Archive of ‘Brain Health’ category

EMDR 101

Maybe you have heard about EMDR and you are curious about what it is or if it may be a good fit for you? EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It essentially mimics the processing that occurs during REM sleep to help your brain reorganize and heal difficult memories and “unstick” negative beliefs. This is done by administering bi-lateral stimulation through eye movements or tappers – helping both hemispheres of your brain to “turn on” at the same time while processing a memory.

Now, if you are like me, this may sound too easy or maybe just too woo-hooey for you. I felt this way also when I first heard about EMDR… and I am a trained professional in this field! But let me bring you some support as to why this works. For the ease of understanding, let’s think of your memory network like a filing cabinet and the information your brain gathers as pieces of paper. In “normal” daily situations, our brains take in mass amounts of information and filter it through a process to collect necessary data, file it where it needs to be accessed appropriately, and gets rid of what we do not need to keep. However, when we are under threat or a high stress event occurs, the processing gets interrupted and information gets stored incorrectly. When this happens, it causes distress, flashbacks, dysfunctional beliefs, and triggers.

In a controlled manner, EMDR allows you to bring up the triggering pieces of paper, encourages the brain to look and re-identify it, and then correctly files it where it needs to go. By reprogramming the traumatic memory, you remove the upsetting emotions that come with it and it will become neutral or even positive!

Please understand that this does NOT take away experiences or make lessons learned from the event non-existent. It simply removes the real-time distress and anxious responses from it. This is still part of your story and part of what has shaped the positive aspects of who you are- but the negative effects no longer need to follow you.

EMDR is a gentle option to treatment. It is most known for working with traumatic memories, but it is also great for when you feel “stuck” and can not seem to get around harmful patterns or negative beliefs. If this is you, EMDR might be perfect to refile those papers and get you back on track!

By: Grace Shook, LPC

The Aging Brain: What’s Normal and What’s Not?

In 2014, there were 46.2 million Americans over the age of 65, which represents about 14.5% of the U.S. population. By 2040, this number is expected to rise to over 81 million, and by 2060, almost 100 million. With this significant increase in the aging population comes a growing concern about the prevention and treatment of age-related diseases. One, if not the most, notable of these diseases is dementia, due to the impact it has not only on the person with the disease, but also to their spouses, children, and to the healthcare system as a whole.

By: Shannon Haragan, LPC

By: Shannon Haragan, LPC

How Do I Know if it’s Normal Aging or Early Signs of Dementia?

In the not-too-distant past, researchers believed that the brain only developed and built connections during our early years, after which, development stopped, and the rest of our lives were spent losing brain cells. Now we know that the brain can continue to generate cells and build connections throughout our life span–we call this neuroplasticity. If we keep our bodies and our minds engaged and active, we can have a healthy brain throughout our lifetime. Here is an example of truly healthy aging, at age 106, who got to dance with the President and the First Lady

Similar to any muscle in our body, however, we can apply the age-old “use it or lose it” principle to the brain, as well. As we age, we tend to naturally slow down both physically and mentally. We tend to engage less with things that are mentally and cognitively challenging. Our minds follow suit, and as a result, we may naturally experience memory lapses from time to time. So some memory loss is considered normal. But how much? What if you forget where you left your keys? Call your granddaughter by your sister’s name? Walk into a room and forget why you walked in there in the first place? Here are a few guidelines for what’s normal and what’s not:

             Normal Aging                      Signs of Dementia
Preserved independence in daily activitiesCritical dependence on others for key daily living activities
The individual is more concerned about alleged forgetfulness than close family members areClose family members are much more concerned about incidents of memory loss than the individual
The person complains of memory loss but can provide considerable detail regarding incidents of forgetfulnessThe person complains of memory problems only if specifically asked; cannot recall instances where memory loss was noticeable
Recent memory for important events, affairs, and conversations is not impairedRecent memory for events and ability to converse are both noticeably impaired
Occasional word-finding difficultiesFrequent word-finding pauses and substitutions
Person does not get lost in familiar territory; may have to pause momentarily to remember wayPerson gets lost in familiar territory while walking or driving; may take hours to return home
Individual operates common appliances even if unwilling to learn how to operate new devicesPerson cannot operate common appliances; unable to learn to operate even simple new appliances
No decline in interpersonal social skillsLoss of interest in social activities; socially inappropriate behaviors
Normal performance on mental status examinations, relative to the individual’s education and cultureBelow-normal performance on mental status examinations in ways not accounted for by educational or cultural factors


There are many different causes of dementia (Alzheimer’s is the most common), but the way the symptoms present is different for everybody. If you have a concern for yourself or a family member, talk with your primary care doctor or a neurologist. If you’re struggling with anxiety, worry or grief around a potential diagnosis, a therapist can be helpful. Though the funding is currently lacking compared to other diseases such as cancer and heart disease, important research is currently ongoing, and there is great hope for finding effective treatments to combat Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in the not-too-distant future. For more information, check out the Alzheimer’s Association or more info about dementia.

Mind & Body: The Connection of Mental and Physical Health


Many people do not realize just how much our mental and physical health are directly connected. The food we eat, the exercise/activity that we do, and the amount of sleep we get can not only have a huge impact on our bodies, but can in turn, have an enormous impact on our minds and our mental health. Let’s break this down and look at a few key factors.

By: Angelica Beker, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Angelica Beker, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

Healthy body means a healthy mind.

#1) Nutrition:

For years we have heard that having a balanced, healthy diet means we have healthy hearts, decreased risk of diabetes, decreased risk of cancer, and more. However, nutrition plays an important role in brain health as well. Scientists have found that gut health has a direct impact on mental health and has been shown to decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, ADHD, schizophrenia, and other mental health concerns. Although altering one’s nutrition alone often will not completely rid an individual of their symptoms, a healthy diet can greatly help especially when combined with talk therapy. Think about this scenario for a moment: when you eat a cheeseburger, your blood sugar levels quickly spike, which creates a spike in insulin, leaving you initially satisfied. However, due to the fact that foods like this are quickly broken down and absorbed, your insulin levels quickly drop, and you feel the urge to eat again because your blood sugar is low again. When this happens, your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) spike as well. In the end, you are left hungry again, with higher stress hormone levels, which in turn can have a negative impact on your state of mind. However, healthier foods, such as fruits, veggies, lean proteins (like chicken), almonds, and more are nutrient dense, are slower to absorb, and leave your fuller longer. In addition, your body and your mind receive nutrients that you need to be healthier and have a clearer mind. A healthier, happier body makes for a healthier, happier mind and usually a happier mood as well.

5 Foods to Improve Mental Health
Mental Health Diet

#2) Exercise/Physical Activity:

This is an area that can also be a difficult one for many individuals. In the busy and hectic days of our lives, sometimes it is difficult to find time for exercise or physical activity. Yet, there are many benefits from exercise on one’s mental health. Exercise can decrease stress, which in turn can decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Exercise produces endorphins, which can make us feel happier and more positive. Exercise can boost one’s self-confidence and self-esteem, helping us feel better about ourselves. Exercise can help with mental focus, clarity, brain power, and energy levels. Exercise has been found to help with controlling addictions as well. When your body is healthier and more relaxed, your state of mind reflects on that. What people forget is you don’t have to been an athlete, a regular runner, or weight-lifter. A simple 20 minute walk outside can automatically decrease stress. Finding what form of physical activity you like will help ensure that you do it more often. If you have friends, a significant other, or children, getting others involved can also lead to social interaction and bonding time, which can have a very positive effect on mental health. Starting small and working your way up is the way to go!

More Info on Mental Health Exercise

#3) Sleep:

Many people do not get enough sleep. However, sleep has so many benefits to our mental health. One important factor to consider with sleep is lack of sleep can raise our hormone levels which can affect mood and stress levels. Lack of sleep has been linked to mental health concerns such as depression, suicidal ideation, and more risk-taking behaviors. Like a car needs gas to run, your brain needs sleep to function properly. Without that, one can begin to experience many negative side effects, including worsening mental health.

Paying attention to the foods you eat, to the physical activity that you do, and to your sleep patterns can only benefit your positively. Your mental and physical health directly impact each other and having a healthy mind can help us in our daily lives in terms of relationships, work, self-esteem, and much more!

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