Thursday, January 31, 2013

EMDR: A Promising Tool for Treating Trauma

New emphasis has been placed on the prevalence of Psychological Trauma in our lives- and its effects on our well being. Traumatic experiences are part of being human.

One well known trauma treatment center, The Meadows,  describes trauma as any less than nurturing event in our lives. This definition might seem liberal yet as a counselor I can understand its relevance. So many clients come in with trauma-related issues and concerns. My understanding of psychological trauma is any experience which causes us to feel highly overwhelmed and helpless. Psychological trauma causes our nervous systems to work too hard, which results in a number of stress-related conditions.

One tool I am happy to be able to offer clients suffering from trauma-related concerns- whether it be excessive worrying, anxiety, or depression- is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). I was initially drawn to this method by the wealth of research backing up its effectiveness. I can now personally and professionally attest to its usefulness in assisting us in healing from trauma.

The underlying healing mechanism in EMDR, and that in all trauma treatment methods, seems to be its ability help us revisit traumatic memories without feeling helpless and overwhelmed. It is immensely helpful to do this in a safe and trusting relationship, such as the counseling relationship. EMDR is just one tool available to today's counselors to help provide relief from trauma-related conditions and concerns. Specially trained trauma-informed counselors can help you through your experience, teaching you skills to stay grounded and calm and accompanying you on your healing journey.

Whatever approaches and interventions you may choose to try as part of counseling, know that you are not alone in your struggles and healing from trauma is possible.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Healing Power of Art

The daughter of two artists and an artist and counselor myself, I am never surprised to see studies documenting the therapeutic benefits of the art-making process. When the American Counseling Association's monthly magazine, Counseling Today, arrived in my mailbox, I was happy to find the article: "Thinking creatively: Expressive arts for counseling youth in the schools."

The author, Patricia Velsor, shares several illuminating points, including that "students participating in an after-school arts program showed increases in self-esteem, social skills and leadership." I have taught art in an after-school setting- and I now facilitate an experiential expressive arts group- and I can attest to this fact! Most of us learned to put away our pencils and paint-brushes at some point- that we are no good as artists. But, there is nothing like rediscoverying the benefits of the creative process.

Everyone can make art. We are all inherently artists because we are intelligent creative beings. The art-making process allows us to get in a flow state and connect with something larger than ourselves- often times each other- a good thing in an increasingly fragmented and individualistic society!

Athenians, need a little inspiration? Consider entering the Lyndon House juried art show (deadline: Friday, February 8th) and/or attending the gala opening Sunday March 3rd. Read the call for entries.

If that doesn't float your boat, pick up a Flagpole to find what other art and art classes are available around town. I will leave it to local venues to promote their specific offerings. Just know that when you engage in the art-making process, you are opening yourself up to its many-colored therapeutic benefits!

Friday, January 25, 2013

May We All Find a Little Help

A recent update from the American Counseling Association (ACA) in my inbox caught my eye:

"On January 16, 2013, President Barack Obama released a set of proposals to reduce the impact of gun violence, following the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In addition to provisions to restrict access to certain weapons and ammunition, the president’s proposal includes several initiatives to improve school safety and increase access to mental health services." 

National tragedies call for a national response and I'm glad President Obama is taking action. It is time to address the growing need for improved access to mental health services in our country. One thing we can do is to reduce the stigma associated with having mental health issues so we won't feel hindered to seek support when we need it.

We all experience challenges to our emotional well being and when we do we only have the tools at hand, the skills that we have been taught in life with which to work. For some of us, these coping mechanisms are few and far between. Mental health professionals can help us to outgrow our painful patterns and emotional problems- but only when we reach out for help.  

Brene Brown, in her new book Daring Greatly, points out "... the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection." Disconnection, as recent events illustrate, is a dangerous thing for us social beings.  

When our health and the health of our neighbors suffers it affects us all. Let's start to embrace this reality and the president's proposals to take better care of each other. We can begin by changing the way we talk about mental health issues and finding the strength, the words, and the compassion to encourage ourselves and each other to reach out when we need a little help feeling better...

Do you or someone you know need a little help reaching out, right now? Our intake counselors at The Banyan Tree Counseling Center are available weekdays to talk with you about how we can help. Our number is (706) 850-7041. What you share is entirely up to you and confidential.

May you be well, today and in the days to come, and may we all find a little help when we need it...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Getting Transpersonal on MLK Day

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested 30 times for his participation in civil rights activities. What give him the strength to face uncertainty and adversity constantly while pursuing his life's work?

Dr. King once said: "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." It is in our nature nature to fear the unknown- but belief in something larger than ourselves can help us to face it; another way of saying this is belief in something transpersonal or beyond the personal.

What is transpersonal you? What allows you to take a break from being solely identified with your personal thoughts and emotions and tap into something bigger?

Dr. King's faith, which happened to be Christian, clearly allowed him to draw from a larger wellspring and work for the greater good. This MLK Day, in addition to finding your unique way to join in the work for equal rights which is far from over, why not also find a way to get transpersonal? Turn yourself over to a flow activity that allows you to lose yourself in the doing. Find a few quiet moments to meditate on a subject that is near and dear to you. Practice trusting your open heart and mind.

Dr. King's life's work reminds us that we don't need to know the outcome to let go of our thoughts and fears and find strength in our hope and faith instead. As poet Robert Frost said, "the best way out is always though."

Ready to be a part of the change? Here are some ways you can Get Involved.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Faith and Sexuality: A Deeply Personal Experience

Reconciling our religion or spirituality and sexuality can be a difficult dance for many of us. We all expect and accept different things for ourselves based upon our upbringing, culture, personality, and other factors. I believe that we are each the expert of our own experience. Counseling can provide a safe and nonjudgmental space to explore and make meaning from our deeply personal experiences such as sexuality and spiritual identity. What you talk about in counseling is confidential and up to you; however, you need not come into counseling to begin exploring your experience.

Much has been written about the important subject of faith and sexuality lately, including God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage, a book hot off the presses by Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson (check out this recent interview with the author on NPR), and "Overcoming the schism between spiritual identity and sexual orientation," a recent article from The American Counseling Association's monthly magazine, Counseling Today. Talking with someone you trust and feel safe with can be immensely powerful, as well. Just know that you can go at your own pace.

People are complex. May we each come to the understanding that is right for us and allow others to come to their own understanding on their own time, as well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Intimate Partner Violence- All of Our Problem

Why does she stay? We've heard it a hundred times before. Putting the blame on the survivor of domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, removes the focus from the issue at hand: how we can all work towards creating a society that does not tolerate or expect such behavior. 

The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence has a wonderful website full of useful information for survivors, their advocates, friends, and loved ones. One of the many helpful resources you will find on this website is this list of Myths versus Facts about intimate partner violence.

A quick word on words: I use the language intimate partner violence because I want to convey that this type of violence happens to anyone- not just to straight couples or married couples, as the phrase domestic violence might conjure up for some folks.

When I imagine living in a world where everyone feels safe to be themselves, I imagine a world with a lot less violence. For this reason, I believe that it is part of my work to help dispel stereotypes. Complex problems such as intimate partner violence require creative solutions- but I believe that we are up to the task.

In Athens, Project Safe is a great resource. For more information, call the confidential hotline: (706) 543-3331.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Rules to Grief? There Are None

My cat went missing over the weekend. We have done everything we can think of to help him make his way back home. And, as for now, we still have hope. But, the whole experience got me reflecting on how there are no rules to grief and loss. Our reactions are as individual as we are.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross famously popularized five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But, she was also quick to point out that we do not move through these stages in an orderly fashion. Oh, no. We humans are much messier than that. To quote the website:

"... people do not always experience all of the five ‘grief cycle’ stages. Some stages might be revisited. Some stages might not be experienced at all. Transition between stages can be more of an ebb and flow, rather than a progression. The five stages are not linear; neither are they equal in their experience. People’s grief, and other reactions to emotional trauma, are as individual as a fingerprint."

There are many things that we can do to help with our natural grief process. Counseling, talking with others, and taking care of ourselves all help in our healing. The key is giving ourselves the compassion we need after a loss.

As for my kitty- wherever he is- may he and all beings be safe, happy, healthy, and loved... Nothing in life is certain. We never know what the next moment can bring. All we can do is pay attention. And, respond kindly.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Starting Counseling Just Got Easier

It's natural to feel intimidated about starting counseling. Meeting with the right counselor for you is the number one ingredient to effective counseling. That's why, at The Banyan Tree Center, connecting you with the counselor who is the best fit for you is our number one goal. We have 10 clinicians on staff with a wide variety of areas of expertise and personalities. If there is not a good fit on our team, we are happy to offer you a referral.

If you or someone you know is considering counseling, consider this:
1) Our intake coordinator can offer you a free and confidential phone consultation.
2) Together, you can discuss how you are hoping we can help- and possible treatment options as well as prices (most of our clinicians operate on a sliding scale).
3) If you desired, you can have an appointment set up with the counselor of your choice- usually within the week.
4) If we are unable to meet your needs, you can receive community referrals.
5) Taking that first step to feeling better can be a relief in and of itself!

Remember, we sometimes feel that we are not capable or worthy of creating the lives that we desire but change is possible. You can create the life that you desire. Meeting with the right counselor can help!

Out intake coordinator is available weekdays at (706) 850-7041 to help. Call today for a free and confidential phone consultation.

Best wishes on your journey, wherever it takes you...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Welcome to the New Banyan Tree Website!

It's here! Our brand new website at The Banyan Tree Center- complete with my latest article on psychological trauma. Hope you like it! Happy browsing!

Check it out:

Your Life in 6 Words

If I had to sum it all up in 6 words: It's all in our response.

To criticism. To spilled coffee. What can we control but our response?

What would your 6 word story be?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Revisiting Scarlett: Coming Full Circle

So much has happened in the past few months. I completed my master's degree program in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology at Naropa University, my partner- now husband- and I moved across the country from Boulder, Colorado back to our hometown of Athens, Georgia, I started work at The Banyan Tree Center, and we got married and set up an adorable rental house in the country. Now, we have made it through the holidays and I am diving into my counseling work with renewed energy.

One of the things that I've been up to is writing an article for our new website at the Banyan Tree Center, which I am looking forward to sharing with you, on the subject of psychological trauma. Our wonderful website and Google expert, Mike Usry, is still putting on the final touches- so stay tuned!

In the spirit of appreciating where we've been, I thought I'd revisit an article I wrote last winter while still living out west. The counseling program director and supervisor of my counseling internship at Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN) in Boulder invited me to write a piece for publication. I chose the topic: exploring the impact of gender roles on our experience. And, after several weeks of laboriously and lovingly writing and re-writing, I came out with this autobiographical piece:

Click here to read:

It just goes to show, you never know what the next moment can bring!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What's in a Name? Welcome to Many Colors!

This blog is named after a journal entry I wrote in college which has stuck with me:

Take yourself as you are
In all your moments of contradiction
You were born in many colors
Not just two dimensions

I wrote these words as part of a poem during a difficult time. I had just switched from studying psychology to studio art and was finding much value in the creative process. Today, as a counselor, I still contemplate the futility in trying to be someone we are not. The poem went on:

You could sit on the fence
But that's not really living

And two can play at that game
Til all the feelings go away
But what's the use pretending?
Life's worth living anyway

What's the use pretending? Life's worth living. When I read these words I am reminded of the depths of my despair- and my resilience.

For most of us, learning to love ourselves takes practice- but, I believe it holds the key to our happiness.

However you nourish yourself, I wish you well on the path! If there's anything that this poem reminds me, it's that you can trust your open heart.