5 Podcasts To Listen To Now

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

International Podcast Day image Canva

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

First Things First.

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

How Do I Find Podcasts?

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

What Can I Use to Listen to Podcasts?

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

Image credit: Pixabay

Image credit: Pixabay

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

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

Why Should I Listen To Podcasts?

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

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

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

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

My 5 Most Frequently Recommended Podcasts:

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

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

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

     Image credit: Lourdes Viado, LMFT, PhD

     Image credit: Lourdes Viado, LMFT, PhD

2. Mindful Recovery with Robert Cox, MA, PLPC

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

3. Launching Your Daughter with Nicole Burgess, LMFT

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wholeheartedly, 

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Episode 33: Worthiness, Perfectionism & Self Compassion

Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 33: 

Worthiness, Perfectionism & Self Compassion

Hitting My Growth Edge

Click here to listen to this on Therapy Chat podcast! 

Click on the image to hear podcast episode 33!

Click on the image to hear podcast episode 33!

Once in a while an experience comes along which is just beyond what you ever imagined. It’s like you never really dreamed things would get this good. I don’t know if everyone has a growth ceiling, but I think most of us do. It’s the point that is the highest you thought you’d ever go in your life. It might be that you thoughtyou’d one day get married, but you hit your growth ceiling when you make plans to marry someone so wonderful, who seems so much better than the partner you thought you’d end up with. This can cause a lot of anxiety, because we are going past what our expectations were for ourselves. Another example – maybe you hoped you’d become a doctor, but you didn’t expect to attain the position of CEO of a huge medical organization.

Maybe you always fantasized about being a musician but you weren’t expecting to be invited to write all the songs for the next Broadway hit. For me, I always hoped to become a therapist (and there were many times I doubted I’d achieve that goal). I even thought one day I might go into private practice. I never imagined having a thriving full time private practice where I’d love going to work with the clients I most enjoy serving. I never expected to have a podcast and when I did begin podcasting I surely didn’t think I’d have the chance to interview so many wonderful guests. I really never even dreamed I’d be able to interview someone like Dr. Dan Siegel. I’d admired Dan Siegel’s work on the neuroscience of attachment for about 6 years when I made a contact who facilitated my opportunity to interview him. It was then that my feelings of scarcity began to show up and loudly make themselves known.

Scarcity Rears Its Ugly Head

As soon as I heard the news that Dan Siegel had agreed to be interviewed I was elated. I was literally screaming and jumping up and down. Yes, it was that big of a deal to me! It only took about a day for me to begin wondering what was going to happen to prevent this from happening because I knew it must be too good to be true. In Brené Brown’s work, she calls this “foreboding joy.” She talks about when she was on the plane to go be interviewed for the first time by Oprah and she was super excited, but a delay was announced. Immediately she realized the plane was likely to crash and she would never have her moment with Oprah. Every time the foreboding crept in as the day of my Dan Siegel interview drew closer, I reminded myself of that story.

Kristin Neff's Three Elements of Self Compassion

Kristin Neff's Three Elements of Self Compassion

When thoughts of “who am I to think I, a humble podcaster, am going to interview someone like Dan Siegel, a world famous expert on attachment, neuroscience and mindfulness?” crept into my head, I reminded myself of Brené Brown on her way to Oprah and told myself to stay in the moment. Just feel how excited I am, and stay with that. I’m a podcaster, and I have a platform to ask Dan Siegel some questions. There’s no reason the Universe (God, Source, whatever spiritual being fits for you) would think I don’t “deserve” to interview him. In fact, the Universe doesn’t think Dan Siegel is more worthy as a human being than I am, because to the Universe, we are all equally worthy. Here I used the three elements of Self Compassion identified by Dr. Kristin Neff: self kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.

Worthiness and Shame

Even as I used self compassion and mindfulness to help me remember that it’s okay to feel really excited about the amazing opportunity to interview someone I respect so highly on Therapy Chat, I struggled with scarcity. Here’s how I knew I was operating from a place of scarcity:

I didn’t want to tell my podcasting friends I was interviewing Dan Siegel. Why? I was secretly afraid it wouldn’t happen. I was secretly afraid they would snag him before me. I was secretly afraid something would happen to make them all see that I’m a fraud and a phony, and that I was a fool to think I could ever interview someone like that. I told a few trusted friends (only one was a podcaster – this person has a totally different podcast focus) and family. I’m hiding this exciting news like I’ve got a shameful secret.  In truth I really doubted I was worthy. I was so starstruck! It was kind of ridiculous, looking back. For all of his accomplishments, Dan Siegel is just a person. A brilliant person, but still just a person.

So the day finally came. It was my big moment. I have never been so prepared. I checked and double checked everything. I made sure I didn’t schedule anything else that day except for dinner out with good friends and my husband afterwards. We had the interview. It was incredible. I felt like I was floating, I was so happy to be able to interview Dan Siegel. It was a fascinating conversation and when it was over I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. I immediately checked the recording to make sure everything was okay.

Here’s where things get ugly. Everything wasn’t okay. When I listened to the recording, I only heard my voice. There was no Dan Siegel voice. I actually wondered whether I had hallucinated the whole thing. If so, I knew I was really losing it. I tried several things to see if I could get his voice to come up, and I couldn’t. I called a podcasting friend, Christy, to see if she could help me. She kindly and generously spent an hour on the phone with me trying everything to fix the recording. She never shamed me or made me feel stupid. But it was all for naught. It turned out I had a bad version of the recording software many of us use, and I never knew because before that day it had always worked great. Apparently after an update there was a compatibility issue with Skype, which I use to conduct my interviews.

How Self Compassion Saved Me!

But this is the crazy part. I wasn’t freaking out. After all that buildup, to find out the episode didn’t record, I would normally have gone into a shame spiral. I would have been so embarrassed, thinking, “I knew I was crazy to think this was going to happen for me!” I would have felt like I didn’t want anyone to know what happened. I would have wanted to hide. But I didn’t feel that way. Even though it didn’t record, the thoughts and feelings that made up about 95% of my conscious awareness were: wow, I just had such an amazing discussion with Dan Siegel. How lucky am I that I got to have that beautiful conversation. I even thought, “how can I be upset? I just got to spend an hour having a personal conversation with Dan Siegel that I will never forget, and I’m considering the nature of consciousness and the Universe...” Of course, I immediately reached out to his assistant, apologetically explaining there was a technology failure, and requesting to re-record if possible. In the past I would have been so afraid to let him know everything got screwed up and his time was wasted. But basically I felt that I hoped he would agree to re-record, and if he didn’t, then it would be okay. Not because I didn’t care, but because I was at peace.  I can only attribute this sense of calm belief that everything would be okay to my self compassion practice.

I’m not going to pretend that I have this Zen lifestyle in which I meditate daily for an hour and nothing rattles me. But I have been practicing self compassion, through regular meditation, since September 2014 when I learned about it at Brené Brown’s Daring Way™ training. If you’re interested in doing this (developing a self compassion practice), you can find free Self Compassion guided meditations on Kristin Neff’s website, www.selfcompassion.org. I also highly recommend her book, Self Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.

My self compassion practice saved me. After all of this, I had sent the e-mail to Dan Siegel’s assistant and then I went out to dinner with my husband and our friends, a therapist and her husband, a college professor.  I told them all what happened and I wasn’t that horrified. Don’t get me wrong. I felt bad that Dan Siegel’s time was wasted. But other than that I was still feeling gratitude and some disbelief that I had such an amazing conversation with him. I just couldn’t find myself feeling devastated. And I didn’t want to hide. I wasn’t ashamed. I wasn’t blaming myself. This is different. The perfectionist in me would have fallen apart 2 years ago. It was incredible to observe myself and the difference my self compassion practice has made in my life, and I felt so grateful for that change! What a better way to feel.

My sense of worthiness remained intact; I told all of my friends who knew about it what happened. People were shocked, horrified, several friends said they had tears in their eyes imaging how they’d feel if that happened to them. They felt humiliated and ashamed for me! But I told them they didn’t need to worry about it, because I was okay. And late that evening I received a very kind and non-shaming e-mail from Dan Siegel’s assistant saying that they were sorry to hear about the technology failure and he was willing to re-record. I was so grateful, and I can’t wait for you to hear our interview in Episode 34, which will air next week.  I even mentioned to Dan Siegel how I felt about it and how mindfulness helped when we re-recorded. I would never have been able to say that to him if I were operating from a place of shame – I would have hoped he’d forgotten and be afraid to mention it. It’d be the elephant in the room. You’ll hear how he reacted in Episode 34.

So that’s my story. I can’t recommend self compassion practice enough. It has truly changed my life, and this experience proved that to me. Please check out Episode 34 and if you like Therapy Chat, visit iTunes to leave a rating and review, download episodes and subscribe so you can hear the latest episodes as soon as they’re released. Thanks for listening!

You can also listen on Stitcher and Google Play (available now!). And for more of what I'm doing, please  sign up for my newsletter. You can also sign up for information on my Daring Way™ offerings and other groups and workshops; sign up to receive the latest episodes of Therapy Chat when they're released; sign up to receive my latest blog posts when they are posted, and follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterest, Instagram & Google+If you're a trauma therapist you may be interested in my new Trauma Therapist Community, forming now. Click here for the info. I look forward to connecting! 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

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

 

 

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. 

 

 

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

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/

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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