My Thoughts on Brainspotting

I’ve been incorporating Brainspotting into my therapy sessions for almost 5 months now, and I wanted to share with you some thoughts on what my clients experience with this new type of therapy.  I wrote the blog An Introduction to Brainspotting which gives a brief overview, but I also wanted to talk more about the benefits I’ve seen my clients experience. This type of therapy can be used in addition to regular talk therapy. Some clients had one Brainspotting session, and then we go back to talk therapy to discuss things that came up in the Brainspotting session. Others have done several Brainspotting sessions with talk therapy mixed in. How we use this mode of therapy is up to the client.

I specialize in anxiety, and so most of my clients deal with some sort of worry or nervousness.  Some have phobias (fears), OCD, or general anxiety that is present all the time and causes them to overthink.  My clients have developed ways to deal with their worry-usually avoidance is pretty high on the list.  Avoiding the thing that makes you anxious is a brilliant idea…..then you don’t have to feel the worry!  But, then you aren’t actually addressing or overcoming the real issue.  Using Brainspotting allows clients to face their fear or worry in a safe space.  There is no more avoiding the issue; instead you are focused on the very thing you fear.  Sort of like exposure response prevention….rather than running away from the anxiety, we are confronting it together.  

What types of issues can Brainspotting help with?

Most of my sessions have been related to anxiety, but I’ve found that nothing is off limits as far as Brainspotting.  This modality can be used to work on just about any issue!  In my previous blog post , I generally stated Brainspotting can be used to address trauma, creativity blocks, or negative emotions.  In my own sessions over these last few months, some of the types of issues I’ve addressed with clients through Brainspotting include:

Need for approval

Self-doubt

Social anxiety

Loss of a relationship and loss of a loved one

Birth trauma

Feelings of inadequacy

Sexual abuse

Fear of loss

Vulnerability

Failure

As you can see, I love how the issues that can be addressed with Brainspotting are so varied! 

And, whether you are thinking of a real or imagined issue, your brain perceives it the same way.  In Brainspotting, you don’t have to say anything- you can just think about the issue or remember it.  So, for some issues that are hard to talk about, or you’ve resisted talking about, Brainspotting is a great option because you don’t have to talk in order to make progress on that problem. It allows your brain the opportunity to heal on it’s own.

How do I know if Brainspotting worked?

This is a question that often comes up at the end of the first Brainspotting session with a client.  Well, I say, it worked because you did it!  Most issues won’t be resolved with just one Brainspotting session, just like most issues aren’t resolved with just one talk therapy session.  What I have noticed though is clients tend to experience any of the following after a Brainspotting session:

Increased awareness into themselves

Increased awareness of when/how they are holding tension in their body

Increased insight

Some movement or progress on an issue after they had been stuck

Reduced distress related to the issue when confronted with it again

New realizations

Resolution of the issue

How clients respond to a Brainspotting session is of course individualized.  Each issue is different, and how they respond is different.  After a Brainspotting session, some clients feel completely calm and relaxed, others feel tired and say they are going home to take a nap.  Others report not feeling any different, but find themselves thinking about things over the next day or two.  Others say they were more irritable or moody or on edge for a few days.  Some have dreams related to the issue we worked on.

With permission, I’d like share some of my clients’ stories.  Please keep in mind that these are their specific experiences and this is not to be taken as a guarantee of outcomes.  One client was dealing with a constant need for approval while going through job interviews.  This client was feeling a lot of anxiety due to the need for approval, overthinking the interviewing process.  This questioning of why the phone wasn’t ringing led to self-doubt.  After the first Brainspotting session, the client reflected “That was amazing. I feel so calm. I had no idea I could feel this way.”  In our subsequent sessions, this client reported that the need for approval was gone, and in interviews that worry was replaced with confidence.  This client feels this issue is resolved.  We then did a second Brainspotting session on self-sabotage, which then lead to further conversations on how this client has used negativity in the past as a way to keep others at a distance.

Another client wanted to use Brainspotting to address difficulty sticking to a financial budget.  At the end of the first Brainspotting session, the client identified it wasn’t just a budget that they found themselves resisting, but anything that had to do with “adulthood” such as relationships.  This led to further discussions in sessions about vulnerability, fear of rejection, and self-acceptance, and additional Brainspotting sessions on these topics.

Another client focused a Brainspotting session on their view of failure, perceiving failures at work that led to a spiral of depressive thoughts, self-doubt and suicidal thoughts.  After two Brainspotting sessions, this client reported a lapse of suicidal thoughts for several days, more optimism, and feeling more balanced in their thought process.

These are just a few examples of the awareness and gains that I’ve seen clients have following Brainspotting sessions. 

After almost 11 years offering outpatient therapy, it’s great to be able to offer my clients a different way to address their issues in addition to traditional talk therapy. And, the insight, increased awareness, and movement on the issues they are working on is amazing!

I hope this gives a little more information for you on this awesome type of therapy. Please contact me with questions or to schedule an intake for Brainspotting!

8 Tips for Better Sleep

Many people struggle with good sleep, so a while back, I wrote a blog post 5 Tips for Sleeping Well. Since I first wrote that post, I have come across a few more ideas that I wanted to pass along to you.  Whether you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or just don’t ever feel rested, I hope some of these suggestions are helpful for you!  I’d suggest that you first read the previous post on sleeping well, since this one will build upon it.

8 Tips for Better Sleep:

1.     Take a bath: Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) reduces inflammation, reduces anxiety, and supports healthy cognitive function and mood.  So, put a cup of Epsom salt in your bath.  And, when you take a warm bath, your body temperature rises.  When you get out of the bath, your body temperature naturally falls, which will help make you drowsy. 

2.     Use essential oils: Aromatherapy is a holistic treatment that uses natural plant extracts to promote well-being.  It’s the idea that scent can impact our mood and behaviors.  For example, lavender and Ylang-ylang usually are considered to be soothing and relaxing. Peppermint is often energizing, and citrus (like orange or lime) is a mood booster.  Look for lavender fabric sprays to put on your pillowcase before you climb into bed.  Use a lavender scented hand lotion before bed to help you relax.  Light a scented candle.  Or, put a few drops of essential oil into your Epsom salt bath!

3.     Grounding:  I made this video about a technique called grounding to help reduce anxiety.  While this strategy is great to do at any time, using it at bedtime can help you to focus on the present moment and can help you to more easily fall asleep.  Watch this short video for more details on grounding.

4.     Don’t put too much stock in your fit bit/smart watch/ fitness tracker:  Nowadays we all love our technology.  And who wouldn’t love a feature that tells you how much REM sleep you are getting?!  But, I’ve worked with clients whose anxiety is increased by the data of their smart watch.  They become fixated on how the watch says they are sleeping, and discouraged when it says they didn’t sleep well.  But, I urge you to be cautious when it comes to this!  There are many factors that can influence the accuracy of sleep data on smart watches, including if you have sleep apnea, a wrist tattoo, or if you put the watch on right before bedtime.  I’d suggest that you pay attention to how you feel instead.  If you feel rested, then that’s great.  If you don’t feel rested and feel you may have a sleep condition, an evaluation by your doctor would be a good idea.  If you find you are stressed out by the data your watch is giving you, then either take it off when you are sleeping, or disable the feature at nighttime. 

5.     Avoid caffeine and excess alcohol: Alcohol can impair your sleep and prohibits you from entering deeper stages of sleep.  Either too much alcohol or consuming alcohol close to bedtime can lead to more waking through the night.  It can also lessen time spend in REM sleep, which is the deepest and most restorative phase of sleep.  Caffeine is something else to keep an eye on.  Caffeine is a stimulant which means it revs up our nervous system.  This is why it causes alertness and temporarily reduces fatigue and drowsiness.  But, consuming too much caffeine or consumption too late in the day can interrupt good sleep.  Try to limit caffeine to morning hours only and see if that makes a difference with your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake feeling rested.

6.     Bilateral stimulation: In Brainspotting, we use music as a way to stimulate both hemispheres of your brain.  This auditory bilateral stimulation can be done using headphones and listening to music that rhythmically goes back and forth from your left to right side, and can have a very calming effect on your nervous system.  After completing a Brainspotting session, I’ve had clients ask where they can buy the music they listened to.  They found it so relaxing they want to incorporate it into their nightly routine.  The music I use in a Brainspotting session can be found at Biolateral.com.

7.     Use of Apps: Apps like Slumber or Sleep incorporate sleep inducing stories and meditation to help you relax and fall asleep.  Some of these have free trials, or a certain amount of free uses, so you can play around with them to see if you like them and if they’re helpful before you purchase the premium versions.  Some of my clients love these!

8.     Be evaluated for any possible sleep problems:  Sleep apnea is probably the most well-known sleep issue, but there are many types of sleep disturbances that might explain why you feel tired all the time.  If you feel groggy and tired no matter how much you sleep, this might be a sign of a medical condition.

If you’ve given any of these (or the previous tips!) a try, we’d love to hear from you. Or, please share your strategies for good sleep!

Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Happy New Year 2020!  The holidays are over, there is more darkness than daylight, and the weather is cold (or at least it typically is during this time of the year!).  Do you find that you experience a sense of dread at the end of Summer with the thought of what feels like longggggggg Fall and Winter months?  Have you felt a change in your mood as the seasons change? Do you find that your energy is decreased and that you feel moodier from the end of Summer through Spring?  If so, you are not alone, and may be like many who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Many experience increased sadness after the holidays are over and during the first few months of the year.  In fact, for many, this increased in sadness and decreased energy begins at the end of the Summer, yet we perk up some around the holidays.  People may experience SAD differently.  Quite ironic how the acronym is SAD when many who experience it express that they feel a sense of sadness and lack of energy. 

I am sure most people are familiar with Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.  Although he appears sad year-round, can you relate to his moods and feelings, especially during the Fall and Winter?  Ok, perhaps we are not as gloomy as Eeyore, but we can certainly feel down in the dumps and lacking energy when experiencing SAD.  It may even be tempting to hibernate like bears do during the Winter but realistically, as humans, we cannot do so for many reasons including daily responsibilities no matter the season or how we feel. 

Are you wondering if you experience symptoms of SAD?  Some symptoms of SAD include:  increased sadness throughout the day, more days feeling sad than not, loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, decreased energy, change in sleep and eating patterns, increased agitation, difficulty focusing, increased grieving, and increased feelings of hopelessness and guilt.   

Are you curious about what causes SAD?  I know I am but there does not seem to be one or even two causes.  Bummer, I know!  However, the amount of sunlight that we are exposed to has been identified as likely contributing towards SAD.  Reduced exposure to sunlight affects the brain chemical, Serotonin, which helps control our moods.  Too little Serotonin can lead to symptoms of sadness and low energy.  Melatonin, another chemical in our brain, is regulated by the sun and when it is not at the within normal levels, it may affect our sleep and mood patterns.

So, do any of the above symptoms sound familiar to you about yourself or your friends and loved ones? I am sure many can relate to this.  Ok, so now what?  If it was an easy fix, I would be so happy for all of us.  However, it isn’t an easy fix. And, no, we cannot hibernate like bears do, despite the great appeal of doing so.   Instead, below are some strategies to help decrease symptoms of SAD.  We can even learn a bit from Eeyore, since he accepts visits and encouragement from his friends despite not particularly wanting to. 

Strategies to help decrease and control symptoms of SAD include:

1.     Maintain a regular sleep schedule:  Try to go bed and get up at the same time everyday such as going to bed at 10pm and getting up at 6am daily.

2.    Maintain a healthy and balanced diet:  As tempting as it may be, we cannot live just on pizza and chips.  See you family doctor and possibly a nutritionist to create a balanced diet for yourself.

3.    Maintain a daily routine:  Be sure to get up, get dressed, and do chores daily even on days when you don’t want to.  For example, you want to just stay in PJ’s all day and binge watch something on Netflix, occasionally this is ok. But for the most part, stick with your regular routine.

4.    Talk to your family doctor about your concerns and symptoms:  It is important to rule out underlying medical conditions.  Also, your doctor may offer medical interventions.  Be sure to consult with your family doctor before taking any medication, even over the counter medications and before you would start light therapy.

5.    Talk with friends and family:  Talking to friends and family may help you.  Because they may be experiencing similar feelings and symptoms, talking to them could help you feel less alone.  Remember Eeyore, he didn’t want to interact with Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger but once he did, he felt a bit better at least.

6.    Practice self care daily:  Self care is something that must be done daily and not just occasionally.  (Check out this blog on self care).  I love spending time volunteering for it helps those in need and it makes me feel good too.  I especially enjoy the volunteering I do with animals for the benefits of interactions with animals is beyond amazing!!!!!

7.    Participate in therapy:  Therapy is beneficial year-round!  Don’t hesitate, reach out to a local therapist and accept help.  You get to express yourself openly and honestly in a safe and judgment free place.  How great is that!?!? If you aren’t sure what to expect in an initial therapy appointment, check out this blog here.

If you find that you are experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), please contact us.  The moodiness that might accompany the winter months doesn’t have to last!

What Positive Life Changes Will You Make This Year?

Rather than throwing too much stock in a resolution, I’d suggest that you think about positive life changes you can make. And, set yourself up for success. Take your goals or lifestyle changes and break them down into smaller goals that are measurable. Let’s walk through that a little together….. if your goal is to stop smoking, don’t just say I’m going to stop smoking. First, honestly evaluate how many cigarettes a day you smoke now and then try to reduce your daily amount by let’s say 2 for the next week. And then by another 2 the week after that. Plan do reduce each week by 2 until you are smoke free. Make sure you notice when you tend to smoke or why and be ready with other alternatives. For example if you tend to smoke on a break from work, try drinking a glassful off water instead or call your significant other. Or if you like having something in your mouth, then try to have sugar free lifesavers on hand. 

Watch the video above and then read more in this post here!

Stop Trying

Why did she do that?!

How could he do that to me?!

I can’t believe she did that. What was she thinking?!

You hear outrageous news about someone. Or, you experience firsthand some dreadful misdeed. In response, have you had these types of thoughts before? I’ve worked with many clients who have been wronged by someone. Really hurtful fallout from lies, or gossip, or affairs, or abuse. We all like to hypothesize what was going on, or try to figure out why someone acted as they did. We like to be detectives and try to figure it all out. Deep down, we are all curious beings. And we especially don’t like uncertainty and not knowing.

But, I have what may be a shocking response for you about these things……

Stop trying to figure out why someone did the horrible deed they did!

Stop trying to think like them. Stop trying to make sense of the senseless and horrible things someone did to you.

You are not the other person, and will never completely understand them. Especially if you can’t ever imagine doing what they did! If you can’t even comprehend what they were thinking, it just goes to show how differently you think from them!

You don’t know their thoughts or motivations, and can never possibly fully understand why someone responds how they did. And, because of this, attempting to figure it out can be so frustrating! You will never find a satisfactory answer to the question WHY. Even if they tell you their reasoning, because you are not them, it might never make sense to you or seem reasonable enough to you to justify their actions.

So stop trying to understand what motivated them to spread lies about you in the workplace, or hit their partner, or use their position of power to their advantage.

Yes… there I said it: Stop trying to figure it out. Instead focus on what is within your control. Your thoughts. Your responses.

(And, while I’m at it…..here’s another thought: You can’t reason with someone who is irrational. So stop trying!)

To some degree, it’s almost easier to worry about figuring out why they did what they did. To feel confused. To try to make sense of it. To feel justified in your disbelief or your anger. It’s a rabbit trail…..you can follow it down and down and never actually arrive anywhere satisfactory. So, it may feel like you have work to do to figure it out, but the reality is you’ll never really get anywhere. Like riding a stationary bike and expecting to go somewhere. Pedaling hard, doing all the work, but it never really paying off with a new location. I say it’s easier to worry about figuring out why they did what they did because the harder work would be to focus on you and change yourself and YOUR response.

I propose you try these two things instead of worrying about why they did what they did, or how they could have done what they did:

1. Focus on you and what is within your control, and the world will start to make more sense. Ask yourself, “Can I do something about this?” And if not, then tell yourself , “I can’t do anything about that” and shift to thinking about something else. If you can do something about it, then do it! Concrete action steps to address the issue at hand can work wonders here. This little trick can help you to be less frustrated, since your mental energy is being focused in a better direction…something you can have some influence over!

For example, if you have an outdoor birthday party planned, spending time worrying about if it will rain is pointless. You can’t control the weather! But you can make a Plan B to have tents set up just in case. Then when the worry comes about if it will rain, you can tell yourself you are prepared and it won’t really matter because a little rain won’t dampen the excitement of the party! Being prepared can help to reduce your anxiety.

2. Become comfortable with uncertainty. Our brains are always looking for shortcuts, to streamline things, to make sense of things. Our brains love certainty, to know for sure what to expect. Accepting uncertainty will be difficult, but can pay off. Focus on what you can know for sure. This goes back to focusing on your thoughts and actions, and accepting that you might never know for sure why they did what they did.

I know this might be hard to hear, hard to wrap your head around, and even harder to implement. But, I promise you will be less frustrated in the end, if you can say “Who knows why…” or “We’ll never really know why….” and really feel ok with not knowing.

If you feel like you could use some help with this, contact our office through this form today!