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


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

Fear or Anxiety?

Anxiety can be confused with fear. Fear is a response to a very real and concrete danger that makes you want to pull away from or escape, because it could be a threat to your physical or emotional safety. The fear response can affect both the physiology of the body and the chemical balance of the brain. Anxiety is a generalized sense of dread about something that seems menacing but actually may not be menacing or may not even be out there. Feeling anxious may make it difficult for you to talk yourself out of this foreboding and you become trapped in an endless loop of “what ifs”. Anxiety can produce feelings of worry, stress, stomach butterflies, and other manifestations of anxiety. While this emotional and physical discomfort can be worrisome, anxiety can often be a valuable signal that “trouble is brewing” and signals you to pay attention to be a problem that needs to be addressed. If you feel your anxiety is getting in the way of daily functioning, seek professional help as there are many effective treatments to reduce, manage, or eliminate anxiety.


The first word of this compound word says it all “psycho”. No one wants to be associated with something that is strange, difficult to handle, and perhaps the worst of all: a scary, new experience. If you were to ask a friend or family member what psychotherapy is, they would most likely say something about paying a lot of money to talk about problems (and that’s putting it nicely). If you were to ask a counselor or therapist, we would describe it as a chance to be heard, without judgment through the ears and eyes of a professional, in the comfort and safety of a confidential session. The talking part might be easy…or hard depending on how you view your problems. If providing a safe place where clients can talk about whatever it is that is troubling them is the job of the counselor, what is your job as a client in psychotherapy? What do you have to know before you even walk through the door? Most first time clients wonder how we expect you to tell everything that you are thinking and feeling after just meeting.

These are common questions that can be answered. A client simply has to make the appointment with a counselor or therapist and come ready for the experience. Okay…that may seem a bit more intimidating than helpful, but it’s the truth. If you are open to the experience of psychotherapy as something completely different and refreshing you are on the road to understanding what it is and how it works. Before you walk through the door, you should know that you are not alone. Every single person you pass on the street has a past, a story, a journey. That road is paved with troubles, hardships, and bumps that throw off your sense of balance as you walk the road. This is where you have to believe that there are trained professionals ready to help and to listen to you. Why would a counselor want to listen to all of the “bumps” along the way in your life? Because we are trained to provide the safe haven for you to explore the inner workings of what is really going on in your life. There is no façade, just a real and honest experience with another person to ensure that you don’t trip on the bumps of life and walk, silent and hurting, through the rest of life.

If you are working through the bumps in your life and decide that the word psychotherapy is not as scary as facing it on your own…that is what we are here for.


Erika McCaghren

Relationships are like a Garden (part 2)

Healthy marriages and relationships are wonderful. They add to the excitement, acceptance, and well-being of individuals. With the garden analogy, one can agree that having help to “hoe a row” makes life less burdensome and more productive. Happy gardening!

Notice and be noticed;
One of the basic human needs is to be noticed in positive ways. Healthy relationships provide daily structure for conversations and comments about noticing a spouse’s feelings, accomplishments and gifts of service. Good practice: Each day either right before bed or earlier comment on something that you have noticed about your spouse in the past 24 hours. Have an agreement to seek new ideas and not repeat your compliments. Something new every time! Garden analogy: even if it seems trivial or common knowledge, keep the sunlight on your awareness of each other.

A foundation of any healthy relationship is to enjoy the companionship, laughter, and activities together. Planning a variety of fun activities that brings out a playful side is a key ingredient. Good practice: Have regular and also spontaneous play dates with your spouse. Find mutual activities that are easy and bring a bond of laughter, or smiles, or fond memories while doing. Garden analogy: Stop and smell the roses. Why have them if you don’t enjoy them.

Please check back next week to read part three of our three part series on more ways to “grow” your relationships.

Sharon Nelson, LCSW

Anger & Depression

A gentle but steady current of anger inwardly directed will result in depression over time. Many people experiencing depression are surprised when mental health professionals question them about anger. Are you angry? Where is your anger? How are you angry? Can you express your anger, share it, verbalize it? Sometime is requires a substantial amount of cognitive, emotional, and spiritual spade work to uncover and expose this well of inwardly-directed anger.

Everyone is familiar with anger that explodes. But anger that seethes can be just as dangerous. Particularly when we are the targets of our own quiet rage.

Going green to support National Mental Illness Awareness Week

Pinnacle Counseling is proudly going green in support of National Mental Illness Awareness Week from Monday, October 7th – Friday, October 11th. Although there are many things you can do to show your support for National Mental Illness Awareness Week, the number one thing every single person can do is to help spread awareness to stop the stigma of mental illness. Starting the conversation is the first step to reaching out and supporting your loved ones as they seek help in a struggle with any sort of mental illness or mental health issue can be remarkably beneficial. At Pinnacle Counseling, we are ready to help you on your journey to becoming more mentally healthy. Check back throughout the week for more posts to help spread the word about the importance of mental health awareness.


Erika McCaghren


The Impact of Bullying

Bullying is not only in the school system. It lives on long past the days of homeroom classes and lunch with friends. It lives on in the memory and creates an impact on your self-esteem, self-worth, and how you interact with those around you. Undoubtedly, bullying in some shape or form affects everyone on a variety of levels, whether the victim, perpetrator, or bystander. Employees at Disneyland, known as ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’, shared a video titled “It Gets Better”, about personal stories of bullying and feelings of being alone that were caused by bullying. The video is a tribute to the Trevor project (http://www.thetrevorproject.org/), a national anti-bullying campaign for LGBTQ youth, going strong since its founding in 1998. The strong message of hope after there seemed to be nothing but darkness and depression shines through in the people who bring joy on the job every single day. Each and every person carries their story and truth and no matter the struggle…


“No life is a one person show. You need to surround yourself with the people who love you for who you are and encourage you to share with the world the unique gifts that you have to offer.”


Next time you are feeling alone, reach out and always remember that it gets better.




Erika McCaghren

Relationships are like a Garden (part 3)

Relationships are both complicated and simple at the same time. If you are struggling to stay “grounded”, seek professional advice. We, at Pinnacle Counseling are here to help.

Care about what the other needs;
Healthy relationships explore and support the needs of a partner while not ignoring their own needs. Individuals form “couples”, and they still have individual needs, wants, likes and dislikes. Honoring their special traits is key to remaining close. Good practice: Offer support of a need such as affection, attention, inclusion, time to be alone, or social groups even if it’s not a need of yours and is a little uncomfortable. Garden analogy: Some plants need more shade or grow better in sandy or cooler climate. They don’t grow if they don’t get what they need.

Feel relaxed;
In a world of pressure and anxiety, the couple who can be at ease with each other has shared a gift of why most couples form in the beginning. It takes intention and dedication to cultivate a feeling of relaxation in each other’s presence. Good practice: begin some kind of meditation, centering prayer, or down time that is about stillness rather than accomplishment. This is a time when less is more. Being relaxed during the day can add to a better night’s sleep which is also healthy for the mind, body, and spirit and relationships. Garden analogy: It doesn’t help to plant the seed and dig it up the next day to see why it’s stressed. Often we need to just let it be.

Sharon Nelson, LCSW