being you. 

Right now, as you are, without changing anything about yourself, you are enough. See if you can take a deep breath and just let that wash over you. You don't have to do anything else right now besides just be. This is the only moment. There is nothing to think about that happened before, and nothing to think about doing next. There is this moment, right now. Just breathe into it. And as you are doing this, just being, ask yourself if there is anything you can feel gratitude for right now. Sometimes when we feel really good it can be a feeling of gratitude for how well things are going. And if there are some things which aren't going so well, or things you're worried about, see if you can find anything that you can feel gratitude for. 

In any moment, as worried and stuck as I might feel, if I try I can always find something to experience gratitude for. When I feel critical of my body or discouraged with myself for getting out of my regular workout routine, I can experience a feeling of gratitude that it's not too late, that my body is strong and I don't have any health problems at the moment to prevent me from being able to go ahead and do something active like stretch, take my dog for a walk, do yoga or go to the gym. 

Sometimes it's simply helpful to notice that right now, in this moment, I and the people I love are all okay. No one is hurt or sick and we all love each other. That can help me stay grounded and present instead of worrying what if something bad happens?  Another practice I find helpful is listening to guided meditations. Click here for a guided meditation I recorded to help with grounding, gratitude and creating a sense of safety for yourself and the world. 

Thanks for reading my longer-than-usual post.  I hope you found it useful in these scary times. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below! I'd love to hear from you.

If you’d like to talk to me about working together click here or send me an e-mail at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. You can reach me by phone at (443) 510-1048. For more from me, sign up for my occasional newsletter! I don’t send them out unless I have something I want you to know, and you can unsubscribe any time you want. You can also follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterestInstagram and Google+. To listen to my weekly podcast, search the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and (coming soon) Google Play. Or click here to listen via my website. 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

 

Intuition in the Therapeutic Process: My Interview With Psychotherapist & Coach Keri Nola

An Interview with Intuitive Healer, Coach, Author and Psychotherapist Keri Nola

 

 

Earlier this year I had the privilege of interviewing someone I admire quite a bit, intuitive healer, coach, psychotherapist and author Keri Nola. I held this interview back for a while because I wanted to improve the sound on our recorded call, but I finally decided to let go of my perfectionism and share the interview with you. You can listen by clicking on The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast image to the right. 

In our interview, Keri shares her wisdom gleaned from over ten years of working with clients who have experienced trauma, building a successful practice and having painful experiences of her own. Read more about Keri below the image. 

Intuition in the Therapy Space with Keri Nola

Keri Nola speaks openly from the heart about how she uses intuition and models self care in her practice with clients. Keri has taught me so much about showing up more authentically in my therapy practice. Whether you're a therapist or someone who is interested in different ways that therapists can practice, I hope you'll learn something from my interview with Keri. Listen to our interview and please share your comments! 

For more of what Keri is doing, you can visit her website: www.kerinola.com! There you can request to join her Facebook group for therapists and healers as well.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast. Please visit iTunes to subscribe, download episodes and leave a review. I'd love to know what you think!



Here's where you can find more of what I'm doing: 

Find me on FacebookTwitterPinterest and  Google +You can listen to my podcast here and sign up for my e-mail newsletter here. To speak to me about my services, call me at (443) 510-1048 or send me an e-mail to laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. You can also visit my website to send me a message or view available appointments. 

Wholeheartedly, Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

What Is An Integrative Psychotherapy Practice?

What is an Integrative Psychotherapy Practice?

My Interview With Cathy Canfield, LCSW of Counseling of Alexandria

Earlier this year I began a blog series on integrative psychotherapy. What is integrative psychotherapy, you ask? It's psychotherapy which addresses the mind-body-spirit connection through use of non-verbal, expressive and somatic (body-based) therapies. Today's podcast episode features Cathy Canfield, LCSW, owner of Counseling of Alexandria in Virginia. Cathy was interviewed for my blog earlier this year to talk about how she uses EMDR in her practice. You can read the blog post here

In this podcast episode Cathy was able to talk more in-depth with me about her work. In her practice she offers play therapy, sandtray, EMDR and reiki, and one of her associates is an art therapist. You can listen to the podcast episode by clicking on the image below.

Click on the image below to listen to Cathy's interview.

I hope you'll enjoy what I thought was a fascinating conversation about how Cathy has created an integrative psychotherapy practice. I'd love to hear your comments, please leave them below! 

Want to know more? Find me on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Google +You can listen to my podcast here and sign up for my e-mail newsletter here.  Check out my website, www.laurareaganlcswc.com for information on upcoming workshops, groups and retreats. I'd love to talk about how we can work together! 

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Click on the image above to listen to past podcast episodes.

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C - Psychotherapist, Blogger, Podcaster, Clinical Supervisor, Consultant

Call me: (443) 510-1048

E-mail me: laura@laurareaganlcswc.com  Click my photo to visit my website.

Using Self Care to Nourish Your Soul & Fall In Love With Yourself

Using Self Care to Nourish Your Soul & Fall In Love With Yourself

The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast Interview With Herbalist & Healer Chonteau McElvin

If you've read my blog before now you might remember my series on holistic and alternative practices that can complement traditional psychotherapy approaches. I interviewed Chonteau McElvin, a life coach, herbalist and healer who was trained as a social worker, for that series. Her interview is here.   I'm honored that Chonteau also agreed to appear on the podcast to speak more in depth about how self care can be used to nourish your soul and help you fall in love with yourself. 

In our conversation, Chonteau and I discussed how we as helpers - whether social worker, life coach, psychotherapist, counselor, pastor, body worker, physician, nurse, firefighter, physical therapist, teacher, parent, caregiver or friend - tend to place a high value on taking care of others while our own self care is neglected. This is not new information - we have all heard about the need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others.

But do you really get it on a soul level? Chonteau does. She speaks about how she uses herbal tinctures and blends, together with parts work and energy healing methods to help you fall in love with yourself so you can use self care to nourish your soul. She works with clients in person in Central Florida and online. 

You can find more information on working with Chonteau on her beautiful website which lists her offerings in detail. I hope you will enjoy listening to this fascinating conversation about self care! 

Click on the image below to listen to the episode. 

 

You can find more episodes of the Baltimore Washington Psychotherapy Podcast by clicking here to listen on iTunes. You can listen directly from your PC by clicking here.  If you like what you hear on the podcast, please consider subscribing on iTunes so you will be updated when each new episode is posted! I'd also be honored if you would take a moment to write an honest review. 

Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think of my interview with Chonteau! I'd love your feedback about the podcast and any future topics you'd like to hear discussed. I also love connecting on social media. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google +! You can sign up here to receive my occasional e-mail newsletters. I can't wait to hear from you!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

How Self Care Helps Me Succeed in Business

If you have read my blog, you're probably aware that I talk about self care frequently. Click here to read my past posts on the subject of self care. Today I posted a video on Periscope, a new mobile social media platform which allows live broadcasting of videos that are posted for a limited amount of time on the site. This video, which I have posted below, was recorded live and without editing, so please be aware it's pretty raw! 

In the video I talk about how I use working and non-working retreats to grow as a person and thrive as a business owner. By working on my personal growth I am able to bring my best self to work with my clients as a psychotherapist, consultant, clinical supervisor, blogger and podcaster

(For information on my upcoming podcast visit www.laurareaganlcswc.com/podcast!) 

I am excited for you to hear one of my upcoming podcast interviews episodes in which I interviewed a psychotherapist and coach who offers international retreats to promote self care. It can be exciting and somewhat scary to consider spending money to give ourselves time and space for addressing our own needs. 

I felt intimidated about spending money and taking time away from my business in order to work on my own personal and professional growth, but I made the scary decision last September to fly to San Antonio, Texas for training in The Daring Way™. It was one of the best things I've done for myself and for my business. The experience took me way out of my comfort zone, which is a very vulnerable space, and tested my capacity to trust myself and my fellow participants as we learned this model experientially. It affected me profoundly and I continue to feel the effects of this experience almost a year later.  

Fast forward to today, where I write this post from a hotel room in Las Vegas. I'm in my last full day of a working retreat which has allowed me to focus on wrapping up the last steps needed to launch the podcast. Taking time and space away from my routine is key to unlocking my creativity. Later today I hope to hike in Red Rocks State Park, which I know will be a spiritual experience. I love my work as a psychotherapist (and all the other hats I wear in my professional life) and having experiences of taking time and space for wonder, joy and gratitude as when I am in nature makes me love my work even more. It helps me get grounded and centered.

If you're considering whether a retreat might help you get back to connection with yourself, check out my retreats page for the latest on what I'm offering. My next Daring Way™ retreat starts October 2 and I would love to talk to you about participating! 

Until next time! 

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C



It's Easier Not to Care - Or Is It?

Feelings are hard.

Tomorrow is going to be hard. I'm having my dog euthanized.

I'm so sad about this but I know it's time.

I don't want to do this! As tears stream down my face I'm thinking, "I don't want to deal with this. I don't want to deal with this!" 

Why have a pet when you know they will die at some point? I mean, why did I even open up my heart to a new puppy 11 years ago, when I knew I would eventually have to say goodbye? I'm remembering when we had to put down our other dog (10 years ago). It was so sad, definitely one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. And now we are doing it again tomorrow, and this time our kids are old enough to understand. Crap. I don't want to feel these feelings!

This is part of life. Part of love. Life is not just the happy times, or even the neutral times when we are just chugging along - not really happy or sad. Life is filled with ups and downs. Overall, I've noticed it's more ups than downs. But the downs stand out more! 

Can I just not feel this?

This is hard. I wish I didn't have to feel this and that I could protect my family from having to feel this. Tomorrow is going to be SO HARD. Not having our dog anymore is going to be so sad. 

Part of me would prefer to pretend this isn't happening. Part of me would like to look online for puppies to adopt through a rescue organization and pretend my dog is already gone. You know that scene in the movie "American Beauty" when Annette Bening's character cries and screams for about 10 seconds and then fixes her makeup and acts like nothing happened? Part of me wants to do that. 

I want to numb my feelings. The problem is, as Brené Brown says, "We cannot selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light." 

Numb the Dark and You Numb the Light - Brené Brown

It's not possible to truly enjoy the companionship of your dog or cat (or your people) if you avoid opening your heart to him or her. When you do open your heart you can have countless hours of fun and mutual companionship with your pet over his or her lifespan. But the price you pay for opening your heart is that you must feel the pain of loss at some point.

Love hurts.

Isn't that true of all of our relationships? We never know when they'll be lost, but at some point they will. One of the people in the relationship will die and the other will experience loss. We never know when this will happen, but at some point it will. Wouldn't be easier just to keep our hearts closed off, protected, guarded by barbed wire, and never let anyone in? 

Well, yes, easier...if you don't mind feeling alone and lonely for your whole life. But we humans aren't made for that. We are social creatures and we need connection to survive, beginning at birth. The key to tolerating the pain of loss is the make sure to enjoy the good moments, really feel them and experience gratitude for them. And even in the neutral moments, can you find something to be grateful for? There is always something. It helps make the ups of life stand out as much as the downs.

So I will do this hard thing tomorrow. I will treasure my last hours with my dog, whom I love, and tomorrow I will take her to the vet so she will not suffer anymore. I don't want to do it and I wish I didn't have to. But I will. And I will open up my heart to another puppy (maybe two!) because it's worth it. I choose to feel because that's what life is.

"Carry on, warrior."

This morning I discovered that Glennon Doyle, Melton author of "Carry On Warrior," has a TED Talk. I have followed her blog, Momastery, but I haven't read her book yet. I watched the TED Talk today and - full disclosure - I cried through the whole thing. Maybe I'm just extra raw because I'm saying goodbye to my dog tomorrow, but I'm sharing it here because I feel pretty sure you will find it meaningful too. 

I think I need to read Glennon's book. It might take my mind off of being sad (or I will cry more - a win/win situation). I'd love to know what you think of the video and of this post in general. Please comment below!

And if you believe that risking heartbreak in the pursuit of connection is worthwhile, you'll probably want to read more of my posts. If you want support in opening your heart, get in touch with me by phone (443-510-1048), e-mail (laurareaganlcswc@gmail.com); or click "Work With Me" on my website to discover what I offer that can be of help to you.

Vulnerability Is Courage

I'm a psychotherapist, consultant, clinical supervisor and Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator. And a mother, wife, sister and friend. Although it was uncomfortable to do so, I made this video to tell you about my work offering The Daring Way™. As you will see, it's not a fancy, glossy, high production value video. It's just me. Therapists are just people who want to help people. We have specialized training in helping people with emotional pain and we can use our own experiences of struggle to relate to the suffering of others. And we are regular people. 

I want you to know that I offer The Daring Way™, based on the research of Brené Brown, because this model has changed my life. That's a big statement! In fact, before reading Brené Brown's books I probably wouldn't have said that out loud for fear that people would have thought my statement was stupid. That's exactly the point of this article. When I attended The Daring Way™ training, I was able to experience the model myself, and it changed me both personally and professionally. I've written more about how Brené Brown's work has changed me, and you can read it here

If you want to live a life that feels more authentic and build deep, meaningful connections with the important people in your life, The Daring Way™ might be a good fit for you. I'm offering this model in the Baltimore Annapolis area and I invite you to get in touch with me if you want to know more. 

(Click here for information on my upcoming weekend intensive. Early Bird Registration Discount ends June 15th!)

So although it felt vulnerable to make this video, I posted it anyway. It's what Brené Brown calls an "Arena Moment" in her book Daring Greatly. I posted the video even though:

  • I don't look perfect. (You're going to find that out sometime...might as well be now!)
  • I filmed it myself on my iPad - it's not glossy and professional-looking.
  • I don't sound as "smooth" and "cool" as I'd probably like to. 

And I like myself anyway! In fact, I'm an expert in the work I do and anyone who decides to work with me is going to see my imperfections eventually. I could try to present you with some kind of mask to make you like me more...but it would show through because I'd be playing a role instead of being authentic. How safe would you feel in a therapy session with a therapist who is hiding behind a mask of "being the expert" and trying to hide his/her imperfections from you? 

As Brené Brown says, "I am imperfect and I am enough." I am, and so are you. So even though I've said a lot about myself, this isn't really about me. It's about you. 

Do you want to show up and be seen as your true self? Are you ready to take off your mask and see what happens when you connect with other people from a place of authenticity? The Daring Women Weekend Intensive takes place July 17, 18 and 19, 2015. You can save $50 on the cost if you register by June 15th! The group is limited to six women and participants will be screened to ensure a good fit with the group. You can find all the details on this special intensive, the only one I'm planning for this year, at this link.  And if you're not ready to try a group setting, I use the model in my work with individuals and couples as well. To get started, give me a call at (443) 510-1048 or send me an e-mail at laurareaganlcswc@gmail.com to talk about how we can work together using The Daring Way™. 

If you want to read more of what I share, you can follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, and sign up for my e-mail newsletter (I won't spam you). 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Vulnerability Is Courage - Brené Brown
 

May is Mental Health Month!

Happy Mental Health Month! I think many of us can't relate to the words "Mental Health" as we associate them with negative images we have seen and heard on TV and in the movies. Do you have a loved one who has had a mental health problem? I do. If you don't, then that means neither you, nor anyone you care about has ever struggled with anxiety or depression, or experienced a traumatic event. Most of us have. I certainly have. 

Mental Health is a positive term, actually. Think about it - what if May was Physical Health Month? That sounds nice, doesn't it? Well, our bodies and minds are functioning at their best when we are experiencing mental and physical wellness. And there's a connection between our physical health and our mental health, because our mind, body and spirit all interact to make us the individual beings that we are.

Mental Health Month for 2015 is focused on recognizing when one needs help before the symptoms become so severe as to require intensive interaction, such as hospitalization. What does this mean to you and me? To me, it means three things.

Understand the effects of traumatic events.

I think my purpose in life is to help people who have experienced trauma and spread the word about the effects of trauma. Despite extensive research on the prevalence of childhood trauma and its effects on the physical and emotional well-being of humans throughout the lifespan, it seems that most people don't recognize the importance of addressing the effects of trauma. I feel sad about the amount of suffering so many of us endure before realizing that it doesn't have to be this way. If you've experienced a traumatic event, help is available! I've seen the positive outcomes for people who have participated in trauma-focused therapy. 

Practice Self Care

This is one of my favorite subjects, and I've begun a blog series on the topic. You can read the articles I've written thus far here. The key is to treat yourself as you would someone you love. It sounds very simple, but for many of us, it is easier said than done. In general, women in our culture are raised to take care of others, and men are raised to suppress their feelings. Our culture doesn't encourage us to take care of ourselves, but it is the only way to truly take care of anyone else. Check out what Brené Brown said about this on Oprah's Lifeclass. 

Know When To Seek Professional Help

Do you know the signs that a mental health problem is serious enough to require professional help? Many people are uncomfortable asking for help due to the stigma of mental health. This can contribute to waiting to seek help until we feel completely overwhelmed. Here's a link to a page listing symptoms of various types of mental health disorders.  There's no shame in admitting that you've reached the limits of how well you are able to manage a problem on your own. We all have these moments at times. I view therapy as a part of being well throughout the lifespan. There have been times when I have needed professional help to move through some difficult times, and I'm not ashamed to say so! Without this help I wouldn't be where I am today, in a position to help others.   If you think you might have a mental health disorder, here's a simple screening tool which can help you identify whether you'd benefit from professional assistance.   Here is a link to find help, wherever you are. 

I hope you'll join me in challenging the stigma of asking for help. It is truly a sign of strength to admit that a problem has grown past your ability to handle it alone. Please share this post to show your support for ending stigma! If you choose to share it on social media, please use the hashtag #B4Stage4. 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

May is Mental Health Month! #B4Stage4


Sources:

Burke, N.B. (2015, February 17). How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime. Retrieved on May 2, 2015 from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95ovIJ3dsNk 

Mental Health America (n.d.). Mental health screening tools. Retrieved on May 2, 2015 from: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/mental-health-screening-tools

National Alliance on Mental Illness (n.d.). Mental health by the numbers. Retrieved on May 2, 2015 from https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers

Harpo, Inc. (n.d.). Oprah's Lifeclass: are you judging those who ask for help? Retrieved on May 2, 2015 from: http://www.oprah.com/oprahs-lifeclass/Dr-Brene-Brown-on-Judging-Those-Who-Ask-for-Help-Video#

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (n.d.). How to get help. Retrieved on May 2, 2015 from: http://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/ 

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (n.d.). What to look for. Retrieved on May 2, 2015 from: http://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/index.html

Self Care Blog Series Round Up

To make it easier for you to find the series of articles on self care I've collected them on this page. I will add to the list as new articles are posted. 

Rethinking Self Care 

Therapists Share Their Self Care Tips

Self Care Apps Recommended By Therapists 

Self Care is Essential for Health

 

Feel free to share these if you think someone you know will benefit, and post them on social media! You can also follow me on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. I look forward to connecting with you! To talk about working together in therapy contact me at (443) 510-1048 or by clicking here to send me a message.

Using Flower Essences to Promote Emotional Well-being: My Interview with Beth Terrence

This installment of the blog series on holistic methods complementing traditional talk therapy includes an interview with local healer Beth Terrence, who is a Holistic Health Practitioner, Shaman, recovery coach and offers many wonderful one on one and group experiences to help you on your life's journey. I attended one of Beth's workshops and for me it was a very meaningful experience that I'd recommend to anyone. Today Beth agreed to be interviewed about her work as a Bach Flower Registered Practitioner

If you're not familiar with Bach Flower Remedies (I wasn't), you can find more information about these homeopathic remedies here. The British Homeopathic Association provides information about them at this link.  Read on below the image for Beth's interview! 

Bach Flower Remedies Interview with Beth Terrence

Tell me about your work. What are Bach Flower Remedies?  

I have been working in the field of Holistic Health and Wellness for over nineteen years providing Integrative Holistic Healing Sessions & Programs for individuals, groups and organizations.  

The Bach Flower Remedies are a flower essence system that supports emotional balance and wellbeing.  Created by British Dr. Edward Bach, the system is comprised of 38 flower essences used in conjunction with spiritual and holistic healing principles.  Dr. Bach understood the importance of treating the whole person, not just their disease. 

Early in his career, Dr. Bach observed how an individuals emotional state and personality traits affected their health even on a physical level. He was also very attuned to nature and able to correlate the energies of different flowers with various emotional states.  The remedies work vibrationally; similarly to homeopathic medicine.  

What benefits are expected with Bach Flower Remedies? Are there any risks? Who is a good candidate for Bach Flower Remedies? Who should not participate in treatment with Bach Flower Remedies? 

The Bach Flower Remedies support the process of transformation on many levels.  Essentially, they help to transmute emotions and long-held patterns that are out of balance; and to foster positive emotions and new healthier patterns for living.  Some areas the Bach Flower Remedies may provide support in addressing include:

     Life Transitions

     Loss/Grief

     Trauma/Abuse

     Anxiety

     Depression

     Life Direction & Purpose

     Energetic & Emotional Sensitivity

     Fatigue

     ADD/ADHD

     Self-Confidence

The Bach Flower Remedies are gentle and effective; there are no side effects and they can do no harm.  The remedies can be beneficial for adults, teens, children, pregnant women, babies and animals.   As treatment remedies are customized for the individual, responses vary but often include:

     a greater sense of balance

     a more positive attitude

     a release of feelings, patterns and beliefs that no longer serve

     feeling more able to move fluidly in the world

     having healthier relationships

     feeling more joy and ease of well-being.

Many people who come to me for therapy services are affected by trauma, anxiety and depression. How do Bach Flower Remedies help people with these issues? 

Of the 38 Bach Flower Remedies, there are quite a few that address trauma, anxiety and depression specifically.  The beauty of the remedies is that they support the individual and how these challenges manifest for them personally.  For instance, if depression is a concern, we might explore the following questions:

     Do you feel a sense of discouragement from setbacks, delays, failures or difficulties? Are you feeling despondent?

     Do you feel hopeless?

     Are you experiencing sadness, loss or grief? Have you experienced trauma recently or in the past?

     Do you have a black cloud depression that comes and goes for no known reason?

     Do you feel a sense of anguish as if you can't bear anymore?  Do you cry uncontrollably?

During evaluation, practitioner and client are working collaboratively to determine core issues and the best treatment remedies for that time.  Usually, a combination of 5 - 7 remedies is blended, which are taken orally or through a topical spray for 3 - 4 weeks.  Depending on the person and the length of the patterns, a number of treatment periods may be needed to support a shift.

What else do you want people to know about yourself and the services you offer?

People often ask me how I came to work with the Bach Flower Remedies.  They were one of the most important holistic tools that helped me in my recovery initially from Fibromyalgia and ultimately from the effects of Trauma on my life.  Through my own healing journey, I discovered the importance of exploring a variety of holistic tools to find those that best supported me in the change and healing I was trying to create. 

I offer Integrative Holistic Healing Programs to assist others in their journey of transformation.  I have found an Integrative Approach supports each individual in understanding where they are and in moving towards where they would like to be.  The foundational tools of my practice include The Bach Flower Remedies, Shamanic Healing and Body/EnergyTherapies such as Zero Balancing.  Additional modalities may be incorporated depending on individual focus and needs.  Sessions are available in Annapolis, MD or by Phone/Skype. I also offer classes and workshops locally in the MD/DC area and virtually by teleseminar.  

Want to learn more from Beth? Click here to listen to "Beat The Seasonal Blues With The Bach Flower Remedies" on Soundcloud. 

Beth Terrence is a trained Shaman, Holistic Health Practitioner, Speaker, Writer & Recovery Coach. She is a Bach Flower Registered Practitioner with the Bach Centre in the UK.  Beth has been working in the field of holistic healing and transformation for over nineteen years.  Her mission is to support others in living a heart-centered, balanced and joyful life through discovering the healer within.  To learn more, visit www.bethterrence.com or contact Beth at 443-223-0838 to explore whats possible!

I'm honored that Beth was willing to be interviewed about the helpful services she offers in Annapolis and virtually.  I hope you learned something new, as I did! 

If you'd like to read more of this series and other news I share, subscribe to my newsletter, follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest

Holistic Blog Interviews


Self-Care Apps Recommended by Therapists

I've been surprised to realize how many apps are out there which can help support self care. Did you know? If you've visited this blog before, you know that I often talk about ways to treat oneself with nurturing, love and compassion. This is the latest post in my blog series on self care

I have a few apps I use to facilitate my personal self care practice, which I've listed below. I asked a few of my colleagues to share some they have tried as well. I'd love to hear your suggestions! Please comment below with your favorites! Read on below the photo for the recommendations! 

Therapists Share Favorite Self Care Apps

Apps for Mindfulness

Insight Timer  Susan Faurot, MSC, LMFT in California recommends this app. It is available for Apple and Android. You can set the timer for the period you want to meditate, and the app rings a Tibetan singing bowl sound to let you know when the time is up.

Another who recommends this app is Helen Caldwell, LCSW in Long Beach, CA. Helen states, "Insight Timer is a wonderful app for mindfulness meditation for beginners through those with more practice experience. I love that you can pick different styles of meditation bells to prompt the beginning and end of your silent meditation. The app also includes guided meditations by experts in the field."

Calm I learned about this app from Kelly Higdon, LMFT in Laguna Hills, California. Can I just say...I LOVE THIS APP!!! It's a new favorite. As I wrote this article I wanted to do a little research on the app - Kelly didn't say much about it - so I looked up the website (www.calm.com) and immediately I was drawn in. 

I'm a huge fan of the beach. It's definitely my happy place, where I feel relaxed, peaceful, calm, joyful and carefree. I was able to select a beach scene depicting an ocean at sunset, complete with the sights and sounds of waves crashing and seagulls. I was hooked immediately. You may have a different happy place and that's okay, because there are over a dozen to choose from. I'd like to have this on my computer screen at all times, but I fear I'd doze off because it is just so darn relaxing. In fact, I am listening to the waves crashing as I type this and I'm feeling very blissful. So thank you Kelly!

I hope you enjoy the app as much as I do, whether you use it on your mobile device or on your computer.  In addition to the relaxing sights and sounds of the app, you can choose to use it for meditation. For beginners there is a 7 day introduction to mindfulness which guides you through starting a daily meditation practice and includes daily reminders. I started the 7 day intro today, since I do not meditate as regularly as I would like. Look for an update in a future post on how well that worked for me.

Study - recommended by Amy Sugeno, LCSW in Marble Falls, Texas, who says, "Study (free for Android and Apple)..is 45 minutes of nature and bird sounds that are supposed to help relieve stress, block out distractions (like at work or school), and increase productivity. After 45 minutes, it suggests you take a short break - sometimes it helps to just have that reminder!"  

Looking for more recommendations?  Also, Mindful magazine posted this list which includes their review of Headspace along with a couple others.

Apps for Sleep

Relax Melodies - recommended by Fresno, CA therapist Patty Behrens, LMFT, who states, " Relax Melodies is an app I have recommended to clients to calm themselves and for sleep. It has a variety of different sounds you can layer onto each other, binaural beats for relaxation or concentration and a timer to go off on its own." Sounds like another one I'd like to try!

Omvana - this is one I have used personally and I often recommend to clients. You can choose from several different relaxing sounds of varying lengths, put them on a timer so your device isn't running the app all night long, and it has a mixer. Some of the content is free and additional content can be downloaded for a fee. The app includes guided meditations in addition to the soothing sleep sounds. 

Sleep Cycle and Sleep Bot - both of these are recommended by my colleague Erin Findley, Psy.D., in San Francisco, CA. Erin writes, "I really like Sleep Cycle and Sleep Bot. Personally, I prefer Sleep Cycle, but the two useful things Sleep Bot does that Sleep Cycle doesn't is it tracks your sleep debt, and it also can record sound above a certain level at night if you're wondering if you're snoring, sleep talking, etc."

Apps for Fitness

Keeping our bodies healthy is such an important part of self care. After all, if your body stops working, you are forced to take care of it, whether you want to or not. Better yet, keep it healthy day after day and hopefully it will be strong for you throughout your lifetime. This is something I can do better with, but I try to remain focused on getting regular exercise. When I'm consistent with exercise I reap the rewards physically and emotionally. It's never too late to start or re-start healthy habits. 

Yoga Studio  Another app recommended by Helen Caldwell, LCSW. "This is a wonderful app that allows you to take a yoga class from the comfort of your home, office or anywhere you have your smart phone or tablet. You can take a quick 15 minute, 30 minute, or hour class at varying levels. You can even make up your own class based on your favorite poses," Helen explains. This sounds very useful, definitely something I'd like to try! 

Up Alicia Taverner, LMFT in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, recommends this app. Alicia says, "I use the jawbone up24 with the app and I absolutely love it! It tracks your sleep patterns and steps throughout the day and vibrates to remind you when you need to get moving." I actually have the Jawbone Up fitness tracker as well, and was using it with the app for a while, but I got off track. Time to get back to it!  

My Fitness Pal is another app I've used for tracking healthy eating and exercise. It works with various trackers but you can use it without them as well, by entering the information manually. It also has exercise routines, tips and healthy recipes. 

Apps for Inspiration

Louise Hay's Affirmation Meditations I use this app personally and with clients. Affirmations can be very effective at injecting some positive self-talk into the constant chatter going on in our heads. Many people know Louise Hay as a founder of the self-help movement. She has done so much to promote positive thinking and healing, and I find this app to be easy to use, effective and inspirational. It is free but some paid content is available as well.

5 Minute Journal: A third recommendation by Helen Caldwell, LCSW in California.  Helen says, "I often recommend the practice of journaling but some clients find the practice daunting and benefit from prompts. This app requires little time. Under 5 minutes!  The app prompts you to write in the morning and then again in the evening. There's an inspiring quote as soon as you open the app. The app focuses on gratitude, positive affirmations and short term goal setting."

I love the focus on gratitude, which is a path to joy and can be a type of mindfulness practice, as well. And I'm a sucker for inspirational quotes. I'm definitely downloading this one.

Other Apps for Self Care

Intend - Susan Faurot, MSC, LMFT recommends this one, saying "Intend is really cool!" As I understand it, Intend helps remind you of intentions you set. For example, if your intention is to feel more confident, you can program the app to send you random reminders throughout the day such as, "be confident."  

Virtual Hope Box This app, which was developed by the Department of Defense and the VA, is pretty awesome. I can't believe it is free, considering the breadth of what it offers. Amy Sugeno, LCSW praised this app, saying, "I love the Virtual Hope Box by t2Health for Android and Apple (free). It gives several immediate options for coping with stress and regulating your emotions - distraction, meditation, relaxation, etc." 

I have to agree with Amy. I've recommended this app to clients for help coping with trauma symptoms. You can upload photos of important people, your favorite songs, inspirational quotes, videos, and so much more to personalize the app with things that you find comforting. 

Mindfulness Fitness Sleep Inspiration Self Care

I would love to hear about any apps you have tried for promoting self care. Did you love them? Hate them? Share in the comments below!

Disclaimer: I have received no compensation for sharing information about these apps. Please use your own judgment before downloading any apps. I don't know for sure if you will like them! Of course, no app can substitute for mental health treatment when needed. I hope this list is useful to you. I welcome your feedback. 

To read more of what I share, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. You can also sign up for my e-mail newsletter for updates on groups, intensives and workshops as well as recent blog posts. 

 

 

Nourish Your Soul: My Interview with Folk Healer Chonteau McElvin

Welcome to today's edition of my blog series on holistic and alternative methods complementing traditional talk therapy. I use a holistic perspective in my work with clients to address the needs of mind, body and spirit. My interviews with a number of therapists and healers have taught me that a variety of methods are available to help us heal from the inside out

Chonteau McElvin was trained as a social worker, and she now practices as a naturalist, energy worker, life coach, folk healer and herbalist. I was fascinated to interview her and hear how she helps her clients nourish their souls by cultivating self-care practices. This is one of my passions and the subject of another blog series. Read on below the photo for the full interview with Chonteau! 

 Image copyright Laura Reagan, LCSW-C Psychotherapy Services, LLC 2015

Image copyright Laura Reagan, LCSW-C Psychotherapy Services, LLC 2015

Tell me about your work. How do you incorporate being a Social Worker,  Naturalist, Energy Worker, Folk Healer and Herbalist into your work with clients? 

What I love about mixing my "medicines," medicines being our talents and good offerings we offer our community, is I get to pull in nontraditional schools of thought into each soul recovery session. I am of the belief that the absence of spirituality in our lives perpetuates the illusion that we are not all connected. When I say ALL I mean all things including nature, people and things. If this is true, that we are all connected, then how can I leave any part of the ALL out of the experience of healing. My social work degree was merely a piece of paper that said I can do what I was born to do. However, by having that piece of paper I was able to work with some pretty incredible populations which further reminded me of my life's calling. Much of my work is very intuitive in nature. There are not set rules that need to be followed, it really is about both parties showing up and trusting the process. Some of my clients pull on all of my skills while others may require only one or two of my offerings.

What benefits are expected with Herbalism? Are there any risks? Who is a good candidate for this work? Who should not participate in Herbalism? 

When I refer to herbalism I am referring to folk herbalism which is different than clinical herbalism.  I do not use herbs like drugs. I encourage the development of relationships to any plant you are going to journey with.  My view of folk herbalism is understanding what plants grow around you and  introducing yourself to those plants slowly and with deep respect.  When done in this way herbs tend not be be harmful.  I do not use herbs as pills, but in ways one can still taste the plant or experience its essence such as in herbal teas, bath blends or extracts.  Every client I meet with in person, we always have a cup of herbal tea.  Before they come to my office I will get an impression of what herbal blend will support their healing. If I am working with someone through correspondence I will often send them a personal blend to support our work.  Herbs are not for everyone and not everyone drinks the tea I make and that is fine. Remember I trust the process and I trust the Spirit of that person to know what is best for them.  I have seen herbal formulas support my clients  emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  I am not a doctor so I can never say herbs should replace what you have been prescribed.  I am able to say that herbs are here for us to get to know and begin to explore how they can support our whole being.

Many people who come to me for therapy services are affected by trauma, anxiety and depression. How do you help people with these issues? 

I am not a therapist so people do not come to me for treatment of depression or anxiety. I am a Life Coach and I have a degree in Social Work which helps me be able to detect when I am not enough and therapy is needed.  I do have clients that come to see me who struggle with numerous emotional challenges and we begin with a soul self care evaluation.  Basically I listen to their story.  As they are talking I began to intuitively assess what direction we need to take in supporting that persons movement forward.  Spiritual Healing Sessions or Soul Nourishment Sessions  are very different than traditional therapy.  My approach to supporting my clients heal and  move forward, is rooted in using mindfulness, visualizations, earth-based spirituality and other shamanic methods. I teach my client the tools they need to maintain whole healthy living.   I also focus on their energetic anatomy,  they may be carrying around unwanted  energies in their field, often this acts as a barrier to forward movement.  We also work on getting in touch with and healing their archetypes or inner communities.  Everyone is different.  We trust the process.

Having worked in the Social Work field for a very long time I have a passion for supporting other practitioners.  I have seen so many of my colleagues burn out in their field and in life because they have not taken good care of themselves. The self care that I promote goes beyond the typical taking a day off or going on vacation. The self care I promote with Healers is the process  of looking within and taking the time to connect with your Spirit.  I have worked with several groups of employees of high stress professions, they have been very open to learning ways to "connect with the one precious thing called their life".

What else would you like people to know about you and your services?

I think  one of the most important things about my service is that it is organic.  There is no script or protocol that we follow. We tap into Guidance and allow for the process to unfold. This includes when I work with groups or individuals.  Everyone  comes to me for their unique needs and it is a reciprocal relationship. I  learn and expand just as much as the person or group I am guiding does.  I would also say that it does not matter if we are working in person or at a distance the benefits are still transformative.

Chonteau McElvin is a naturalist, life coach, energy worker, folk healer and herbalist based in Winter Garden, Florida. She offers services in person as well as via phone and video. To find out more, visit her website at www.chonteau.com

I'm so grateful to Chonteau for agreeing to be interviewed. I am fascinated with her approach to healing and I encourage you to visit her website for the resources available there. I found it to be a very soothing, calming site. 

Thanks for reading this latest edition of the blog series on integrative mental health! If you're interested in knowing more about what I do to help heal mind, body and spirit, contact me via phone at 443-510-1048, follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest, or subscribe to my e-mail newsletter for occasional updates! 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please leave a comment below! And if you like this article, please share it with others who might be interested!

Warmly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Reiki and Crystal Healing for Self Love & Self Acceptance

In today's post for the series on integrative mental health I'm excited to bring you an interview with Nina Gallant, LMT, a fabulous healer who practices in Annapolis and New York. Nina agreed to answer my questions about Reiki and Crystal Healing. You can get some background on Reiki by clicking here. This article provides some information about crystal healing, although there are admittedly few informative websites on this subject.

Reiki and Crystal Healing Mind Body Spirit

My interview with Nina Gallant begins below! 

 

Tell me about your work. How do you use Reiki and crystal healing?  In what setting does it take place? 

As a healer, I use many techniques to help my clients experience greater peace, wellness and vitalityReiki and crystal healing energy work are two of the methods I use.  Reiki is a hands-on healing art that allows life force energy (also sometimes called unconditional love, prana or chi) to flow to where it is most needed physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Crystal healing is a guided meditation that helps harmonize the chakras and other vibrational fields to support the purification, amplification and elevation of the energies of the mind, body and spirit.  Both healing techniques are done with the receiver of the energy lying on a massage table, comfortable in receiving these gifts of healing.

What benefits are offered by Reiki and crystal healing? Are there any risks? Who is a good candidate for this work? Who should not participate in these methods? 

The benefits of Reiki and crystal healing run broad and deep – they really are both quite exciting!  Emotionally and cognitively, they support self-acceptance, self-love and self-healing, leading to an increased sense of self-empowerment and capability.  They also both help expand consciousness, enhance spiritual growth, increase clarity of thought and purpose and connection to our intuition and higher selves, facilitate the setting of healthy boundaries – the list goes on!  Physically, they also offer broad benefits – immune system support, digestive health, and healthy sleep patterns, to name just a few. 

There are no real risks to receiving Reiki, unless you have the rare case of having an unset broken bone!  If Reiki were to be applied before the bones were properly aligned, they would be encouraged to set in a broken configuration rather than following healthy anatomical structure.  Generally, the divine intelligence of Reiki energy knows where it is needed, and it will go there – the practitioner is a conduit focusing this life-giving energy on the recipient.

Like Reiki, most everyone can benefit from crystal healing, though a word of encouragement to work with an experienced practitioner.  The resonance of different crystals will amplify different functions of the body, heart and mind.  Malachite, for example, is known to magnify energies already manifest in an individual – wonderful, if one’s mood is on the upswing, and potentially not so great if the spiral is downward.  For someone with growing despondency, an appropriate selection (among many) would be citrine, a stone known to bring joy and rid negativity and gloom to those interacting with it.  Another example: amber, stimulating cell reproduction, would not be suitable for use with cancer.  Rutilated quartz is a good choice, as it stimulates immunity, directs boosted energy to areas in need of rejuvenation, and its golden fibers support protection from radiation.  Working with someone who has awareness of these nuances of the healing energy of the stones is important, as crystal healing is not always as naturally innocuous as Reiki healing can be.

Read on for more of the interview with Nina! 

Reiki Crystal Healing Self Love Acceptance Healing

Many people who come to me for therapy services are affected by trauma, anxiety and depression. Is Reiki beneficial to people with these issues? What about crystal healing?

These gentle therapies are non-invasive and very nurturing, and can greatly benefit those who have experienced trauma and are living with anxiety, low spirit and other blocks to well-being.  I conduct a thorough intake session that helps reveal issues of importance and areas on which to focus attention.  Also, the person receiving the healing energy remains clothed on the table, which often adds to feelings of security. 

During crystal healing sessions, my clients and I work together to develop positive affirmations that truly resonate with their desires.  It is a collaborative effort that is rewarding for all.  I am always honored and excited to partner with individuals who are taking a proactive approach to their healing and well-being!  And very often, that proactivity presents simply as an increasing ability to be open to receive the gifts of healing

This is surprisingly not always an easy task in our culture – one that rewards humans doing and contributing over humans being and receiving, but both qualities are equally important in balance – the yin and the yang of it, so to speak. 

What else would you like to tell us about your work and the services you offer?

In addition to Reiki and crystal healing, I am licensed in therapeutic bodywork, offering deep tissue and Swedish massage, and CranioSacral therapy.  I’m also a certified Trager® practitionerBardo Dance, a conscious dance modality I developed, offers healing through movement.  Classes are and have been held regularly in Annapolis and at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY for many years.  I would love to see you there sometime!

For more information, please feel free to contact me at nina@exuberantyes.com, visit my website at www.exuberantyes.com (it's currently being updated), or give me a call at (410) 991-3508.  I would love to connect with you! 

Thanks so much to Nina for taking the time to answer my questions! I've learned more about these methods from her, and I have tried some of them myself as well! More on that in a future post. Did you learn something new about Reiki and crystal healing? Have you tried these methods? Comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts! 

Contact Nina via e-mail (nina@exuberantyes.com) or phone at (410) 991-3508 for more information on Reiki, crystal healing, Bardo dance (awesome!) and her bodywork as well as the Trager® approach. If you are looking for a psychotherapist offering an integrative approach to address the needs of mind, body and spirit, call me at (443) 510-1048. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. I try to share useful information on all three sites with minimal duplication of posts. 

Sources:

Author Unknown. (n.d.) Crystal healing. Retrieved from: http://www.altmd.com/Articles/Crystal-Healing--Encyclopedia-of-Alternative-Medic

International Center for Reiki Training. (n.d.) Reiki, questions and answers. Retrieved from: http://www.reiki.org/faq/questions&answers.html

Therapists Share Their Self-Care Tips

Welcome to the second article in my blog series on self care. A lot of my therapist colleagues have been thinking and writing about self care lately. Some great posts on this subject have been written recently by Jodie Gale and Sarah Leitschuh. I asked several therapists to share their favorite self care tips. Hopefully this list will inspire you to make a more conscious effort to put yourself first! 

Nurture yourself!

Zoe Cryns, M.A., Portland, OR Never underestimate the power of sitting in sunshine to help offset the 'winter blues'. I take time to get sunshine when it's available, especially here in northern climes, to maintain a positive physiology.

Alicia Taverner, LMFT - Rancho Cucamonga, CA I use exercise and healthy eating for self care. Even if I can't fit in a class at the gym or a full hour of yoga I've recently started to let myself off the hook a little and do even 15 minutes of yoga or meditative stretching. Being a new mom and building a business along with working full time doesn't allow much extra time and something always ends up getting cut short and that's something I'm learning to be okay with. It's okay to just take a quick 10 minute walk on a break at work to get moving and count your blessings! 

Peg Shippert, LPC - Boulder, CO I often recommend that people use their waiting time (in lines, on the phone, at the doctor's office etc.) to practice belly breathing. Just mindfully breathing deeply several times a day can really help get our nervous systems better regulated! I'm always telling people that self care is not about doing one specific thing necessarily. It's about listening to what you need and making time for it. It could be talking to a friend, or taking a break, or getting outside, or even just getting a glass of water. As long as that's what you feel like you need in that moment. I definitely use the practices I mentioned myself. The breathing while I'm waiting does a couple of things: 1) turns those wasted minutes that used to frustrate me into a time to do something positive for myself, 2) connects me with my body and calms my nervous system. The checking in to ask myself what I need has helped in all kinds of ways. It increases my self compassion and encourages me to treat myself with care. I also find that a lot of times, what I need is to talk to someone, and that isn't my go to self care activity. So, when I check in and find that's what I want, and honor it by reaching out to someone else, it really enriches my relationships. 

Mercedes Samudio, LCSW – Huntington Beach, CA Writing and/or journaling is a strategy I encourage my clients to do as well as one that I frequently do. I feel that writing gets your thoughts -- whether positive or negative -- out of your head and into a space where you can process them. I also feel that writing organizes your jumbled thoughts so you can sort through what's going on for you. Even something as simple as writing a to do list, or jotting down a quick positive affirmation, is enough to shift your mood and change your thoughts.

Steven G. Brownlow, Ph.D.  I focus people on belly breathing, making sure they slow way down--maybe 4-5 breaths a minute, total, without ever holding their breath. This resets heart rate variability (and thus emotional regulation), as well as the blood's ability to effectively deliver oxygen. It also reduces stress-related illness markedly. 

Michelle Pointon Farris, LMFT - San Jose, CA. I talk to clients about shifting their focus onto self-care and how important it is to create time for yourself. Exercise, and social time having fun is talked about a lot!

Shirani Pathak, LCSW - San Jose, CA I recommend that clients stop watching the news. I don't watch the news and I find my life to be much more peaceful because of it. It keeps me from worrying about all the bad stuff going on in the world.

Colleen King, LMFT  - Sacramento, CA. My favorite way to practice self-care is using mindfulness along with belly breathing. An easy and fun way to do this is to focus on the small wonders of nature in the moment. Go outside and notice the patterns in a leaf, or the color variations of the clouds, or the shapes created in between the bare branches of winter trees. I incorporate all the senses to help people become fully immersed in the moment. Feel the softness of grass (crunch of the snow) underneath your feet, hear the sound of the wind, see the beauty of the flight of birds, smell the plants, etc. 

Robyn D’Angelo, LMFT Laguna Hills, CAI recently learned about (and share with my clients) the Hierarchy of Living a Healthy Life: 1) SELF 2) GOD (or whatever you connect to spiritually) 3) OTHERS. Which looks like this: on a daily, the first 30 minutes of your day are you getting moving (walking, running, stretching - whatever works for you) & eat a healthy breakfast. Next is time with your higher power (out in nature, praying, meditating, journaling, reading, etc). And Lastly: others. Which means not checking cell phones, email, social media or tv of any kind I till you've cared for #'s 1&2 first. One of the simplest ways to make #3 stay at #3 in the hierarchy, is to turn off all alerts on your phone/iPads so that you have to manually open any apps/email to see new messages. It's amazing how our brains learn to crave these small alerts upon waking. Do this for a week and you notice a shift. Do this for a month and you feel peace. Do this daily for as long as you can and you develop a sense of clarity and ease that you've never experienced before.

Patty Behrens, MFT - Fresno, CA I encourage clients to take a "time out" during the day, a mini brain break to "single focus" on one of their five senses, sight, sound, touch, taste or smell. Whether at work or at home, take 5 minutes (or more if able). For sight, you look at one object and notice colors, shades of color, texture, designs, every little detail while also doing deep breathing. For sounds, you sit back, close your eyes while you listen to all the sounds, closer sounds will appear first, then less noticeable sounds will be heard. This is especially nice to do outside. Touch should also be done with the eyes closed. It can involve petting an animal, feeling the texture of an object or touching whatever is around you while noticing the textures, designs, temperature, all the little details. Smell and taste are done in a similar fashion. It could be smelling a candle, essential oil, piece of fruit, flower or the outdoors. It's amazing out this simple activity will provide a sense of calmness.

Lisa Bowker, MSW - Providence, RI. I like to remind clients to check in during their day and notice if they can feel a connection to their bodies and the earth. It's so easy to get caught up in our minds. I invite them to imagine bringing your energy or awareness down through your body again, like a gentle waterfall, until you can feel the earth underneath your feet again.

Kelly Montgomery MA, LMFT Oakland, CA  I have “no screen” time. Phones off, TV off, etc. Low input time to listen to hear what might have been drown out not out around me, but inside. It's a mindfulness practice.

I'm inspired by these ideas from my fellow therapists. Share your favorite ways of nurturing yourself in the comments below! 

You deserve your love and affection