While we are constantly learning and growing, the Life Redefined team specializes in these areas. We hope this information helps provide insight into our process.
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Anxiety and depression are not black and white mental health disorders. There is a lot of variations of what anxiety and/or depression might look like from one person to the next. The key is to know when to seek help. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. According to the research from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), from 2020, anxiety affected some 40 million Americans. A survey by Mental Health America in 2017 looked at the prevalence by the state of mental illness. Florida had the lowest rate of 16.03%, and Oregon had the highest at 22.66%. With a worldwide pandemic that has lasted for over a year, I would suspect these numbers are much higher now.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a general diagnosis. Symptoms include persistent and excessive worry about various aspects of life. Examples include work, life, financial concerns, family, health, romantic relationships, etc. In GAD, the worry is often not warranted, or the individual might predict or expect the worst-case scenario from any given situation. We can also offer EDMR treatment as well as marriage and family therapy services.
Clinically diagnosed depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. This is called Major Depressive Disorder. It affects how you feel, how much energy you might have, and how you are able to take care of yourself. This can lead to trouble making normal day-to-day activities, low self-esteem, difficulty at work or school, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn't worth living.
Both biology and the environment play significant roles in what anxiety and depression feel like. Biology is outside of one’s control. On the other hand, the individual does have control over their environment. Improving the environment can lower the intensity of how anxiety or depression feels like. Building up healthy resilience is another aspect that can limit the effects of anxiety and depression on one’s life.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It was created in the late 1980s by Francine Schapiro. It was initially created for the treatment of trauma. However, some 30 years later and thousands of dollars spent on EMDR research, we now know it can be used for so much more than just trauma. Multiple studies from 1993 -2015 have shown EMDR’s effectiveness for the following disorders: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, grief & mourning, chronic pain, panic disorder, attachment disorders, sexual dysfunctions, self-esteem, conduct problem, and phobias.
Why Does EMDR work? The simple answer is we don’t know. We believe it has to do with what happens during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. During REM sleep, your brain is more active. You dream and process your day. Studies suggest that a lack of REM sleep can lead to increased anxiety, depression, and even migraines. For some reason, EMDR has shown that when we recreate the REM sleep cycle when we are awake and focusing on difficult emotions or past hurts, our brains are able to reprocess how we feel about the past. Trauma and anxiety cause the brain to be over-activated, and over time the hippocampus can shrink. This can lead to being easily startled or feeling like you’re on edge all the time. Functional MRIs (fMRI) and PET scans have shown less brain activation and regrowth of the hippocampus volume after EMDR. This leads to a decrease in distressing symptoms.
It is important to understand that EMDR is NOT hypnosis. During EMDR, you are conscious and awake the entire time. In fact, EMDR works best when the individual is fully present emotionally and psychologically.
We ask our clients to trust us as we guide them through EMDR. There is hard work before and after EMDR that needs to take place. We live in a broken world where things happen to us outside of our control.
Treating addictions can be difficult because, oftentimes, it’s not about the actual chemical that is being taken or repetitive behaviors that are taking place. It’s about the secondary gain that is being achieved through the behavior. Before going into more detail on what a secondary gain is, it’s important to understand that there are two general types of addictions.
The first is often referred to as chemical dependency, and the other is called process addictions. As the name suggests, chemical dependency is when an individual is taking a substance that is either not prescribed, too much, or illegal, and the taking of these substances impacts the person’s functioning and has negative impacts on their life. Sometimes the individual can take more than one substance as well. On the other hand, a process addiction is classified as repetitive behavior, often compulsive in nature, and leads to a negative impact on an individual’s life.
Here are some common examples of chemical dependency:
Excessive alcohol use
Xanax / Ativan
Opiates (pain pill or heroin)
Here are some common examples of process addictions:
Sex or Pornography
Excessive shopping or stealing
As stated earlier, secondary gains are an important part of understanding one’s chemical dependency or process addiction. A secondary gain is a core reason or driving force that motivates one to use or engage in addictive behavior. There are many reasons why this might happen. Sometimes the driving force is in response to a traumatic situation. Other times the individual might want to “escape from” a specific situation. Learning or understanding one’s own secondary gains is an important first step.
A commonly accepted therapeutic method that is used in addictions counseling is called Motivational Interviewing. Motivational interviewing offers many specific techniques for this area of counseling, one of them being something called Stages of Change. Motivational Interviewing seeks to help the client understand their readiness for change and help the client move from one stage to another.
5 Stages of Change:
Pre-contemplative: Not serious about the need for change, not sure if there is a “problem.”
Contemplative: More confident there is a problem and able to see a negative impact on life from the maladaptive behavior.
Preparation: An internal commitment has been made for the need to change and an acceptance of the negative impact that the maladaptive behavior has had on one’s life.
Action: The active stage of making changes, reconditioning one’s behaviors, and learning new skills to lower risk or relapse.
Maintenance: New skills have been learned and implemented to avoid maladaptive behavior. Healthy changes are maintained and are self-sustained.
Perhaps the most important part of understanding therapy for addictions is to understand that the therapist’s job is not to change the client. The therapist has no control over changing the client’s mind. The goal of the therapist is to help the client gain their own understanding of their behaviors and help them make the changes they want to make. It's not about engaging in the power struggle with the client or their family members.
When asked about play therapy, one of the common questions we hear is, “Why do I have to pay a therapist to play with my child? Can’t I just play with them at home for free?” This is an excellent question. The play therapy that takes place in the therapy office is not the same as playing with your child at home. When a child client is brought into our practice which has experienced an adverse life event, we almost always use client-centered play therapy as the first therapeutic intervention. There are three main reasons why play therapy is so helpful for children.
First, the basic premise to understanding play therapy is understanding the concept of play as being a natural language for children. Think back to your childhood. Did someone teach you how to play tag, hide-and-seek, or play in the sand? I know for me. Did you sit down with your son or daughter and teach them how to play with stuffed animals trucks or how to play tea time? Of course not. It all comes naturally to children. The natural language of the play is not specific to any one culture, race, social-economic status, gender, or faith. Children worldwide use play to help them express their emotions. Play therapy understands this concept and utilizes this natural language to children to facilitate healing. When we have a 6-year-old in our office who is struggling with understanding how to live life as a Type-I Diabetic and the limitations that come with that, we don’t have them sit on the couch and talk about it. We allow him to use toys and to express the internal conflicts and emotions he might be feeling.
Second, play therapy creates a safe environment for the child to explore their internal state of being. Play therapy allows for a safe space for the child to explore and communicate their internal emotions. Play therapy is typically voluntary, enjoyable, and non-threatening. For example, if a child experienced a sexual assault, their play might be sexualized. In the session, I would never tell a child, “You can’t play like that” or “don’t do that. That’s not good.”
Third, play therapy facilitates teaching and learning. There are three main interventions that therapists use to facilitate teaching and learning. They are tracking, a reflection of content and feelings, and limit setting. In reflection, the therapist reflects or paraphrases the content and feelings being expressed in the session. In young children, this is what helps the child name the emotion. They might be feeling out of control and angry but not know what the emotion is. The therapist can help the child put a name to the emotion they are feeling. Reflecting content validates children’s perceptions of their experience and clarifies children’s understanding of themselves.
Lastly, the limit setting allows for teaching boundaries as being a vital part of feeling safe. When a child experiences an adverse live event, there is a high likelihood that some type of boundary was violated. Setting limits in play therapy models to the child how they can set their own boundaries and rebuild ones that were broken.
Kids were created to be resilient, and play is a natural language and can be created out of anything because there is no limitation to the imagination. We use your child’s resilience to help them heal from their adverse life events.
There is no way around it… family therapy can be tough! First, getting multiple people to commit to a specific time once a week to meet together with everyone’s busy schedule can be a daunting task in its own right. After that, getting everyone to open up about various family struggles can also be difficult. Doing this alone can be overwhelming. But guess what? You are not alone and this is where we come in. Meeting in a natural environment with an outside person, your therapist, you can slowly start to tackle some family concerns. The therapist’s job is to help create a safe therapeutic environment with important ground rules for how to manage and discuss family dynamics that cause difficulty for your family unit.
Family stress and conflict can arise no matter what stage of life your family is in. You might have young children, teenagers, or the children can be grown-up and out of the home. Perhaps your family struggles during holiday parties or maybe your young children are constantly getting into trouble and fighting with each other. Sometimes environment changes bring on, what seems to be, a whole new issue out of nowhere. For example, COVID-19 and the lockdowns and increased isolation have increased family stress across the country. Perhaps it's clear now that family therapy is what is needed. Below you will see a short list of some goals for family therapy and some ground rules that must apply for successful family counseling.
Perhaps one of the most common reasons we hear couples say why they are seeking marriage/couples counseling is to improve their communication. Did you know that most communication is non-verbal body language? Depending on which study you look at, anywhere between 85-93% of total communication is non-verbal. Types of non-verbal body language include facial expressions, gestures, body movements and posture, eye contact, and touch. Improving communication can go a long way in helping you feel closer to your partner no matter what stage of the relationship you are in.
Often times there is more work to be done than just improving communication. Navigating one’s own emotions can be tough work on its own, but adding another person into the mix can seem impossible at times. This is where marriage/couples counseling comes in. The therapist’s job is not to fix the relationship. Their job is to facilitate a safe therapeutic space where difficult conversations can take place and help model and show the couple healthier ways of communicating and relating to one another.
When couples come in who have been struggling for quite some time, there is one simple question that is asked of both individuals. Perhaps you have been together for five, ten, or even twenty-five years, and now you feel far apart from your spouse.
Perhaps the busyness of kids or work has taken up so much time and emotional energy that you find yourself waking up next to someone you seem to not know anymore like you once did. The question we have for you is, “Are you willing to fight for what you have?” Good marriage/couples counseling is not easy. It takes tough work, but when both individuals come together and are ready to work through tough issues, the possibilities for healing are endless.