Portland OR &Vancouver WA
Integrating psychotherapy, medication management, body work & mindfulness for an encompassing and empowering approach to healing.
Tag: mental health
Support Groups and Workshops are a safe way to share in experience, gain some expertise in managing our emotions, to connect with others and feel less alone. Here are some offered at our locations:
DID Experiences Group: Every other Monday @ 3pm
DBT Skills Group
Art Therapy Group (www.vancouverintegrativecounseling.com)
Art Therapy Workshop for DID
Contact us @ firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Art Therapy Workshop-2 in April.
We will use mixed media to provide a safe, fun, opportunity to map your internal family. The product will be adaptable and will be helpful in conversation treatment providers, friends and family. Attached is the flyer.
Contact Athena@traumacenternw.com for more info.
Join us for a Trauma Training in Rwanda! Following our recent visit to Rwanda, ITTC has established a partnership with the Global Engagement Institute (GEI) and the University of Rwanda to provide a trauma training that is designed for international practitioners who want to build their skills in trauma treatment while learning with and from practitioners who are working to heal a population that has been exposed to significant trauma (this is a notably resilient population!).
The first training will be offered in June; we will select 15 international participants and 15 Rwandan participants; all must have degrees and be practicing mental health professionals.
There will be opportunity for exploring Rwanda, including seeing some animals (my favorite!).
Below is the link to GEI’s newsletter featuring the training and the flyer is also attached. Contact Athena Phillips @ email@example.com.
The recent terrorist attacks can effect all of us in different ways, one of which is the compromise of our collective sense of safety. Going through our day-to-day activities without worry or threat is a basic assumption for many Westerners that when something happens, it can be unsettling. Those who have a history of traumatic experiences can experience the threat to safety in a more heightened way. If your basic assumption is that you are not safe (versus that you are) and something happens that reinforces that orientation, it can feel terrifying. Essentially the message to survivors is that they are right; they are in danger and need to be vigilant. As a therapist, a lot of our work surrounds increasing trust in your environment and other people to allow the central nervous system to quiet a bit. Statistically, the west remains one of the safest places in the world to live, but terrorist attacks can make it feel unsafe, primarily because of the random nature of the attacks and associated feelings of helplessness. Mitigating trauma triggers when being bombarded with the details of trauma can be difficult. Here are some basic suggestions to manage triggers:
1. Turn it off. Continued exposure to the details of a traumatic event is often re-traumatizing. Minimize exposure to traumatic material. Easier said than done!
2. Maintain routine. There is a great deal of comfort and safety routine.
3. Connect with friends and family. Isolation can fuel negative thought.
4. Connect with our furry friends. Animals can offer a great deal of comfort and nurture.
5. Play. Being playful is the opposite of being fearful. Engage in activities that are fun, make you laugh, and bring you joy.
Safety is never a guarantee, regardless of geography. The only thing we know for sure is what we see in front of us in the here and now, so don’t travel too far into the future or the past; we have little control over what has happened or what will.
Attached is a video that identifies the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or #ptsd, and talks about treatment outcome. http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/video/understanding-ptsd
I’ve been running short on time lately, which has threatened one of my most important personal self-care strategies, and one I often recommend to my clients: mindfulness. When I mention this to folks they usually state: I don’t have time for that! In most cases, what they are in fact thinking they don’t have time for is meditation. Yes, many of us do not have time to sit cross legged on a pillow with our eyes closed, focusing on our breath and nothing else. I agree with that (and suffer from the same challenge!). Fortunately, mindfulness is a little bit different. The technical definition is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgementally” according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the well-established Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction model.
So, if you look at that definition, true mindfulness just takes a moment! Okay, okay, after years of practicing a moment here and there, I now do try to get 10-30 minutes of meditation in my daily schedule (because of the further health benefits which I will detail in another blog post). However, most days, I find myself squeezing small doses of mindfulness into my lifestyle to encourage this beneficial practice and, quite simply, to give myself a shot of pleasantness here and there. This is important because our minds need a break at times, AND, when it comes to pleasant emotions and experiences, our minds are wired like teflon: Nothing sticks. We’ve got to apply mindfulness of pleasant moments here and there like a vitamin so we can counterbalance all the doubt, fear, pain and stress we encounter on a regular basis.
Traumatic experiences and unpleasant emotions like fear and sadness, unfortunately, DO stick. Stress is like velcro in the mind. Why? Because this was important for human survival. Evolution shows us that humans had to face the demands of a threatening environment and HAD to consider safety and react quickly to sustain life. We were lucky to survive until our reproductive years, so pleasant moments might not have been as important as the emotion of fear and the hormones of adrenaline and cortisol we needed for survival.
Now, though, we are living longer and we no longer face the saber tooth tiger or other previous threats. Unfortunately we are hardwired to still have adrenaline and cortisol coursing through our systems, and long term that can be detrimental to our health.
So, start small and counteract this biology by attempting to shift out of auto-pilot and into the present, moment-to-moment experience of your life. Think of a small child who has a sense of wonder about them (maybe start by watching little children and observing how they take in their experience without judging, often noticing the physical sensations rather than jaded thoughts or emotions).
All mindfulness takes is pausing to be more aware of your thoughts, feelings and body sensations. There is no success or failure, it’s simply paying attention (relaxation, having an empty mind or suppressing thoughts or emotions is NOT the goal, that is an incorrect belief many people have about meditation). If a recording would help, take 5-7 minutes to try these online, from the Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) in California.
Practicing this behavioral skill can actually help you develop a greater tolerance for the reality of what is occurring within yourself, and often allow the amazing opportunity for choice and strategic change. So just check in, see how you’re doing, and then respond with mindful awareness (this practice also makes those pleasant moments and positive hormones that much easier to access when you are in distress). Then contact me to join ITTC’s mindfulness groups to cultivate your practice and decrease your stress!
Survivors often talk about their capacity to assess their environment with greater speed and accuracy than your average Joe (or Jane). Scanning for emotional and physical safety through a heightened attunement to the behavior of others, their emotional states and placing themselves in a position that ensures the opportunity for immediate exit are sometimes habituated ways of being for survivors. Safety is dependent upon the capacity to detect threat (even subtle ones) quickly and correctly and often times, scanning for threat is baseline for a trauma survivor; one doesn’t ever come to a place of complete resting; resting equals risk.
Clients talk about their capacity to assess other people and the safety of their environment as something they are both proud of and fairly attached to. I am often given examples of how vigilance has protected them of injury by providing ample time for fight or flight. This perspective makes sense to me from the standpoint of someone who has endured; it is reasonable to make every effort to avert further injury. And, in all honesty, I am often impressed with the capacity and skill survivors have developed in the appraisal of subtle environmental cues that otherwise go unnoticed. People who have witnessed or experienced unbearable things sometimes talk about this capacity as heightened intuition~a sixth sense.
Arguably, vigilance is a departure of intuition; it kicks in when we no longer trust in ourselves to ensure invulnerability and when we no longer trust that the world is safe. Intuition happens without thought or awareness; it is automatic and requires no effort. I like to think of vigilance as a natural resource; while it is abundant it is not finite. Habituation of external evaluation and anticipation of response tires the body; we were not designed to be alert consistently. Additionally, vigilance could be viewed as a departure from ourselves and our sense of agency. We rely on superheroes and superpowers when we can no longer trust in our own capacity.
I encourage my clients to “save your fear for when you need it” and the rest of the time work towards reconnecting to self, trust in one’s resourcefulness, and to take the risk of resting. This parallels my admiration for the ways in which the PTSD is adaptive and clearly an attempt at returning to an assumption of safety. Counseling, massage therapy, reiki and acupuncture are the various attempts we are making at working towards a place of quiet; the juncture of rest and safety are the mini-moments that uncouple rest with risk and begin to teach the body that we can trust our intuition and give our vigilance a vacation.
After watching the relationship between the mental health and the body be conceived as somehow distinctive from each other and thus the assumption is to treat them as separate entities, I thought it might be interesting to offer adjunctive treatments to folks. When I opened Integrative Trauma Treatment Center, that was a large factor in what drove the design of our model. We have massage therapy, acupuncture, medication management and psychotherapy available in one location. These services can be utilized together or a la carte. The goal is to provide a safe place for folks to get body work done, where they know their practitioners will tune in to them and have a nurturing but empowering presence. I also wanted to acknowledge the despair, suffering, and isolation that can go with trauma, depression, anxiety, or other mental heath concerns and to create a community that was open, welcoming, playful, and safe. A place for people to spoil themselves. I suspected that clients would appreciate it. I knew I liked the concept. What I didn’t expect is how I feel comforted by the fact that there is a team working with me and my clients in their process. I am not only surrounded by other like-minded therapists, but other practitioners who can approach the same challenges from different angles. This provides me with a safety net that I appreciate so much and did not expect that I would feel comforted by them. I feel less isolated as well. Hopefully, the gift to me as equally meaningful to those who visit ITTC.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
Thursdays April 16-June 4, 2015
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm, $300
Learn how to sit down, slow your mind and change your brain. This
8-week course will allow you to learn and practice a researchproven
method for reducing stress and building a sense of calm in
your life. The course consists of 8 weekly meetings with guided
meditation, a home practice guide and audio meditations for daily
practice. Contact ITTC at the phone number below to schedule a
free 30 minute appointment with facilitator Sarah Lebo, LPC.
Integrative Trauma Treatment Center 811 NW 19th Ave., Ste 102
Portland, OR 97209 971.266.6910 main | 888.972.3623 fax