Blog

Compassionate Ways of Responding to Abuse and Trauma Memories of Loved Ones

Healing from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse is an ongoing journey. For those who go on to develop trauma symptoms as a result of these experiences, relationships become difficult to master. There are a host of concerns with feeling safe in relationships in general with their loved ones due to the fact that the abuse is generally perpetrated by a close relationship or acquaintance.

Whether you are a friend, spouse, or a family member of someone who has endured abuse, tapping into your own discomfort in hearing about the traumatic experiences of your loved one may help you avoid unhelpful responses. Responses should foster safety, intimacy, and trust so that your loved one can begin feeling the support he or she may need in order to heal. If your loved one is having trauma symptoms, your responses need to support the recovery for your loved one rather than hinder it.

The following general tips can help you respond in a compassionate manner when a loved one share’s these difficult memories with you:

  • Allow for him or her to decide how much to share and what to share.
  • Allow him or her to express feelings including sadness, anger, or even shame around the trauma.
  • Do not pressure him or her to share details or aspects of their trauma he or she is not willing or ready to share.
  • Do not invalidate your loved one’s experiences by denying the memories of abuse your loved one is sharing or by asking if he or she is sure the trauma occurred.
  • Be sure that your response does not relay blame to the victim for the abuse. For example, by giving advice of what he or she could have done differently to avoid the abuse from happening.
  • Validate their emotions by making supportive statements that show you have been listening. “I can see the sadness you’re experiencing as your share this with me.”
  • Learn to respect boundaries that he or she is setting when saying yes or no to requests. This helps your loved one feel safe or more in control over their environment.
  • Understand that at times your loved one may need space and at other times closeness.
  • Physical contact may be difficult for sometime, if your loved one is having active symptoms.
  • Show a gesture of support, such as holding their hand or giving a hug if he or she is open to it.
  • Lastly, recognize that your loved one may be feeling vulnerable by sharing such memories. Your response can be an opportunity to foster emotional connectedness and closeness.

Taking the brave step of approaching these memories and sharing them with you is probably difficult enough for your loved one. This crucial step in another step towards recovery. Your response can foster love and acceptance, which can lead to feeling supported in a way that can help your loved one heal and recover in a healthy way.

Read More

What Price Are You Paying for Your Secrets

As a topic expert, I submit writing to goodtherapy.org. Here’s a brief summary and link to my most recent article regarding releasing the secret nature of traumatic memories if these memories are causing distress in your day-to-day life.

Everyone has secrets hidden away, often out of embarrassment or shame. Secrets can come at a great cost, however. Liberation and healing can happen in therapy.

http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/what-price-are-you-paying-for-your-secrets-0427175

 

Read More

Holistic Ways of Treating Your Depression

With Western methods where by now there is a pill for just about every feeling and sensation that is distressful, the concept of working out of negative states naturally is an important one to discuss. Medication is not negative as long as it’s utilized with caution and in a way that does not make a person feel numb to their own emotions so that people can continue to learn how to manage negative feelings and sensations.  Utilizing medication to the least extent necessary helps your body from becoming tolerant to different pills, which can only benefit you long-term for both mind and body wellness. Also, medication is indicated when your symptoms are more severe or if you are experiencing any safety concerns such as suicidal thoughts. Speak to your medical doctor regarding such concerns. Here are some tips to naturally help fight your depression, along with the symptoms that are targeted by these actions. You can create your own individualized holistic plan to getting better by incorporating the elements listed below:

  1. Structure Your Time: In order to reduce isolation, increase your energy and activity levels, it’s important to have your time structured. This is easily done by creating a weekly schedule that includes the tips included below, along with your work and home life obligations and tasks. The structure is not meant to be rigid, but a guide to keep you from withdrawing.
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Individual therapy once or twice a week can help address thinking patterns and other underlying issues that may be exacerbating your depression. It also provides support, increases your social interactions, and helps you stay on track behaviorally. Therapy can naturally help address mild to moderate levels of depression.
  3. Weekly Yoga & Daily Meditation: Hatha Yoga is a lighter yoga that will help with relaxation, energy, and improvement in mood. Meditation will naturally help you manage or reduce negative thoughts as you learn to redirect your thoughts. Repeating a positive affirmation can help block out the negative thoughts from taking over the mind. With continued practice, you will learn to naturally still your mind so that you are not experiencing sadness that arises from negative thoughts.
  4. Regular Exercise (Gym, Hikes, Biking, etc.): Exercise will again naturally fight lethargy and isolation and improve mood naturally. Find physical activities that speak to you or that you truly enjoy. Having an hour of exercise at the beginning of your day that you schedule in can help you throughout the day.
  5. Social Activities or Surround Yourself in Public Environments: It’s likely you have been isolating through the depression, which will only keep it going. Therefore, consider at the very least surrounding yourself in public places such as parks, beach, malls, gyms, church or temple, and other places that will help you feel more connected to the outside world and people. Plan activities with persons that you feel connected to and feel supported by. If you have limited amount of these people in your life consider things like networking events, meet-ups, and support groups to get you to begin socializing again.
  6. Good Nutrition and Diet: It’s important to track that you are not skipping meals. Your appetite can increase or decrease drastically during depression. Having fixed times in your schedule for lunch and dinner throughout the week will help you form a routine around this. Also, be sure you are staying hydrated. Nourish your body as it is going through this difficult time with fruits, salads, juices, and organic or raw foods. Avoid snacking on junk foods beyond your occasional treats. It can be easy to substitute junk foods as meals when you have a reduced appetite.
  7. Spiritual Practice: If you have a religious or spiritual practice, having regular activities such as praying, meditating, attending service, or volunteering can help with mood, feelings of hope and peace, and encourage a more positive outlook that is needed when depression hits. If you do not have a religious or spiritual practice, find what provides hope for you in your life and remain connected with this throughout your depression.
  8. Supplements: Begin taking natural supplements for increased energy such a multivitamin and melatonin for relaxed and restful sleep.
  9. Support Group: Find a support group for depression to again help you gain more tools, feel supported/connected, and reduce isolation.
  10. Self-Care: Treat yourself to a massage, get a pedicure, get a facial, consider acupuncture, or use the steam room or jacuzzi at your gym on a regular basis.
Read More

Fear and it’s Role in Recovery

Fear can be something that you do not even realize is holding you back from attaining recovery and health for mental health issues. The role fear plays in each of our lives can look unique to each person. Tackling the areas that you fear can free you from chronic problematic behaviors. It’s this feeling of fear which may actually keep you in your existing patterns. Approaching what you fear can help you attain a sense of empowerment. Many times fear keeps people avoiding or denying problems within their life. Whether this emotion is keeping you from taking the first step toward recovery or is limiting your quality of life, it’s important to understand where and how it shows up in your life. When you acknowledge the presence of fear, you can more easily move onto actual acceptance of your existing condition. This in turn will lead to healthier behaviors to begin the process of recovery (depression, trauma, addiction or substance abuse) such as entering treatment, asking for help, or simply sharing that this problem really exists for you.

Think of how fear is holding you back. Make a conscious effort to approach whatever you are afraid of in regards to your recovery. Much of the time, what we tell ourselves can only increase these feelings and keep us avoiding our problems. Changing your mental script can help you approach whatever is causing you fear (“I will fail at recovery” “People will judge me” “I can’t do this”, or “I won’t get better”). Whatever your thoughts are, work on changing them to more positive ones that help you approach your fears. Letting fear rule your life will only keep you from attaining peace and health in your day-to-day existence. Fear will also foster regrets later of what you did not do and/or worsen your existing condition. Take some time, and reflect on the role fear plays in your life and your recovery.

Read More

Emotions and Recovery in Substance Abuse and Trauma

We all have our own way of dealing with our feelings. This week, I’ve been wondering about all the different ways people manage or deal with their feelings. What relationship do you have with your feelings? What do you tell yourself about feelings? Are you comfortable with emotions or uncomfortable? Are you fearful of experiencing them? My own personal style has been to deny them or avoid emotions by pushing them away or bottling them up for as long as possible. Sound familiar? Individuals struggling with substance abuse and/or trauma among other mental health concerns many times utilize maladaptive coping strategies to manage or numb difficult emotions, such as drinking, drug abuse, partying, staying over productive, and other activities or behaviors that keep you from confronting those emotions.

What makes letting negative or difficult emotions in so difficult? Much of the time, it’s what we tell ourselves will happen if we do or our beliefs about emotions. For example, emotions are dangerous. Negative emotions arise from painful experiences or events that occur in your life. Can we learn to welcome in the pain that we feel from emotions? Sounds strange I know. Working on accepting that pain will arrive at our doorstep from time to time, can help alleviate some of the anxiety and fear around difficult emotions. Maybe the resistance only makes these emotions more intense or heightened. We can learn to tell ourselves that we can survive the emotions that arise from certain events, because we have survived the event itself. This may assist us in approaching the work that is ahead with these feelings. We can either keep the door shut, which will have the emotions linger at your front door, or open that door and let the feelings in. Individual therapy can help you in developing a healthier relationship with your feelings and teach you how to approach your feelings so that you can begin to give up other unhealthy ways you have been managing.

Can we just allow ourselves to have self-compassion for knowing that the human existence can be difficult at times? That compassion entails allowing ourselves to feel the hurt in order to heal from the pain you have experienced within your life. Can we just learn to be kinder to ourselves for living in the human experience, which naturally includes pain as part of the process?

Read More

Mindfulness Practice in this Busy Life..

Most people have heard of the term mindfulness. Mindfulness comes from an eastern Buddhist philosophy. In a world where life has gotten busier by the minute, it’s become more and more difficult to fully engage in any one moment without thinking of what needs to be done in the next, worrying about moments in your past, or multitasking in the present to increase productivity. The practice of mindfulness is training yourself to redirect focus to the present moment when you find yourself in the future or the past by simply directing your attention back to the present moment. Although this sounds simple, the practice is actually much hardier when you first begin. It can be an eye-opening experience to recognize how much of your present day and time is actually being spent in the future or the past. Whether you are enjoying a cup of coffee, driving, or talking with a loved one, you can easily engage in the practice of mindfulness in daily activities by making a conscious effort of focusing on the details of that particular moment or activity.

Mindfulness can be practiced by utilizing your senses, such as sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste to help ground you to the present moment more easily if redirecting your thoughts is difficult for you. Breathing is another method used to help ground you to the present. Learning to be in your present moment will help alleviate difficult emotions you may experience about your past or the worries that all humans experience about the future. Mindfulness practice has shown to help improve emotional and physical well being. Mindfulness helps you live the day with a fuller quality, reduces the level of everyday stress and anxiety, and establishes a fuller presence in anything you do. Mindfulness practice in the simplest form is exercising gratitude for the present moment.

Read More

Why Should You Seek a Consultation or Assessment from an Addiction Expert Before Entering Treatment for Your Alcohol or Drug Addiction?

Most families attempting to help a loved one who is suffering from alcohol or drug abuse get into treatment for the first time are typically ill informed of to the levels of care and the resources that are available. Not all individuals fall in the same category in terms of severity. Abuse and addiction fall on a spectrum from mild to severe. Based on where you fall on this spectrum, will determine how much treatment and the level of care that is most appropriate for you. Here are just a few benefits of an initial consultation and/or assessment:

The benefits of having an initial consultation include:

  1. Getting accurate information regarding the differences in the levels of care that are available, will lead you and your loved one to choose the most appropriate treatment program.
  2. There are a variety of treatment programs out there to serve the unique circumstances that each person faces. With a consultation, you can understand which programs are right for you or your loved one. Decisions can be based on preferences, history, and amount of treatment needed.
  3. A consultation will also help you allocate your resources appropriately due to the fact that rehab can get increasingly expensive for 30 days of treatment. Most families should recognize that addiction requires long-term ongoing care for most individuals, even after leaving a formal program. If this is the case with you or your loved one, it’s important to plan before beginning a formal program.

The benefits of an initial assessment include:

  1. An assessment will help determine where you or your loved one falls on the spectrum with alcohol or substance abuse. The history gathered helps determine what treatment options will best address the addiction problems that currently exist.
  2. Recommendations are made based on this assessment and an individualized treatment plan is created. Not all individuals necessarily need a rehab stay or program. Finding the least restrictive environment in which you or your loved one can heal is determined by an initial assessment.
  3. The assessment also determines other co-occurring problems that may be exacerbating the drug or alcohol abuse, such as depression, anxiety, trauma, panic attacks, etc. which could affect the program you choose. 
  4. Follow-up care can be recommended or set up if you or your loved one decides to enter a formal treatment program. Most individuals with substance abuse issues will need long-term follow up care to help maintain sobriety goals.

My hope in you reading this post is that whatever resources you may have for treatment get allocated in the best way possible to help you or your loved one get the most out of treatment.  Attaining the right information regarding your program options as you initially enter treatment can affect the amount of assistance and help you have on your road to recovery. The more support you have, the better your chances at recovering and attaining long-term sobriety! Oceanside Psychology Clinic provides comprehensive consultation and assessment services to help guide families through this process.  Read more under our services section

Read More

Differences between 12-Step and 12-Step Alternative Programs

A 12-step alternative program utilizes approaches to treatment that differ significantly from the 12-step approach in a few fundamental areas. The philosophy of the 12-step approach is that an individual is powerless over their addiction and encourages surrendering. The 12-step also encourages one to identify as an addict or alcoholic. The 12-step alternative takes an empowerment approach where the individual is self-directing their recovery in initiating healthy choices and learning tools. By empowerment, it means people can learn to manage their substance use and addiction over time through psychological therapies and medical interventions.  Alternative programs discourage labeling oneself, but rather recognizes that the individual suffers or struggles with addiction as a mental health issue.

A 12-step alternative approach includes recovery methods that incorporate relapses as a learning experience within the recovery process. This approach accepts that relapse is part of the recovery process for the majority of individuals struggling with addiction. In other words, the program does not require complete abstinence immediately but rather helps the individual come to this decision on their own through approaches such as motivational enhancement therapy, relapse prevention techniques, cognitive behavioral therapies, moderation techniques, rational emotive behavior therapy, and other approaches. Overtime, sobriety is extended as the individual begins to learn tools and receive treatment (therapeutic and medical) to manage their addiction. Smart Recovery meetings are generally used as an aftercare tool with Alternative approaches, which continue to teach tools that have been researched.  Many alternative programs create a individualized plan or approach and recognize that there is not a standard protocol that works for all.  The AA model utilizes the Big Book, which goes over a sequence of the well known 12 steps each person in recovery must follow. AA meetings are used as an aftercare resource since these are readily available in the community in many rural and urban areas.

The 12-step alternative programs generally incorporate individual and group therapy that is provided by mental health practitioners. Groups include tools based off of psychological therapies and principles that have been researched. There are additional services that may be included such as continued medical assistance and monitoring. The 12-step programs utilize AA meetings as a primary tool in aiding individuals in becoming sober. It utilizes chips to mark sobriety and has individuals who have attained long-term sobriety pair up and assist newer members.

Spirituality and religion are not the foundation of 12-step alternative programs, though it may be incorporated through their individual therapy if this is an area that is important to the individual. AA model was initially founded with a religious affiliation and over time the language has been amended to use words such as spirituality or God in order to generalize to different religious backgrounds and faiths.

In the end, it is a matter of choice. Individuals who have attempted 12-step programs that have not worked or found that they do not connect with 12-step philosophy may benefit from considering alternative approaches. Those who have co-occurring mental health issues such as anxiety, trauma, or depression could also benefit from an alternative approach since this usually incorporates some form of individual therapy by licensed mental health professionals to address underlying issues, which may affect a person’s ability to recover or could be exacerbating the addiction issues.

Read More
Ways To Deliver Psychological Services

Ways To Deliver Psychological Services

  • Face-to-Face: This is most traditional method that psychological services are delivered.  The client and therapist meet in person in an office setting.  The therapeutic relationship between the therapist and client is created in person.  Many individuals prefer this type of a connection with their therapist.
  • Videoconference/Online Therapy: With increasing use of technology in most areas of life today, the mental health field has also moved toward expanding services through the use of technology.  Using technology to deliver mental health services has been referred to as telehealth or telepsychology. This allows for all individuals in the community to have access to mental health services if there are barriers to attaining treatment due to their location, time-limitations, or other barriers that prevent individuals from physically coming in to meet with a therapist.  Online therapy has become increasingly more common due to the ease and practical nature of receiving services.
Read More