Category: Depression and Anxiety

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

Are You Ready for Marriage? 10 Questions to Consider When Choosing the Right Partner

by Becky Wengreen, MFTI

It’s the biggest decision of your life. Are you ready to consider it? What do you know about yourself that makes you feel it’s time to move towards that next step? Maybe you have met “the one”—how do you know? Is your readiness based on attraction and passion alone? Marriage means experiencing life with someone who stands with you —shoulder to shoulder as a willing and committed partner. It’s important to be sure you have enough information about yourself to increase your chances of picking the right one for longterm happiness.

Family and Marriage Therapy in UtahHere are 10 questions to help you do that. These 10 questions are open ended and broad; created to help you explore and expound upon key concepts and beliefs in your life style. They are not meant to measure your “sameness” with another but are an aid to bring about awareness—to stimulate insight and understanding about the system that governs the way you live, or hope to live. Whether you’re in a current relationship or not, take adequate time to explore your inner beliefs, tendencies, and expectations.

1) What are your core values?
Is there a motto you live by? What shapes your everyday actions with others? What practices and principles govern your decisions? What do you hold dear? What can’t you live without? Why? Why not? (This may include concepts such as honesty, compassion, commitment, respect, loyalty, humor, courage, fitness, service, etc.)

2) Do you rely on a higher power?
Do you depend upon or have faith in a higher power? Does that power take first place over a spouse? If so what is your devotion to this power and how much does it influence your daily life decisions. When do you worship? Why do you worship? How important is it that your partner worship with you?

3) What are your beliefs surrounding money and spending?
What do you imagine your role being in a committed relationship when it comes to financial stability? Will you work? Are you the sole support? Is debt allowed? What are your feelings about spending? What are necessities and what are wants? Do you expect your partner to work or contribute financially? How much?

4) Do you have a short term and long term plan?
Where do you see yourself in 6 months or in one year? What are your goals five years from now and what are the steps you have taken to get there? In ten years where would you like to live? What education do you plan to have or not have? Do you want a vocation? Would you like to move away? How do you imagine yourself living?

5) What is your definition of Family?
What does a family mean to you? If family is of great importance then what do you imagine your future family to look like? Do you want children? How many? How and where do you see yourself raising them? What role will you play in the family and what role do you see your future partner playing? What duties or responsibilities do each of you hold? How does the family function? What relationships take priority? Who talks to who, how and when?

6) Who do you turn to in times of heartache, financial trouble, or hard times?
Now that you have a committed partner, is there room for others? Do you have friends outside of your marriage? How much time is spent with them? What conversations can you share with friends and what remains with in the bounds of your partnership? How much time is devoted to people outside the relationship? Do you have friends together? Separate? Both? Neither?

8) What is your Answerability?
In other words, are you able to be open, honest and accountable to another? Are you approachable with feedback? How do you feel when you are in a position of accountability? Are you teachable? Are you a team player, a leader or a dictator? What is your level of openness? Would you call yourself and open or a closed book? If so does it change with your relationships?

9) Do I change when under pressure? Sick or anxious?
Does your personality change when you’re stressed? Do you get quiet or withdrawn? Do you push through even when you feel lousy or ill? Do you get anxious? How would your partner know when you are? Do you cry? What happens? Do you notice? Can you tell when you’re anxious about certain topics, circumstances or people?

10) What is sex about in your relationship?
What does sex mean to you? When, how and why? What place will it have in your future? How much weight does it carry in the relationship? Are you comfortable talking about it? Are you at peace with your own sexuality?

As you take a look at yourself, you may gain insight regarding a compatible partner. Also, ask yourself if your answers are evident in the way you live; in other words, would others be able to guess some of the answers by the way you conduct your life. Next blog we will discuss the best place to look for that special someone!

 

Call today to schedule and appointment with Becky at 801.272.3420

Finding Our Authentic Self Again

by Alex Pratt, AMFT

“A thousand plastic flowers don’t make a desert bloom. A thousand empty faces don’t fill an empty room.”
― Frederick Salomon Perls

I have heard the line, “I just don’t feel like myself anymore,” many times both in therapy and from the people around me in my daily life. Our world seems to be increasingly concerned with how one is perceived by others. The obvious way that this plays out is on social media, where a majority of what we see paints the picture that everyone around us has life under control. What might be less obvious is how life has been eating away at our authentic self since childhood.

I don't feel like it

Many people learned that expressing painful emotion meant weakness. Some learned that their lofty aspirations weren’t a sign of hope, motivation, and self worth, but instead they were simply hopeless dreams that would result in failure. On that note, many learned that failing to achieve a goal would be unacceptable. These are all regular examples of lessons that often result in an individual stifling their emotions and sense of self to better adapt to the expectations of the world around them.

It is my belief, that this way of life is not sustainable. One who lives solely to meet other’s expectations will not find lasting happiness in doing so. It is my goal as a therapist to create an environment that enables my clients the freedom of self expression. As we learn to remove the restrictions placed on us that dictate how we are allowed to express emotion, what it means to fail, how hopeful we are allowed to be, and many others, a funny thing starts to happen… We become ourselves again. While a thousand empty faces won’t fill an empty room, a thousand authentic individuals will.

 

Call today to schedule and appointment with Alex at 801.272.3420

Where to Point the Finger?

by Nick O. Rowe, CSW

 

We have all been there right, “I reacted that way because she would not stop nagging me”. “He makes me so angry!” I am the only one that is making any effort around here!” These are common phrases that, at the root, are anchored in blame. It is fascinating that so many are willing to relinquish their ability to control their own words and behavior. Nobody can make you say or do anything and believing this erroneous idea is the breeding ground for anger and frustration. How often we try to control our spouse, partner or situation only to find that we have made it worse. How comforting it is to know that we have the ability to change our outlook by looking inward instead of outward.

The Blame Game

Blame is often a major factor in marital discord and is also used to satisfy the human need for an explanation of unwanted events or the cause of choosing action or inaction. For example, I may blame the school board for being bias as the reason I did not receive the acceptance letter. A mother experiencing a miscarriage may find herself looking to God as to why He would allow something so terrible to happen. One might blame an illness or disability as the reason for lack of success or happiness in life.

Human nature is to placate and pacify the underlying issue which at the core is pain. In almost all cases ranging from argument, tragedy or disappointments, blame can be linked to the desire to dull the hurt, looking at someone else instead of being vulnerable to feelings. As the old Native American Saying goes: “Every time you point a finger in scorn there are three remaining fingers pointing right back at you.”

When we feel that discomfort and we desire to point the finger can I suggest a healthy alternative by first taking a moment to ground yourself in the present? This may require practices of mindfulness, meditation or simply removing yourself from the situation so you can be alone with your thoughts. Once in that place, I and almost all my clients have found it helpful to ask one simple question. “Are the things I am saying and doing going to get me what I actually want?” Winning an argument at times may feel satisfying but in reality will always be a loss. This is easier said than done and will require practice and humility.

Let us now take that question a step deeper by calling it to action. “What can I say, do, or think to get me what I actually want?” You are in the driver seat at this point and in control of the outcome. Imagine if couples were willing to commit to this mindset together. There would be no breeding ground for resentment. There would be no harsh words said because the end result would not give them what they want.

May you experiment upon this suggestion and find the power and peace that comes when accountability replaces blame and thoughtful mediation allows you to ask the question to give you the freedom you seek and deserve. Let blame be a thing of the past and live a life that is full and within your control.

 

Call today to schedule and appointment with Nick 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

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

Behind the Curtain

by JR Patterson, MFT Intern

It’s a natural desire for us to want to present our best selves to others. In most of our interactions with others, there seems to be a performance aspect to what we do. We want to prove to be competent in our jobs, to leave a good first impression with those we come in contact with. We want our houses to be neat and tidy when guests come over. We want to post the best and most exciting photos of us on social media.hqdefault

Although we look nice and clean when we present our “best selves”, sometimes we may feel messy on the inside. Everyone sees the life we live when we are on stage, but very rarely do they get to see the life behind the curtain. The sad thing is that everyone has their hidden messes, and I mean EVERYONE. Just as with the great Wizard of Oz, when you take away the filters and magic tricks, we are all just people trying to do our best.

I believe that a great deal of our depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem comes from trying to hide our life behind the curtain. We tend to say things to ourselves such as, “If people knew who I really am, they wouldn’t love me”, or “I’m not as good as people think I am”. “I act like I’m happy all the time, but on the inside I feel broken”.

At times I wish that I could have known the truth about people’s lives behind the curtain when I was growing up. I would have seen my shortcomings and weaknesses with a lot more acceptance and compassion. My first experience with sharing my life behind the curtain was in therapy. Therapy is a safe and sacred place to start unveiling your authentic self because your vulnerability and openness will be held with no judgment. As you start to open yourself, something crazy will happen, you will begin to find value in the mess that you think you’ve made, you may even begin to love that mess. There is a saying in the world of recovery: “turn your mess into a message”.

landscape-1440525088-wizard-of-oz-main-fourWe all want to be loved, seen, and heard; but how can someone truly love you if they have only seen a part of you. The parts of you that others can’t see are the parts that need the most attention because they are the parts that need the most healing. As you engage in the healing process you will able to find that every part of you is worth loving. Your healed heart can become a gift that you can share with the world.

EMDR: Therapy for Trauma

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a type of therapy that enables people to heal from the distress and ongoing symptoms that can result after experiencing trauma. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR clients can streamline the therapy process; EMDR therapy enables individuals to experience the benefits of years of psychotherapy in a much shorter amount of time.

One study*, focused on sexual assault victims, found that 90% of PTSD sufferers exhibited eliminated symptoms after only 3 sessions of EMDR.

The American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, the Department of Veteran Affairs, and the Department of Defense all recognize EMDR as one of the most effective treatment for trauma and other disturbing events.

Read more about EMDR Psychotherapy: What is EMDR?

Kayla Burningham, AMFT is an EMDR certified therapist, and specializes in helping clients overcome the trauma from their past.

Contact our office to speak with Kayla and learn more.


 

*Rothbaum, B. (1997). A controlled study of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disordered sexual assault victims. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 61, 317-334.

What is Mindfulness?

By Kayla Burningham, AMFT

Mindfulness has become a popular term lately. It is also a very common intervention used in therapy for a variety of presenting problems. In 2010 an analysis of all previous studies of the effects mindfulness on anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders was conducted. The results? Mindfulness significantly decreased symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. While that is great news, what clients really want is an intervention that will help them in the long run–that will help create lasting change and lead to healing. With that in mind, what else did this analysis find? At follow-up appointments clients still reported significant decreases in symptoms! Mindfulness can be a powerful intervention in the treatment of mood disorders. Here are some other great benefits studies have attributed to mindfulness:

  • Improve well-being
  • Strengthen relationships
  • Increase focus and attention
  • Boost immune systems

Wow! Three cheers for mindfulness!

So, what is mindfulness? Psychology Today defines mindfulness as:

“A state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

In therapy, your therapist will guide you in becoming aware of your thoughts and encourage you to stay in the present moment. When thoughts drift, the therapist will gently pull you back to the present to an observable state. For example, focusing on your thoughts as if they are clouds slowly moving by in the sky. Eventually mindfulness allows a client to observe their thoughts without reacting to them or judging themselves. This ability to be aware of what we are thinking without reacting puts us back in the driver seat in our own lives and allows us to make more educated decisions about what actions to take, what behaviors to change, and, perhaps most importantly, what to let go.

Mindfulness can be incorporated in couple or family therapy as well. I have oftentimes used it in my own practice to help family members take a deep breath, reach a state of calm, observe their thoughts, and mindfully practice what they want to say. This helps clients to then communicate with their loved ones more effectively.

All this goes to say that mindfulness has broad applications. A skilled therapist can utilize mindfulness in a variety of ways to assist clients in understanding their thoughts, emotions, and the physical sensations associated with those emotions. When mindfulness is regularly used and practiced, it has the potential to create lasting change, boost the healing process, and help a client lead a proactive life.

Sources:

Hofman, S.G., Sawyer, A.T., Witt, A.A., & Oh, D.The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. 2010. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 78(2).

http://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/mindfulness-based-interventions#Techniques

https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness


IMG_7162

Kayla is a Licensed Therapist 
working with individuals,
families, couples, as well as groups.