EMDR is the treatment of choice for PTSD and other trauma-related conditions. EMDR stimulates the psyche’s natural healing process and changes the way traumatic memories are stored in the brain. When a trauma occurs, it becomes stored in the nervous system in its original disturbing form. EMDR shifts how trauma is stored in the brain and speeds-up the processing of traumatic events and reduces the disturbing emotions, symptoms, and negative beliefs associated with those experiences. Clients are often amazed at how issues they’ve worked on for years in talk therapy are no longer problematic.
Traumatic memories are stored in the brain differently than other kinds of memories.
Research has shown that traumatic memories are primarily stored in the right hemisphere of the brain, where they do not have access to networks in the left hemisphere. The left hemisphere, however, contains important thoughts and awareness that could relieve the distress if a connection can be made between the hemispheres. EMDR therapy creates this connection by stimulating both hemispheres simultaneously — restoring the brain’s natural healing processes. EMDR helps people become unstuck and renders traumatic memories manageable.
Unresolved trauma is often retriggered by environmental cues and reminders that lead a person to re-experience the emotional, physical, psychological effects of the past in the present. Through the use of eye movements, tapping, or sounds, EMDR stimulates memory processing and fundamentally changes the way the memory is stored. With EMDR therapy, your past experiences may no longer intrude on your ability to fully engage with the present.
EMDR can aid people in experiencing less fear, panic, stress, anger and shame and access more curiosity, joy, love, gratitude, and other life-enhancing affects. In addition to the effects of trauma, EMDR is used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, addiction triggers, and performance enhancement for artists, athletes, and performers.
Treatment for Anxiety
Everyone feels anxious at times. Anxiety is an inherent part of the human condition and a natural response to everyday stress such as: relationship conflicts, financial problems, work demands, receiving a medical diagnosis, and making an important decision. However, if you suffer from panic attacks, persistent fears, worry, or phobias, are on “edge,” irritable, have difficulty sleeping and concentrating, experience frequent muscle tension, or have intense dread, you may benefit from therapy in order to get relief from the debilitating effects of anxiety and improve the quality of your life.
What is Anxiety
Anxiety and fears are the body’s natural alarm system and occur in response to danger. The emotion of fear is experienced when we are faced with a dangerous situation and has an evolutionary role in providing safety by preparing us for fight or flight. In contrast, anxiety can occur when we anticipate or perceive an imagined danger or threat, even if unreal. Anxiety can be mild, moderate, or severe. In moderation, anxiety can be adaptive in that it helps us to stay alert and focused, spurs us to action, motivates us to solve problems, and can be used as a signal that something is important to us. However, when anxiety is constant, overwhelming, and interferes with relationships, work, and other aspects of life, it stops being productive and becomes debilitating. At the severe end of the spectrum, anxiety, worry, fear, and panic cause extreme distress that interferes with one’s ability to cope with life.
A combination of factors contribute to anxiety such as: ongoing external pressures and stress, a genetic predisposition or a family history of anxiety, adverse or traumatic childhood experiences, certain medical conditions, the effects of certain medications, foods, or substances like caffeine, and negative beliefs about oneself. Anxiety manifests in a variety of ways such as: excessive worry, panic attacks, social anxiety, and physical symptoms.
My Approach to Treatment for Anxiety
Anxiety is so much a part of our modern life that it is one of the most common reasons people seek therapy. Since anxiety manifests differently in different people, my approach integrates many different modalities and approaches such as: psychodynamic psychotherapy, CBT, DBT, EMDR, and mindfulness. Psychotherapy can help you to better understand and manage the physical and psychological effects of anxiety and panic.
If we worked together we might:
The quality of our lives depends upon the quality of our relationships. Life is all about relationships. We are in relationships at all times. We are in a relationship with ourselves, with others, and with our world. As social animals, humans cannot survive without other people. We effect and are effected positively and negatively by our relationships on a daily, even hourly basis.
Attachment is the emotional bond between people. Our earliest bonds with our caretakers have a tremendous impact throughout our lives. Psychology, interpersonal neurobiology, and neuroscience have demonstrated that attachment bonds stimulate brain growth, effect personality development, social and emotional development, the ability to form stable relationships, and to effectively regulate our feelings. For better or worse, our early life experiences lay the foundation for our relationships throughout life.
Repetitive Relational Patterns
Throughout life we repeat our relationship patterns. Freud discovered what he called “the repetition compulsion,” which he described as the tendency for humans to be drawn to situations reminiscent of unresolved traumas from earlier in life. These repetitions can be seen as an unconscious attempt to belatedly master or heal our original relational dynamics with the intent of changing the outcome. Inevitably each of us brings all of our past experiences including our feelings, expectations, defenses, coping mechanisms, and beliefs to our current relationships with the unconscious hope that they will turn out better this time. The child in us thinks, “This time will be different. I will get him or her to love me. I can change him or her if only I try hard enough.”
Trauma, abuse, neglect, and other adverse childhood experiences negatively impact the quality of relationships. A child who grew up with an abusive parent may repeatedly be drawn to abusive partners. Someone who was abandoned as a child, may be drawn to people who will leave him, and a child who grew up with an alcoholic parent, may partner with people with substance abuse problems. Unfortunately, these repetitions can cause additional suffering for ourselves and others and further entrench the distressing patterns.
Our relationships provide the potential for both our most meaningful and our most painful experiences. In addition to love, bonding, and attachment, our relationships inevitably bring up our fears, needs, desires, dependency, ambivalence, sadness, anger, jealousy, hate, resentment, and guilt. The more difficult, distressing, and traumatic our earlier relationships, the more potentially hurtful and damaging our current relationships can become. If you find yourself repeating the same painful relationship patterns over and over again, you might benefit from psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy Provides a Choice
Psychotherapy can facilitate a movement from unconscious reenactment of distressing experiences to consciousness of our patterns. Understanding of our patterns provides a choice about how we want to act in the future. Awareness is the first step toward positive change. Acceptance and compassion for ourselves is the foundation of being able to love and have compassion for the people in our lives. It is possible to heal our original relational wounds and learn how to better handle repetitive situations in order to put an end to a destructive cycle.
Most of the people I work with are concerned about the quality of their relationships. Some are individuals who seek to improve the relationship with their partner, child, family members, and work colleagues. Others come for Couples Counseling to heal and change the repetitive and conflictual patterns that threaten to destroy their bond.
If you are suffering by repetitively re-experiencing some old relational patterns, I’d like to help.
Everyone feels sad sometimes. Feelings of sadness and grief are natural and adaptive responses to loss. However, if you feel sad, irritable, or “empty” most of the time, have lost interest in activities or relationships that you once enjoyed, have difficulty concentrating, and find your appetite, sleep, or activity level has changed, you may be experiencing depression. For some people feelings of sadness and grief become overwhelming and debilitating while others find that they feel numb and have difficulty feeling anything at all. Depression occurs when these symptoms interfere with daily functioning.
If you answered yes to five or more of the above then you are probably experiencing depression and you are not alone. The good news is that depression is a treatable condition. Depression is fairly common and is one of the most common reasons people seek therapy. About 9 percent of American adults suffer from some form of depression and its rates worldwide are increasing. Major Depression, a severe form of depression, is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
Whether your depression is a reaction to a recent event or events in your life, something that you have felt off and on for years, or something you have struggled with throughout your life, there is help. Depression slows us down and provides an opportunity for self-understanding.
My Approach to Treatment for Depression
Depression is a highly treatable condition. It is complex, manifests differently in different people, and can be mild, moderate, or severe. Depression is usually caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, interpersonal, psychological, and situational factors. My approach to working with depression integrates many different modalities and approaches. I would want to become as informed as possible about your particular depression so that our work can best meet your needs.
There may be a reason for what you are experiencing. If we worked together we might: Explore the history of your depression and any history of depression in your family. We might identify any patterns or triggers of your depression and explore if there are any early losses or childhood events that are contributing to it.
We can explore any life circumstances, stressors, or any repetitive relational patterns that are worsening your depression and identify any changes that you would like to make in your life. We can explore the possible “wisdom” in your depression and that it might be indicating that there is something important that is missing in your life. We might explore a possible discrepancy between where you want to be in your life and where you are currently. Perhaps you are seeking more meaning and a sense of purpose in your life. We can explore any negative thoughts about yourself and use cognitive techniques to identify any negative thought process that are fueling your depression and work to change those thoughts.
We would want to rule out any medical and biochemical causes of your depression, which is usually done by your primary care physician.
We could look at how your current lifestyle might be contributing to your depression by exploring your eating habits, exercise, and alcohol and substance use and explore any environmental influences that might be worsening your mood.
I could teach you some practical tools for shifting your mood in the moment and we could engage in dreamwork, sandplay, active imagination, or other creative methods in order facilitate the natural wisdom and healing of your imagination for integration and wholeness.
If you have experienced trauma or feel stuck in your life due to unresolved emotional hurts or injuries, we could utilize EMDR or other trauma focused methods in order to aid you in moving forward. Recent scientific research has suggested that there may be an evolutionary reason for depression.
Research has shown that depression promotes introspection and increased mental acuity. Numerous studies have demonstrated that when someone is depressed their increased blood flow to certain areas of the brain. Studies have also shown that people who are depressed are better able to solve complex problems those who are not. By taking your depression seriously, you may be able to gain insight into yourself and make important changes so that you can more fully engage in and enjoy your life.
The stress of living through a pandemic is putting relationships to the test. There’s not a single one of us who isn’t dealing with a tremendous amount of stress right now. Work issues, tight living quarters, financial uncertainty, fears about the health of our loved ones, fears of getting sick ourselves, and as we all know, stress does not bring out the best in us.
So how can you keep your relationship from crumbling under the weight of these challenges?
1. Bring back date night.
Social distancing guidelines may have foiled your go-to date night plans. You can’t hire a babysitter, eat at a restaurant or catch a movie in theaters. But you can still carve out some time to connect at home setting aside at least several hours per week for just the two of you. Meet up in the backyard or on the balcony. Dress in your finest if you wish, have a drink together (non-alcoholic is fine), slow dance, and play charades or a board game. Try and keep the conversation light, humorous and optimistic. This should be a time to step away from the stress of COVID-19 and reconnect with your partner.
2. Cut each other some slack — more than you usually would.
We’re living through a highly stressful, unsettling, anxiety-inducing time. Under these conditions, it’s difficult to present the best versions of ourselves. So be gentle on each other when tensions inevitably arise. Find compassion for yourself and your partner when arguments come up and realize that it’s likely a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Don’t rush to judge the quality of your relationship right now, and continue to find ways to communicate and be vulnerable about difficult feelings. Have compassion around the fact that this is hard.
That’s not to say everyone should get a pass for all bad behavior right now. You can gently call out your partner for their snippy remark or harsh tone without escalating the incident into a bigger fight. If one or both of you are short-tempered or impatient, don’t turn it into a federal case. Keep in mind that when we’re under pressure, most of us need some TLC far more than we need a lecture about not being nice.
3. Prioritize your alone time.
Stay-at-home orders have led to a whole lot of forced togetherness, for better and worse. It turns out that the time you used to spend on your daily commute or at the gym was actually really important for your mental health and relationship. Finding those pockets of “me” time may be a challenge these days so you need to be intentional about giving each other space. Be understanding if your partner needs some time with a book, video game, Zoom call or wants to put in some earbuds to listen to music. Also, if you are fortunate enough to be working from home right now, try to give each other your own dedicated space to work.
4. Practice self-care together.
Find a few self-care rituals that you can do together. You may have self-care rituals that you prefer to practice solo, but also try to find some nourishing activities that you can do as a couple: meditating together in the morning, walking outside after lunch, or sipping tea and sharing a few things you’re grateful for before bed.
Being able to do these things together helps to build your connection to each other, while also engaging in healthy ways to cope with the stress that comes while in quarantine. Keeping a healthy headspace will be good for you and your relationship.
5. Create a quarantine routine that works for you.
When the world around us is chaotic, maintaining a consistent daily routine can make you feel more grounded. Set some structure around your day-to-day activities. Decide mealtimes, leisure times, time as a couple or family, and time alone. This will help reduce anxiety, especially if you have kids at home.
6. Stop keeping score on who’s doing more around the house.
Couples’ systems for divvying up household duties like cooking, cleaning, laundry, walking the dog and taking care of the kids have been turned upside down during the pandemic. Though this division of labor may have had its frustrations and imbalances back then, it was at least predictable. Now, for many of us, the rules have changed. One partner may be working 18-hour hospital shifts and keeping a distance from the family, or one partner with flexible work hours doing most of the child care and home schooling. A good rule of thumb: Do as much as you can, express gratitude for your partner’s contribution and accept that there’s likely too much to do.
Given the mounting responsibilities, don’t get hung up on making sure everything’s divided evenly. Remember that your partner is probably doing their best — there’s just a lot on both of your plates right now. Do as much as you can, express gratitude for your partner’s contribution and accept that there’s likely too much to do.
7. Don’t try to resolve long-standing conflicts right now.
This probably isn’t the best time to hash out major relationship problems that existed prior to the quarantine. If there are smaller, specific grievances you need to air, bring them up but stay focused on the issue at hand. Avoid resorting to criticism or making sweeping generalizations that attack your partner’s character. For example, don’t criticize or try to control a partner who wishes to return to work. Instead, state how you feel and make the small request for change. Saying something like, ‘I get scared at the idea of you going back to the office so soon. Can we decide together around the timing for that?’ is much more likely to get a positive response.
For some couples, things have gotten better and for others, much worse. If it’s gotten really contentious between you both, online therapy is readily available to help you better navigate your relationship. Don’t hesitate to get professional help.
Marriage & Family Therapist and Registered Addiction Specialist