Author: Connections

EMDR – A Powerful Tool for Resolving Trauma

By Jeremy Bailey, LAMFT

EMDR therapyWe all go through experiences that can be difficult, confusing, painful, or overwhelming, and sometimes we feel that we are at a loss to know how to deal with them. When we live through these traumatic experiences oftentimes we feel overwhelmed, full of panic and anxiety and find it hard to move on or find peace. We can all think of experiences, some from our childhood and others from the present that make us cringe, make us want to cry, want to run away, or there are some that are too paralyzing to think about. These are all forms of trauma. Our brains have different parts of it that help us navigate the world. We have the smaller brain which is our protective brain which helps us respond quickly in the presence of a threat. It’s the part of the brain that tells us to fight, flight (run away), or freeze. Then we have the amygdala that loops information between the smaller brain and the larger brain—our reasoning part of the brain. The part of the brain that can tell us to calm down, interpret the threat differently or find purpose to a lived experience. When we have experienced trauma, the amygdala skips the big brain and when triggered keeps us looping in the smaller brain.

On of the most well researched and evidenced-based treatments for trauma is a tool called EMDR; Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. The theory behind how EMDR works is based on the belief that when we experience REM sleep (you know the phase of sleep where your eyes move back and forth) our brains are processing the events of the day. The premise of EMDR is that we use rapid eye movement and create a safe environment to give the brain permission to process and put to rest the sensations, emotions, negative beliefs, and other associations related to the trauma we have experienced.

Safety First

The first part of EMDR treatment is creating a relationship of trust with the therapist and creating safety. The reason why trauma can be so hard to deal with is because a part of us was hurt by it, and we want to protect ourselves from being hurt again. EMDR is a safe treatment where we don’t have to relive the trauma. It is the therapist’s job to make sure you we have the resources we need in order to proceed with the treatment. This entails creating a mindful, safe place and practicing to make sure we can switch from a distressed state to a calm state. The therapist also helps to assess if we are ready to do EMDR or if we need to build other resources beforehand.

Memory Targeting

EMDR works by targeting specific memories, negative beliefs, and sensations to help relieve the distress they cause. The next phase of treatment is to identify the different memories and other memories we might have felt the same. The therapist will then suggest the target memory that would be the best to work on first. Usually the best memory to target is the first time we felt a certain way and not necessarily the most present issue. The belief is that by treating the earlier memory it will generalize into other experiences. Plus, they are usually easier memories to clear because they are further in the past and have less details.

Desensitization

The goal of the desensitization phase of treatment is to use the rapid eye movement and the safety that has been created to allow for the negative beliefs, feeling and sensations related to the memory to be put to rest. Distress is measured on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 is neutral or no distress and 10 is the highest level of distress imaginable. The goal of this phase of treatment is to have 0 distress or neutral feelings when thinking back to the target memory. This is an incredible thing when the memory of the experience causes no distress. Some people describe it like not being able to see the experience any more or like it is trying to recall something that is distant or far away.

Reprocessing

After removing the distress of the experience, the next stage is to replace the negative beliefs with more positive beliefs and use the rapid eye movement to enhance the belief that those beliefs are true. These are rated on a scale from 1 to 7 where 1 is completely false and 7 is completely true. The goal of this phase is for the client to feel that their positive belief is completely true and even go higher on the scale past 7. Some people have described this experience as euphoric and very pleasurable, being able to think positively about themselves after so much doubt and fear.

Body Scan

The next phase of treatment is to clear out any unusual or odd sensations in the body to verify that the trauma which has been stored in the body can be cleared out. This is done by scanning the body and then using the rapid eye movement to process any unpleasant sensations until the body is relaxed and free.

Future Template

After doing such amazing work the next phase of treatment is to create a scenario where they might be challenged in the future by triggers or situations that possibly we have been avoiding because of the trauma. The therapist uses the rapid eye movement to enhance the confidence in living those situations in the way we would want to live instead of feeling controlled by a trauma response.

I am grateful that there are treatments like EMDR available that offer relief after experiencing trauma. I also want to share that it is just another tool available and that it might not be for everyone or the timing might not be right for some individuals. It has been amazing to see the relief that people have experienced as I have worked with them. EMDR has been an important clinical advancement and a powerful tool to help anyone seeking to grow and overcome something in their life to feel centered and whole.

Call today to schedule and appointment with Jeremy at 801.272.3420

Moana – Is There a Monster Inside of You?

By Jeremy Bailey, LAMFT

In Disney’s “Moana”, Moana is the daughter of the chief who was chosen by the ocean to find Maui and return the heart of Te Fiti. On her journey to return the heart she has to face the angry, fiery, lava monster; Te Kā. It is later discovered that Te Ka was actually just a part of Te Fiti. I think we all have different parts of us that need to be heard and understood, but too often we spend our time labeling the scary and unacceptable parts as “bad” instead of listening to what they have to say.

If we didn’t know that Te Kā was just the protector of Te Fiti’s heart we might make the mistake of seeing her as the villain in this movie. She was furiously seeking to be healed and have her heart restored to her. Her pain was so big that it was frightening to everyone around her and people thought they had to fight against her to find a resolution.

It wasn’t until Moana could see her for what she was that she could soothe her and calm her by returning her heart to her and allowing for her to heal. If it wasn’t for Moana’s journey of accepting the part of herself that she had been suppressing for so much time I don’t think she would have seen Te Kā’s plea for healing and wholeness.

My favorite scene in the movie is Moana approaching the giant, terrifying, living volcano monster and singing:

“I have crossed the horizon to find you
I know your name
They have stolen the heart from inside you
But this does not define you
This is not who you are
I know who you are”

Moana’s journey is an excellent representation of what therapy can be like. I love those moments of acceptance of self and others as awareness is made, love conquers fears, and individuals, couples, and families take greater risks of being more congruent and whole.

Do you have a monster inside of you? Inside of your marriage, family, or other relationships? How does it make you feel? What do you want to do when it rears its head?

May I invite you to try something new next time it shows up? Take a pause and just notice it. Give it a name. Cross the horizon and appreciate what the monster is doing for you. Maybe your monster is protecting you from something—from being hurt or being lonely or scared? Maybe the monster is trapped by some rigid belief about life or about how things “should” be. Maybe the monster has forgotten why she showed up in the first place and just needs to know that it is safe to go home.

Whatever the case may be, try to see your monster as just another part of everything that makes you, you and love it just as much as the other parts of you that are easier to love. Instead of feeling hatred and anger, look at your monster more like your protector and defender and soothe it by giving your whole heart to your whole self.

Call today to schedule and appointment with Jeremy at 801.272.3420

The Bachelor

By Jeff Bennion, ALMFT

The Bacheloris one of the most popular reality TV shows out there. It is tremendously popular, especially among women because it plays into many of their fantasies about love, desire and relationships: to be romanced, to be object of attention and desire, to be seen as beautiful, to be pursued by a handsome and successful man, to have a beautiful wedding. Recently, there was a great deal of outrage when the latest bachelor, Arie Ludendyk, unceremoniously dumped the woman he gave the rose to on the show’s finale, Becca Kufrin, and instead got engaged to the runner up, Lauren Burnham. There was so much anger, one state representative proposed legislation proposing to bar Mr. Ludendyk from entering his home state of Minnesota.

When I heard the news, however, I wasn’t surprised. I’m frankly surprised that any of these relationships last, because this is about the worst possible way to enter into a marriage (or any long term, committed relationship). Putting twenty people together and having someone choose which of these is the best doesn’t build a foundation for a stable and mutually trusting relationship, in fact it encourages the opposite, as it encourages the Bachelor to always be on the lookout for someone better than the woman he is currently with. (Reverse the genders, if you would like, with the equally harmful Bachelorette show.) When a relationship is built on that foundation, how can that idea suddenly be turned off? Why, after the beautiful couple say “I do” should that constant lookout for someone undefinably better suddenly and magically get turned off? And how often do people watching the show decide that they “deserve” to have a relationship like the one depicted on this show, and become discontented  when they compare their relationship to the slickly and expensively produced ones portrayed on this TV show?

We hear about Darwin’s natural selection and think that species ruthlessly compete until all of them go extinct except one. In capitalism, we think that companies ruthlessly compete until one becomes overwhelmingly dominant. The Bachelor takes this idea to the dating world. The problem is, in each of these situations (biology, business, and relationships) that idea is wrong. Species do all they can to avoidp directly competing with each other. They try to find unique niches where they are best adapted to thrive, and they leave other niches where other species can attempt to do the same. Businesses will try to change their offerings in contrast to their competition in order to provide a feature that is uniquely compelling to a certain segment of the market. And in relationships, people don’t all line up on a stage and hope they get picked. At least not if they hope to be happy in a relationship. Successfully partnered people have determined their unique abilities and gifts and then found someone who appreciates their unique and individualized value as a person.

Relationships cannot be determined, and much less formed, through multiple choice. Each relationship is a yes or no, true or false question. If no, move on to the next one, with valuable lessons learned about yourself. If yes, then go deeper and take it to the next level of intimacy risking ever-deeper growth, self-examination and self-disclosure. In that process, you build something beautiful together.

There is an anonymous quote titled “The Marriage Box” that reads,

Most people get married believing a myth that marriage is beautiful box full of all the things they have longed for; Companionship, intimacy, friendship, etc… The truth is, that marriage at the start is an empty box, you must put something in before you can take anything out. There is no love in marriage, love is in people, and people put love in marriage. There is no romance in marriage, you have to infuse it into your marriage. A couple must learn the art, and form the habit of giving, loving, serving, praising, of keeping the box full. If you take out more than you put in, the box will be empty.

That’s why, when I watch the Bachelor, I see twenty-one beautifully wrapped yet empty boxes. Nothing on that program shows people how to put anything of long term value into their marriage (relationship) boxes. By that omission, it tells a very dangerous lie that it’s the appeal of the box that matters the most, not what you put in it. I cannot think of a more damaging idea to bring into a long term relationship and hope that it can last.

Call today to schedule and appointment with Jeff at 801.272.3420

Marriage Mythbusters: Mindreading

By Jeff Bennion, LMFT

Very often, what we think we should have gets in the way of what we do have. Couples will come into my office complaining about what they don’t have, and it blinds them to what they have and what they can have. Marriage can be a wonderful experience, leading to growth and happiness for each partner as well as their children, but it is often made more difficult by unrealistic and even harmful myths that are propagated by society and the media. Much of our time in therapy is spent “busting” these marriage myths.

Just like the popular TV Show “Mythbusters” that takes a look at various widely believed stories and puts them to the test, in this series of blog posts I thought we’d examine some popular but unhealthy marriage myths, and replace them with a more helpful and realistic idea.

One that I hear frequently in session is when the sentence starts with, “He/she should know that I…”  It is wonderful to have someone who gets us, and the popular idea of the “soulmate” is someone who knows you so well, he or she can read your mind. The first one up on the docket is the idea that your spouse, your “soulmate” should know what you’re thinking and feeling at every moment.

Soul Mates

If you have this belief, it is important to ask yourself where you got this idea, and how it may be harming your relationship, and preventing you from truly enjoying the person you are with. While it might be nice to have someone so in tune with our every thought, a more valuable skill in a partner is someone who will listen to you supportively and help you to express yourself.

In reality, more important than knowing what someone else is helping your spouse know that his or her feelings are safe and welcome, and one of the best ways to help your partner with that is to ask open questions. Open questions are questions that invite the person to reflect, to do deeper, and they also express that the questioner is really interested in what the person is thinking or feeling.

Here are some examples of open questions that would be good to ask, and some examples of some questions NOT to ask. Bad questions are ones that are accusatory, and aren’t really about getting an answer.

Open questions Closed questions
  • You seem a little down today. I’d like to hear more about what you might be feeling.
  • Why are you always so grumpy?
  • Tell about some of your favorite experiences you’ve had eating dinner.
  • Why can’t you ever get it through your head that I hate Italian food?
  • How can I better support you in your career?
  • When are you going to get around to finally applying for that promotion?
  • Is there some kind of physical expression of affection that might help you feel loved in this moment?
  • Why won’t you have sex with me more often?

Of course, sincerity counts too. If the open questions are just a way to manipulate your partner into doing something you already want

Letting go of our unrealistic  and unhealthy idea of our spouse as a mind reader, and replacing that idea with a willingness to be open and communicate can lead to a big improvement. No one is perfect, but with love and support, it can really make life better. As someone once said, “everyone comes with baggage. Find someone who loves you enough to help you unpack.

veryone-comes-with-baggage-find-someone-who-loves-you-enough-to-help-you-unpack

Call today to schedule and appointment with Jeff at 801.272.3420

Doing the Laundry

Doing the Laundry

By Jeremy Bailey, LAMFT

I don’t know about you, but laundry has always been an interesting dilemma for my family and me. Growing up in a family of 12 we had a bag and crate system to help get the clothes to the washroom and then back to our closets. My mom’s biggest chore in our home was to wash the laundry. Besides the bags and crates we also had the famous “sock bucket” where all the socks ended up needing to be sorted or left partnerless . . . probably to this day.

Now, with my family of five, we oftentimes deal with the laundry couch where all the clean clothes wait to be folded. I have learned that it is easy to have the washer and dryer do their job but sometimes finding the time to fold and store is a personal challenge. Many times, we have to run the clothes to the bedroom or even put them back in the dryer if guests are coming over—until we can better deal with them.

You are probably wondering why I am talking about laundry on a therapy blog or why I am sharing about my struggle with laundry. The reason is because I think our feelings are very similar laundry. See, everyone has laundry and as humans we also have feelings. In fact, we have a lot of feelings.

Just like laundry—we have our darks, whites, colors, and delicates. And just like laundry, we all have to constantly do something with them. This can be tricky, especially when dealing with gentle fabrics, hard stains, or even when too many have piled up, and it becomes overwhelming to where we have to take our laundry to a dry cleaner. As a therapist, I have noticed that learning to do emotional laundry is an essential skill for individuals and families.

Take a moment and think about how you learned to do your emotional laundry. I fear that in a lot of homes we treat our feelings and emotions like laundry. In many families, mom takes care of the laundry for everyone—separating, washing, drying, sorting, folding, and storing which is quite the task. That has to be exhausting. Think about your current family—who does the emotional laundry in your home? Do you and your partner work together? Is this a task that you discuss or does one partner always feel burdened with this important detail? It is my belief that a strong and healthy practice is that everyone learn to be responsible for doing their own wash while also pitching in to help the entire family get through laundry day.

As parents, we have the awesome responsibility and opportunity to help our children learn to sort through their feelings and deal with them on a regular basis so they don’t become overwhelming. Oftentimes the 2 hardest tasks for anyone to learn are to identify different feelings and know where they belong. It is important that we treat delicate feelings different than others and understand that the process of dealing with them is special and important. Helping children name strong and vulnerable feelings helps them to normalize their experience and know that they are not alone. It also gives them permission to accept their feelings and parents the opportunity to let them know how they can best deal with some strong emotions.

As intimate partners we have the great opportunity to “lighten each other’s load”. Although each partner should ultimately be responsible for their own feelings we also depend on each other to take care of and care for each other’s emotional needs. Part of being a human is to experience a wide range of feelings and emotions during different times in our life. The best part of being in an intimate relationship is that we get to have help during those times. Sometimes all we need to know is that we have a helping hand when folding an endless pile of mismatched socks.

strengthening-your-marriage

Take the chance today to help your family with their daily laundry. Maybe you validate your child’s softer feelings today or you take some extra time noticing the wrinkles and the stains on your partner’s favorite shirt. Maybe you just notice the beautiful threads and textures of all the different feelings and emotions we get to experience and just accept them as part of our great human experience without defining them as good or bad, right or wrong, but just different and unique. Try to not let your emotional laundry pile up and become unbearable. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance when it does appear to be too much, that is what family, friends, and therapists are for after all.

Call today to schedule and appointment with Jeremy at 801.272.3420

Excitement vs. Anxiety

Rollercoaster RideBy Christopher D. Adams, AMFT

When looking at this picture, what happens to you? What story do you tell yourself? Do you find yourself imagining the death that awaits you or do you find yourself looking forward to the adventure that is within reach?

As a child, and let’s be honest I still today, enjoy what I would call a healthy fear of heights. I remember being terrified of the idea of strapping into a roller coaster that would then shoot me to my death. As a child my family rode the Star Wars ride at Disney Land and was so disturbed by the prospect that I was permitted to sit and watch them as they participated in the experience.

Now, a confession. I HATE missing out! I remember my family leaving the ride and laughing and talking about how cool it was and I had nothing to contribute. I stood on the sidelines. I was so bothered.

A few months later, I found myself again at a theme park. This time it was Lagoon and my enemy was the Fire Dragon Colossus! A huge drop that went immediately into two huge loops at top speed! My anxiety was through the roof and I was convinced that one of those loops would kill me if I happened to survive that first fall!
I stood there watching my family discuss who was going to forgo the experience so that I would not be left outside alone and something changed within me. Seemingly out of nowhere I announced! Come on guys! Let’s go! I ran onto the ride and low and behold was given the front seat on the roller coaster. My family’s excitement was infectious and pretty soon I was telling myself that this was going to be awesome and that I was so lucky to get the front seat! (My brother was jealous of my place and I admit that helped).

I rode that roller coaster 6 times that day. My anxiety did not change. Every time I stood in front of that (to me) monster roller coaster I felt the same tightening in my chest, swelling in my throat and nausea in my stomach but it was now accompanied by a new story. One that told me I was going to have a story to tell and an experience to remember. An adventure was born and I am proud to say that my wife has yet to go to a theme park with me without throwing up! I love rollercoaster’s and the anxiety that comes with me! They are my happy place. My adventure beat my anxiety. It is still there but now I am in charge!

So often we miss out on life’s experiences as a result of anxieties and fears that are well warranted. They are there to protect us and to keep us safe. At times however, those anxieties can forget their place and begin making our decisions for us. When this happens, it may take the care and help of a professional to help us to get on the rollercoaster and show us how to ensure our safety.

Anxiety is complex and invasive. Just jumping on a ride will probably not beat these feelings. However, there are techniques and processes, support and validations that can help you to take your life back from the debilitating reality that is anxiety! We would love to meet with you and help you to start living again on your terms. Let’s put you back in the front seat of your monster coaster!

Call today to schedule and appointment with Chris at 801.272.3420

What WE want to be

By Christopher D. Adams, AMFT

Max De Pree an American Business man who died in August of 2017 was known to have said,

“We cannot become who we want to be by remaining what we are.”

Stronger Family relationships Becoming is a process of forward progression. Often times however, couples define their relationship by the hurts of the past (but she said… or how could he if…). Those hurts DO matter and they need to be validated and understood so as to not allow them to be repeated in the future and yet they need not define the marriage. When couples begin to use statements like, we are it interrupts the ability to become something better.

Couples are only limited by what they believe they can become together. That belief may need some tender persuasion, as it may have been lost in the quagmire of hurt and mistrust. In some instances one partner bears, seemingly alone, the hopes of something better. Don’t walk alone. Let us walk with you until you and your partner can lift together and choose what the marriage will become.

When we believe in what we can become, we change who we have been and together, we define what we will be.

Christopher D. Adams

Call today to schedule and appointment with Chris at 801.272.3420

How to Become a Savvy Therapy Customer

Therapy Tips and SuggestionsBy Jeff Bennion, ALMFT

People come to us therapists with all kinds of problems, and it’s our privilege to help them with those difficulties. We are trained with skills to help clients with these problems, but we are still human beings and that means we aren’t perfect. Sometimes out of a misplaced sense of loyalty, clients may not always get the most out of the therapy.

Several lines of research have demonstrated that the most helpful thing in therapy is a strong relationship with your therapist. That doesn’t mean you’ll always like what he or she says, or that therapy will always be a pleasant experience. But it does mean that you need to trust each other and have genuine respect and affection for each other.

We work for you

When that isn’t there, therapy is not going to be very beneficial.  If after a few sessions, you find you just aren’t jelling with your therapist, it is perfectly appropriate to request a referral to another therapist or seek one yourself. We work for you, and if we aren’t able to be effective with you, we do not expect you to continue seeing us. In fact, it is not ethical for us to continue treatment if we don’t believe we are being effective, but sometimes that is easier for you to tell than for us.

You can change the plan

As therapists, we develop a customized treatment plan for you based on your individual circumstances and what you have asked us to help you with. However, sometimes things will come up during the week that may change that. If we are proceeding with our pre-existing plan, but you have something that you think is more urgent or important, please feel free to interrupt and let us know what is going on so that we can make sure you get the most benefit from the session.

You can say no

Sometimes you might be uncomfortable or uncertain about certain things we might try in session. We use empirically validated treatment models and techniques as we work with you, but sometimes they aren’t always a good fit. You can always stop and ask why we are doing something, or tell us to try something different. There is always a different way, and we always want to know if something makes you uncomfortable. Our training does not always make us aware of all your possible triggers or negative experiences.

Summing up

As therapists, we love what we do, and we love helping people resolve their problems and live happier lives. The therapeutic relationship is very important, and hopefully this blog post has given you some ideas about how to make the best of that relationship with your therapist.

A therapeutic relationship is most important
Feel free to interrupt
Ask us questions
You can always say no

Jeff Bennion, ALMFT

Call today to schedule and appointment with Jeff at 801.272.3420