EMDR: A Powerful Trauma Treatment

What is EMDR?   EMDR—Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing—is a revolutionary therapy proven by research to be effective in the treatment and relief of a wide range of disorders. It is a simple, non-invasive patient-therapist collaboration in which healing can happen rapidly and does not involve the use of drugs or hypnosis. What problems are helped by EMDR? Studies to date show a high degree of effectiveness with the following conditions: trauma fears anxiety childhood trauma phobias physical abuse sexual abuse rape victims of violent crimes post traumatic stress depression overwhelming fears panic attacks low self-esteem performance and test anxiety What is the procedure? The core of the procedure involves the client focusing on a pre-selected specific image or remembered sensations while the therapist uses “bilateral stimulation”. The types of bilateral stimulation include either guiding the client’s eye movements back and forth or using “beepers”; certain tactile or auditory stimuli which have been demonstrated to be effective. Each set of bilateral stimulation can last between several seconds to several minutes. After each set, the client is instructed to just notice whatever changes occur in the mind and body without controlling the experience in any way. The therapist then instructs the client to focus on a new modified image and once again performs the bilateral stimulation. What happens during EMDR? When disturbing experiences happen, they are stored in the limbic brain with all the sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings that accompany them. When a person is very upset, the brain seems to be unable to process and move on from the experience. Therefore, the negative thoughts and feelings of the...

IFS Therapy – A Cutting Edge Approach to Self Awareness and Healing

“IFS showed me how to love every aspect of myself in a specific way.” Dr. Jay Earley, IFS Practitioner and Author of Self Therapy What is IFS? IFS or Internal Family Systems is a method of therapy developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz, Ph. D. over the last 2+ decades. It believes that each of us encompasses, internally, a collection of ‘parts’ or subpersonalities that over time and for a variety of reasons become disintegrated with each other. Certain parts, labeled exiles, harbor deeply felt hurts, fears and shame. These ‘exiles’ are kept locked in our psyche by other parts who play the role of ‘managers‘ to keep the intense emotions of the exiles away from public view. Then you have the firefighters whose job is to protect the exiles from the intensity of their feelings by dousing those hot flames as soon as they appear. Unfortunately, this ‘firefighting’ activity, as we grow older and more removed from the source of the emotion, can cause more harm than good. The purpose of IFS therapy is to reintegrate these parts into a healthy, functioning whole under the core of Self. The Self, according to the Internal Family Systems approach, is the repository of our best qualities: perspective, leadership, confidence, compassion and acceptance. The chaos of our disparate parts often blocks our access to Self - a situation which IFS therapy works to remedy. An important precept of IFS is that there are no bad parts. Each part, when properly aligned with Self, has a very positive role to play in our integrated whole. We are complex beings and IFS gives us...

PACT – A Highly Effective Approach to Couples Therapy

After a lot of research into the most effective approaches to couples counseling, I made the decision to incorporate PACT: Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy® into my practice. PACT is a highly effective method for dealing with the seemingly intractable challenges couples may face. PACT was developed by Psychologist, Stan Tatkin, who combined cutting edge research from 3 fields: Neuroscience, how our brain’s physiological reactions influence our relationships; Attachment Theory, our biological need for connection; and “The biology of human arousal” which underpins our ability and desire to engage in the moment. Please follow the link below for a description of the PACT approach to couple’s therapy. PACT Resources from Dr. Tatkin What is PACT - an explanation of PACT and a description of a PACT therapy session Stan Tatkin’s Articles - a number of downloadable articles that provide insight and guidance for couples Is PACT right for you? If you’d like to find out how PACT can benefit your relationship please contact me for a private...

We Fight But Never Resolve Anything – A Couples Complaint

“The problem,” Jessica said, “is we fight, but we never actually resolve anything. I feel like we are just drifting further and further apart.” Her husband Dan, speaks up. “Well, she’s constantly bringing up the past. She can never let anything go and I can’t even remember the things she’s upset about. I feel like there’s no way I can win.” Jessica and Dan’s situation is common. Jessica feels like Dan never hears her and Dan feels helpless to change. What is actually happening here? What Jessica Wants Jessica  wants something desperately from Dan that she can’t get. When fights center on past events, Jessica wants Dan to understand her pain and take some responsibility for causing it. Events have occurred which have reinforced her feelings of sadness and hurt. The antidote for sadness and hurt is understanding and often includes assuming some responsibility for causing the hurt. It often also includes taking action to change the behaviors and attitudes which have caused the hurt. What Dan Needs When Jessica asks or demands that Dan listen to her and help her to feel better, Dan doesn’t hear her needs, but rather he hears a repetitive nagging and criticism of himself. He initially responds with defensiveness. He is unable to hear what Jessica is really asking for, because her demands feel like an attack, and he feels like he needs to don his armor to protect himself. He may believe he has done everything he can to make her feel better, with no results. This makes Dan feel hopeless. Eventually, if he continues to feel that he can’t change anything, he may withdraw. A number of different...

An Owners Manual for Your Relationship; The PACT Approach

“How can you not understand that I am exhausted and need you to be more helpful with the children?” Anna says wearily to Max. Max replies, “Anna, that’s ridiculous, I do help, I help all the time. I’m tired too. My job is killing me. If you need more help, call your mom.” What’s wrong with this exchange, one that I hear all the time in my office? What is going on underneath their words? Anna is asking her husband to hear and understand how tired she is. She wants him to care about how she feels and to offer to be there in the trenches with her. Unfortunately, her request includes a critical component (how can you not understand?). Her question also implies that her feelings of Max not being there for her has a long history. Max responds to her question and the implied criticism by shutting her down, telling her she is ridiculous and trying to get his needs met instead by telling her how exhausted he is. His response also suggests that he is sick and tired of hearing her complain about him. They have established their separate camps and no partnership or understanding is achieved. This is a no-win situation. What could Anna have said and how could Max have replied? If Anna had said, Max, I need you here with me and Max had been open to Anna, the story would have been different. In other words, if each of them understood better how the other ‘operates’. Couples Need an Ownership Manual Stan Tatkin, PsyD, creator of PACT couples therapy, has for years...

Energizing a Tired Part – Internal Family Systems

I was working with a client recently on an Internal Family Systems (IFS) exercise. IFS (by Richard Schwartz) is an amazing kind of therapy which involves the use of “parts”. Basically, in IFS, the individual gets to know his or her different parts, which involve protective parts and hurt parts. One of the basic premises of IFS is that the protective parts work to keep the individual living their life without the hurt parts getting hurt more. However, what actually happens is that the protective parts (which were often learned at a young age) can stifle the individual’s growth and keep the individual from achieving his or her goals. Parts Have Conflicting Agendas So while getting to know a few of my client’s different parts, a tired part came forward. My client suddenly felt very tired and didn’t want to keep working. Instead, we agreed to try to get to know the tired part a little better. My client discovered that when anything got too hard or threatened change, a tired part would come up to protect her. Because she’s just assumed she is lazy, she was amazed that being tired was actually a very strategic protective part of her which was keeping her from achieving things she wanted to do. In doing so, it was also protecting her from having to feel pain. IFS Helps Our Parts Cooperate We all have protective parts and hurt parts. When you think, “Part of me feels like this, but another part feels this way,” your parts are vying for your attention. The best way to begin to become aware of your different...

Compassionate Listening

Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, founder of The Center for Nonviolent Communication, talks about the need to offer compassion and attention when listening and responding to your partner. His approach to compassionate response suggest that, when communicating with your significant other that you: Be fully present Listen for feelings and needs Paraphrase  Feel and sustain empathy Many of the issues I address in working with couples stem from their inability to truly communicate with their partner. Much of the progress we make in resolving those conflicts comes as their ability to truly and fully communicate - both giving and receiving - develops. This is not an easy task and too few of us are able to draw upon our upbringing as a source for modeling good communications. In other words, our parents, teachers and peers practiced poor communication with us and that’s how we learned! Couples Can Learn to Communicate Better Don’t be discouraged. Good communication isn’t a genetic trait, it’s a skill and, with desire and effort, you and your partner can learn to master this skill enriching your relationship and your lives in the process. If you’d like to learn more about how you and your mate can learn to communicate effectively and compassionately as a couple, feel free to call or email...

Common Types of Anxiety Disorders

It’s normal, even healthy, to feel anxiety from time to time. It is when anxiety overwhelms you or prevents you from making good decisions that it can be harmful. Understanding the major types of anxiety disorders is often the first step in understanding how to successfully treat anxiety. This article will explain the most common anxiety disorders while subsequent posts will discuss treatment options. The most common way these days to categorize anxiety is to take the DSM-IV’s (published by the American Psychiatric Association) definitions of anxiety disorders. The DSM-IV categorizes anxiety disorders by symptoms and behaviors. A diagnosis can be made if you demonstrate a number of specific symptoms and behaviors over a specified period of time. Generalized Anxiety Disorder The first of these is Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD. If you have GAD you worry and ruminate endlessly over everyday events as well as over possible (but unlikely) future events. The worries are accompanied by bodily reactions including ongoing feelings of tension and stress and often headaches, stomach upset and sleep disturbances. If you have GAD, you will often have perfectionistic tendencies, take unwarranted responsibility for things in your life (and in the world), seek reassurance frequently and fear making mistakes. Phobias Phobias are extreme fears of specific situations or things. The specific situation or thing (such as a dentist visit or a spider) may cause some or even most people to be cautious or nervous, but the phobic person has a much more intense reaction. If you have a  phobia, you usually develop a strong avoidance to the object of your fear and will often go...