Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 24: Vicarious Trauma

Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 24: Vicarious Trauma

Welcome! Today’s topic is one that’s important to therapy professionals and to first responders, too - for anyone who works with people who are suffering, Vicarious Trauma is important. I just attended a workshop on this topic by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, the author of Trauma Stewardship

Here’s what you’ll hear in this episode:

  • The terms Vicarious Trauma and Secondary Traumatic Stress are interchangeable as I'm using them here.
  • Therapists bear witness to the traumatic stories of clients and are affected by them.
  • The nature of therapy work requires empathy; it’s honorable, brave, and important work intended to make the world a better place.
  • There are small ways to lessen the impact of trauma, by mindfully checking in with yourself and using positive coping methods.
  • As a therapist, how much are you “numbing?” We discuss examples.
  • Laura recommends spending 12-60 minutes each day, for six days a week, working out to the degree of breaking a sweat.
  • We owe it to the people we help to take care of our Vicarious Trauma, and regular exercise is one way to do that.
  • Isolation is common in trauma work, because we feel like “nobody understands.”
  • The American Counseling Association lists several signs of Vicarious Trauma, including:
    • Having difficulty talking about feelings
    • Feeling diminished joy
    • Feeling trapped by work
    • Limited range of emotions
    • Exaggerated startle reflex
    • Hopelessness
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Exhaustion
    • Conflict with other staff
    • Trouble with intimacy
    • Feeling withdrawn and isolated
    • Impatience, apathy
    • A change in worldview
  • What can you do to make a difference?
    • Have a mindful presence
    • Exercise (12-60 min. several days each week)
    • Cultivate connection with yourself and others
    • Enrich your life by doing things you love, apart from work
    • Make meaning

Resources:

ACA Fact Sheet on Vicarious Trauma

Trauma Stewardship by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky

Trauma Stewardship Institute 

I also shared information on my new community for trauma therapists! Registration begins soon and if you want to be notified when registration starts, you can sign up here!  

If you liked this episode, please visit iTunes to download episodes, rate and review! You can also listen on Stitcher and Google Play (available now in some areas). And for more of what I'm doing, please  sign up for my newsletter, and follow me TwitterFacebookPinterest, Instagram & Google+. I look forward to connecting!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 22: Handwashing As A Self Care Practice?

Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 22: Handwashing As A Self Care Practice? 

When you take care of yourself, then you take care of clients.
— Ashley Davis Bush

In case you missed it, I was so lucky to interview Ashley Davis Bush, LICSW on my podcast, which is newly renamed Therapy Chat. Click here to listen to past episodes of Therapy Chat. Ashley is a psychotherapist in private practice in southern New Hampshire with over 25 years’ experience. She has written six self-help books, including Transcending Loss and Simple Self-Care for Therapists. She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and has some great tips to share with us about increasing our self-care. Join us! Click here or on the image to the right to listen to Episode 22.

Click on the image above to listen to my interview with Ashley Davis Bush!

Click on the image above to listen to my interview with Ashley Davis Bush!

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • Ashley loves her work and counts it a privilege to be part of peoples’ lives. Her private practice is in her home, and it’s “a fun job, watching life unfold in front of you.”
  • Even the simple choice of working from home can be a self-care choice.
  • Ashley’s work focuses on grief, couples, and anxiety, but self-care is a common thread that is woven into her work with all clients.
  • Ashley says that much of her practice patterns itself after her books.
  • Her most recent book introduces the idea of “micro self-care.”
  • “Macro self-care” practices are the big things that we normally think of regarding self-care, but micro practices are short, simple things that can be done in 1-2 minutes.
  • Ashley focuses on self-care to avoid burnout, which she categorizes as “little b” and “BIG B” types of burnout.
    • “little b” burnout is when you are exhausted at the end of the day or week. You may need a good night’s rest or a few days off to regenerate and recover.
    • “BIG B” burnout is when you need to leave the field because you can’t take it anymore.
  • Ashley addresses “vicarious trauma,” in that ALL therapists do some sort of trauma work.
  • Personal and professional experience can cloud the lens with which we see the world, but life’s pains are a constant trauma.
  • Ashley explains self-care vs. self-violence: when you don’t take care of yourself, then you’re doing harm (violence) to yourself.
  • Mindfulness leads to grounding, bringing us into this moment right now.
  • Ashley shares her Tibetan bell practice to help bring clients into mindfulness.
  • She recommends using micro self-care practices at the beginning, middle, and end of your day.
  • Ashley’s book lists 40-50 suggestions as to how to scale down macro self-care practices into small micro practices. It's amazing!
  • Making the transformation from macro to micro self-care practices requires thinking creatively, but shouldn’t be overwhelming.
  • Neuroplasticity is the science that shows the brain can change in response to repetitive behaviors. You can rewire your brain to be more peaceful!
  • When your brain is rewired, then your default setting comes to a place of gratitude and feeling good.
  • Ashley’s three takeaways:
    • Have a basic plan for 3 micro self-care practices each day.
    • Sleep 8-9 hours each night so you aren’t tired during the day. You can tell from our interview that Ashley is well-rested! 
    • Prioritize self-care, and you’ll soon realize that you can’t live without it!
    • Be aware of the seasons of life, but regardless of the season, you can fit in micro self-care every day!
  • Find Ashley at www.ashleydavisbush.com
Everyone has 3 minutes a day in which to do something nice for themselves.
— Ashley Davis Bush

I'm so grateful that Ashley agreed to share her wisdom on the podcast. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! If you liked this episode, please visit iTunes to download episodes, rate and review! You can also listen on Stitcher and Google Play (available now in some areas). And for more of what I'm doing, please  sign up for my newsletter, and follow me TwitterFacebookPinterest Instagram & Google+. I look forward to connecting!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

 

Finding Safety in An Unsafe World

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

Finding Safety in An Unsafe World

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

These are scary times.

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

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

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

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

Sometimes it feels like too much.

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

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

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

I'm scared! What can I do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wanting everything to be okay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting grounded 

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

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

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

Finding gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

Intuition in the Therapy Space with Keri Nola

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

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

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



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

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

Wholeheartedly, Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Being Grounded Is A Good Thing!

How grounded are you?

Do you know what it means to be "grounded"? Not like when your parents said you weren't allowed to go outside and play with your friends. Being grounded means being present in your body. Being in the here and now. Knowing where you are and what is happening around you.

For people who have experienced trauma, sometimes being grounded and present in our bodies is not as easy as it sounds. If you have ever felt like you are floating around above your body, then you know what I mean. Or if you never feel anything in your body, it's just numb. Or if you find yourself zoning out and missing what's happening around you. If the person you are talking to says, "Hello, are you listening to me?" and you suddenly snap back to reality and think Where did I just go? 

I'm talking about dissociating, and some people do it more often than others. It's a great way of coping with negative emotions when we have no other way to escape. For that reason, many of us who were abused or neglected in childhood, or have experienced any other type of traumatic event over our lives may find this happening. Or we may not know it's happening, which can be scary. In spite of how effective dissociation can be in helping us avoid our unpleasant feelings, it can get in the way when we want to be focused at work, at home and in relationships.

Sometimes trauma survivors find unwanted thoughts or feelings coming into our heads when we don't want them to. We may even have flashbacks, in which we feel as if we are reliving the event. People often describe this as feeling as if they are watching what happened to them all over again - like a movie. However, unlike a movie that you want to see, this is one that brings up the same feelings of horror, helplessness and fear that you felt when the traumatic event occurred. It can be confusing and sometimes people have panic attacks when flashbacks come up unexpectedly.

It's important to feel grounded.

If any of these things are happening to you, I want you to know that while these are typical responses to trauma, you do not have to suffer alone. Help is available. My practice is focused on helping people who have experienced trauma to recover from the effects.  Below is an infographic I created which describes a simple, free and commonly used grounding technique. 

Grounding yourself in your body

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

Feeling less than grounded? Let's talk!

I hope you find this simple grounding technique to be helpful if you, or someone you know, needs to get grounded in the body. If you need additional support, contact me by phone at (443) 510-1048, by e-mail: laurareaganlcswc@gmail.com or via my website. I would be happy to talk about how therapy can help you get more grounded and focused. 

Warmly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Self-Care Apps Recommended by Therapists

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

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

Therapists Share Favorite Self Care Apps

Apps for Mindfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apps for Sleep

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

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

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

Apps for Fitness

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

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

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

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

Apps for Inspiration

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

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

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

Other Apps for Self Care

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

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

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

Mindfulness Fitness Sleep Inspiration Self Care

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

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

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

 

 

Nourish Your Soul: My Interview with Folk Healer Chonteau McElvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warmly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Reiki and Crystal Healing for Self Love & Self Acceptance

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

Reiki and Crystal Healing Mind Body Spirit

My interview with Nina Gallant begins below! 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read on for more of the interview with Nina! 

Reiki Crystal Healing Self Love Acceptance Healing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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


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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