EMDR To Reduce Post-Divorce Conflict

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emdrMarital conflict, separation, dissolution and court proceedings can be stressful and even traumatic.  The arguments, verbal attacks, grief and feelings of loss or betrayal can be devastating. The result of that trauma, if not resolved, is often anxiety, overt stress, and resistance to interactions with one’s former spouse that trigger extreme anxiety and defensiveness.  When there are children involved, interacting with one’s ex is necessary, but can be the source of ongoing feelings of traumatization, stress and anxiety, in turn creating more conflict, further escalating the negative feelings.  None of these feelings and behaviors are conducive to productive co-parenting or communication, not to mention personal health and wellbeing.  However, EMDR can help.


EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a well researched and established technique that combines imagery, mindfulness, and cognitive techniques to meet the client’s treatment needs.  EMDR therapy is often used in trauma counseling, the treatment of anxiety, and in the treatment of a number of other issues.   The process of doing EMDR involves focus on a traumatic or disturbing memory while doing back and forth eye movements, listening to alternating tones, and/or feeling alternating vibrations in your hands.  This process enables the brain to resolve emotional trauma and gain insight into the circumstance in a way that is often more effective than traditional talk therapy.

What can EMDR mean for someone struggling with divorce or post-divorce conflict?

  • It can help to facilitate trauma processing.
  • It can reduce undesirable feelings and responses to the triggers of the anxiety.
  • It can help to improve one’s ability to maintain a more rational, productive and un-emotional mindset when interacting with their former partner.
  • It can help to reduce anxiety.
  • It can help to improve an overall sense of well-being.

In a nutshell, the trauma and bad feelings resulting from divorce can fuel conflict and ongoing resentment.  By treating the trauma with EMDR, there is tremendous potential to change the dynamic of the interactions between former partners, and to reclaim a life of peace and dignity following divorce.

Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC


Peaceful tip for regulating stress

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Relaxing on the beach

How I love to think about the beach.  Whether it is in the middle of a Colorado winter, or the middle of the summer, I find great peace thinking of the rolling waves, gentle breezes, salty aroma, and warm sand of a beach.  Many therapists refer to this as a safe place, but  I prefer to think of it as a peaceful place.  Either way, it’s a wonderful reprieve during a stressful time in life.  I often tell clients who are struggling with anxiety, stress or trauma to think of their peaceful place when they have an onset of anxious or stressful symptoms.  I tell them to imagine the sights and sounds, smells and feelings of their place.  I encourage them to breathe deeply, enjoy the sights and sounds, relax and spend a few minutes there. Doing so can lower heart rate, decrease cortisol levels and increase endorphins, all of which improve the way one feels.  As I consider my next vacation- literally or figuratively, I invite you to consider yours.  Where is your peaceful place?


Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC

Following the tragic events of the Movie Theater shooting, and other horrific events over the last decade or two, it is frequently difficult for individuals to cope with the feelings and anxiety that are elicited by those tragedies.  Regardless of whether you were witness to the scene, knew someone who was a victim of, or witness to, the tragedy, or if you are just hearing about it from friends or media, it is shocking and difficult to understand.

Symptoms of trauma can include nightmares, depression, anxiety and panic, feelings of insecurity or disbelief that such a tragedy could have happened.  Being aware of how you feel is the first step to taking care of yourself in such an aftermath.  There are also other things to keep in mind when trying to cope in the face of such a devastating story:

  1. Remember that feelings of shock and confusion are normal in the aftermath of a very abnormal and tragic event.
  2. Talk to people about your feelings.
  3. Spend time with the people you are close to and love.
  4. Involve yourself in activities you enjoy.
  5. Nurture yourself.
  6. Exercise.  This releases endorphins which are helpful in the healing process.
  7. Give yourself time to heal.

If you find yourself in a position where your symptoms are not improving, or you don’t have anyone with whom to talk about your emotions, it is good to seek support or counseling to help you to recover from the shock.  There is help available for processing something as difficult to understand as these unthinkable human tragedies.

Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC

Stopping the Worry

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Many clients ask me how they can stop worrying about something when the thought seems to be ever-present.    This is a common problem with people struggling with anxiety, depression, stress or grief.  The thoughts running through their mind seem to control them as opposed to feeling they have control over their thoughts.

Research has shown that it is easier to focus ON a thought than it is to try NOT to focus on a thought. For example, if I were to ask you NOT to think of a striped elephant, you would have a much harder time being successful at that than if I were to tell you to focus ON a striped elephant.  So, when trying to stop a thought or worry from running your life (or your day), it is most effective to direct your attention to something else.  Here are some tips on how to do this:

Get busy.  Even if you don’t feel like doing anything productive, get up and move.  Exercise, clean, do some gardening, organize your home or office.  No matter what you choose to do, make it something that requires you to move a little and actively involve yourself in the task.

If it is not a good or reasonable time for you to get up and move, such as if you are lying in bed at night worrying, try shifting your thoughts to a hobby of yours that you enjoy.  If you like golfing, think about it.  If you like reading, think about what you are going to read next.  If you like decorating, think about the next project you are looking forward to starting.  By engaging in thoughts that we enjoy, we are releasing positive endorphins into our system, which help to mitigate worry or sadness.

Spend time with a friend.  Having conversations with others is engaging and comforting.  Try not to focus your discussion on your worries, but rather on good listening, or better yet, laughing and enjoying the company of someone special to you.

Set aside a specific time to “worry.”  Schedule an hour into your day when you can worry or talk to someone about your concerns.  Simply knowing that time is scheduled can be very helpful in letting go of the ruminating thoughts during the rest of the day.

Overall, remember you are not alone.  This is a challenge for many people when they are coping with anxiety, depression or simply the stress of a difficult time in life.  Nevertheless, if self-help strategies are not doing the trick, reaching out for professional assistance is an option that can help you to improve the way you feel so you can get on with enjoying your life.

Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC







Improve Happiness by Discovering Your Strengths

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It is easy to become consumed with the down side of situations and to lose site of the goodness and power within ourselves.  Nevertheless, recognizing that you have choices is a good starting point that can be truly empowering.  Even more important is discovering that you have used the power of choice before in ways that were healthy and successful, and sometimes when you didn’t even realize that was what you were doing.

Try thinking of a time when you were happy and proud of yourself.  Chances are it was a time when you made a good choice and tapped into one or more of your strengths.  Rather than focusing on times you didn’t feel good and trying to find motivation to do things differently, you will have more success and feel better along the way, by starting from a positive experience.  Build on your successes.  It takes practice, but by developing new habits for tackling life’s challenges, and focusing on the good inside of yourself, your overall sense of satisfaction and happiness in life can improve dramatically and you will not only heal, but learn to thrive.

Sunset at Porto Covo, west coast of Portugal
Sunset at Porto Covo, west coast of Portugal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some practices to get you more in touch with the goodness within yourself:

  • Take a few minutes each day to relax, close your eyes, and bring to mind thoughts of warmth and love enveloping you.  Breathe that in and breathe out any negative thoughts or feelings.  Take those moments to appreciate the unconditional positive love that surrounds you.
  • At the end of each day, think of something that happened that day for which you were thankful.  Keep a list of those things so that you can look back on them. For more information on this practice, refer to my previous blog, Thankful List.
  • Think of times that you successfully navigated a situation or frustration.  What skills were you using?  What quality of your personality was working for you?  Try to apply that quality to future scenarios.
  • When you experience a negative feeling, challenge the belief behind it.  Are you making negative assumptions or leaping to conclusions? If you were to assume the very best instead of the worst, how would that change things?  How does that affect the way you feel?
  • Pay if forward.  Every day, make a kind gesture for someone else.  Open the door for someone, or buy coffee for someone else in the line.  Doing good things for others makes us feel good about ourselves, and could be the fuel for a fantastic day.

Recognize and celebrate your goodness.  Remember it when faced with an opportunity to make conscious choices about how to handle a difficult situation or feeling.  Doing so, is a great starting point that will help you to add to your repertoire of positive qualities and tools for achieving, happiness, success and thriving!

Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC

Nutritional Considerations for Reduction of Anxiety

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vegetables (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is always best to eat WHOLE FOODS as opposed to processed foods, foods high in hydrogenated oils, or refined sugar.  However, when suffering from ANXIETY, it is even more important to monitor your nutrition because many anxiety disorders can be helped dramatically by improving nutrition and eliminating or greatly reducing the intake of certain foods.TRY ADDING:

  • More whole grains such as quinoa, long grain brown rice, rolled oats, bulgur
  • Leafy greens are great!  Try adding some spinach, kale or collard greens.
  • Experimenting with veggies can be fun.  How about trying root vegetables such as parsnips, sweet potatoes or rutabagas?
  • Add more protein such as tuna, fish, chicken, yogurt.
  • GOOD FATS/OILS are so important!  High in Omega-3 vitamins, certain nuts and oils are great for you.  These can be found in fish, olive oil, almonds, just to name a few.
  • Turkey (contains tryptophan which helps to reduce anxiety, stress and depression.)


  • Processed foods (potato chips, packaged food, cookies, snack bars, pre-packaged lunch meats, etc.)
  • White bread, or bread that says “wheat” on the package as opposed to 100% whole wheat
  • Sweets like pastries, cookies, cakes, candy
  • Caffeine
  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Dairy, other than some plain Greek yogurt
  • MSG found in many products such as processed foods, Chinese food, packaged soups

When trying to incorporate better foods into your diet, it is not necessary to make it complicated!  Have fun experimenting with foods and keep it simple.  Here are some ideas to get you started:


Rolled oats cooked with raisins.  Once cooked, stir in banana slices, shredded (unsweetened) coconut and a tablespoon of real maple syrup.

Quinoa cooked with raisins or blueberries.  Add one tablespoon of maple syrup and stir well. Serve with almond milk drizzled over the top.

Plain Greek yogurt with almond slivers mixed in.

An apple, cored and cut in half.  Bake cut side up at 350 degrees for 25 minutes with a spoonful of ricotta in the center of each half.  After baking, sprinkle with almond slivers and cinnamon.

Quinoa flakes cooked on the stove top and served with a tablespoon of maple syrup and strawberry slices over the top.


Hummus on whole wheat crackers, bok choy, celery, red peppers or other veggies.

Freshly ground nut butter on apples or celery.

Sautéed kale with turmeric seasoning, sea salt and sesame seeds sprinkled over the top.

Steamed spaghetti squash drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with pepper and sea salt.  Could also sauté some tomatoes and garlic and serve over the squash.

Sweet potato cooked and served with a small amount of butter and sprinkled with cinnamon. Or try adding a dollop of plain Greek yogurt then sprinkling with almond slivers.

Easy chicken salad: diced cooked chicken breast, chopped walnuts, raisins, apples mixed into a large tablespoon of canola mayonnaise, and seasoned with turmeric or curry powder.  Serve in a whole wheat pita or a lettuce leaf.

To add more protein to any meal: add some tuna on the side or a hard-boiled egg or a couple slices of turkey. 

Vegetable soup with beans and brown rice עברית...


Saute any combination of vegetables and throw in some lean chicken or turkey. Serve over long grain brown rice.

Cook tilapia with mango salsa over the top of it. Serve over brown rice or quinoa.

Soup–Heat up some organic chicken broth and stir in some quinoa pasta and fresh spinach leaves.  Toss in some other vegetables if desired, such as carrots, diced tomatoes or green beans.

Quinoa pasta with your favorite organic pasta sauce over the top.

Chicken or turkey breasts dredged in a mixture of plain Greek yogurt, lemon juice, dill and garlic and then baked at 375 for 30-40 minutes.

Greek pitas: Fill a whole wheat pita with sautéed chicken breast strips, cucumber slices, onion slices and tomato slices.  In food processor, puree plain Greek yogurt, dill, 2 T. diced onion, lemon juice and garlic powder, sea salt.  Drizzle over stuffed pitas.

Crockpot: Place cut up chicken breast, a large bottle of organic tomato juice, onion, carrots, green beans, cabbage, bay leaves, sea salt and 1 c. of chicken broth into crock pot.  Simmer on low all day.


Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC

Taking Time for Yourself

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Over the years, I have seen many people come in for therapy to work on feeling happier.  They are sad, struggling in relationships, recovering from divorce or struggling with parenting.  Yet, in their struggles they have forgotten about themselves.  Their focus has been outward on relationships and pressures, but stopping, turning attention inward, and nurturing themselves has been overlooked.  Without properly nurturing ourselves, we run out of fuel faster, leaving us with nothing to give.  We also may run into difficulty genuinely feeling good about others if we have forgotten how to feel good about ourselves, or have allotted no time for ourselves, hence causing friction in our relationships.

Take for example, the case of Julia, a thirty-something mother who works part-time and has two young children.  Her states that her marriage is good, although both she and her husband seem to always be busy or exhausted and in recent years have had very little time to devote to their relationship.  Julia is feeling sad and lonely, in spite of the constant time spent with her children or work.  She also is feeling anxious, worrying excessively about her health or her children’s health.  After spending some time hearing about her frustrations, I ask her how she spends her “alone time” and how she feels about that time, and about herself.  Not surprisingly, Julia really has to think about it.  She has no “alone time” and really has taken little to no time to consider how she feels about who she was before her life became so busy, who she has become, or who she wants to be.  She has lost touch with herself and her feelings of individuality.  In doing so, she has also lost some enjoyment of the simple pleasures that life offers.

At our very core is the need to love ourselves and enjoy our journey.  Enjoyment doesn’t always mean “fun,” but often means simply finding time for peace and contentment.  It can be as simple as a sense of satisfaction for a job well done or taking pleasure in a beautiful sunny day.  Without this, our mood can become dark or overwhelmed, triggering anxiety or depression.  If any of these feelings ring true for you, here are some ways you can break the cycle of self-neglect:

  •  Take action right away when you become aware of having overlooked yourself.  It is much easier to get back to feeling good if you make some changes early on, rather than letting the bad feelings affect relationships.
  • Make it a habit to spend at least 20 minutes alone each day doing something you enjoy.  It could be exercising, soaking in a hot bath, reading a book, or working on a craft.  As long as you enjoy it, and do not feel demands from others when doing it, then it can be extremely helpful in allowing you to regroup and center yourself.
  • Try not to judge yourself.  This is a hard one, as judging comes so naturally for most of us, particularly in this competitive society.  Nevertheless, particularly during your alone time,  allow your thoughts and feelings to flow without judgment of whether they are good are bad, productive or unproductive.  Thoughts and feelings just happen, and, at times, it is good to let them float in and out of your soul just like the clouds passing through the sky.
  • Try to be your own best parent.  How would you compliment your child for a job well done? Try to do the same for yourself.  The same thing holds true for consoling.  If you have had a bad day, comfort yourself with kind words or by wrapping yourself in a warm blanket and relaxing.  It is healthy to nurture ourselves and love ourselves just as we would our child.
  • Be open to accepting that you are human and will make mistakes.  By accepting your shortcomings, making amends, and moving on, you are carrying less weight and are more apt to forgive others.  This goes a long way towards contributing to happiness.

Remember that finding joy in life is often about taking pleasure in the small things and about loving yourself.  Setting aside time to be still and listen to the voice inside is a habit worth nurturing, and is one that can lead to satisfaction and peace both within yourself and in your relationships.


Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC