Feel Better Live Better: Experiential Therapy: What is it and Why use it?

Let’s start by saying WOW! That’s truly what Experiential Therapy is; it’s the WOW in therapy. In the therapeutic experience, the therapist’s goal is to move clients in the direction of self-awareness and understanding. We begin this process by developing a “therapeutic relationship” built on trust to gain a better understanding of how/what may be the most beneficial learning experience for you, the client. Experiential Therapy allows you to learn with your “whole-self” (mind, body, and spirit) in ways that nurture all aspects of the “self”. Experiential Therapy allows you to gain a true understanding of what “self” needs by experiencing emotions first hand, through doing. What I Hear – I Forget; What I See – I Remember; What I do – I

Experiential Therapy is a pathway to truly understanding the needs of the “whole-self”.

Experiential Therapy is “doing” to understand my “needs”. By experiencing your needs through doing, you reflect on and understand your needs first hand with your whole-self. You gain an understanding of your innermost needs by walking through your needs with a trusted therapist. You may cognitively “know” what you need to be emotionally healthy, but until you truly “understand” your “whole needs” you can’t fully experience the freedom that comes with consciously knowing and wholly understanding.

Experiential Therapy attempts to bridge consciously knowing and wholly understanding through exercises designed to tap into mind/body/spirit. While this may sound difficult and uncomfortable, it may be the easiest way you’ll ever experience the tough stuff. Experiential Therapists attempt to ease you into the freedom that comes with

Knowledge – you may have once believed unthinkable
Feeling – you may have believed intolerable
Acceptance – you may have believed unacceptable

Experiential Therapy is a shared experience – shared between you and your therapist. Through the exchange of knowledge/understanding, feeling, and acceptance there is a very special connection made between you and your therapist which allows trust and vulnerability. This connection invites your therapist to feel strong and you to feel safe. The two of you will walk through your experiences emotionally, physically, and spiritually connected which strengthens the alliance and stimulates growth exponentially. It allows freedom from things that have kept you trapped in fear, loneliness, anger, hate, bitterness, revenge, guilt, and shame.

Experiential Therapy works best when words are lost; it helps us be still and listen. It helps connect all sides of the issue; especially those most uncomfortable, there is little left untouched in this experience. As iron sharpens iron so is the experience of healing the whole-self. It’s a liberation of self through the expression of whole-self.

Written by Tammy Kennedy, LPC

Pinnacle Counseling- Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

FAMILIES, COMMUNICATION AND TECHNOLOGY: DANGERS AND CHALLENGES

Family communication has been forever changed with technology, in both positive and negative ways. Previously, I shared ideas on how to use the technology already in your daily lives to increase and improve communication in your family. This article focuses more on some danger zones and challenges parents are faced with through our children’s access to technology.

Readily available information 24/7 online: This can be a very positive thing if a school report is due tomorrow morning and it is 8:45 pm. However, it can also be dangerous at times. Kid have ready access to lots of information, such as depression symptoms, but when searching for depression symptoms or ways to decrease it they are also likely to come across sites discussing suicide and possibly even ways to commit suicide. Some of the teens I have worked with have regular conversations with other teens across the country who they have never met in person to discuss their depression. If one of the internet friends decides suicide is their best option this could negatively impact your child or lead them in that direction also. If you have no idea what sites your children or teens are accessing, this could be a discussion you want to have to avoid future problems or surprises. On a positive note, you will probably also learn of some interesting websites you might also enjoy on hobbies or interests your child is engaged in.

Increased intimacy of relationships: Teen romantic relationships are getting significantly more intense and intimate than in the past due to technology. If a teenage girl or boy is constantly in contact with their boyfriend/girlfriend all day and all night they feel they know that person well very quickly. Some teens actually use certain apps such as Skype or Facetime to “sleep together.” They fall asleep and wake up with each other and this can quickly lead to sexual intimacy which they wouldn’t jump into as quickly if they only talked to each other at school and after school events. Controlling behavior patterns emerge quickly as well since one partner in the relationship may demand instant response to texts or calls or use these to track where the other person is at all times.

Access to inappropriate material: Everyone is aware that pornography is readily available online. What you may not know is that even kids in elementary school are hearing about this and learn what words to google or what sites to go to through conversations at school or on the bus. I actually worked with a 5th grader who had been watching 5-6 porn videos a day in the afternoons before the parents got home from work. The parents learned of it about 4 months after it started. That is a scary amount of exposure to that type of material. Parents need to be ready to have conversations with your kids about sexual activity and porn earlier than in the past due to this open access to the information online. It is a good idea to randomly ask about conversations at school or on the bus that may have confused or embarrassed them. If you ask them, they will tell you, but be prepared to respond in a calm way with age appropriate answers instead of getting upset or agitated, which they will interpret as getting in trouble. Make sure you have parental controls set to block inappropriate content on any device your child has access to in order to minimize their exposure to these types of websites.

Camera access 24/7: Most parents believe that sexting and inappropriate pictures only happens when kids get to be teenagers. However, on school buses and playgrounds some kids have cell phones and will ask girls to take pictures of themselves in the bathroom or boys will be trying to get pictures under girls’ skirts or dresses with their device. Most of the young teens I have worked with who are coming in after parents learned they are sexting or sending inappropriate pictures have never had a conversation with an adult about that issue. In each situation the parent(s) said “Well, I didn’t think I had to tell her/him not to do that” or “they should have known better.” This leads to huge conflicts and hurt feelings on both sides. If we don’t tell them it is not appropriate and all of their friends seem to think it is normal, why do we think they will know it is wrong? I recommend that parents have discussions with any child who will be independently using a cell phone or device that connects to the internet about appropriate sites; regularly check their history online; and have a technology curfew. The curfew means no phones or devices in the bedrooms after a certain time, usually close to bedtime. For obvious reasons, this is the most common time these types of activities are occurring. (It might be a good idea to implement a technology curfew even in parents’ bedrooms. Think of the increase in communication with your spouse or partner if the phones and iPads were not in the bedroom. Just a thought.)

Perpetrators have ready access to our kids: My daughter is 10 years old and last year during a winter storm I took her to my office since school was closed for the day. She was playing Minecraft online with her cousin and suddenly gasped and said, “I can’t believe he said that to me.” Evidently, when you play Minecraft and have the chat feature turned on, other people online can chat with you. Someone had asked her, “Do you want to have sex?” She was literally 2 feet from me at the time! My niece was totally not surprised and her statement back to my daughter was, “Oh yeah, if you don’t turn off chat they do that all the time.” She was not at all shocked or surprised. I didn’t even know there was a chat feature in Minecraft! Other apps and video games have similar features, such as Xbox online games. Some kids I worked with in the past had gotten in trouble with their parents after gifts started arriving in the mail that were not appropriate and parents’ learned they had given out their address to people they were talking to while playing video games online. If your child is going to have access to these games and apps, you need to be prepared to have a discussion with them about safety, not sharing personal information, and when to seek you out if someone approaches them about inappropriate things such as sex or meeting in person somewhere. It would not be a bad idea to occasionally hang out in the room they are playing in and listen to some of the conversations they are having to make sure they are safe.

Dangerous websites: Some of the websites that teens locally find funny or interesting are treasure troves for sexual perpetrators. Kids go online to look at sexual pictures and content and a lot of them see it as funny or gross rather than inappropriate. I have worked with young teen girls who met people on these websites pretending to be teen boys and asking for inappropriate pictures. This escalates into threats against the girl’s family if they don’t continue the behaviors and follow the offenders directions, only to get into serious trouble with their parents when it is discovered. When the parents have gone to the police to try to press charges on the perpetrator in those instances, they have been told there is no guarantee the girl will not also be charged with distribution of porn so none of the families have moved forward with prosecution because of that. This is emboldening the offenders to reach out even more because there are rarely consequences for them.

In short, technology is advancing quickly and is very useful and make parts of our lives much easier. However, it can also be a dangerous tool in the hands of the wrong people. To protect your kids, you need to be aware of the dangers and prepared to have open conversations with your children about internet safety on a regular basis. There are some programs in the area that go to schools or churches to teach kids about internet safety, such as the Morgan Nick Foundation. Check with your school counselor or google internet safety for kids to find programs to use with your child or just so you can learn the information and then educate your children yourself.

I hope this information is helpful and starts some meaningful discussions in your family that will open communication and keep everyone safely connected to one another at home and online. Please feel free to contact us about an appointment if you learn your child has been involved in some of these activities or even if you just aren’t sure about how to approach the subject with your kids and need some pointers.

By Paula Coleman, LCSW – Pinnacle Counseling NWA
Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

Bipolar Disorder in Teens Frequently Misdiagnosed

Teens with disruptive or aggressive behaviors are increasingly diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed psychotropic medications. These young people, according to recent Minneapolis Star Tribune article, are frequently misdiagnosed. Medication seems like an easy answer to a complex set of behavior problems. But the easy solution is not always the best. The root cause of the behaviors needs to be understood and addressed. Aggressive outbursts could be driven by trauma, stress, or other environmental factors.

If trauma is the root of the problem for some children, psychiatrists say, they would be better served by therapy and identifying what’s wrong in their lives, rather than with powerful medications.

“Most of the time there is something that has happened in a child’s life, something that got them stuck developmentally,” said Sue Sexton, a St. Paul psychologist who treats kids with stress-related disorders. If Troubled Kids Aren’t Bipolar, What is Troubling Them?

Lessons learned from resistance to change

“I need to change” is probably one of the most common issues that bring a person into counseling and frequently the person has a specific idea of what needs to change. However, how change will occur and what needs to be different in order to bring about change can be very challenging for many people. There are numerous reasons why we resist change–fear, anxiety and uncertainty, just to name a few. The counseling process can help one sort through their resistance and discover that in every situation– no matter how unfortunate, painful, hurtful or scary, there is a meaningful lesson that can be learned from the experience. Think what wonderful lessons are waiting to be discovered if you allow yourself to stop resisting and appreciate what your problems and experiences can teach you.

April is Counseling Awareness Month

April is Counseling Awareness Month! Although many people know generally what counselors do, this is a time for counselors everywhere to stand together to promote the use of counseling services. We do this by reaching out to clients, readers, social media outlets, and through simple word of mouth that “We are here”. Pinnacle Counseling stands in full support of Counseling Awareness Month by showing people that we care and are here to support you. Knowing that there is a group of professionals near you, ready and willing to listen and help you through a particularly hard time or everyday struggles of life is a valuable tool. In any given situation, no matter the cause, difficulty, or time you have been dealing with the issue—we are here. Simply remember…Keep Calm and Call a Counselor!

 

Erika McCaghren

 

Sources: American Counseling Association

 

 

Breakdown: What is Therapy?

The term breakdown is tossed around pretty cavalierly these days. Individuals might talk about having a mental breakdown over any number of modern inconveniences: traffic, the line at the grocery store, the morning commute, a tyrannical boss. These situations can certainly be stressors, but they don’t rise to the level of what mental health professionals would consider a breakdown.

A breakdown is much more significant. Someone in the midst of a breakdown will find it impossible to function. A breakdown may manifest itself as depression, anxiety, racing thoughts, or feelings of unrelenting dread. Sometimes it’s a wicked combination of all of those. The root cause of a breakdown is usually something deep down, a problem that a person is unable to understand or even recognize on their own.

Individuals experiencing a breakdown have a choice. A few choices, actually:

  • Rest and recover. Hope the eventually things will go back to however they were before the breakdown.
  • Drug the problem out of existence.
  • Adapt behaviors to avoid the problem.
  • Take up an investigation into the problem. (Here’s where a therapist is handy.) Discover what your breakdown has to teach you about yourself. Transcend your problem and grow.

Obviously, we think the last option is the best.

The holiday "blahs"

With the holiday season and winter months fast approaching, feelings and symptoms of depression will often surface or increase. Feeling “down in the dumps” or “blah”, sad, discouraged, hopeless, irritable, cranky, or easily frustrated are typical symptoms of depression. Also feeling withdrawn, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite, sleep, energy, difficulty concentrating, and making decisions are commonly reported. A sense of feeling worthless or excessive guilt may be experienced. Some of these feelings may actually interfere with our relationships, school, job, social activities, and even day to day functioning. If you experience a few or most of these symptoms it is wise to pay attention to what your body is telling you and to take care of yourself.

Often people minimize or don’t understand depression and the possible effects of going untreated. Working with a mental health professional can help you understand depression and learn multiple ways to manage its symptoms. Regardless of the season, feeling better means living better!

 

Erika McCaghren

Social Media and Mental Health

Social media is regarded as a tool to stay connected, informed, and interconnected with everyone in your inner circle and even around the world. The days of writing a letter or calling a distant relative to catch up on what is going on in his or her life seem but a memory. The world seems to prefer the click of an app or your mouse to get the latest and greatest news as fast as your browser or phone can download it. You do not even have to worry about the small talk before getting to the 140 characters of what is really going on in someone’s life or the daily (sometimes hourly) ‘status’ on Facebook. While there are seemingly no limits to what one can search for and learn about, there is also something fundamental missing in the constant refreshing of pages and pages of information. A real, deep connection to someone or something is severely lacking. Instead of communicating with an open heart and open mind, one can scroll through to get to the high points of a ‘likable’ moment.

Loved ones are people we share our lives with for a reason. That reason is because of the love and deep personal ties that these people have with us. They might have been there to help you through a break-up, loss of some kind, or have even shared a joyous occasion that bonded you. Those are memories. I believe that I will never tell my grandchildren of the time I got 35 likes on Facebook or the time I read a tweet about what celebrity got arrested.

A lot can be said for the amount of comfort, satisfaction, and joy comes from spending time with someone you really care about or a quiet moment alone. The hustle of figuring out the Wi-Fi password so you can tweet about what a bad day you just had will never be a substitute for meeting your best friend to talk it out. Connection and interaction feels so comforting because it is a building block of human nature. We have to have it. Without the communication and belonging, we would be endlessly scrolling and uploading; instead of living and loving deeply. Being social is not about how many social networking websites you are a part of, but your real social network is made up of those around you every day. Cherish those that you care for and search to find the connections that you are hard wired to make. You will be much happier.

 

Erika McCaghren

All is a miracle

“I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality. People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on the earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”           – Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness