Archive of ‘Stress Management’ category

Why Choose EMDR Therapy?

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC

Since the birth of the psychological field, there have been dozens of therapeutic approaches that have been developed to help individuals work through their struggles. One therapy that is relatively new, at least in relation to how long others have been around, is known as a therapy called EMDR. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. I’m going to tell you a little bit about what EMDR is and how it can be used in therapy to treat a wide array of difficulties.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a therapy developed by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1989. In 1987 Dr. Shapiro stumbled upon the observation that eye movements can lessen the intensity of disturbing thoughts and used this observation to fuel research that led to her publication in The Journal of Traumatic Stress, establishing EMDR as a therapy used to treat post traumatic stress. Since then researchers have gone on to show how EMDR is not only very effective in treating trauma and PTSD, but can also treat other difficulties such as:

  • performance anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • body dysmorphic disorders
  • painful memories
  • phobias
  • complicated grief
  • dissociative disorders
  • personality disorders
  • pain disorders

How Does EMDR Work?

There is no way to know how any psychotherapy works on the neurological level, but there are some things we do know. When a person is very upset and under duress, the brain cannot process information as it would under normal conditions. (See my previous blog about how trauma affects the brain). So parts of the memory get stored separately and “frozen in time.” When the memory is then activated, it can feel very much like the person is experiencing the memory as if it is currently happening: the same feelings, thoughts and body sensations can resurface with the same intensity as when the event occurred because those things never processed through adequately and thus remain unchanged. These memories interfere with the way a person reacts to and views the world and others.

It appears that EMDR has an effect on how your brain processes information and allows the “frozen” material a chance to process through in a functional manner. Once the memory has been processed adequately, it no longer has the same effect on the person. Many individuals come away feeling neutral about the memory. By using bilateral stimulation (meaning both the left and right hemispheres are alternately stimulated), that’s where the eye movements come in, these “stuck” memories get activated and normal information processing can be resumed. This is similar to what happens naturally in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the cycle of sleep in which information taken in through the previous day is processed and sorted into short-term and long-term memory networks. If you have ever observed someone during the REM sleep cycle, you may have noticed that their eyes are darting back and forth underneath the eyelids. So really this is different from other therapies that work toward the same goals because it works on the physiological level.

Why Choose EMDR Therapy

So, Why Choose EMDR Therapy?

In short, EMDR therapy is optimal because it can usually achieve the same goal as similar therapies with fewer sessions. It can also be useful when talk therapy has not proven to be effective. Since some experiences seem to get “frozen” in the memory networks, talking about them may not be enough. EMDR works on the neurological level to access those memories in a way that talk therapy may not be able to, so then the memory can be worked through. Survivors of trauma have also reported that EMDR therapy was optimal because it is not necessary to talk in detail about the traumatic event in order for EMDR to be effective. That doesn’t mean that it may not still be painful and difficult to bring up, but the whole narrative does not need to be given and once the memory is activated the person can move through the process with less difficulty. The brain moves towards healing just like our bodies do. If you cut your hand, your body works to heal itself. The brain does the same thing, and EMDR helps remove those barriers so it can.

This has been a brief description of what EMDR is and how it works. EMDR has been shown to be effective with children, teens, and adults. I hope it has been helpful and I hope you will consider EMDR therapy for yourself and your loved ones in the future! If you would like more information on EMDR you can visit http://www.EMDRIA.org and http://www.EMDR.com.


Are You in Sleep Debt?

Andrew Wade, LMFT-Associate Supervised by Nadia Bakir, LMFT-S

Andrew Wade, LMFT-Associate
Supervised by Nadia Bakir, LMFT-S

Sleep: A Casualty of Technology

Harnessed electricity is so ubiquitous in our culture it takes a robust act of imagination to picture a world without it. It’s hard to believe that only a hundred fifty years ago, a mere blip in human evolution, people still relied primarily on sunlight by which to see during the day and for the fortunate few, candles by night. For most people, nighttime was for sleeping. What an ancient world that seems to be.

One of the most significant yet frequently unacknowledged adjustments we have made to widespread, inexpensive electricity involves changes in sleep. No longer constrained by darkness, we now face virtually unlimited alternatives to sleeping at night. Some of us work the night shift, others use the nighttime to catch up on work from the day, to send emails and communicate with people online, while others play games, see movies or socialize at bars and clubs. In all of these cases, it’s most often the quantity and quality of sleep that suffers.

Sleep Debt Defined

Most of us are carrying what scientists call a sleep debt. For example, let’s say you require 8 hours of sleep a night to feel rested and alert. If you sleep for seven hours, you carry one hour of sleep debt. For every hour of sleep debt you carry, the steeper the cost to your health. Oh, and by the way, these hours are cumulative! They don’t simply vanish over time. The only way to reduce your debt is to sleep more. Many studies have been done to evaluate the effects of sleep debt and the results are compelling, though not surprising. Our cognition suffers, as does our physical and psychological health. Insufficient sleep tends to exacerbate symptoms of psychological distress and compromises our ability to tolerate stress. By sleeping less, we may have more time to engage in alternatives, but they won’t be as rewarding or successful as they would be without sleep debt. You can measure your level of sleepiness and establish your ideal window of sleep by taking the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.

Managing Sleep Debt

How do we take back our sleep? One easy and highly effective tool I extracted from the book, The Promise of Sleep, by William Dement, M.D. is to maintain a sleep diary. In studies asking people to report how little or how much they slept the night before, people’s answers were far less accurate than they predicted. (p 336) That is not surprising given the fluctuating states of consciousness one experiences at night. Maintaining a simple sleep diary to record variables like hours slept, number of times waking up, and number of trips to the bathroom provides a richer, far more accurate understanding of your specific sleep patterns and habits that need attention. You can use this sleep diary template published by the National Institute of Health.

There are a variety of applications available for download on your smart phone that monitors your sleep in much the same way a sleep diary would. Many of these apps purport to measure when and whether you were sleeping and how deeply you were sleeping throughout the night. It is beyond the scope of this article to assess the accuracy of these claims, but given the pace of technological advancement and the scale of our society’s sleep problems, these apps represent an exciting shift in how we understand and prioritize sleep.

sleep debt


When Self-Harm Hits Home

As parents, we never want the “scary” things to happen to our kids.   We want our kids to be happy, healthy, confident and caring. We spend so much of our time and energy trying to protect them from baby falls to bullying, but sometimes the “scary” things hit close to home. One such thing is finding out that your child is harming themself.

Christel Gilbreath, LCSW

By: Christel Gilbreath, LCSW

These acts of harm against oneself is what we call self-injury or self-harm. Teens typically do this through cutting or burning their skin. You may notice cuts or burns on their forearms or thighs, which they may try to hide with long-sleeve shirts, pants, or bands or excessive jewelry around their wrists.

According to several studies, self-injury seems to be on the rise. School counselors, college professors, and parents are all noticing what some call a “psychic epidemic.”

So, what should you do if you discover that your child is engaging in self-harm?

Here are a few ideas both from my own work with individuals who self-harm and from several authors I have noted below.

    1. In the words of one adolescent, “Try not to totally freak out.” Your heightened emotional reactivity and/or anger only works to increase your adolescent’s anxiety. You want to show your adolescent that you are willing and able to tolerate their disconcerting emotions and are able to offer assistance.
    2. Avoid threats, yelling, breaches of privacy, and discouraging remarks.
    3. Try things that help calm your child such as making eye contact, letting your adolescent tell their story of what provoked the self-injury, respectfully listening, offering hugs, using an attitude of empathy, being nonjudgmental, and encouraging your child that you can all get through this together.
    4. Matthew Selekman, in his book noted below, suggests asking the following questions:
      1. “Now that I know that you are cutting yourself, can you help me understand what it means to you?”
      2. “How has it been helpful for you to do this?”
      3. “Is there anything really stressing you our in your life right now that I might be able to help you out with?”
      4. “If you don’t wish to talk about it right now, I understand. I just want you to know that I care and am here for you when you are ready to talk about it. Would you like me to check in with you or would you prefer to come to me when you are ready to talk?”
    5. Have the courage to ask your adolescent what you may be doing to contribute to the overwhelming feelings that lead an adolescent to self-harm.
    6. At the same time, recognize that your adolescent’s decision to harm themself is a choice they made and is not your fault.
    7. If school bullying or academic pressures are a leading cause of the self-harm, advocate for your child within their school.
    8. Ask your child if they would like to speak with a professional counselor.   Allow the adolescent to be part of the process of selecting who this professional may be.

mom-comforting-daughter

Sources:

Brumberg, J. (2006). Are we facing an epidemic of self-injury?. Chronicle of Higher Education, 53 (16), B6-B8

Plante, L. (2007). Bleeding to ease the pain: Cutting, self-injury, and the adolescent search for self. Plymouth, UK: Rowman and Littlefield

Selekman, M. (2006). Working with self-harming adolescents: A collaborative strengths-based therapy approach. New York: WW Norton & Company


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