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.

Are Some People More Authentic Than Others?

This blog was originally published in April, 2015 but I have updated it to include some new information as well as the link to the episode of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast released in September, 2015 related to the Guideposts and an upcoming workshop. You can always find up to date information on events I'm hosting on my website: www.laurareaganlcswc.com

Welcome to the second post in the blog series on creating a life that feels authentic, using Brené Brown's "Guideposts to Wholehearted Living," which she describes in detail in her book The Gifts of Imperfection (one of my very favorites!), her last bestseller, Daring Greatly and her newest bestseller Rising Strong.  This blog was originally published in April, 2015 but I have updated it to include some new information as well as the link to the podcast episode released in September, 2015 on this subject.

If you're interested in going deeper with Brené Brown's work, join me for an intensive weekend in Severna Park where 6 women will use the Daring Way™ to build deep connection so they can show up authentically in relationships and live more wholeheartedly.

I won't pretend that this blog series will achieve the level of detail included in Dr. Brown's books - which I highly recommend you read - but I hope it can serve as an introduction to help you think about how you can move toward a more authentic and wholehearted lifeAt the end of this post I will tell you about how you can work with me using The Daring Way™, based on the research of Brené Brown, to develop authentic connection with yourself and others. 

I often talk about living authentically and wholeheartedly. I aspire to live my life in a way that makes me feel as if my soul purpose and my actions are aligned. That's not an easy task in a world that tells us to look and act a certain way in order to be accepted. Sometimes it feels like there is little space for showing up as our true selves. Of course, I'm a unique individual, just like you are, and what makes us who we are is what's special about us. There is no one else like you or me. So why is it so tempting to hide our true selves so we can fit in

For me, hiding how I feel inside is a skill I've practiced for 43 years so far (though for the past 10 years I've been working on changing that habit). I got to be good enough at doing it that I didn't even notice when it was happening. In fact, there was a time when I didn't even know how I felt inside. It was all just kind of jumbled up, leaving me with a general sense of malaise that I didn't really understand. How did I perfect the ability to block out my feelings? It helped that I was frequently counseled not to be "so sensitive" as a child, and I picked up our societal message that it's not a good idea to cry in public when I was quite young. Even when the message wasn't directed toward me, I saw the horror and disgust on others' faces when someone would cry in school. I vowed at an early age that would not be me! How sad. Crying is a normal response to feeling sad, mad, confused, scared, or overwhelmed. Or all of the above!

As I continued on the journey of my life. the various disappointments and tragedies I experienced (as we all do, inevitably) caused me pain that I didn't want to feel. Do you like pain? No, neither do I. Even joyful experiences can bring pain. Having children is wonderful, but once you allow your heart to feel that much love, you have so much more to lose if anything were to happen to them! And when something causes them pain and you can't do anything to make it better? Ouch! 

Later, as a social worker/counselor in training during college and grad school, I felt it was very important to avoid showing how upsetting the stories of abuse, oppression and injustice were for me because I wanted to prove I was tough (not weak!). While it's true that one must maintain professionalism in the role of a social worker or counselor, there is a time and place for letting those feelings out in supervision, consultation and personal psychotherapy. Pretending something doesn't bother us is not an effective way to avoid feeling the pain.   I associated vulnerability (letting my guard down) with weakness. Have you ever felt this way?

So what's the deal? Are some people just simply more authentic than others? Why can some people show the world who they really are, in every situation?  And are these people happier than the rest of us? These are some of the questions Brené Brown's research was able to answer and her answers are summarized in the 10 Guideposts. In The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brown defines authenticity as "the daily practice of letting go of who we think we're supposed to be and embracing who we really are." The Guideposts explain what people who live wholeheartedly do differently from the rest of us.

Brené Brown's Guideposts to Wholehearted Living from the Gifts of Imperfection:

1. Cultivating Authenticity - Letting Go of What People Think

2. Cultivating Self-Compassion - Letting Go of Perfectionism

3. Cultivating A Resilient Spirit - Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness

4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy - Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark

5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith Letting Go of the Need for Certainty

6.  Cultivating Creativity - Letting Go of Comparison

7. Cultivating Play and Rest - Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth

8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness - Letting Go of Anxiety As a Lifestyle

9. Cultivating Meaningful Work Letting Go of Self-Doubt and "Supposed To"

10. Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance - Letting Go of Being Cool and "Always In Control"

This blog series will discuss each of the Guideposts in more detail with future posts. As you read the list, what feelings come up for you? Does this resonate? It certainly did with me when I read it for the first time. Do you follow the Guideposts in your life? Do you want to find a way to incorporate them?

I've shared with you some of the challenges which have interfered with living my life as authentically as I'd like, in hopes that you will see that I'm not here to tell you what you "should" do to live wholeheartedly - I'm on this journey too.  The Daring Way™ training, which I attended in September 2014, changed me and I want to share it with as many people as possible.

I am a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator and I'm excited to be able to offer this model in individual therapy, with groups and in workshops. I also use the model in Clinical Supervision for Maryland social workersIf you want to dig deeper with this work, click here to find out about the Daring Women Weekend Intensive for a small group of women. Discounts are available for two people who register together.  I am offering an introductory 1 Day Workshop and I plan to offer the Rising Strong™ method in the near future. You can also read about the special intensive Couple's Workshop opportunity. And for a more in-depth discussion of perfectionism and the Guideposts

What did you think of this podcast episode? I'd love to hear your comments! You can also rate and review the podcast on iTunes by clicking here. And if you'd like to hear more from me you can 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 podcast, search the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and (coming soon) Google Play. Or click here to listen via my website. 

Cheers!

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Click on the image below to listen to the podcast episode on the Guideposts.

Click on the image below to listen to all the podcast episodes released thus far. If you like it, please subscribe on iTunes and leave an honest review!

  Click on this image to listen to the podcast.

Click on this image to listen to the podcast.

To find out more give me a call at (443) 510-1048e-mail me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com; follow me on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest, and sign up for my e-mail newsletter for updates.  You can hear more from me by listening to The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy PodcastIf you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe on iTunes and consider leaving an honest review.

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

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C, CDWF

Psychotherapist, Consultant, Clinical Supervisor, Blogger, Podcaster

Connect with Your Authentic Self!
 

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. 

 

 

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


Rethinking Self Care

As a therapist, I talk about, think about and promote self care with all of my clients. It's on my mind much of the time as I know its importance. However, it wasn't always this way for me. That's why I am beginning this blog series on self care

I first learned about the concept of self care when I worked in a Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Norfolk, Virginia. My wonderful supervisor, Kristen, taught me that self care would help survivors soothe themselves when trauma symptoms were triggered. I would ask callers to the hotline and clients in the office who were working to address the crisis after a traumatic experience, "What helps you when you are feeling upset? When you have been through tough times before this, what did you do to feel better?" Depending on which techniques had been effective for them in the past, they could use the same ones to soothe themselves or learn new ways to cope

I was learning about self care for the first time.  You just do what you do to cope, without really thinking about it, most of the time. We all do this and I was no different. I was taught some of the common self care strategies, and I had a list to use to help me make suggestions if clients were unable to think of any on their own. However, I didn't think much about my own self care strategies - in fact, for a while I didn't have any, at least none that I was really aware of. I had to learn that in the work of helping people I, too, was vulnerable to feeling the effects of secondary traumatic stress through hearing traumatic stories on a daily basis.  

Kristen, the supervisor I mentioned, had to tell me once to take a few days off when I began to exhibit the signs of secondary traumatic stress. It was difficult for me to agree to take a few days off - I think I was afraid the world would end if I wasn't there to save it. I can laugh about that now, but it didn't feel nice at the time. I was very idealistic then, and the time off gave me a chance to take care of myself so I could come back refreshed and ready to help again.  If I had kept going the way I was, I would have begun to feel like a robot, just going through the motions without emotional connection. Not only is that an unethical way to practice, it is in total contrast to the values which guide my work with clients as well as the way I want to live my life. 

Self Care Strategies

Helping professionals may experience this at one time or another. I chose to become a helping professional (first as an advocate and crisis counselor and later as a therapist) because I care about people, and over the past 13 years I have heard many stories. I have heard and witnessed many amazing examples of strength, resiliency and transformation as well as pain and struggle, and I am honored and grateful to bear witness with my clients!  Each person has touched my heart and changed me in some way. Therapy with survivors of trauma is my passion and I want to remain healthy and well for many years to continue doing this work, which is so important to me.  Self care is also crucial if you are parenting, caregiving, or if you're someone who thinks about what makes others happy more than you think about what makes you happy. 

This post is the first in a series about self care. I'm going to go in depth to share my journey from thinking self care means getting a massage or a pedicure a couple of times per year to understanding that self care is a daily practice which is essential for health and well-being. The series will include quotes from other therapists and resources you can use to develop your own self care practice. I will try new things and share with you what I've learned. I'll also share what works for me now.

I invite you to join me in cultivating self care. Let's start by sharing self care strategies you have found helpful. I would love to hear about them in the comments below. 

If you don't even know where to begin - believe me, I've been there - contact me to talk about how therapy can help you believe that you deserve to put yourself first. You can reach me at (443) 510-1048 for a phone consult. 

To read more of what I share you can follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter or sign up for my newsletter

Self Care Dry Well


Somatic Therapies: Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)

In the latest edition of my blog series on holistic and alternative methods to complement traditional talk therapy, I am excited to interview Cathy Canfield, MSW, LCSW, LICSW. Cathy practices in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. where she offers Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which is commonly called EMDR. 

If you've been following the series, you know that a couple of weeks ago I interviewed Kara Falck, MSW, LCSW-C, LICSW, who offers another somatic, or body-based therapy technique: Sensorimotor Psychotherapy - in her Baltimore area practice. You may be wondering about the differences between these interventions. I plan to cover that subject in a future blog post. 

EMDR is one of the somatic therapy interventions which has been studied quite a bit and research indicates that it is an effective treatment for trauma. This article from the EMDR International Association ("EMDRIA")  explains the phases of EMDR treatment to help potential clients understand what to expect and how the process works.  The National Center for PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), which is a program of the VA, states that EMDR is effective to help veterans and others with PTSD heal on this page from their website.  

Read on after the image for my interview with Cathy! 

Processing Trauma Using EMDR

 

Tell me about your work. What is EMDR?  

During an EMDR Therapy session, we use a standardized process to access the brain’s information processing system.   This may include the use of eye movements or other forms of bilateral  (left-right) stimulation. Through EMDR, negative memories are re-processed by the brain in order to form a new emotion associated with the memory.  It's like reorganizing the filing system in your brain to be more effective.  

What benefits does EMDR have? Are there any risks? Who is a good candidate for EMDR? Who should not participate in EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is used by specially trained psychotherapists to treat anxiety, panic, fear and depression. EMDR has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of traumatic or stressful experiences. It has more recently been used for treating depression, chronic pain and poor relationships.

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

EMDR Therapy helps people not be driven by the past and past memories in the present. It eliminates past triggers in our daily lives by processing memories cognitively, emotionally and through the body. 

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

My passion is to provide people routes to healing that include both verbal and non-verbal methods. That is why I love play therapy, sandtray, have an art therapist on staff and practice EMDR Therapy

Cathy Canfield, MSW, LCSW, LICSW, is a psychotherapist with a background working with individuals, children and teens, specializing in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Therapy, Child-Centered Play Therapy, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, transitions and trauma. She believes that within all of us is the way to healing, we just have to sometimes work hard to uncover the path.  You can find Cathy online at www.counselingofalexandria.com. Visit her site if you are considering therapy or give her a call at  703.650.9195! You can also send an e-mail to cathy@counselingofalexandria.com.  

I love the fact that Cathy offers her clients at Counseling of Alexandria the opportunity to use non-verbal methods as well as talk therapy to process their feelings. Children, in particular may lack the words to describe their experiences and/or to name their feelings. As mentioned in my last post of this series, art therapy is a great option for helping us connect with and express our emotions.  I want to learn more about sandtray so look for a future blog post on that subject!  

If you'd like to read more of my blog posts and other articles I share, follow me on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest to read more of my blogs and other articles I share. You can also sign up for my e-mail newsletter to receive occasional updates on blog posts and articles of interest as well as upcoming groupsintensives and workshops. My women's group begins April 2, 2015. I will also be offering one intensive women's weekend in July this year using The Daring Way™ method, based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown. I'm working on lots of fun stuff so I hope you will check back to see what's new! And drop me a line in the comments below to tell me what you think about EMDR

Sources:

EMDR International Association. (n.d.). What is the actual EMDR session like? Retrieved from:  https://emdria.site-ym.com/?120 

National Center for PTSD. (n.d.). Treatment of PTSD.  Retrieved from: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/therapy-med/treatment-ptsd.asp 

EMDR for Trauma




Art Therapy: A Creative Method to Express Emotion

This edition of the blog series on alternative and holistic methods to complement traditional talk therapy comes to you during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Although many of my clients (and I, too) struggle with body image and feeling body positive, I do not have specialized training in helping clients with eating disorders. 

However, my guest today, Elizabeth Hlavek, LCPAT, ATR-BCdoes have that specialized training and experience. She is a Licensed Clinical Professional Art Therapist and a Board Certified Art Therapist practicing in Annapolis. I asked Elizabeth if she would agree to be interviewed about how art therapy can help people who are struggling with eating disorders and she graciously agreed. Art therapy is a "natural fit" for eating disorders work, as this blog post from Pershing-Turner Centers explains. 

Personally, I'm fascinated with art therapy. My mother is an artist (the images in this post are her work), so art has always been a part of my life and I enjoy cultivating my creativity - though I don't focus on this as much as I would like to. I use some creative techniques in my work with clients and plan to incorporate more as time goes by. In fact, next week I will begin attending a series of three trainings in using expressive arts techniques in work with survivors of trauma, and I'm elated to be able to bring the new methods I will learn back to my work with clients!

Read on below the image for my interview with Elizabeth. I found her responses to be very interesting and I hope you will too! 

  Original art by Beverly Furman, copyright Laura Reagan LCSW-C Psychotherapy Services, LLC 

Original art by Beverly Furman, copyright Laura Reagan LCSW-C Psychotherapy Services, LLC 

Tell me about your work. What is Art Therapy? How do you use it in helping people with Eating Disorders?
 

Art Therapy is a mental health profession in which clients, facilitated by the Art Therapist, use art media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem. 

Often times, individuals struggling with eating disorders are rather guarded. Art therapy can allow these individuals to express themselves creatively, in a non-verbal format. Discussing artwork in session often brings up parallels between the work and the client's internal experience, and we can talk about their struggles through the metaphor of the artwork.

I also use the process of body tracing to challenge a client's distorted body image. I first have the client draw an outline of themselves on a life sized sheet of paper taped to the wall. Then, I trace them against it to get an accurate depiction of how much space they actually take up. Comparing the two can be a very intense experience, but is a concrete way for the client to see their body objectively. They have the option to further develop the tracing, identifying feelings, experiences and memories that are attached to their body, which is a way to bridge the gap between emotion and body image

What benefits does Art Therapy have? Are there any risks? Who is a good candidate for Art Therapy? Who should not participate in Art Therapy?
 

Art therapy is practiced in a variety of clinical, educational and community settings with diverse client populations in individual, couples, family and group therapy formats. Art therapy is an effective treatment for people experiencing developmental, medical, educational and social or psychological impairment. Trauma survivors, individuals with development disabilities and anyone experiencing extreme stress or emotional distress can benefit from art therapy. Art therapy helps people resolve conflicts, improve interpersonal skills, manage problematic behaviors, reduce negative stress, and achieve personal insight. And it can also be a lot of fun! 

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

Art therapy has become a staple in the treatment of a wide array of traumas, from child abuse to combat PTSD [WARNING: TRIGGER ALERT. THIS ARTICLE DESCRIBES COMBAT-RELATED TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCES]. Art making can help individuals express dark emotions or memories that they may not be able to verbalize or even comprehend. Exploring intense emotion through art making can help the client process the feeling and heal. When trauma is experienced, it tends to be stored in the nonverbal part of the brain. Recent neuroscience research recognizes that the creative process involves both sides of the brain bridging cognitive and emotional functions leading to enhanced insight and behavioral changes. Art therapy also creates a feeling of well being, offers healthier coping skills and builds resiliency. I find that the process of art making helps to discharge anxiety, allowing the client to help relax and feel more calm. For depression, art therapy can allow for self expression and help to build self esteem. Making artwork, seeing your own creation, offers a sense of autonomy, which can be very empowering 

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

I'm passionate about my work. Art has always been a huge part of my identity, and so using it as a means of healing is very comfortable for me. I see clients both as a primary therapist and in collaboration with talk therapists. 

Most of my clients prefer a mix of art therapy and traditional psychotherapy. I specialize in eating disorders and PTSD, and am an in network provider with BCBS. I am a huge advocate for Art Therapy and helped develop the first clinical license for art therapists in Maryland. I currently sit on the MD Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists. 

Elizabeth is a Licensed Clinical Professional Art Therapist and Board Certified Art Therapist in Annapolis, Maryland. She spent four years working in an eating disorders hospital program, working with individuals in inpatient, partial outpatient and intensive outpatient (IOP) levels of care. For more information, or to contact her, please visit www.hlavekarttherapy.com.

Art Therapy for Expressing Emotions 2

Thanks so much to Elizabeth! I hope you learned something new about art therapy, eating disorders, or both - I did! If you want more information about National Eating Disorders Awareness Week or Eating Disorders in general, visit the National Eating Disorders Association website. If you're in the Annapolis area and you think Elizabeth might be a good fit for you, check out her website!

Also, follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to read more of my blogs and other articles I share. You can also sign up for my e-mail newsletter to receive occasional updates on blog posts and articles of interest as well as upcoming groups, intensives and workshops

Thanks for reading. Did you learn anything? Please share your thoughts in the comments below

Sources:

Alexander, C. (n.d.) Behind the mask: Revealing the trauma of war. Retrieved from:  http://www.nationalgeographic.com/healing-soldiers/

Bechtel, A. (2012, February 22). Retrieved from:  http://pershingturnercenters.com/2012/02/art-therapy-a-natural-fit-for-eating-disorders/ 

Burgard, D. (n.d.). A body positive approach. Retrieved from:  http://www.bodypositive.com/whatisit.htm

National Eating Disorders Association. (n.d.) About #NED Awareness Week. Retrieved from:  http://nedawareness.org/about-nedawareness 

Schwartz, D. (2014, March 21). Expressive arts therapy and eating disordersRetrieved from: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/expressive-arts-therapy-and-eating-disorders

Kids Are Resilient, Right?

Conventional wisdom holds that children are resilient, and they bounce back easily from childhood experiences by the time they reach adulthood. This is considered to be even more true if the child doesn't remember the events. A large study has de-bunked that myth. Read on! 

There's an epidemic in the United States which is causing increased risk of suicide, chronic disease – including heart and lung disease and cancer – as well as addiction, violence and divorce. It costs the U.S. healthcare system over $103 billion annually. The good news is that there is a cure, and we can prevent new cases. This short TED Talk explains:

 

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’s TED Talk explains that Adverse Childhood Experiences, also known as ACEs, correlate highly with poor health outcomes in adulthood.  

ACEs include the following experiences during childhood:

  • ·      Abuse, whether emotional, physical or sexual – or emotional or physical neglect
  • ·      Witnessing one’s mother being abused (domestic violence)
  • ·      Losing a parent to separation or divorce, or another reason
  • ·      Having a family member who is depressed, has addiction or is incarcerated

How Was This Epidemic Discovered?

As explained in this article, when a physician conducting research on obesity noticed higher than expected numbers of dropouts in his study, he began asking questions and discovered that most of the patients reported history of childhood sexual abuse

Until then, he did not realize how common sexual abuse is. We now know that one in four girls and one in six boys will experience sexual victimization at some point before his/her eighteenth birthday. The study also found that 64% of Americans have experienced at least one ACE, and of those people, 87% had 2 or more.

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

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

The higher the score, the worse the respondents’ health outcomes. In other words, those who had more ACEs were more likely to have cancers, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, addiction, depression, divorce, and overall their lifespans were shortened by as much as 20 years compared with people who had no ACEs.

Adverse Childhood Experiences Study

This information was gained from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, a longitudinal study conducted by Kaiser Permanente on a huge sample of insured patients – 17,000 mostly white, educated, middle- to upper- class, employed people – in other words, some of the most high-functioning members of society who should have the best access to healthcare. This makes me wonder how much higher the stats on the incidence of childhood adversity and poor health would be if the sample had included people who live in poverty, those who are incarcerated, and others of less means and access to healthcare.

All of This Sounds Pretty Scary, but Here’s the Good News!

For one thing, if you have experienced childhood trauma, you now know that you aren’t alone. Traumatic experiences in childhood are quite common in the United States. The most important thing is to recognize that traumatic experiences can affect us years later, even if we think we should be over it by the time we reach adulthood.  

How Do I Find Out My ACE score? 

You can take the quiz at this link. As I’ve mentioned - and you may have read in the linked articles - the higher your ACE score, the more likely you are to be affected by mental and physical health issues.  It’s scary to hear that having an ACE score of 6 or higher is correlated with lifespans as much as 20 years shorter than the average.

However, you don’t have to fall into those statistics, even if your score is high! I have worked for years helping people who have experienced childhood trauma and what I know is that having traumatic experiences is very painful, but the most damage comes from ignoring how you have been affected by these experiences – and the healing begins when you allow yourself to feel the emotions you’ve been avoiding. 

When the emotional effects of childhood trauma are not addressed, they don’t go away on their own. Often we develop methods of coping with trauma symptoms - like avoiding developing close relationships so we don’t get hurt - and numb the emotional pain with drugs, alcohol, the internet, being busy, sex, shopping, perfectionism, eating disorders, work, school, and/or gambling. 

 Image copyright Laura Reagan LCSW-C Psychotherapy Services, LLC

Image copyright Laura Reagan LCSW-C Psychotherapy Services, LLC

 

Knowledge is power – what do you do with the information once you learn about it? You can ask yourself honestly whether you have healed from the Adverse Childhood Experiences referenced in your score. If not, what are the steps you can take to begin the healing process?  

You can heal from childhood trauma.  There's a therapist out there for you!

Psychotherapy for trauma can include, among other techniques:

  • ·      Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy techniques
  • ·      Creative methods such as art, music, yoga and dance therapy
  • ·      Mindfulness approaches
  • ·      Body-based (also known as somatic) methods including Somatic Experiencing and     Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
  • ·      Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

There are many useful methods therapists use to help you heal from trauma – I don’t mean for this to be a comprehensive list. In fact, I’d love to hear what you have tried in the comments below! 

It’s important to speak to a potential therapist about his or her training in trauma treatment. Make sure you feel comfortable that this is the right person for you, and if you don’t, it’s okay to tell the therapist that and find someone else who can help you. Trust is an important part of the therapy process, and without developing a trusting therapeutic relationship with your therapist it will be extremely difficult to work through the trauma.   

Childhood trauma is preventable! I will write about that in a future blog post. By the same token, the health outcomes the ACE Study identified are not a matter of fate. Rather, they are the body's expression of unresolved trauma, and by addressing the underlying cause you can potentially limit future illness.  I’m so glad the ACE Study has provided so much information which is now being used to help spread the word about this major public health issue affecting our children and so many adults in the United States. I hope more people will understand the effects of their own ACEs and address them as needed.

If this has made you think about finding help to work through your own childhood trauma, call me at (443) 510-1048 or visit my website

Sources:

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

Center for Nonviolence & Social Justice. (2014). What is trauma? Retrieved from: http://www.nonviolenceandsocialjustice.org/FAQs/What-is-Trauma/41/

Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. (2013). Sexual assault in the U.S. Retrieved from: http://www.mcasa.org/_mcasaWeb/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Sexual-Assault-in-the-US-updated-2013.pdf

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

Reagan, L. (2015, February 21). Why can’t I just get over it? Retrieved from: http://www.yourtango.com/experts/laura-reagan/why-cant-i-just-get-over-it-0

Stevens, J.E. (2012, October 3). The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study – the largest, most important public health study you never heard of – began in an obesity clinic. Retrieved from:  http://acestoohigh.com/2012/10/03/the-adverse-childhood-experiences-study-the-largest-most-important-public-health-study-you-never-heard-of-began-in-an-obesity-clinic/

Stevens, J.E. (2015, February 17). Nadine Burke Harris: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime. Retrieved from: http://acestoohigh.com/2015/02/17/nadine-burke-harris-how-childhood-trauma-affects-health-across-a-lifetime/

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/

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! And if someone you know needs to read this, please share! 

 

Somatic Therapies: Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

Welcome back to my blog series on integrative mental health, highlighting holistic and alternative practices which complement traditional talk therapy. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Kara Falck, LCSW-C, LICSW, a Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Takoma Park, Maryland who is opening an office soon in the Baltimore area as well.  Kara uses Sensorimotor Psychotherapy in her practice and she has agreed to answer my questions.

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is a somatic, or body-based, method which is said to be beneficial for survivors of traumatic experiences, especially if the experiences occurred at early developmental stages. This article provides more information about the history of the model. You can read a more detailed article on the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute's website here which was originally published in the journal Trauma. I appreciate Kara sharing information about her work. Hopefully you will learn something new about this method! 

Tell me about your work. What is Sensorimotor Psychotherapy? 

My approach to therapy is to help people learn to regulate their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and to connect with others in more functional ways. I use sensorimotor psychotherapy to help clients achieve their goals. Sensorimotor psychotherapy is an intervention that’s informed by cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic psychotherapies, attachment theory, and neuroscience, and that’s effective for the treatment of trauma and relational issues. It looks to the body as a primary source of information about current psychological functioning. It’s a collaborative approach that uses mindfulness to help clients regulate the bodies’ responses to the environment, which improves clients’ ability to regulate feelings, thoughts, and beliefs.

What benefits does Sensorimotor Psychotherapy offer? Who is a good candidate for Sensorimotor Psychotherapy? Who should not participate in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy?

Sensorimotor psychotherapy can be helpful for clients who’ve experienced traumas ranging from violence and abuse to accidents to relationship issues. A major benefit of this treatment is that it starts where the client is and is a collaborative process in which safety is of utmost importance. Sensorimotor psychotherapy first helps clients learn to manage and calm internal sensations. Clients learn to tolerate more and more of their internal experience at their own pace. 

Sensorimotor psychotherapy can be helpful for clients who have had a wide range of life experiences and who are at varying levels of functioning. This treatment teaches mindfulness as a primary skill that’s used throughout the process. Psychoeducation about the interaction of brain and body is provided in ways that clients can understand.

Clients with an alcohol or substance use disorder or a psychotic disorder should seek treatment prior to beginning sensorimotor psychotherapy and should remain compliant with these courses of treatment.

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

Sensorimotor psychotherapy was originally developed for the treatment of trauma. It teaches clients about their innate survival defenses and helps clients learn to feel better.

Learning to be aware of internal experience, and then to tolerate and manage internal experience, is the first step in processing traumatic material and is the most important phase of treatment. Clients who don’t know how to calm and soothe themselves are at risk for becoming dysregulated when traumatic material comes up. Sensorimotor psychotherapy teaches clients who’ve experienced trauma how to be mindfully aware of present-moment experience and how to study this experience non-judgmentally, which has regulating effects on the nervous system.

In the same way, learning to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety and depression is the first step in challenging unproductive worry, errors in thinking, and negative core beliefs. When the body is in a state of panic or if we are numb with hopelessness, we can’t access the parts of our brain that are responsible for logic and reasoning. Clients learn to regulate the body first, so they can engage in positive, self-supportive thinking.

Anxiety

 

Similarly, when we experience the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety and depression, we often attack logical thinking like an unwelcome visitor - “How can I believe I’m safe at this party if I feel fear and if my body’s telling me to run?” “How can I believe I’m a worthy person if I feel hopeless and my body is telling me to give up?” Sensorimotor psychotherapy is a body-oriented treatment that teaches clients the difference between body experience, emotions, and thoughts, and that helps clients interrupt the cycle of anxiety and depression.

And of course, the goal of sensorimotor psychotherapy is not only to help clients learn to reduce symptoms and tolerate distress, but to help clients increase their ability to experience more pleasure in their lives.

calm stillness

Kara Falck, LCSW-C, LICSW is a licensed clinical Social Worker in private practice. She works with adults, couples, and adolescents and children and their families to help people cultivate safer and more satisfying relationships with themselves and with others. She typically works with issues such as anxiety, trauma and PTSD, depression, relationship issues, body image, parenting support, and LGBT. She currently has an office in Takoma Park, Maryland, and an office in Baltimore is coming soon! She can be reached by email at karafalckmsw@gmail.com or at www.karafalckmsw.com.

I'm so grateful to Kara for sharing information about this method, which I wanted to learn more about. If you are interested in finding a Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Practitioner, click here

Please comment below if you have anything you would like to share about Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. 

Sources:

Author unknown. (2003). What is sensorimotor psychotherapy? Retrieved from: http://www.pathoutofpain.com.au/hakomi/html/somatics.html

Sensorimotor psychotherapy institute. (n.d.). About sensorimotor psychotherapy institute. Retrieved from: https://www.sensorimotorpsychotherapy.org/about.html 

Sensorimotor psychotherapy institute. (n.d.). Welcome to the sensorimotor psychotherapy referral list. http://www.sensorimotorpsychotherapy.org/referral.html 

CranioSacral Therapy: A Gentle, Hands-On Therapy Accessing the Body's Wisdom

This week's post in the series on integrative therapies is a guest blog! I am so honored that Amelia Mitchell, LMT, NCBTMB, LLCC, one of the owners of Alchemy Healing Arts in West Annapolis, agreed to write about CranioSacral Therapy. I have heard about this therapy for at least 20 years, and I have even tried it, but I was still unclear on what it really is, how it works, and what it is supposed to do. Amelia clears that up in her post below.

Full disclosure: Alchemy Healing Arts is my very favorite place to get a massage! They offer so much more than just massage though, which is one of the reasons that I asked Amelia to share information about CST with you. I would recommend them to anyone - and I am not receiving any compensation for saying that. I just love Alchemy! Every month they have lectures which are free for anyone to attend on topics of wellness. You can find the schedule here. They also offer many interesting workshops. Without further ado, here is Amelia's post:

CranioSacral Therapy: A Gentle, Hands-On Therapy Accessing the Body's Wisdom

There is a rhythm in the body called the CranioSacral rhythm (CSR). It is distinct from the heart and breathing rhythms. The CSR is created by the production and reabsorption of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which surrounds the brain and spinal cord. A CranioSacral Therapist will gently place hands on the body and palpate for this rhythm. Generally, we are looking for diminishment of the CSR. By treating these areas, we are treating the sources of problems, rather than just symptoms.

 Image courtesy of Alchemy Healing Arts Center

Image courtesy of Alchemy Healing Arts Center

All living beings have what is termed an Inner Wisdom. CranioSacral Therapy (CST) works with our Inner Wisdom and facilitates a person’s optimal health, wellness, and vitality. Using 5 grams of pressure or less (the weight of a nickel), the therapist accesses areas of restriction and supports the body as it releases the restrictions. We don't "fix.” Rather the therapist, through trained gentle touch, extensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology, and rapport with the Inner Wisdom, supports the body’s inborn ability to heal.

Who Can Benefit from CST

At Alchemy Healing Arts Center, we have a track record of success with migraines, chronic back and neck pain, TMJD, Fibromyalgia, concussion recovery, emotionally-based issues, PTSD, and Chronic Depletion in adults. Co-owner Laura Inman Mitchell, BA, LMT, CST, LLCC is also a pediatric specialist and has ten years of experience working with our little ones for nursing or latch challenges, colic, or torticollis. Older children often present with ADHD/ADD, Autism, and emotional problems such as anxiety or depression.

At any age, CST assists us in finding balance and releasing restrictions, so we can live more comfortably in our bodies, with resilience and resources. Instead of directing the body, we are listening to the body and responding to its needs.

Pediatric Craniosacral therapy

Image courtesy of Alchemy Healing Arts Center

With the exception of a couple of disorders of the CSF distribution system, anyone is a candidate for CST. Performed while lying comfortably, clothed, and on a massage table, sessions are generally an hour long. Younger children are welcome to move about on the table and in the room. Laura has an innate talent at creating connection with children. After just a session or two, they often arrive at the office happily, and move right into the treatment room and climb on the table, ready for their session.

CST and Survivors of Trauma

Trauma, whether emotional or physical, is an interesting challenge. Most all of us have a scar or two that is visible, like where the glass shards cut my shoulder years ago in a car accident. Many other scars are invisible, and remain hidden in our bodies and our psyches. CST creates a healing and accepting place for the release of such restrictions. Often a client will become aware of certain pieces of a trauma during a session and participates in the release of the energy around a physical restriction. It is important to note that a CranioSacral therapist is not a talk therapist. We work with the body and what the physical tissue is presenting with, which can include emotions. The emotional components are held within the session with deep presence. We do not enter into talk therapy with the client. Those who are working through trauma need to also be working with a properly credentialed talk therapist.

Anxiety and Depression are well supported with CST. There are significant physical restrictions in the CS system associated with these, which impact the brain. Relief brings more freedom, more movement, more clarity. A better flow of CSF means that the brain is flushed and cleaned better. Deep relaxation can bring lowered stress, better sleep, and more capacity to live a balanced life. All of these benefits significantly reduce the effects of stress and anxiety, and support talk therapy.

Who Can Practice CST

CST is practiced by many after advanced training. Such practitioners include massage therapists, physical and occupational therapists, chiropractors, nurses, doctors, and others who are licensed to physically touch. We are trained by the Upledger Institute, founded by Dr. John Upledger, the modern developer of CST. More information about CST can be found in the book, "The Therapeutic Value of Listening," by Dr. John Upledger.

More About Alchemy Healing Arts

Alchemy Healing Arts Center is a holistic center offering Therapeutic and PreNatal Massage and advanced light touch therapies, such as CranioSacral Therapy and Lymph Drainage Therapy. They are located in West Annapolis and have a staff of six therapists. Laura Inman Mitchell, LMT, CST, NCBTMB, LLCC, their lead CS therapist, is a pediatric specialist and works with people of all ages. David Paad, CNM, RN works with adults.

Prospective clients are always welcome to call 410-263-1272 and speak with co-owner Amelia for a consultation. She is experienced with all that Alchemy offers as well as community resources. She can help people discern their best next step. Alchemy Healing Arts can be found online at www.alchemyhealingartscenter.com .

I so appreciate Amelia writing her guest post about CranioSacral Therapy! Have you ever tried CST? What did you think of it? I'd love to hear about your experiences - please share in the comments below! 

Sources:

The Upledger Institute. (2011). Frequently asked questions: CranioSacral therapy. Retrieved from: http://www.upledger.com/content.asp?id=61.

The Craniosacral Therapy Association. (2015). This is Craniosacral therapy. Retrieved from: http://www.craniosacral.co.uk/this-is-craniosacral-therapy


What's the Buzz on Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a hot topic lately. But what is it? According to Kripalu, as explained in this article, mindfulness means, “self observation without judgment” and is a general term referring to various types of meditation (Kripalu, 2013). Look for a future post in which I discuss mindfulness and its benefits in more detail. In the meantime, this blog post from Psychology Today, which I am using with permission of the author, Michael J. Formica, M.S., M.A., Ed.M., provides some basics of mindfulness.

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I am writing as series on integrative mental health, which is the practice of incorporating holistic and alternative methods as a complement to traditional talk therapy techniques. My first post introduced the series and described the subject of integrative mental health.

I reached out to colleagues across the U.S. and around the world to ask how they use mindfulness methods with clients. Read on for their comments! 

Mindfulness children families

Using mindfulness with children and families:

Renee Bond, LPCC Sacramento, CA   I love using mindfulness with kids and their families. We meditate together, create art, do yoga, guided imagery, and work with affirmations.

Debbi Carberry, BSW AMHSW MAASW (acc) – Brisbane, Queensland, Australia  When working with small children on mindfulness I use bubbles. First we use breathing techniques to blow the bubbles - then I get the kids to choose one bubble and watch it slowly move toward the floor - I also get them to lay down and I blow bubbles - then wait for them to get close and they very gently blow them back in the air.

Jessica Fowler, LCSW – Rochester, NY  I use mindfulness with my kids. I have them practice deep breathing almost daily (we use our hands on our bellies). When they are upset or having a tantrum I work with them to use their deep breathing to calm down. It works great when we practice. 

Mercedes Samudio, LCSW – Los Angeles, CA  I do a lot of work with families, and as feelings get intense I stop the family, ask them to take a few deep breaths to release the tension, and then I restate what was said so that we can continue. It helps everyone calm down in the room and allows us not to float off away from the session.

Elly Taylor, AARC - Sydney, Australia  I tell mums who are at home with young children to take a moment, go outside, turn their face to the sun, listen to the birds/wind, feel the grass and do some slow, deep breathing.

mindfulness for anxiety

Mindfulness techniques helping with anxiety:

Susan Anderson, LCSW – Estes Park, CO  I use Mindfulness in conjunction with Animal-Assisted Therapy techniques. For example, with kids who have anxiety, I teach them mindfulness skills as they are holding my therapy bunny. I ask them to notice the softness of her fur, to notice the smallness of her front paws, the way she smells, etc. I will also ask them to notice their breathing while they do this and at some point I will ask them to match their breathing with their petting of her.

 Laura Hollywood, BSc, Dip Couns. - London, UK I use mindfulness with my clients with anxiety, to connect them to the present by breathing exercises and relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation.

Robyn D’Angelo, LMFT - Irvine, CA For me personally, I am an anxious soul, yet when I get outdoors, there's a shift. Mindfulness for me, is noticing my anxieties, allowing the presence of trees (that are deep-rooted and grounded) to help me to do the same - feel deep-rooted and grounded, in the present moment. What a treat to allow myself to be grounded in mindfulness in the presence of such massive, natural, swaying, growing yet firmly planted objects. Mindfulness is joy. 

peaceful meditation

Mindfulness with Adults

Colleen King, LMFT – Sacramento, CA Doing any sensory exercise using mindfulness can reveal a lot of emotions that are grist for the mill, as the saying goes. It activates our sensory functions by slowing ourselves down so that we notice our thoughts and feelings, and subsequent responses.

Nicole Sartini-Cprek, LPCC Louisville, KY  I provide almost all my clients with a recording of a 10 minute guided meditation to get started with at home if they are interested. I explain that being able to sit through their thoughts and feelings is challenging, but with time, meditation can create a deeper self-awareness and an ability to tolerate uncomfortableness that can help empower them.

Amy Tatsumi, MA, LPC, ATR-BC Washington, DC  I integrate mindfulness techniques and the overall paradigm into all of my sessions from having clients feel and breathe their art work or sand trays into their bodies to using Pema Chodron's work around pain and suffering. Working somatically is a game changer for the majority of my clients. 

Jamie Stacks, LPC, LADAC – Hot Springs, AR  Mindfulness in therapy is creating a sacred container in which to feel, hear and see that which is, be aware of what is and being present with it all using self-compassion and non-judgment of the experience.

Amy Sugeno, LCSW – Marble Falls, TX   One of my specialties is outdoor therapy. I will sometimes ask clients to notice what is around them and just try and be present with what they notice. Later, people often talk about how quiet it is, how the wind feels on their face, or they'll notice something interesting around them, like a flower or insect. The outdoors has a way of organically encouraging mindfulness.

Brenda Bomgardner, MA, LPC, NCC, BCC Lakewood, CO  I ask [clients] to notice where they feel that (feeling), what size is it, what shape is it, color, weight, sound. The technique is called physicalizing a feeling. It is mindfulness and exposure work wrapped up in one. Then as homework, if they are willing, I ask them to write about it. 

Bryan Nixon, MA, LPC Grand Rapids, MI  More than a technique to use, I view mindfulness as a quality of presence that I am able to offer to my clients and relationally invite them into as well. It is a slower space where deeper reflection is possible by helping clients become curious about their experience in the here and now. This, in turn, creates space for self-limiting unconscious core beliefs to rise into awareness, be examined and challenged if need be.  

 Sources:

Formica, M.J. (2011, June 14). 5 Steps for being present. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/enlightened-living/201106/5-steps-being-present

Wilson, A. (2013, April 29). Your brain on mindfulness meditation. Retrieved from: http://kripalu.org/blog/thrive/2013/04/29/your-brain-on-mindfulness-meditation/

Using Acupuncture to Heal Yourself: My Interview With Rachel Sara Strass, MAc, MOM, LAc, Dipl OM

If you read my last post, you know that I am beginning a blog series on the subject of  integrative mental health.  Welcome to my first interview in the series! As I mentioned in the previous post, I knew little about acupuncture when one of my clients asked me if it helps with depression.

I'm on a quest to learn more and to that end, I'm fortunate to share office space with a skilled acupuncturist, Rachel Sara Strass, MAc, MOM, LAc, Dipl OM of Spirit Point Healing. Check out her website for information on her services and acupuncture in general. Rachel Sara graciously agreed to be interviewed for this series to teach me more about how she uses acupuncture. 

holistic remedies stress relief water lily.jpg

 

Reading up online, I found this article from Scientific American that discusses the results of two different studies on acupuncture showing some improvement in symptoms and recommending further study - though one of the studies refers to "electroacupuncture," using needles and electric currents - which is different from traditional acupuncture.  Here is another article from Healthline which references effects of using the mind-body connection to heal symptoms. Read on for my interview with Rachel Sara!

Tell me about your work. What is acupuncture? Are there different types? If so, what type(s) do you offer?
Acupuncture is the use of very fine pins to stimulate changes in the flow of energy (or qi - pronounced ‘chee’) in a person or animal. Acupuncture removes blockages to the flow of qi and puts the systems in balance. This puts you in touch with your own ability to heal yourself. In a nutshell, it is remembering who you are and finding your way home.

There are several different types: classical, TCM, Korean hand, to name a few. I practice classical acupuncture which is based on the Chinese classics written about three thousand years ago. As more knowledge has been discovered, it has been woven into this holistic medicine, which attends to the body, mind, and spirit. Today’s classical acupuncture is very different from 3,000 years ago, but it has not lost this nugget.

What benefits does acupuncture offer? Are there any risks? Who is a good candidate for acupuncture? Who should not receive acupuncture?
Acupuncture offers many benefits with very few risks. The benefits acupuncture offers include all sorts of markers of well-being, such as faster recovery from surgeries, illnesses, and traumas, relaxation, better sleep, relief from pain, improvement of quality of life in chronic and terminal illnesses, improvement of emotional health, mental conditions, digestive issues, as well as lower back pain, sciatic pain, knee pain, etc.

The risks of acupuncture are possible bruising from the needle or in very rare cases, puncture of organs if the needle is improperly placed or Hepatitis from a contaminated needle. This last risk would be next to impossible, since almost all acupuncturists today would never re-use needles between patients. 

Many people who come to me for therapy services are affected by anxiety and depression. Is acupuncture beneficial to people with these issues? 

Yes, absolutely. I have had a lot of success with people’s anxiety and depression. Acupuncture is very relaxing and can bring mental and emotional imbalances into balance. I also use Chinese herbs in many cases with good success rates.

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

My main focus is patient satisfaction. I take the time I need to make sure there is a healing relationship with every person I treat. I find it increases the efficacy of the treatment and makes my work very enriching for everyone involved.

In addition to everything else I’ve said, I have one final note. Using Chinese herbs and acupuncture together with Western medicine and pharmaceuticals is a very powerful combination. In China, they have been doing and documenting this for over fifty years. From this effort, we have learned that overall, there is a better prognosis, fewer side effects, with quicker results than either modality alone.

Rachel Sara Strass holds two Masters degrees in Acupuncture (MAc) and Oriental Medicine (MOM), which took 6 cumulative years of training including clinical components. After eight years in professional practice, she is now pursuing a Doctorate in Oriental Medicine (DOM). Her office is located at 645 B&A Blvd, Suite 107 in Severna Park, MD. She can be reached by phone at 410-570-2896, via e-mail at: rachel@spiritpointhealing.com, or via her website: http://www.spiritpointhealing.com. She works with people of all ages, from early teens to geriatric. 

While the research is slowly catching up to what has been practiced in Eastern medicine for years, there is some compelling evidence that acupuncture can be helpful on its own or in addition to talk therapy for stress, anxiety and depression. Time magazine reports on a recent study which found benefits of acupuncture, which you can read here

I hope you learned something new! What do you think about acupuncture? Have you tried it? Let's get a conversation going. Please share your thoughts and/or experiences in the comments below! 

integrative mental health acupuncture stress relief water lilies

Sources:

Park, A. (2013, March 15). Needle this: Study hints at how acupuncture works to relieve stress. Retrieved from: http://healthland.time.com/2013/03/15/needle-this-study-hints-at-how-   acupuncture-works-to-relieve-stress/

Rodriguez, T & Stern, V. (2014, June 12). Can acupuncture treat depression? Retrieved from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-acupuncture-treat-depression/

Watt, A. (2013, December 9). Acupuncture and depression. Retrieved from: http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/acupuncture#1

Integrative Mental Health: Alternative & Holistic Therapies

Happy New Year! I’m setting my intention that 2015 is going to be a year of reconnecting with my inner self to live with purpose, authenticity and creativity. In doing so, I hope to connect with more of you and help you create meaningful connections with the important people in your life. Have you set any intentions for this year?  

Waterfall

In 2014, a client asked me about acupuncture to address depression. I really didn’t know anything about it. Another asked my opinion of using a flotation tank for stress relief. I wasn’t familiar with this either.  

Their questions sparked my interest in learning more about other methods and holistic therapies which complement traditional talk therapy to help clients address the needs of the whole self: mind, body and spirit. I now know that combining traditional talk therapy with alternative and holistic approaches is called integrative mental health.

Previously, I frequently recommended massage and yoga for relaxation and stress relief – I really wasn’t too familiar with other options.  However, this year I have heard about the experiences of some clients who have tried acupuncture and flotation tanks; I learned that a friend meditates regularly and attends a drumming circle. Learning of their experiences led me to become curious about the benefits of these and other options to promote wellness. And apparently there are many benefits! For example, this Huffington Post article  discusses how integrative mental health (traditional talk therapy complemented by other health-promoting practices) may be beneficial for people with depression.  Read here to see what the Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation had to say about integrative mental health.

Throughout the year, as I have been more open to learning about these therapies, I’ve had opportunity to meet practitioners who use them and many others. I now know that there are quite a lot of options for those of us in the Annapolis area to try a variety of holistic practices, alone or as a complement to talk therapy. Since I didn’t know about them or their benefits before now, I am guessing some of you who are reading this were also unaware.

I decided to begin a monthly blog series on the topic of alternative and holistic healing practices. I will interview a number of practitioners who will tell you about what they do, and how and where they do it. Many of these will be local to the Greater Baltimore/Washington DC area, although the services they offer may be available through different practitioners throughout the U.S. and beyond.  I’m also going to try some of these things myself, because I don’t like recommending something that I haven’t experienced, unless abundant research is available on the subject.

I’ve used massage and yoga for years to help me de-stress, but there are many methods of massage and many types of yoga which I haven’t tried. This year I began practicing meditation on a fairly regular basis and I'm sold on its helpful effects. The Harvard Business Review acknowledges in this article that meditation and mindfulness have positive effects on the brain. You will be hearing from practitioners who offer these methods and many others which can be used in integrative mental health over the course of the coming year. I’m excited to share this with you and I hope you’ll learn about something new that you’d like to try! This article discusses trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk’s new book and his assertion that yoga can help survivors of trauma with their healing process.

The first interview for the series is with an acupuncturist and will be posted soon. To ensure you don't miss out you can sign up for my newsletter! I’ve also lined up interviews with a Reiki and Crystal Healing practitioner, a teacher in Yoga Nidra and a massage therapist who offers Cranio-Sacral Therapy. Look for a different post each month (or maybe even more frequently if I'm feeling ambitious!) about these and other methods!

Please comment below and tell me what you would like to hear about, or recommend something you’ve found beneficial! I look forward to hearing from you!

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