Tag: counseling

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

The Bachelorette says that going to therapy was the best decision she made that entire year

Open discussions about mental health do not usually happen on television, let alone reality television. A few weeks ago, during week 2 of the Bachelorette, Rachel and Peter made history by discussing their own experiences with relationship therapy. (Click here to watch clip.)

On their first date, Rachel asks Peter a question she says that she gets a lot: “You’re so great, how are you still single?” Peter explains that after his last relationship ended, he saw a relationship therapist. He adds, “[Therapy] has helped me a lot. It has helped me now be more calm in my thoughts.”

Rachel seemed to be quite excited by this concept! She added her own experience with therapy after her last long relationship ended. Rachel explained that she felt that there was something that she wasn’t getting with herself. “So I went to a therapist. It was the best decision that I made that entire year, and again, it prepared me to realize what I want from myself, and what wasn’t working for me,” she says.

While reality television dating isn’t on the horizon for most, it is common for young adults to not know what they are looking for in a relationship! A therapist can assist that person to discover tools for better communication, thoughtful preparations for challenges, setting realistic expectations, and so much more.

The stigma surrounding mental health seems to have gotten better over the last few years, however it is important to note that not all who go to therapy have a mental illness. In a recent blog post, Kyle M. Reid, LMFT wrote, “People who go to counseling are those with the courage and capacity to seek and consider input in helping them function more happily and effectively in their every day lives. Getting help is not a weakness.”

Rachel and Peter are two people that are educated, attractive, and well-spoken; the idea that they would frequently be asked the annoying “why are you still single” question makes sense. Too often the true answer is “there are things that I need to work on with myself.” We applaud both of these individuals for the courage they showed to discuss this topic on national television.

If you are questioning if you should see a therapist, most offer a free consultation. Here at Connections Counseling Services, our therapists are happy to talk to you to discuss any questions you may have. Click here to read our blog on choosing the right therapist for you.

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.

Choosing the Best Therapist for You

by Kyle M. Reid, LMFT

Choosing the best therapist for you can be difficult. This is the person you hope to share your deepest darkest secrets with!!!   You might ask, “How can I know if I will be able to trust him or her!” “How do I know if this person is right for me?” “How can I know they can help me?” or “Can they really understand what I am going through?”

It’s important to ask yourself these questions and find someone that you feel understands your needs and that you can trust to help you. Many people seeking help can go through several therapists until they find the one they are comfortable with. A good therapist understands this and will respect your choice to find safety. As a practicing therapist, I have functioned in both the capacity of someone’s first therapist as well as someone’s last.

Research has shown that the best outcomes in therapy come from two very general dynamics (Cooper & Lesser, 2011, p.33; (Teyber & McClure, 2011):

  1. The client’s comfort and connection with the therapist and
  2. The therapists sense of hope in the client’s progress.

In practical terms, this means to attend one or two initial sessions and trust your instincts on whether there is a good connection. You may need to explore different therapists – but it is worth it.

Here are some other thoughts to consider:

  • We Don’t Sell!
    • Be aware that a good therapist will be inviting, but will not try to sell you on their treatment….you may feel motivated to continue with a therapist after the first session(s), but you won’t feel pressure.
  • We are All Unique!
    • Every therapist has a different personality and a different style of practice. For example some may be skilled at listening and letting you come up with solutions, some are more directive. Choose the person that you feel will suit your needs and personality. Ask your therapist what his/her process of change looks like in dealing with your issues. Understand your treatment plan.
  • We Don’t Give You Fish….We Teach You to Fish!
    • Both the therapist and the client need to be working together towards the issues that the client feel are important towards him and her. A therapist doesn’t force the client to change or make a habit of telling the client a specific course of action to resolve a dilemma. They should however, help you develop skills and perspectives that allow you to own and solve your own issues effectively. In this way you continue to grow long after therapy is over. Assignments and opening your heart and mind to new perspectives are important in this regard, not necessarily advice giving. Over time, you will learn to both trust yourself and work with others in getting answers.
  • There is No “Right” Way!
    • There are many different theories of practice out there (e.g. cognitive-behavioral therapy, emotional focused therapy, etc.) and many different types of therapists (LMFT, LCSW, CMHC or LPC, Psychologists, Psychiatrists). Ask your therapist what theories they practice and how they view change and progress with individuals and families. Ask them to give you a basic outline of these theories.
  • Be Committed to the Process!
    • Most therapists will do a 15-30 minute consultation for free to find out all of these questions and get to know them more; here at Connections, we offer a 30 minute consultation. Don’t be afraid to shop around. But when you do choose a therapist, spend more than a few sessions with them. Therapy can take time. If you find yourself not progressing or feeling uneasy in your session, or if you are concerned with how your therapist is handling certain issues, talk to them about it! A good therapist will be open and helpful with this information. They will be respectful of your issues and seek to come to an understanding of your needs if you feel they don’t already.
  • We Don’t Need our Ego Brushed. Be Honest with Your Feelings!
    • There have been many times clients have been concerned with how I say something or do a certain therapeutic process, but will be afraid to speak up. If I don’t catch it right away, the client will not receive the amazing benefits that come from working through relationship concerns with someone skilled in this process. When a client opens up about some of his/her concerns, these can be some of the most uplifting, growth inducing processes in a session. It is necessary to have a safe and open dialogue with your therapist. If you feel that you can’t, you need to be direct and honest with them.
    • If you feel that you aren’t understood or heard when this happens, be honest and seek to find a therapist you feel that you can be honest with and that you feel will validate your concerns. Often times this isn’t about the therapist or you as the client nearly as much as it is about the therapeutic style, personality compatibility, and your current motivations for change and growth. Don’t be afraid to be honest with your feelings towards your therapist. A good therapist will be able to emotionally handle any feedback they are given. You are paying them to help you. They understand this. Don’t waste your money on unsaid and unspoken language.
  • Not all Therapists Are Trained the Same!
    • There are different types of therapists that are best suited for specific issues. Ask your counselor what they are trained in. Therapists have been trained on most client issues but their training and approach is particularly suited to some issues more than others. Ask your therapist about their experience in the areas that are of interest to you. As an MFT (marriage and family therapist), people will often assume that I only specialize in family and couple counseling but not individual counseling. This is a mistaken assumption. Most MFTs work mostly with individuals with a variety of issues. They are just trained to view many problems in the context of the relationship and family system. Psychiatrists and psychologists are often misunderstood as well. Psychiatrists attend medical school and most of their work consist of diagnosing and prescribing medication. Psychologists don’t prescribe medication but can diagnose and test. Most therapists have the training to diagnose, but might send you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for further testing or medication.

A Few Final Points…

Recognize your expectations with the therapy process and open up to your therapist about them. Clients will often expect their therapists to lead the counseling sessions. Meier and Davis discuss a few important factors to consider when starting counseling:

  • The pain can get worse before it gets better, so consider with your therapist if the pain you are experiencing in therapy is legitimate pain of growth, or if it is making things worse.
  • Therapists take confidentiality very seriously but you should talk to your counselor about the exceptions to confidentiality.
  • People who go to counseling are those with the courage and capacity to seek and consider input in helping them function more happily and effectively in their every day lives. Getting help is not a weakness….

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Kyle Reid Therapist Utah

 

Kyle is a Marriage and Family
Therapist, specializing in individual,
relationship, and family work.