This morning as I sit working on preparations to teach yet another EMDR Training in Denver next month, I am feeling gratitude for the opportunity to share this invaluable technique with other clinicians. What motivates me is my wish for those new EMDR clinicians to help many more people than I could ever help alone.
As clinicians, we recognize that the way one copes with trauma and challenges in life is largely the result of the foundation and resources they develop early in life. How we, as clinicians, help them to synthesize these experiences with adaptive resources is the solution. EMDR is built on the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD. When EMDR is done with the proper protocol and case conceptualization, it can serve to resolve both current and early trauma, improve internal and external resources and ultimately provide the necessary synthesis to resolve the trauma.
Clinically, I see this fundamental understanding of trauma and development play out in every area of my Denver counseling practice. It applies with clients suffering from trauma due to domestic violence, sexual abuse, military combat, loss due to death or divorce, and major life changes and transitions. When I am working with someone involved in divorce, I generally find that the difference between one that is high-conflict and one that is not lies in the trauma history of one or both parties involved. When working with a client who is traumatized by a tragic event, natural disaster or health crisis, the same principles apply. A history of earlier unresolved trauma creates maladaptive memory networks, compromising one’s ability to cope with current crises.
EMDR’s value is tremendous. It is a comprehensive therapy and, for me, it is the lens through which treatment is conceptualized. It provides resolution of the presenting problem, but more importantly, it provides resolution of past traumas that have led to maladaptive behaviors, cognitions and feelings. By impacting change in past memory networks, the ability to manage present and future obstacles and challenges improves dramatically. As a clinician, it is invaluable. I continue to be amazed and privileged to witness the way it impacts my clients’ lives, their beliefs about themselves and the world around them, and their overall therapeutic experience. That all said, I am grateful and excited to embark on another training to share this life changing therapy with others.
Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC is a clinician practicing in the Denver Tech Center. She specializes in EMDR therapy, consultation and training. For more information on EMDR or her trainings, please visit her training website at http://www.emdroftherockies.com. For information on Tamra’s psychotherapy practice visit http://thcounseling.com
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 http://www.thcounseling.com
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.
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 http://www.thcounseling.com
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 http://www.thcounseling.com
The holiday season can be a particularly challenging time for people who are coping with the loss of a loved one. Trying to find ways to endure the sadness often creates feelings of depression, lack of motivation, and disinterest in being around others. However, there are ways to allow your love for that special person to help make this time even more meaningful and to let it become a celebration of their life, even if only in some small gesture.
• Create a tradition in honor of their memory. Light a candle each night of the holiday season in their honor, or host an open house each year at this time that you consider to be in their memory. Maybe you could bake their favorite cookies each year during the holidays or have a special meal that they loved.
• Make it a habit to remember the positives that they put into this world and say a word of thanks for them.
• Give a gift to a child in need knowing in your heart that it is in honor of your loved one.
• There are some beautiful children’s books written about love and loss that are wonderful to read, regardless of your age. One in particular is The Invisible String, written by Patrice Karst. It is a story that serves to remind us all that we are all connected to those we love, be they near or far, living or deceased. Reading a comforting book like that can also ease the pain during the difficult holiday time.
When grieving, try to be proactive with your feelings. Think of things that you can do to honor the positive memories you have of them and celebrate the life they lived. Most of all, don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone about how you are feeling. Grief is an extremely painful emotion, but it is also something from which we can grow, learn and love.
As unpleasant as sadness and disappointment are to experience, it is often in the midst of those times, or immediately following them that one feels most inspired and philosophical about life. It is a time when, in trying to make sense of what has happened that has hurt or angered someone, or in any way left them feeling uncomfortable, that they try to understand from many angles the benefit or learning experience contained in the situation.
It is our nature as human beings to learn from painful experiences. For example, if a child were to touch a hot stove and be burned, rarely would that child do it again. The memory of the pain is stored in the limbic system of the brain reminding him that touching a hot burner hurts. Similarly, we are cautious about emotional experiences after being “burned”. However, emotional wounds are far more complicated as we try to understand why something good such as falling in love with someone, could cause so much pain when it ends. Most people are willing to venture into future relationships after such an experience, but never is it as naively as it is with the first love, when one has not yet experienced the pain of love lost. It is our nature as human beings to learn from discomfort, be it physical or emotional. There is opportunity in most discomfort from which we can learn and grow.
Things to think about:
Think of two or three of the saddest times in your life. Describe them and what the disappointments were that were involved.
Think of two or three of the happiest times in your life. What was so elating to you about them? Did you reach a goal? Did you feel pleased with a choice you made? Was there something unconditional about the experience?
Now think about whether or not there is any relation between those sad times and happy times. Were there things you learned or valued more as a result of the struggles that contributed to your happy experiences?
Without sadness would we really know what happiness is? Is it not that due to the contrast we can truly experience and enjoy the good things life has to offer?
Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC http://www.thcounseling.com