Archive for the ‘Individual Therapy’ Category

When Is It Time To Consider EMDR?

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

The field of psychotherapy has advanced a great deal in the past  20 years. Since Freudian time, therapy was commonly referred to as “talk therapy”. Over the years, however, many different forms of therapy have evolved including psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy, and later, cognitive behavioral therapy and supportive therapy.

Most of these therapies consisted of a patient doing the talking and therapist mostly listening whiles interjecting every so often, and in the case of psychoanalysis – making interpretations. In other therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), the therapist was more active and directive with their patients.

Over the past 20 years, other types of therapies been developed which include EMDR, Somatic Experiences (SE), Sensory Motor Integration, and many others. What makes these therapies different from the ones previously mentioned is that the principles of these therapies are grounded in developing an understanding of the brain and the nervous systems, as well as making a connection between mind and body.

For this reason, these therapies are sometimes referred to as “mind-body therapies”.

EMDR, in particular, is a therapy based on an assumption that all traumatic events get stored in a fragmented form in both the brain and nervous system. At the time of the incident, our minds are capable of assimilating only certain parts of the incident usually in an incomplete form.

Some parts of traumatic events are stored in the right hemisphere of the mind while others are stored in the left. During EMDR treatment both hemispheres are stimulated in order to bring all the pieces together to create a coherent and complete experience and understanding of the event. In subsequent sets of stimulation, the memories of the event lose their emotional charge and become neutral rather than dormant in our system which allows them to be triggered again and again.

Many patients seek EMDR treatment after being in traditional therapies for many years while still experiencing the same triggers and reactions to events. These triggers are occurring because in some way they are reminding the patient of the original traumatic incident.

For example, a young female patient who was assaulted by a man in a blue jacket at age 10, may become panicked every time she sees a man in a blue jacket. However, she did not know why this was triggering panic until she received EMDR treatments which targeted her seeing man wearing a blue jacket. From there, a memory rose up connecting the two pieces. After this was discovered, treatment was able to ensure that men wearing blue jackets were no longer a trigger for her.

While EMDR therapy is not for everyone it is worth exploring as it can often facilitate relief from troubling symptoms.

What is Trauma?

Monday, January 28th, 2019

Today, there are a number of different trauma therapies available to patients, as well as trauma therapists to administer this therapy. This is important because trauma is one of the most common reasons people seek therapy.

In the trauma field, there are two types of trauma that exist – “Big T trauma” and “Little T Trauma”.

Big T Trauma most commonly refers to a traumatic event or events in which a person’s physical survival is threatened. These events are usually life and death situations, or ones where there is an extreme physical or psychological abuse involved. Some common examples of Big T Traumas include muggings, car accidents, other types of accidents, sexual assaults, experiences while under anesthesia, or the loss of a loved one.

Often after experiencing Big T trauma, people will develop symptoms such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, anxiety, depression among others. These traumas will also cause a person to develop beliefs about oneself such as “ I am not safe”, “I am powerless”, or even “ I am a bad person”.

Little T Traumas are more common and typically things that everyone has encountered.  Such traumas can include failures, disappointments with someone they consider important, painful breakups or work-related stresses like getting fired. While these traumas are not threatening to a person’s survival in the physical sense, they are capable of having long-lasting effects on a person’s self-esteem and emotional well being.

While a person can typically “get over” such traumas, these events are still capable of informing our view of the world and ourselves – usually in negative, maladaptive ways.

Post Little T Traumas, symptoms like anxiety and depression maybe be experienced. Usually, however, they will be shorter lasting and less severe.  It can also become normal to experience negative self-referencing beliefs such as “There is something wrong with me” or “I am a failure”.

Whether you experience a Big T or Little T Trauma, it is advisable to deal with these issues with a trained therapist in individual counseling so they do not impact your daily life.

Dealing With Difficulties In Relationships for Individuals

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

Most people who come to receive individual therapy feel they need help with issues like depression, anxiety, compulsive issues, avoidance or performance issues, when in fact, many of their issues boil down to relationship issues.

Feeling alone, unsupported or frightened in the world is a common breeding ground for many psychological conditions and illnesses.

This is not to say that those who are in good, solid romantic relationships or friendships do not need counseling, but that the issues grow and transform much faster when one person feels not alone and unsupported.

Part of the reason there are so many relationship problems today is that we are living in a world of alienation. This trend started way before the technological boom with families moving away and living apart from one another. However, today’s use of technology further alienates people from having regular personal interactions, further causing separation and aloneness.

Relationships with others and the feeling of belonging to a clan or a group is necessary for humans to thrive. It is critical to understand this and make all efforts to disconnect from technology, work obligations and whatever else that keeps us apart from our human contact and connections.

If you feel like your relationships are lacking and you cannot find a way to resolve these difficulties, you should seek professional counseling. A good therapist can help identify the role you play in this and help bridge the gaps in the interpersonal difficulties that need to be tended to or mended.

 

What Circumstances And Conditions Can Be Treated By EMDR?

Friday, November 30th, 2018

Many patients falsely believe that they only need EMDR after enduring a major, catastrophic event in their life. Such events could be a terrible car accident, death of a loved one, violent attack or sexual assault.

However, this is not the case.  In regards to EMDR treatment, there is a concept known as “Big T Trauma” and “ Small T Trauma”. The examples listed above are considered Big T Traumas and are common types of reasons someone may require EMDR treatment.

Small T traumas may include a break-up, getting fired from a job, difficult relationship, a major interpersonal conflict or disappointment, experiencing a failure or an event where one is humiliated or embarrassed to name a few. In these cases, EMDR is extremely useful and can often be an efficient treatment modality for these lesser traumatic events. EMDR is very effective in the treatment of procrastination, avoidance, and phobias and can also be very helpful in treating depression, anxiety, stress, and substance abuse issues.

If you feel stuck in a situation or in emotional reactions that feel old,  compulsive, familiar and may be somewhat extreme, chances are there is a traumatic situation attached to it. Whether it is due to something big or small, the trauma you experienced may make you a good candidate for EMDR.

Ways You Can Benefit From EMDR

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

There are many benefits to receiving EMDR treatment, but to understand them, it’s important to first understand how EMDR therapy works. Therapists who specialize in treatment of trauma, and use EMDR, start with a premise that trauma is stored in our nervous system in a fragmented and maladaptive way that prevents us from truly being present. This is what causes traumatized people to react to anything that appears to be a trigger in an extreme manner, whether it be dissociation or extreme emotional outbursts, like fight, flight or freeze or avoidance. The idea behind EMDR is that the trauma itself in some way causes an imbalance that prevents adequate processing and coping.

EMDR therapy provides patients with a safe opportunity to reprocess the traumatic event using an 8 step protocol.  This reintegrates and reorganizes the experience in a way so it is no longer the centerpiece of their daily life experience.

It is important to understand that while this is a very effective treatment, EMDR treatment is not appropriate for every client and can only be done by a trained therapist.

When done by a therapist trained in this area, EMDR can be extremely helpful in dealing with depression, anxiety, interpersonal problems, processing of past traumatic situations, phobia, addiction and procrastination.

While EMDR can take some time to clear various traumas, when compared to traditional therapies,  the length of treatment needed is usually much less. As the traumas are cleared, the therapy can often come to an end.

What Is EMDR?

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a treatment modality that was developed in 1987 by a clinical psychologist, Francine Shapiro. It is used as a salient and effective method for working through patients who have experienced a trauma.

The basic premise of EMDR is that most psychological disorders or symptoms are based on earlier life experiences. Painful experiences often become “frozen” in brain neuro networks, which sets in motion a pattern of feelings, behaviors and cognitions. These create which predictable, rigid responses to triggers which which may be reminiscent of the original traumatic event.

EMDR treatment is designed to rapidly metabolize (reprocess and functionally organize) dysfunctional residue from the past traumatic experiences and even turn these experiences into something useful. With EMDR painful experiences undergo a change in form and meaning.

In cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, some forms of depression and other psychological illnesses or syndromes, pathology is viewed as result of, or impacted by earlier experiences that are held in the nervous system in a state specific form. Painful experiences are reprocessed using an 8 step protocol administered by a trained clinician. During reprocessing, the memory system is stimulated and the painful incident is experienced in a way that provides additional insight and feelings that are enhancing rather than harmful to the person. The goal of EMDR is to “free” a person from being triggered by the earlier traumatic incident.

When You Need To Seek Treatment For Anxiety

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

Experiencing some amount of anxiety is not uncommon for most people. In fact, in some situations it is even necessary for our survival. Anxiety at its best signals potential danger or a need to pay attention and be alert to what is going on or what is about to happen.

At its core, anxiety is fear, a sense of unease, a sense that  something “bad” is about to happen. It is a signal in our nervous system that tells us to be aware or alert.

“Healthy” anxiety happens in response to appropriate signals or situations. However when it becomes chronic or seemingly random and uncontrollable, it may be a good time to seek help. This type of anxiety signals overactive nervous system which is either genetically or trauma based. It is also important to note that if anxiety is not treated it can perpetuate itself and lead to more distressing types of anxiety such as panic, obsessive compulsive disorder, claustrophobia or agoraphobia.  These conditions ultimately limit one’s activities and the ability to lead a full life. They can also cause pain and suffering.

In order to treat anxiety, it is a good idea to start with psychotherapy to establish genesis of the anxiety. It may then be decided after a complete assessment if a particular anxiety can be treated with “talk therapy” or if there is a need to medication. The reason for medication is that genetically based anxiety may not respond to psychotherapy unless it is somewhat controlled. Even anxiety that is a result of trauma, may need to be helped by medication before any meaningful insight oriented or trauma work can take place.

It is important not to let chronic anxiety run amok as it can have serious life and emotional consequences.

 

How To Cope With a Panic Attack

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

A panic attack is one of the most distressing situations one can experience. Typically a panic attack can literally feel as though you are having a heart attack. They are often are accompanied with fast heartbeat, sweating, dizziness and sometimes short, shallow breathing. Those having a panic attack will often experience an extreme fear that something terrible is about to happen and believe there is no relief is in sight.

When coping with panic attack it is important to know first and foremost, that it will pass, and that it is not a heart attack. It may be difficult to actually realize this that the first time it happens however, and typically the first incident lands one in the emergency room. However, after a thorough check up, especially cardiovascular tests, it is usually determined that what is happening is in fact a panic attack. Usually a person will then be sent home, sometimes with a prescription of Xenax, Clonapine or another anti-anxiety medication. Sometimes a referral to a therapist or a psychiatrist will be recommended.

Aside from being aware that what is happening is panic, here are some tips that can be helpful when coping with panic attack.

  • Sit comfortably, with your feet firmly on the ground and get control of your breath. It helps to slow it down as this may bring down all the other accelerated functions in the body.
  • It may also help to gently rub your chest right over the heart.
  • Think positive thoughts, such as “I am safe”, “this will pass”, “I will be OK”.
  • Use your imagination and try to picture a place you typically associate with safety and calm.
  • If a person close to you is present, hold their hand.

 

 

5 Ways To Disconnect From Technology In 2018

Monday, January 29th, 2018

Let 2018 be a year of more real connection with people and less so with technology. I have been saying this to all my Individual and Couples Therapy clients for the past month.

Yes, human connection was always challenging due to our childhood and adult attachment traumas, but in the recent years, our obsession with our phones and other gadgets took it to another level.

So here are 5 strategies I came up with to help you disconnect from the device of your choice. Not rocket science but something to think about.

  • Don’t feel compelled to answer an email or respond to text just because it will only take a second. You know that if you just replay, there will be more to follow.
  • Turn off your devices when you get home for at least an hour or two and be present with your loved ones. If you live alone, just connect with yourself, your feelings, body and thoughts.
  • Own your dinner time, eating out, driving with your family or talking with friends. Take it back. No one and nothing, but dire life and death stuff or a true emergency should encroach on that special time.
  • Create pockets of time on weekends or other leisure time to not look at your devices. Try to relearn what it means to be in the moment or be present. Don’t take the phone to the gym or on a walk in the park. Look at it later. Definitely put the phone away if you are watching your favorite show with your partner or kids. For sure don’t find the two of you sitting on opposite ends of the couch with one eye on the TV and the other in the phone.
  • If you have to work at home at night, please do so after connecting with loved ones or having had some time to be with yourself. I am aware of the current workplace expectations, but I also know that it is possible to push back. I see this happen every time when a relationship is in big trouble and may be too late. Figure out your priorities.

How To Make Positive Changes In Your Life

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Therapy is about working hard on changing parts of yourself, things you are not satisfied with or you feel are damaging to your life.

Changing for a better life involves an honest and open examination of what is going on. It is a popular and accepted idea among therapists that we should love and honor all parts of ourselves. I think this is so in as much as all parts of ourselves are there for good reasons.

We should not hate and shame ourselves for our shortcomings. Most of these “parts” are coping skills and parts of our character that came to be as survival strategies in our childhood, dealing with our parents, siblings, peers and teachers. They worked for us at that time.

However, as adults in our current life and relationships we do not need to be locked into these patterns and, in fact, many of them are destructive to our lives, relationships and goals. These parts need to be recognized, accepted and respected, but also as adults, having choices, we need to figure out it this works for us now.

Another aspect of changes is that we often wish we could be a better parent, partner, friend, daughter or son, sister or brother. How would you like to be better? Be specific. Then really become more mindful and systematic about this and DO IT!

And if you can’t or don’t know what and how, may be it is time to consult a trusted and experienced individual therapist who can help understand the origins of these difficulties and help work through the underlying feelings and experiences so life can feel and be better.