Archive for: Mental Health

Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

By Terry Richardson, MSW LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

PinnacleCounselingNWA.com

Feel Better Live Better- Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

 

Worried about being worried sick? Is laughter really the best medicine? Your body may know you’re depressed before you do and doing its best to get your attention. There is growing evidence, supported by research, indicating your mental state really influences your body’s ability to protect and heal itself! In fact, your state of mind could be the best tool you have when defending yourself against illness and maximizing treatment of cancer, heart disease, digestive disorders, diabetes and aging. All of your natural defenses are compromised in response to stress (primarily mental).

Most people have at least heard the term “psychosomatic” which quite literally means “mind/body”. Unfortunately, this term was and is commonly misused when someone is thought to have imagined an illness and can then produce symptoms. In confusion, we generally label and dismiss what could be more accurately described as “hypochondria” and have overlooked the power of the psychosomatic process itself. As Woody Allen said “I’m not a hypochondriac, I’m an alarmist”. Ironically, even this rather negative misunderstanding of psychosomatic also confirms the acceptance of the ability of one’s mind to influence a physical condition. Now, scientific research is validating that possibility: we could use the power of the mind (i.e., thinking) to create optimal conditions for becoming and remaining well.

What makes the mind/body perspective worth reconsidering at this juncture? It is the transition which has been occurring, from the realm of “fuzzy logic”, “magical beliefs” and “spiritual eccentricity”, to the realm of solid measurable data. Consider the placebo and nocebo effect. What are the “placebo effect” and the “nocebo effect”? In the simplest terms, it’s the “sugar pill” effect. It’s the uncanny result that is obtained from a substance, or sometimes a behavior, when none of the “treatment” properties are present to create the desired change, and yet, benefit is derived. The nocebo effect accounts for adopting the “belief” that a substance (or change) won’t work, and it doesn’t! The placebo/nocebo effects are so powerful in fact, that all research conducted must allow for the possibility of these effects in their research data. If science is nothing else, it is the domain of measurability, and its primary mantra is “if it cannot be measured, we cannot know it exists”, therefore, thoughts, emotions, feelings, mind and spirit had been relegated into the arena of unscientific observations. Today however, we live in a world of electron microscopes, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and the previously immeasurable can now be measured, observed and replicated.

Mind/Body interaction had been observed and documented by Hans Selye in his work on stress as early as 1946 and the “General Adaptation Syndrome” became popularly known as the Fight-Flight- Freeze response. Of special note regarding mind/body relevance, the stress experience creating the cascade of measurable physiological responses could be triggered consistently, regardless of the threat being real, imagined or perceived (through a mental interpretation) of danger. The body reacts to stimulus by activating the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. Researchers believe that prolonged exposure to stress (real or imagined) results in suppression of the immune system, wear and tear of several body systems, placing the individual at higher risk of dis-ease. This was the advent of the earliest biofeedback strategies.

Pioneers in the field of mind/body research have expanded on Selye’s work. Researchers and practitioners have emerged from a broad array of disciplines, including cellular biology, neuroimmunology, psychotherapy and spirituality, representing the specific focus of their disciplines, be it mind or body. The unifying premise of these disciplines is an acknowledgement of the fallacy or artificial separation of mind/body interaction.

These individuals have united under a variety of identifying umbrella labels usually incorporating the terms “Holistic or Wholistic”, “Mind/Body” or “Complementary Alternative” Medicine.

So, with an acceptance of the inter-relatedness of the mind/body concept and the availability of sophisticated equipment, it has become possible to identify and measure methods to enhance mind/body interaction. The implications for psychotherapy are obvious and substantiate the value of “talk therapy” as a viable treatment alternative for mental and physical health. The mind/body perspective includes approaches of prevention that are proactive, health maintaining, healing, and driven by the individual. Today, rather than viewing the dis-ease “treatment” as a response, directed toward a passive recipient, we can engage the whole person on a mind/body journey toward wellness. Be well!

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

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.

A More Mindful Existence

Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of your entire body, mind, spirit, and the influence of all on your overall presence. While mindfulness has its roots in ancient Buddhist teachings, it is gaining popularity with the wellness movement all over the world. Being mindful is about more than doing yoga, taking a walk, or even relaxing. With every thought, no matter how simple, you add insight and emotion to color your world. The practice of judgment and putting a label on feelings within your world adds stress and complication to simple tasks. For example, walking to get the mail transforms from a relaxing walk down your driveway to watching your neighbor’s children play in the yard without supervision to the worry about your own children. Mindfulness is awareness without the pretense of labeling, classifying, or categorizing your time in any way. You might think that mindfulness sounds a lot more like doing nothing than an activity you have to practice. A good way to think about mindfulness is to think about being aware. Looking around you and thinking about how you experience the present moment. This allows for the clearing of your mind, as well as your heart. You are in the present and have control of where your thoughts go: either to focusing on the moment (mindful) or moving back to your everyday pattern of life. Realizing you have the power to change the way you experience your own thoughts, feelings, and world, rather than simply participating in life as it goes on.

Erika McCaghren

Check it out!

Sports Psychology in Everyday Life (part 1)

As a former student-athlete, I have always considered there to be a huge difference between athletes and all “normal people”. We watch their highs and lows on Friday nights during the big game, root for them to get scholarships to play for good schools, and hope that one day, they can take their passion to the next level in professional sports. We eat, sleep, and breathe for the moment when we get to see our child light up after a tough game or when our alma mater beats our hometown rival. Athletes spend countless hours in the gym, practicing the perfect jump shot, strategizing over a playbook, and conditioning to prepare for a game. They obsess over their skill set, teammates, coaches’ opinion, and preparation level each moment of the day. At the end of the season, athletes assimilate back into the lull of offseason athletics and train for the next year. While athletes are just one example, we are all hyphenated people: student-athletes, working mothers, stay at home fathers, best friends, supportive spouses; but overall, we are not that much different than our favorite star players. This means that “sports psychology” is not only for athletes. It is for the rest of us who live our lives as complex people, hyphenated people. In this three part series, we will explore how everyone can benefit from sports psychology tricks and tips for your everyday life.

Why sports psychology does not apply only to athletes:

Reason #1: Sports psychology involves the connection between your mind and body while performing an activity. The interaction between your thoughts, body movements, sensations, and total involvement in a task creates a unique experience that is not only for athletes. This connection can happen when you do anything you are passionate about. All you have to do is realize what your passion is—reading, lifting weights, playing with your children, running, walking your dog, or writing—and do that. The “zone” and “flow” will come faster than you realize if you allow yourself the freedom and pleasure to do what it is that you love.

 

By Erika McCaghren

Love yourself enough to seek help with addictions this Valentine's Day

There is no doubt that substance abuse and addiction is difficult during every season of the year. Once the rush of the holiday season, balancing work and holiday time off, and a long few days of travel to see friends and family is over; all that is left is getting back to ‘normal’. January is a month full of change and resolutions, so making time to cope with personal hardships (like addiction and substance abuse) is put at the bottom of your to-do list. As February approaches, the usual hustle of preparing for a magical and romantic Valentine’s Day for you and a significant other, spouse, or partner takes priority. This reveals the real question: is there ever time to get help for myself?

Realizing that you are important enough to get help is the first step on your journey to navigate out of the dark path of addiction and substance abuse to a healthier life. The problems associated with addiction and substance abuse seem to start out slowly and pick up speed in what seems like no time at all. Using and abusing substances affects your life, the life of your friends, family members, children, co-workers, and everyone else you interact with on a daily basis. What began as a coping method for stress or an activity during your downtime quickly becomes a lifestyle and the center point of many more problems. To take charge of the cycle of use and abuse of drugs and alcohol is often the hardest part of the recovery and healing process; and takes courage and support. The process of recovery requires resources to get the help that you need in order to control the substances that have a strong grip on your personal life. Mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment are the vital next steps in the process of your recovery. Overall, wanting to live your life as the healthiest and most well person you can be is reason enough to seek help for addictions for the holiday of celebrating love. Loving yourself enough to get help is a magical and romantic thing that can give you back a healthy fresh start to your relationship with yourse

Erika McCaghren

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD is a treatable anxiety disorder which can develop in individuals who have experienced severe psychological trauma. A diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder may be the first step toward recovery for individuals still haunted by past experiences. Treatment for PTSD may include  intensive psychotherapy, psychotropic medications, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

The following is a simplified version of the criteria used by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker to diagnose an individual with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

A: Exposure (either as victim or witness) to severe psychological trauma:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • domestic violence
  • abuse by alcoholic or drug addicted parent
  • catastrophic accident (auto, for example)
  • war
B: Intrusive Recollection
  • unbidden distressing recollections: images, thoughts, perceptions
  • recurrent distressing dreams
  • flashbacks
  • psychological distress caused by triggers related to original event (sounds, smells, people, feelings, places, etc.)
C: Hyper Arousal
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • anger and irritability
  • difficulty concentrating
  • feeling consistently on edge
  • exaggerated startle response
D: Duration
  • Symptoms A, B, C experienced for more than one month.
E: Functional Impairment
  • Individuals feels like symptoms are causing serious disruption in personal relationships, professional relationships, and life in general.
 

Pinnacle Counseling | Covid 19 Update Learn more