Saturday, July 9, 2016

Two Words to Know in Trauma Treatment

We all experience trauma. Our life experiences and resilience levels vary and effect the degree to which trauma impacts us. Untreated, trauma symptoms limit enjoyment of life and productivity.  Common signs of trauma and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) include difficulty regulating emotions, anxiety, an inability to maintain stable or fulfilling relationships, feelings of unreality and/or gaps in memory (dissociative symptoms), depression, anger, nightmares, emotional numbness, unwarranted guilt, sleep problems, substance abuse, eating disorders and paranoia. The senseless acts of fear, hate and violence in Minnesota, Baton Rouge and Dallas this week, along with today’s global and political climate, create despair, grief and uncertainty and exacerbate pre-existing trauma symptoms.

In my practice, I have witnessed the lasting effects of trauma: bullying, addiction in the family, emotional, verbal and physical abuse, accidents, invasive or upsetting medical procedures, sexual assault, neglect, natural disasters, loss, birth trauma, nasty divorces, the lingering effects of 9/11 plus those with multiple accumulated traumas.

A few years ago I began to offer less talk therapy and employ more guided imagery, breath work, meditation and other relaxation techniques with clients who felt “stuck”.  Pleased with the positive response clients reported from mind-body work, I found myself eager to gain an even higher level of expertise.

In 2015 I began studying Somatic Experiencing (SE), a body-oriented approach to healing trauma and other stress disorders. Developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, it incorporates his 45 years of clinical experience, aspects of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics.

The SE approach gently increases capacity for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions and helps the body move through and out of the fight, fight or freeze mode caused by trauma. A Somatic Experiencing session can be conducted by a mental health clinician or a body worker, and can be done with or without physical touching.
After almost two years of engaging in SE training, I have had the good fortune to not only practice as therapist, I have also been the lucky recipient of SE while in the client role. The results have reaffirmed the belief I held for this therapeutic form. Multiple talk therapy sessions for a decades-old traumatic car accident had helped me, but not in the same way that SE did. The physical and emotional benefits have been profound.
One of the many aspects of SE I like is that it is well suited to people who don’t like to talk a lot. A skilled SE practitioner may only have a client talk for several minutes before beginning SE, which doesn’t require a verbal narrative from the client. This is very freeing to many who feel self-conscious, who are not verbally adept, or are afraid to tell their story. I have witnessed clients make extensive progress in their healing after a few sessions of SE. Children are also great candidates for SE, as they are often more self-aware of bodily sensations and have had less practice than adults have at intellectualizing their distress. Clients who are already very self-aware and/or have identified very specific treatment goals make tremendous progress with SE.
I became a clinical social worker to reduce suffering and enhancing quality of life for others. I am deeply grateful SE is available not only to my clients but also to the many others around the globe who are survivors of life’s biggest challenges.

For additional reading on the foundations of Somatic Experiencing, I recommend Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, by Peter Levine. For more information on Somatic Experiencing and the Foundation for Human Enrichment, visit

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Moms: It’s February: Re-vamp and Refine Your Resolutions

Those of us who make New Year’s resolutions are usually derailed just a few short weeks into the year. If you are in this camp, don’t despair. I will give you six proven tips for getting back on track and staying there.
1. Set goals, not resolutions
Most resolutions fail because they require a big and immediate behavior change: for example, launch web site by February 15, or lose 10 pounds by Spring. Setting goals instead of resolutions gives you flexibility to choose different paths to your goal, and to break them down into manageable steps. For example, rather than simply listing “launch web-site by February 15,” first learn about the steps involved in creating web sites. Step one might be research different web-hosting companies geared to small business. Decide how much time you will devote to the research. Then block your calendar on specific days at specific times to do the research. Step two might be choosing a logo. Decide whether this is something you are good at, or should delegate, and precede accordingly.

2.Give guilt the boot
You deserve success. Moms trying to make strides in a venture or hobby often carry a heavy burden: guilt. Baby boomers and women from traditional families often feel guilty if they are not “all Mom, all the time”. This view is unrealistic and unhelpful. In fact, when your children see you working, they are learning important life skills. Furthermore, if your creative or intellectual side is fulfilled, you will be happier. Research supports what you already know: that when Mom is content, the whole family is happier.

3. Think about what you really want
Write down the goals most meaningful to you.  Start a journal and answer the following:
What do I want to achieve in my business/hobby?
How much time am I willing to devote to it?
How do I see myself in one, three or five years from now?

4. Prioritize and break goals down into small steps
The other obstacle most moms face is finding the time and energy for their many responsibilities. Most of us over-estimate how much we can accomplish in a day. I highly recommend writing down all the tasks you accomplish in a week, or even a full month. Get a calendar that includes 15-minute increments. Fill in every task, no matter how menial and repetitive: sleeping, driving time, doctor appointments, etc.  This is an important way to learn how much time you truly have to devote to your pursuits of choice. You will then be able to better predict how many weeks or months it will take to achieve the “small steps” of your goals. You might decide to delegate some of the household tasks. Break down business goals into weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual increments.

5. Review and revise
Review and update your goals regularly. Fine tune them, or devise new ones. Figure out which obstacles are hindering you, and determine what you need to do to overcome them.
6. Be patient with yourself and others
Expect roadblocks: technology will fail, competition will crop up, and your children will need your guidance. Breathe, visualize yourself achieving your goal, and be patient.
You will achieve your goals, but never exactly the way you expected, and that’s OK!