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

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

Helpful tips for handling the holiday "blahs"

Are you noticing your body slowing down as the holidays approach? Are you unsure of how to cope with these feelings and symptoms? Make sure there is not a physical or medical explanation for your depression. If your body isn’t feeling “right”, talk to your doctor. Treat your body the way it deserves and needs to be treated by eating healthy, getting enough rest, and regularly exercising. Taking a few moments to focus on your breathing is an easy and effective way to help your mind and body to relax, and can be done anywhere. Pull yourself into the present and take in the gifts that are around you now. Notice the sunshine, a beautiful bird, a cloud, or another gift of nature. Listen to the music or sounds that you “connect” with. A walk or change of scenery can bring newness into your surroundings. If possible, do something nice for another person, even if it is only to smile or greet them. Sometimes the simple, small steps we take make can make a big difference.

 

Erika McCaghren

The Power of Recovery

For the past several weeks and months we have been hearing a lot about the problems caused by substance abuse and addiction. The people that have died, the bizarre and sometimes offensive behavior, and those having legal and professional issues seem to be in the news. We hear and talk about them but rarely hear and talk about those that have had success in recovery from substance abuse.  Substance abuse treatment works.

Here is one person’s story:
He was 17 and had a good life.  He loved school, sports, church, fishing, hunting, and most of all his family.  He loved life and all it brought to him.  Then shortly before high school graduation his world changed.  His mother died in an auto accident, he was driving.  The trauma, grief and guilt were so overwhelming.  Within a month he drank alcohol for the first time and it brought the relief he was seeking.  Finally he could cope with life again, just have a drink.

College started in the fall and his drinking increased.  Alcohol helped him cope with the change and it took away the pain he was feeling. When he went home for winter break he again experienced the unexpected.  His father died of a heart attack as he was giving him CPR in the family home. The emotions were extreme and confusing.  Alcohol was there to help.

He moved back to the family home to live with his sisters so they would be able to live as a family.  The effects of emotional pain, grief, trauma, and guilt led to the experimentation with marijuana. It was great!  The pain would go away, for while.

For the next decades this is how he dealt with life’s complications, with alcohol and drugs.  Even though he was able to complete college, hold down jobs, get married, have children the emotions that come with trauma and loss were never addressed.  He was living an unhealthy life filled with lies, deceptions, alcohol, drugs, shame and guilt.

After 27 years of using unhealthy coping skills, drugs and alcohol, and denial that he needed help he accepted the family support and encouragement (ultimatum) to get that help. Dealing with the issues in his life was now to take a different course.

Changing course in his life included going to an outpatient treatment program for his substance abuse. He accepted that he did not want alcohol and drugs to dictate his feelings and behavior.  For the 6 months in outpatient treatment he received the understanding, guidance and support that he needed. He started to network with others and participated in support groups. He changed his course in life.

 

He will be the first to tell you that change is not easy and not everything gets better quickly.  He will tell you that if you can be honest, open-minded, and willing, life does get much better. Recovery is a process not an event, some things change quickly and others need more work.  His life continues to evolve by doing so. It has been seventeen years since entering that treatment program and by getting the counseling and using the recovery tools, he has not used alcohol or drugs since. He feels life is great again. Treatment works! Recovery saved his life.

This is my story, a true story of life and the story of changing course. I am Gary Nelson a person in long term recovery since 1997. I accepted help in dealing with the unexpected events in life, facing the addiction and co-occurring issues.  I now again love life and all it brings to me, the outdoors, golf, church, time with friends, and helping others seeking recovery. I am a sober husband, dad and Papa. There’s nothing better than that! There are approximately 23 million other people with long term recovery in the United States today.  We are the anonymous people, your neighbors, employers, your healthcare workers, and your friends.

Substance abuse treatment today includes addressing co-occurring issues in life.  These may include mental health issues of depression or anxiety, relationship issues, or additional behavioral addictions.  Research has provided an understanding of why the disease is so destructive to our brain and how miraculous the healing process is.  For more information on the disease of addiction go to:  http://www.drugabuse.gov/  http://www.samhsa.gov/

Gary Nelson, CCDP

Therapist or Counselor: What's the difference?

Therapists frequently give counsel and counselors frequently provide therapy. Sometimes counselors call themselves therapists and sometimes therapists call themselves counselors. If you are seeking help, it doesn’t matter whether the person you are speaking with is a counselor or a therapist. What matters is whether or not you’ve found someone who can help you. (See a complete list of mental health credentials here: Psychology Today: Therapist Credentials.)

 

The right person, whether they call themselves a counselor, therapist, or psychotherapist, can help you change your life. Finding someone to help in this endeavor is a very important decision. Our advice: shop around. Use the first appointment to see if you’ve found the right person. Don’t move forward unless you’re certain.

 

Here are a couple questions you should take with you into a first appointment:

  • Can this therapist or counselor listen to me and talk to me and understand me in a way that helps me understand myself  more honestly, more truthfully?
  • Does this person have a deep knowledge base in the following areas: behaviors, emotions, addictions, self-deceptions, change, spirituality, and meaning?
  • If I had to hear bad news, would I want to hear it from this person?
  • Do I feel that he or she cares about me?
  • Can I trust this person to help me change?