When Your Partner Doesn't Understand Your Trauma

*The names and characters in this article represent a composite of people I have know personally and professionally. No real person is represented in this article, which is intended for educational purposes.*

When Your Partner Doesn't Understand Your Trauma

Image credit: Canva

Image credit: Canva

Michael can't understand it. He just doesn't get what is going on with his wife of over 25 years, Amy. Michael is concerned about her and wondering when she is going to "get over" the childhood physical and sexual abuse she went through years ago.  He really just wants her to be okay. And honestly, he's sick of her trauma symptoms affecting her, him and their children. He's not sure how much longer he can take it. 

Why can't she just get over it?

To be fair, Michael doesn't realize that Amy's mood and behavior are related to her childhood trauma. He just knows that despite years of therapy with various therapists, she sometimes becomes deeply depressed and can't seem to get off the couch for days. Other times the smallest thing will seem to trigger her becoming highly anxious, which can turn into controlling behavior towards himself and the kids. She will sometimes go shopping, overspending with abandon even though they have agreed to stop running up credit card debt - then she hides it from him and acts like she is afraid he will hurt her when he receives the credit card bill. Although he does get really frustrated when this happens, it bothers him that she feels afraid of him at times, because he feels he would never harm her, and he never has gotten physical with her in more than 25 years. He also suspects she may be binging and purging, but they don't talk about it. He's afraid to bring it up and he suspects she would deny it if he asked.. Although she takes medication, her mood swings are still pretty unpredictable and he's never really sure whether he is going to come home from work and find the smiling, got-it-together wife he married; or the disorganized, scattered, overwhelmed and controlling woman she sometimes becomes; or the sad, crying woman he barely recognizes who just wants to sleep as much as possible. He doesn't know how to help her.

"She's Changed."

All Michael knows is that Amy has changed.  He knew when they got married that she had a "difficult" childhood. He also saw how resilient Amy was then. Despite being abused throughout her childhood she had finished college and started a great career before they married. Although she spoke openly about having experienced that abuse, it didn't seem to have a negative impact on her then. Other than acknowledging that it happened, she didn't really talk about it. And he didn't really want to talk about it - then or now - because just the thought of what she went through, particularly the sexual abuse, horrifies him.  He's not sure if the physical abuse was really all that bad, or why it affects her so much. He wonders if she is really trying in therapy, or whether she somehow is doing all this just for attention.

Michael isn't sure how to deal with the emotions that come up for him when Amy is not okay. It reminds him of how he felt responsible for taking care of his mother after his dad died when he was 10. He would often come home from school and his mom would be sitting in the dark on the sofa in her bathrobe. He found himself needing to be adult-like to take care of her, and he was kind of on his own to take care of himself and his younger brother too. He was so relieved to get away from that unhappy childhood, to go to college and start his career, but sometimes he wonders if he married someone he will always have to take care of too. The burden of handling Amy's emotional needs feels very heavy and familiar to Michael. He feels sad, hopeless and discouraged.

Image credit: Canva

Image credit: Canva

She feels disconnected.

Amy, too, was overjoyed to leave her abusive family behind to marry Michael. She thought things would be so much better once she got away from her controlling, abusive father and her passive mother who was mostly focused on pretending everything was perfect. And things were so much better! She loved her career, she and Michael got along great, and she was very happy to raise her three beautiful children. However, when her third child, little Megan, turned 5 years old Amy started having flashbacks to the abuse that her father inflicted on her as a little girl. A part of her had always felt that she was somehow responsible for the sexual abuse and deserving of the beatings. But seeing her sweet, innocent little Megan, a bright, inquisitive kindergartner, she pictured herself as a little girl and wondered whether it was really true that an innocent child could ever be deserving of being harmed the way her father had harmed her. These thoughts were so sad and overwhelming she tried to push them away. Sometimes she was successful, but other times, particularly in the Spring, she was overwhelmed with fear and worry that something bad would happen to Megan or her two sons. She is bothered by nightmares, trouble sleeping and physical symptoms like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and a feeling that someone is watching her which makes her skin crawl. Sometimes she suddenly vomits, just out of the blue, and she never knows when a panic attack is coming. Much of the time she feels like she is going through the motions of life. She feels disconnected from her neighbors and the other moms in her community. She describes herself as "on the outside looking in" to her life. She doesn't work outside the home now, and she's not sure if she ever will again. Most of the time she feels like she is barely holding it together. She wishes Michael were more empathetic and supportive of what she's going through but he doesn't seem to understand why she can't just "put the past behind her." She feels alone and disconnected from him, and wonders what happened to the happy newlyweds they once were. She is sad and worried about the way she feels, but she doesn't know what to do about it.

The Truth Is, They Are Both Struggling

This dynamic is all too common and I hear stories from both sides of the relationship described above in my office every day. Many of my clients are women like Amy who feel deeply ashamed that they are still affected by the abuse from their childhood years. And others are men like Michael who wonder if they can handle the emotional burden of their partner's PTSD. Regardless of gender, both Amy and Michael could be any one of us. They both feel alone and don't know how to reach the other partner.

Whether you can relate to Amy's feelings or Michael's, it's helpful to understand a few things. 

Three Things to Remember:

1. You are not alone. Whether you are the person who experienced childhood trauma or the person who loves them, what you are feeling is common. Many people are affected by childhood trauma. It is so much more common than most of us realize. Click here to learn more about the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) and the prevalence of childhood trauma. 

2.  Trauma survivors aren't trying to be difficult. They are actually just trying to feel normal. In the scenario I described above, both Amy and Michael are affected by childhood trauma, though neither of them understands the effects in depth. Amy could be described as the "identified patient" - she's the one who is seen as having a problem and needing help. And she does need help. She is suffering so much. Amy's trauma is that she was physically and sexually abused by an adult (her father) whom she trusted to take care of her and keep her safe. Her mother was unable to protect her and pretended nothing was wrong. So both of her primary caregivers, whom she depended on for safety and protection, let her down. She is affected by a loss of attachment as well as the effects of the abuse.

But Amy's not the only one in this example who needs help. Michael, too, experienced childhood trauma. His father died when he was only ten, and in her grief his mother was unable to attend to Michael's emotional needs. Instead, in order to be safe, Michael had to take care of his mom's emotional needs, and his own needs were ignored. He also had a younger brother to look out for. So Michael experienced a loss of attachment when neither of his parents was available to take care of his emotional needs, as well as the trauma of his dad's sudden death.  It's no wonder that Amy and Michael were drawn to each other, because they both had unresolved pain they were trying to escape when they met. However, Michael's role as a caregiver in his family may have helped him feel comfortable marrying someone who he perceived as having gone through something terrible (without realizing how he himself was affected by his own trauma). Both Amy and Michael were young when they met, and they were both doing the best they could. They both wanted to be okay, and they were trying to be okay together. For a while they were, but the effects of trauma always pop up just when you least expect them. Neither Amy nor Michael is able to be a support for the other, because they are both affected by their own childhood trauma. They can both benefit from counseling with a skilled trauma therapist.

3. Trauma therapy can help. The reason Amy has been in and out of therapy for 10 years without experiencing relief from her trauma symptoms is that she hasn't had the right kind of therapy. 9 times out of 10, my clients with extensive trauma histories will tell me that their previous therapists never explained trauma to them or told them that their symptoms could be related to trauma. Why? The therapists probably didn't know. Trauma is still a newer field of study, although its effects have been documented for years.  Understanding that your symptoms are caused by trauma helps take an overwhelming set of symptoms that are seemingly unrelated and offers hope and clarity. You begin to recognize that you developed these coping methods (like dissociation, comfort eating, compulsive shopping, depression, anxiety) because of the effects of trauma, and not because there is something wrong with you. 

Can You Relate?

You may be wondering if you are an Amy or a Michael. I can't answer that for you, but here are some symptoms which may indicate that you are affected by childhood trauma. 

If you have had some kind of disturbing experience in childhood that has always bothered you, for example:

  • Loss of a primary caregiver
  • Any unwanted sexual experience
  • Any sexual experience you were too young to understand
  • Witnessing violence, whether it happened to you, your caregiver or another family member
  • Feeling that no one understood you, no one cared about you, or that you were abandoned, unwanted, or unloved
  • Being bullied
  • Receiving physical punishment, including spanking, beating, whipping, or being physically abused or harmed by an adult when you were a child
  • Having a parent or primary caregiver who abused alcohol or drugs
     

These are just a few examples of situations that could be traumatic in childhood. Read this article for more, and consider taking the ACES quiz as well. 

So if you have some kind of childhood experience you think might have been traumatic AND you have some of these symptoms:

  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, nightmares, sleep paralysis
  • Feeling numb, detached, zoning out, trouble concentrating, easily distracted, losing time
  • Memory issues - feeling forgetful, being disorganized
  • Feeling a nagging sense that there is just something wrong with you, something that makes you different from everyone else
  • Feeling like you are on the outside looking in
  • Trouble feeling close with other people, trust issues, feeling suspicious of other people's motives, thoughts like "no one can be trusted" and a feeling that it's you against the world
  • Panic attacks, anxiety, need to maintain control at all times, rigidity, need for order
  • Feeling mistrustful of your partner, feeling judgmental and critical of others and yourself
  • Body image issues, physical symptoms like chronic pain, stomach issues, migraines, 
  • Sexual problems - lack of interest in sex, shame related to sex
  • Constantly on high alert, watchful, vigilant, can't relax - you hate it when someone comes up behind you and touches your shoulder or stands too close to you

You might be affected by childhood trauma. No article can substitute for talking with a qualified therapist. If you are wondering if you are affected by childhood trauma, talk to a therapist. You can usually speak to them by phone before scheduling an appointment to make sure they feel qualified to help with the issue that affects you. 

Here are some resources for finding a qualified trauma therapist:

National Child Traumatic Stress Network

ISSTD

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute

EMDRIA

Sidran Institute

Somatic Experiencing Institute

RAINN

And here are some suggestions for further reading and learning:

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

In the Realm Of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Maté

ACES Primer (video)

Finding a therapist who understands the effects of trauma on child development and has specialized training in trauma recovery can make a huge difference. Whether you are directly affected by childhood trauma or it is a problem for someone you love, therapy can help. You don't have to keep suffering.  The first step is understanding that your trauma is real, that it matters, and that you can feel better. Then the hard part comes - trusting a therapist to help you. I know there are many caring and skilled trauma therapists out there who want to help. I am one of them. If you're in the Baltimore area of Maryland, I would love to talk about how we can work together to help you feel better. Give me a call at 443-510-1048 or e-mail me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. You can also contact me directly through my website at this link. Or visit my website to learn about how I work with trauma. 

I hope this article was helpful to you. If it was, please share and/or leave a comment below! 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Sources:

ACES Primer video found here: http://www.acesconnection.com/g/resource-center/blog/resource-list-aces-videos

ACES Quiz found here: https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/

What Is Trauma? Maybe Not What You Think.

What is trauma? Maybe not what you think.

When you hear the word "trauma," what do you think of? If you're like most people, you probably imagine that people experience the effects of trauma after a plane crash, surviving a fire, a major car accident, or participating in military combat. It's true that all of those things can cause someone to experience trauma symptoms, but there are many other traumatic experiences which are more common in the general population that we don't always recognize as being traumatic.

I must point out, though, that I have talked to many people who have survived house fires or military combat. Most often when I describe that these experiences - which you and I can pretty much agree, can we not, are considered by most people to be experiences fitting the definition of trauma - could have been traumatic, the person sitting with me in the therapy room will say, "I don't really think of it as traumatic. I mean, so many people have been through much worse." 

There is a reason why that statement is so interesting, which I'll explain in a minute so bear with me.

Going back to my first point, that there are many traumatic experiences which are more common to most of us than plane crashes and military combat. Some may be more common than others. Tell me, have any of these things ever happened to you? 

  • The loss of someone dear to you
  • Witnessing violence and feeling helpless to do anything about it
  • Any unwanted sexual touching
  • Being hit or hurt as punishment
  • Feeling unsafe in your home
  • Feeling unsafe in your community
  • Being afraid of being physically hurt by one of your family members
  • Being bullied in your family, at school or in your community

Some other types of trauma are more common

When it comes to sexual violence - my definition is ANY unwanted touching of your sexual body parts - or any touching of your private areas that you felt powerless to stop - it is so much more common than most people realize. For example, one out of five women has experienced some kind of unwanted sexual touching. Look around. If you are female, and there are 4 women nearby, one of you has probably experienced unwanted sexual touching. Most of us don't even identify many of these experiences as sexual assault because they happen so often to us and people we know that we think it's normal. But thinking it's normal doesn't mean you are unaffected by such experiences. By the way, if you're having trouble believing that statistic you can go here for reference. To understand more about childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault at any age, listen to my podcast episodes on the subject. 

do I have trauma

Speaking of violence, intimate partner violence is another common cause of trauma. Children who witness domestic violence in their homes often become adults who are in abusive relationships. Intimate partner violence includes pushing and shoving; the larger, stronger or more aggressive partner using the threat of violence to intimidate and control the smaller or less aggressive partner; and can also include controlling one partner's whereabouts, isolating them from their friends and other sources of support. Children often feel they need to intervene to protect one parent when there is domestic violence in the home. When children feel responsible for protecting adults, they are doing so to help themselves feel safe. If the adults are not safe the kids are not safe. You can find more information on intimate partner violence at this link

I talked about a character from the show "Mad Men" and how he exhibits the symptoms of trauma but doesn't realize it in Episode 54 of my podcast. Listen here.

I talked about how children watch adults to find out if they are safe in this podcast episode.

Physical violence is another confusing experience which we often struggle to characterize as being traumatic. There are many ways children can experience physical violence in childhood under the umbrella of punishment. I know several people in my personal life who were hit by their parents - with wooden spoons, hairbrushes, belts, brooms - and laughingly tell of running away from their parents or putting a book in their pants to avoid the pain. Ask any of these people if that was a traumatic experience and they will likely tell you that they deserved it because they were mischievous kids. But children depend on their parents for love and protection. It is a very confusing message that the person you trust to keep you safe also hits you and hurts you to teach you to behave properly. That was common in the 1960's and before, but we now know hitting children does not make them behave better.  In fact, it often increases undesired behavior. It is hard to admit that your parent did something that harmed you, and since a child depends on their parent being benevolent in order to feel safe in the world, the child tells him/herself that s/he is the bad one. In reality, parents who used physical punishment often believed they were doing what was right, and certainly what was done to them, in most cases. However, I have heard far too many stories of the parent hitting the child with an object until the object broke, or using a wooden spoon of just the right size and shape to hurt the most, to deny that sometimes the parent's anger was running the show in those situations. Listen to my podcast interview with Eric Greene of 1 Awesome Dad on peaceful parenting.

Another common but often overlooked experience which causes trauma is called Childhood Emotional Neglect. This term, which was coined by Dr. Jonice Webb, refers to experiences in childhood of not having your emotional needs met by the adults who took care of you. It could be because your parent grew up with their own emotional needs unmet, so they didn't know how to meet yours. It could be because they were depressed, or affected by substance abuse, or chronically ill, or taking care of a family member who was chronically ill, or they may have been physically absent for a variety of reasons. Listen to my interview with Dr. Jonice Webb on Childhood Emotional Neglect here.

Childhood Emotional Neglect is a type of attachment trauma. For more about attachment trauma, listen to my podcast interview with Amy Sugeno here.

How does trauma make us feel?

I specialize in working with people who have experienced Childhood Emotional Neglect, sexual assault, witnessing domestic violence in childhood as well as physical abuse in childhood. I mentioned earlier in this article that it is interesting that people who have lived through house fires or military combat often say "I don't think of it as traumatic, because so many other people have been through much worse."  Guess what. My clients who have been physically, emotionally and sexually abused say the same thing. Another thing they often say is "it wasn't that bad because I had a roof over my head, I never went hungry and I had clean clothes to wear." It's great that your basic needs were met, but emotional needs are important too. 

trauma makes us feel alone

Trauma makes you think what you went through isn't that bad. But there is a part of you that knows that it was very hurtful. That part might be an inner voice that says "you deserved the abuse because you were a bad kid." Now here is adult me responding to that. There is nothing you could have done as a child that warrants you being kicked, slapped, punched, whipped, hit with a hairbrush, forced to participate in sexual activity before you were old enough to understand what was happening, called stupid, told you were worthless, beaten with a broom - whatever it was. Children are small and powerless. The adults in their lives should not hurt them. And that voice inside that tells you your pain isn't real, or isn't worthy of being addressed (or maybe that you are too screwed up to be helped) is not accurate. 

Okay, so I realize I have experienced trauma - now what? 

Finding a therapist who understands the effects of trauma on child development and has specialized training in trauma recovery can make a huge difference. You can feel better than you believed possible. The first step is understanding that your trauma is real, that it matters, and that you can feel better. Then the hard part comes - trusting a therapist to help you. I know there are many caring and skilled trauma therapists out there who want to help. I am one of them. If you're in the Baltimore area of Maryland, I would love to talk about how we can work together to help you feel better. Give me a call at 443-510-1048 or e-mail me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. You can also contact me directly through my website at this link. Or visit my website to learn about how I work with trauma. 

If you are not in Maryland (or if you are and you don't want to work with me), you can find a therapist specializing in trauma through these resources:

National Child Traumatic Stress Network

ISSTD

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute

EMDRIA

Sidran Institute

Somatic Experiencing Institute

RAINN

 

Sources:

Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Retrieved on March 15, 2017 from: http://www.mcasa.org/_mcasaWeb/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/National-SA-Prevalence-Updated1.pdf

National Network to End Domestic Violence. Retrieved on March 15, 2017 from: http://nnedv.org/downloads/Policy/AD14/AD14_DVSA_Factsheet.pdf

University of Texas. Retrieved on March 15, 2017 from: https://news.utexas.edu/2016/04/25/risks-of-harm-from-spanking-confirmed-by-researchers

Cornell University. Retrieved on March 15, 2017 from: http://www.human.cornell.edu/pam/outreach/parenting/parents/upload/Spanking-Research-Brief.pdf

 

 

 

5 Podcasts To Listen To Now

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

International Podcast Day image Canva

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

First Things First.

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

How Do I Find Podcasts?

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

What Can I Use to Listen to Podcasts?

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

Image credit: Pixabay

Image credit: Pixabay

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

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

Why Should I Listen To Podcasts?

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

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

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

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

My 5 Most Frequently Recommended Podcasts:

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

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

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

     Image credit: Lourdes Viado, LMFT, PhD

     Image credit: Lourdes Viado, LMFT, PhD

2. Mindful Recovery with Robert Cox, MA, PLPC

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

3. Launching Your Daughter with Nicole Burgess, LMFT

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wholeheartedly, 

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 27: Sexual Assault Is Not Someone Else's Problem!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO HEAR EPISODE 27 OF THE PODCAST!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO HEAR EPISODE 27 OF THE PODCAST!

Welcome! Trauma therapy became my passion after I volunteered at a Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Virginia starting in 2002. I got great counseling experience and went through extensive volunteer training before I became an employee in 2003. I learned a lot about trauma, and even though sexual assault is not something we like to talk about, it’s a common problem. Statistics show that one in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but I'm focused on ending sexual violence every day.

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • Two types of sexual assault are Childhood Sexual Abuse (listen to Episode 30 for that) and Sexual Assault/Rape not involving a child. The latter is our focus today.
  • If you are sexually assaulted, you have several options to consider. To help you make sense of what to do I recommend the following:
    • Call a Sexual Assault Crisis Hotline. Visit the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network at www.rainn.org for the national phone number which will connect you to your local Sexual Assault Crisis Center. You will speak with a trained person who knows your local area's policies and procedures and can help you understand your options.
    • Be aware that many hospitals provide a forensic evidence exam at no cost to you, within 120 hours of the assault. You can also get checked out by a doctor, but that type of medical exam is not the same as collecting forensic evidence which will be needed if you plan to report this crime to authorities. Your local sexual assault crisis center can provide information on which hospitals have forensic nurses to collect evidence, and most will offer you an advocate to accompany you and help you know your rights in the process when you're making decisions about having a forensic exam.
    • Whether or not to report the assault to the police or other authorities is a very personal decision, and you have options. If you are in the military you have another process you can choose to participate in, and if you're a college student your school will have a non-criminal reporting process you may elect to use. 
    • Reach out for support to someone you believe will be supportive. For friends and loved ones wanting to be supportive, visit www.evawintl.org (End Violence Against Women International.) Check out their “Start by Believing” campaign.
  • Keep in mind that the civil legal process is another option outside the criminal investigation; a lawsuit can be another way to hold offenders accountable even if a criminal prosecution is unavailable. 
  • The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA) is an outstanding resource for survivors, and has information on survivors' legal rights as well. www.mcasa.org .
  • Find a Sexual Assault Crisis Center using the Directory at www.centers.rainn.org.
  • There are some common reactions of victims following sexual assault/rape. Find a comprehensive list at www.musc.edu
  • There are many community events across the country in April to bring awareness to sexual assault. The events include The Clothesline Project, The Monument Quilt, Vagina Monologues (www.vday.org), Take Back the Night, and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.  Although April has ended, events may go on throughout the year and it's never to early to plan your participation next year!  
Click on the image above to listen to Therapy Chat!

Click on the image above to listen to Therapy Chat!

Nobody likes thinking about sexual assault but until the day there is an end to sexual violence, we need to be aware of how to get help and what options are available.  And that day, when there is an end to sexual violence, will come if we all get involved to make a difference. Imagine a world without sexual violence. It is actually possible and I'm working with many others to make this happen. I hope you'll get involved too. Visit www.rainn.org to find your local Sexual Assault Crisis Center and find out how you can help.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you liked this episode, please visit iTunes to download episodes, subscribe, rate and review! 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, 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 26: Using the Body to Process Trauma

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

What you’ll hear in this episode:

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

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

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Can Therapists Really Change The World?

Can therapists really change the world? Dr. Steven Brownlow says yes, if we get out of our own way. 

On Episode 18 of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast I was privileged to have the opportunity to speak with someone who is sharp, self deprecating, and so dedicated to the field of psychology. My guest, Steven Brownlow, PhD, developed ADEPT Psychology and he graciously agreed to explain to me what it is, how he came up with it, and how it helps psychotherapists and clients. Listen in for a fascinating conversation about how Dr. Brownlow developed his theory and how he coaches therapists in use of self in their work with clients.

In our interview, you’ll hear a discussion of how emotions are built on the stress system of the body and why traumatic or deeply painful experiences in which we’re unable to regulate our emotions make us feel stuck. Dr. Brownlow describes the process by which micro-ruptures in relationship with caregivers can lead to a child’s belief that he or she is unworthy of love and how that affects our relationships over the lifespan.

He talks about why, as a therapist, you can’t take people where you haven’t been yourself. He explains how therapists can change the world and explains research findings on what makes a great therapist.  You’ll learn about emotional processing in a way you never did in school.

Dr. Brownlow discusses how he teaches therapists to use ADEPT Psychology to get out of their own way, and to get out of their clients’ way to deliver services effectively addressing the reason clients really show up in our offices.

Therapists who want to know more can visit Steven Brownlow, PhD’s website: www.adeptpsychology.com and find out how you can start showing up differently in your work with clients.

I hope you enjoy listening to my interview with Dr. Steven Brownlow about ADEPT Psychology. Please visit iTunes to download episodes, subscribe, and leave an honest rating and review! 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST EPISODE!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO MY PODCAST INTERVIEW WITH DR. STEVEN BROWNLOW!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO MY PODCAST INTERVIEW WITH DR. STEVEN BROWNLOW!

Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast
Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

9 Things I'll be Talking About in 2016: What to Expect on the Podcast In the Year Ahead

At the end of the year we tend to take stock and notice themes. In the beginning of the year we tend to plan and look ahead. So I've taken stock and looked ahead.  CLICK HERE OR ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE #17!

Over the past year there have been certain themes that have been really prevalent in my practice and because of that I want to talk about them more on the podcast in the year ahead. There are several big issues - I actually made a list - and came up with the nine things that have been common themes in my practice this year and I feel will be important to discuss on the podcast in 2016.

The first theme that’s really been prevalent in my practice is body image. Men, women and children in my practice talk about wanting to have a more loving relationship with their bodies. As you may know, most people I work with have experienced trauma. I think there is a link between healing trauma and having a loving relationship with one’s body, because we know trauma is stored in the body.

A second theme which has been really prevalent in my practice over the past year is craving deep, meaningful and authentic connection. I live in a wonderful community where people tend to gather with neighbors and friends and people are very kind, but relationships tend to stay at a surface level rather than delving into feelings. People say they wish for friendships in which they feel truly seen and heard. I will discuss this more on the podcast in 2016. 

Along with the theme of craving connection there’s also a theme of allowing connection. The problem is not feeling comfortable letting people in - and again, I work with a lot of people who have experienced trauma, so trust is often a major issue. When you’ve experienced relational trauma somebody has hurt you and it gives you a different perspective on whether or not it’s okay to trust people. So naturally, allowing people to really know you - showing up and being seen as who you really are - can be a challenge for people who have experienced trauma and that’ll be something I’ll be talking about more in the year ahead.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE 17! 

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE 17! 

The next theme I identified that I want to talk about is workaholism and perfectionism. Here in the DC/Baltimore area we are working, working, working, working, working, working, doing, doing, doing, never wanting to slow down. It never seems like enough. It can be really hard to make time for oneself - including for therapy appointments - if you feel that without you at work something is going to fall apart. Another theme that goes along with that is being distracted, avoiding, numbing, dissociating, being disconnected from your body. Again, that goes along with trauma too so I’m going to be talking about that more.

When you are avoiding your feelings by numbing, staying busy with work, never giving yourself a moment to be still, you’re not in present moment awareness and you are, as I like to say, on the fast train to burnout city. People are expressing feelings of being burned out - on work, on caregiving, on parenting - all of those things can be very stressful! So it makes sense that you would feel burned out, especially if you never give yourself a chance to rest. And our culture does not encourage that! Wanting to increase self-care but not knowing how is a big theme that I’ve been talking about with people in my practice and I want to talk about more on the podcast. Actually, it’s a pretty consistent theme on my podcasts so far and it will be in the year to come as well.

One thing that I want to change about the podcast this year is that even though I talk about the fact that I’m a trauma therapist I don’t think I really talk very much about trauma on the podcast. I guess I just expect that people really know what it is but I’m realizing that when I say trauma you may be thinking of someone who has experienced a house fire, natural disasters or combat. Those are certainly traumatic event but I’m also talking about childhood experiences of no one attending to your emotional needs or being physically abused.

9 topics for the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast in 2016

Many people don’t consider some experiences that they may have had as physical abuse even though they may qualify, like being hit with a hairbrush, being slapped, punched, spanked with a belt...whether or not it would be something that a court would prosecute a parent for doing when you were younger (because it may have been seen as normal then), the effect is traumatic for child. I think there’s an under-recognition of how serious the problem of trauma is, how much it affects so many of us. I will be talking a lot more about the effects of childhood trauma, the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, and things that I talk about in therapy sessions but I haven’t mentioned much here on the podcast.

The last theme that I want to cover on the podcast more in 2016 is negotiating relationships with family of origin when one has had an unhappy childhood. It’s a problem for so many people and one that people don’t frequently speak about. We have this American cultural ideal that families are always there for each other, families come first, etcetera. But if you had an abusive childhood and you are uncomfortable being around your family, where do you fit into our American cultural ideal if that’s your life? It’s true for so many people. We’ll be talking more about that in the podcast this year.

So these are the themes that I’ve heard about in my practice over the past year and want to talk about more in the podcast in the coming year. I would love to hear your thoughts about these topics and any other themes that you may be interested in hearing covered on the podcast so please leave comments on this post!

Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast

I would love to hear your feedback! If you like the podcast, please consider subscribing on iTunes and leaving a rating and review. This helps iTunes know that people are enjoying the podcast and it makes it easier for people to find it when there’re more ratings and reviews and subscriptions because that’s how they decide how popular it is.

As always, if you like what I'm doing, please find me on social media! You can follow me  on TwitterFacebookPinterestInstagram and Google+. To listen to my podcast, search the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and (coming soon) Google Play. Or click here to listen via my website. You can also subscribe to my occasional e-mail newsletter by clicking here. I only publish them when I have something new to tell you about. 

Here's to an interesting 2016!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Using Self Care to Prevent Burnout - Mari Lee shares her story

Using self care to prevent burnout -

My interview with Mari Lee, LMFT, CSAT-S

 
CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST EPISODE WITH MARI LEE, LMFT, CSAT-S!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST EPISODE WITH MARI LEE, LMFT, CSAT-S!

Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast

 

Recently I was honored to speak with psychotherapist, author, speaker and practice-building coach Mari Lee, LMFT, CSAT on the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast. Mari has a private practice in Glendora, California working with sex and porn addiction and she has written books about this subject. She is also a coach helping therapists build their private practices. On her website, www.thecounselorscoach.com, she offers many tools and resources for therapists. 

Click here to listen to the podcast, or click on the image of Episode 14! 

Mari shares her story of switching careers in midlife to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Although she loved her work, she quickly realized she was on a fast train to burnout city. I've been on that train and it can be really hard to get off! That's one reason I admire Mari so much. She realized she needed to make changes in her life in order to have balance and practice self care. She was able to redesign her private practice, which allowed her to bring her best self to her work with her clients, while finding time to write books, do public speaking and teach courses online. Mari shares how she is able to live with balance between her work and personal life. Listen in to this episode to learn what Mari did to build creativity into her time and create additional revenue streams outside of her direct work with clients. 

I so appreciate Mari taking the time to share her journey with us. Whether or not you're a therapist, her message about using self care to prevent burnout is one that any of us can learn from. Listen in and enjoy this interesting conversation between two therapists about bringing authenticity to work and loving what you do every day.

 

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

 

 

Think You Might Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Do you have Seasonal Affective Disorder or are you simply sad? 

I often hear from clients that the winter months are hard. A common statement is, "I think I have Seasonal Affective Disorder." Seasonal Affective Disorder refers to having less energy and increased depressive symptoms at certain times of year, particularly during the Fall and Winter months. It is thought that less sunlight during the winter interrupts the body's cicadian rhythms and causes changes in Serotonin and Melatonin levels, causing mood changes and sleep issues. You can find more detailed information about the definition, causes, risk factors and treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder by visiting the Mayo Clinic website

Much has been written about Seasonal Affective Disorder. I invite you to consider another possible cause for this seasonal sadness. Trauma anniversaries can cause intense feelings at certain times of the year. A trauma anniversary is the date that something traumatic happened in your life. I will explain more below.

winter tree

Susan felt that her symptoms were completely unexplainable and unpredictable, but when talking in more depth about the story of her childhood and the loss of her mother, she revealed that her mother died on May 31. She also pointed out that she never had a chance to grieve her mother's death since she was too busy trying to survive in an abusive home without her only protector. Her father was not attuned to her emotional needs and he lacked the ability to cope with his own grief. 

Susan's annual experience of overwhelming depression in June makes sense when you consider that her mother died at the end of May, so that incredible pain she experienced throughout the month of June 28 years ago, when she was 12, was never processed. Trauma is held in the body, and feelings which are outside of our conscious awareness can show up seemingly at random. You can learn more about this by reading Bessel van der Kolk's book "The Body Keeps The Score," Peter Levine's "In An Unspoken Voice,"  Babette Rothschild's "The Body Remembers," and many other books on the subject of trauma and the body.

Considering whether there is any explanation which may relate to prior traumatic experiences helps us take back control of our own wellbeing.  Susan's body was reminding her every June of the deeply painful loss of her mother. She struggled all year with depression, which is common for survivors of childhood abuse, and in June it became unbearable every year. Susan was able to break this annual cycle and take back control of her emotional and physical health by working with a therapist specializing in trauma. She was able to process these traumatic experiences and she felt better than she had ever thought possible.

*Susan is not a real person. Her story is a composite of many stories clients have shared about their trauma anniversaries. 


This is by no means a comprehensive list of traumatic experiences. If you believe you have experienced trauma, and you are ready to start the healing process, find a qualified therapist who has specialized training in trauma. As difficult as it may be to begin therapy for trauma, it is so worthwhile to find out that you can feel better than you ever thought you could. I know this is true because I have personally witnessed that transformation. 

If you don't have trauma and you really do have Seasonal Affective Disorder, the article I cited above recommends getting more sunlight, taking a vacation to a sunny place (heck yeah!) and/or trying therapy or medication. If you're not sure, talk to a helping professional, whether your primary care doctor or a therapist. 


Susan's Story

Susan* had experienced depression throughout her adult life. Despite taking medication faithfully, she found herself being hospitalized for inpatient psychiatric treatment once a year -always in June - and she lived in fear of when her next depressive episode would cause this disruption in her life. When Susan was a little girl her father was an alcoholic. Her mother tried to protect her from his rage but when her dad was drinking, he often physically and sexually abused Susan. When Susan was twelve her mother died suddenly, and Susan was left alone with her father, who continued to abuse her until she was able to move out on her own at 18. The effects of her traumatic childhood continued to haunt Susan when I met her at age 40. She explained that she felt sad much of the time and her pain would build throughout the year, until in June she would have a breakdown and end up in the hospital because of suicidal thoughts. 

morning light
sunny winter light

So Do I Have Seasonal Affective Disorder or Trauma? 

So before you assume that you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, ask yourself whether there is a certain date or specific month that is especially difficult for you. Is there any event you can recall which happened at that time of year which might relate to your feelings about this? Have you experienced trauma? It's not always as obvious as we think. Some situations which can cause trauma include:

  • Loss of a parent or other primary caregiver during childhood
  • Sudden, violent or traumatic death of a loved one or close friend
  • Witnessing domestic violence in childhood or being in a physically violent relationship
  • Growing up feeling that your emotional needs weren't met, that no one was there for you
  • Experiencing physical abuse, including being "spanked" with a belt or other object, or being hit in any way when you were a child, even if you don't consider it abusive
  • Being bullied
  • Any unwanted sexual contact, from touching to intercourse without your consent or when you were incapacitated in some way
Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

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 newsletter! I send e-mails every so often when I have something to say, and I definitely won't overwhelm your inbox. You can also follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterest and Google+. I have a weekly podcast which you can listen to here.

Source: 

Author Unknown. (2015) Retrieved on November 10, 2015 from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/definition/con-20021047

 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Forgiveness: Is It Necessary for Healing?

Forgiveness: Is It Necessary for Healing?

I recently attended a beautiful healing retreat in San Diego. I have been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately. While reflecting during the retreat I realized that I've been holding on to some resentment that has been a barrier to my relationships with important people in my life. As painful as it is to have this barrier in those relationships, I realize that it is actually creating a barrier to my own relationship with myself as well. Self-forgiveness is a key factor in being able to forgive anyone else. Taking the time to reflect helped me see that and let go of that old stuff, and as a result, I feel better and I'm relating differently to the important people in my life.

This subject frequently comes up in my therapy sessions with adults who have experienced childhood abuse, neglect, or other traumas. It's also a popular theme in our culture. Click on the image to the right to listen to Episode #10 of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast on forgiveness.In it, I discuss the concept of forgiveness and offer some thoughts on the role of forgiveness in the healing process. I also offer resources for forgiving in a way that is authentic and true. Here's a summary of what I said in the podcast:

In the last episode of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast, I asked whether you'd ever had a loss of relationship with someone with whom you were formerly very close. Something happened which led you to decide that you do not want to communicate with this person anymore. Or maybe you are setting boundaries around the role they have in your life because continuing to be close after what happened feels too painful. 

I raised the point that our culture tells us, both through religion and our popular culture, that forgiveness is a requirement for healing. But what if the person hasn't asked for your forgiveness? What if they deny that they did anything wrong? What if they have passed away, and you will never have the discussion about how their actions hurt you? What if they have apologized in a way that feels hollow? Is forgiveness really about the person who did wrong or about the person who has been hurt? Is it for your healing or theirs? Or the healing of the relationship?

Healing childhood trauma involves allowing oneself to feel the painful emotions we may have been avoiding, consciously or unconsciously.  Before jumping to forgiveness it is important to acknowledge these painful emotions. Self-compassion is extremely helpful to healing these hurts and moving the process of forgiveness forward. I offer resources for increasing self compassion in the podcast.  

Researcher Kristin Neff, PhD has researched and written extensively on the subject of self compassion. I highly recommend her book, "Self Compassion," and her website: http://www.selfcompassion.org/ to facilitate healing and allow forgiveness of yourself and those who have hurt you. 

If you're in the Baltimore area and looking for a therapist to begin or continue your journey of healing childhood trauma, get in touch with me at (443) 510-1048 or laura@laurareaganlcswc.com to talk about how I can help. See below for places to get more of what I have to say. 

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

 

                      What does asking for forgiveness look like?

                     What does asking for forgiveness look like?


Click on the image to listen to the podcast episode on forgiveness.

Click on the image to listen to the podcast episode on forgiveness.

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

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

Mourning the Loss of An Important Relationship

Is there someone in your life with whom you used to be close, but you are no longer on speaking terms? Or maybe you still talk, but rather than the close connection you used to have, things feel strained between you. There is so much unsaid that the tension is palpable. The holidays are coming, and challenging family relationships often come to a head at this time of year. 

In my psychotherapy practice I work with adults who feel worthless, despite success and high achievement in their professional lives. They have everything anyone could want - great jobs, wonderful spouses, children who seem to have it all together...they are the envy of their friends and neighbors.  For many of these clients pain from childhood hurts continues to be a barrier to having close relationships with their families of origin, even into their 40's and 50's. 

I'm not talking about being upset because your big sister wouldn't let you ride her bike, but deeper hurts, like childhood abuse. I'm talking about feeling as a child that your needs weren't being metFeeling like you never mattered, and you may still question whether you are lovable because of it. Deep, painful emotions. Despite trying to "just get over it" and "put the past behind you" as people often advise, these feelings aren't getting better.

Read on below!

In this episode of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast I talk about the issue of being estranged from someone who used to be so important in your life, whether it is a parent, sibling or friend. Most people who experience the loss of those important relationships feel hurt by the estrangement, even though they may try to avoid thinking about it. In the podcast I talk about some of these feelings and offer some journal prompts to help get to the bottom of what is really felt inside.

Our society tells us forgiveness is key to feeling better in these situations. However, I think sometimes we rush to claim that we have forgiven someone for hurting us without acknowledging to ourselves how hurt we really feel. It's the "right thing to do." But I question whether true forgiveness is possible without first healing the hurt. My next podcast episode will discuss forgiveness in more detail. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your feedback. Have you had this type of rupture in one of your important relationships? Were you able to resolve it? 

Therapy can help if you are struggling to heal from the hurt of a broken relationship with important people. If you're in Maryland, get in touch with me via e-mail at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com, by phone at (443) 510-1048 or send me a message through my website.    

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

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Click on the image above to listen to the podcast episode. 


For more episodes, click on the image above. If you like what you hear, please consider subscribing and leaving an honest review on iTunes! 

 

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 Blog Series Round Up

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

Rethinking Self Care 

Therapists Share Their Self Care Tips

Self Care Apps Recommended By Therapists 

Self Care is Essential for Health

 

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

Rethinking Self Care

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

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

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

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

Self Care Strategies

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

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

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

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

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

Self Care Dry Well


Somatic Therapies: Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)

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

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

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

Read on after the image for my interview with Cathy! 

Processing Trauma Using EMDR

 

Tell me about your work. What is EMDR?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

EMDR for Trauma




Kids Are Resilient, Right?

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

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

 

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

ACEs include the following experiences during childhood:

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

How Was This Epidemic Discovered?

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

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

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

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

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

Adverse Childhood Experiences Study

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

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

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

How Do I Find Out My ACE score? 

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

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

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

Image copyright Laura Reagan LCSW-C Psychotherapy Services, LLC

Image copyright Laura Reagan LCSW-C Psychotherapy Services, LLC

 

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

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

Psychotherapy for trauma can include, among other techniques:

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Somatic Therapies: Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

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

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

Tell me about your work. What is Sensorimotor Psychotherapy? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anxiety

 

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

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

calm stillness

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Alchemy Healing Arts Center

Image courtesy of Alchemy Healing Arts Center

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

Who Can Benefit from CST

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

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

Pediatric Craniosacral therapy

Image courtesy of Alchemy Healing Arts Center

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

CST and Survivors of Trauma

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

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

Who Can Practice CST

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

More About Alchemy Healing Arts

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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


What's the Buzz on Mindfulness?

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

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

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

Mindfulness children families

Using mindfulness with children and families:

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

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

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

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

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

mindfulness for anxiety

Mindfulness techniques helping with anxiety:

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

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

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

peaceful meditation

Mindfulness with Adults

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Sources:

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

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