Thursday, November 13, 2014

Healing from Underground Anger

Despite old expectations that men don't cry and women don't get angry, anger is a healthy part of our experience. Yet, it can be very destructive- especially when it is unconscious. Unconscious or underground anger inhibits our ability to think clearly and damages our bodies and minds with stress- even though we might not be blowing up in the traditional sense of the expression.

Has underground anger been a problem for you? See if you identify with any of these patterns.
  • Do you have a hard time expressing anger but let it stew unspoken?
  • Are you often critical of yourself and others in your thoughts or words?
  • Do you tend to beat yourself up after unwanted events?
  • Do you deny yourself pleasure, downtime, or relaxation?
  • Are you prone to isolating or shutting down when you get upset?
  • Has anyone told you that you're too down on yourself?
Anger is equally about imploding- hurting ourselves with judgement, regret, and rigidity- as it is about exploding at others. In my experience, women often experience this internal, just under the surface type of anger. Women are also twice as likely as men to develop depression. Perhaps, there is some truth to the saying, depression is anger that went to sleep.

On the flip side, conscious or constructive anger allows us to stay in touch with our feelings, use our voice in the moment with others, tackle challenges, and promote a more safe and equal world for all. So, how do we make our underground anger into something more useful? First, we have to see it! And, then we have to calm down. With practice, you can notice when underground anger is hijacking your experience and change course to take yourself down a more constructive avenue instead.

Next time you see the red flags of underground anger in your life, try the following:
  • Applaud yourself for recognizing this old pattern!
  • Remind yourself that getting more mad at this point isn't helpful.
  • Instead, take a break. Return when you're calmer.
  • Focus instead on a soothing mantra, prayer, or intention.
  • Breathe deeply and count your breathes until you calm down.
  • If you can't walk away, ground and distract yourself until you can.
Once you're baseline returns to normal, you will be better able to revisit the situation. Anger typically elevates in response to unmet needs so have compassion for yourself for suffering in this way. Reflect on what you're needing and how to go about getting your needs met. You'll be setting yourself up for success by listening to your experience and responding skillfully, rather than running on underground anger.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Healing Transgenerational Trauma

Research is beginning to suggest that "our" experience isn't just "ours" but is handed down to us through the generations in the form of intergenerational memories. Your great-grandmother's specific worries may be felt as your own in mother nature's attempt to keep you safe from threats that were affecting her. What does it mean that our fears, nightmares, and phobias might be hold-overs from relatives before us?

Since I work primarily with women, I am particularly interested in how our grandmothers' and great-grandmothers' experience of violence against women could be impacting us today and what we can do about it. One in four women experience violence from an intimate partner. We can imagine this rate was higher in past years and, remember, it tends to be under-reported. 

Violence against women can result in PTSD the same as war. It follows, then, that he symptoms of psychological trauma in your life could be have been passed down to you from the women in your family. Do you recognize any of these post-traumatic symptoms in your experience?
  • Unpredictable thoughts or emotions
  • Flashbacks or nightmares
  • Strained relationships 
  • Physical symptoms, like headaches or nausea
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Isolating to avoid triggers 
Transgenerational trauma could explain why many of us are living with anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other issues seemingly unaccounted for by our own personal histories. I share this information to normalize our experience. Many of my clients have experienced these and other symptoms characteristic in survivors of violence against women, such as feeling on edge much of the time or afraid of conflict with men. It can be disorienting to feel these symptoms without understanding where they come from and what can be done about it. 

If our minds are still carrying around our grandmothers' fears, our task becomes that of any trauma survivor- to rebuild a sense of safety and trust in our lives, one action and one day at a time. This is long haul work that requires patience and dedication- but imagine the payoff in terms of your own well being as well as that of generations yet to be born... 

We heal from psychological trauma in two ways- with safe coping in the present and processing the past. Both methods work equally well. A trauma informed counselor, friend, or other healing ally can help guide you in this important journey. Reaching out is an essential part of this work. Especially considering the likelihood that our baggage is bigger than we are, we need each other's help to carry it and leave it where it belongs- safely put away in the past.

I offer the following evidence-based tools to help in the treatment of trauma:
  • Transcending Trauma is a group I facilitate at The Banyan Tree Center, where women gather to learn the ins and outs of rebuilding that foundation of safety. This is a present based treatment modality. There is no need to tell trauma stories.
  • EMDR is an empowering tool I use with individuals to help process or put away traumatic memories and the related symptoms. This is a past based approach to treatment. Earlier experiences are revisited at a pace that's right for you.
Here are some resources for further reading on the subject of transgenerational trauma:
  • Read a BBC news story about research suggesting memories pass between generations. 
  • Bethany Webster is a life coach who has written extensively on healing what she calls the "mother wound." 
What would it mean to you to be connected through the memories, stories, and traditions handed down through the generations? Perhaps we each have a powerful role to play, our healing is related, and the more we take care of ourselves, the more we take care of each other... 

Friday, August 22, 2014

What is Woman Centered & LGBTQ Affirmative Counseling?

Woman centered and LGBTQ affirmative counseling is understanding, belonging, and support with awareness of the unique challenges that women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals face. I envision communities where we are safe and accepted for who we are, regardless of our sexuality or gender identity; this is the guiding principle of Many Colors Counseling. To this end, I will be at tomorrow's "Back to Cool" event to meet, connect with, and support our community.

I invite you to join in this free community event. Here's a snapshot of my favorite dorm room poster, which can be yours to take home from my booth tomorrow.

Not to mention, I snagged this beautiful rainbow American flag from our very own Junkman's Daughter's Brother earlier this week. Sign up to win it. 

Of course, there will be opportunities to engage. Write a message to a neighbor and take away your own handwritten note from a fellow community member.

I don't claim to be an expert as a young therapist but I do seek to advocate for a happier healthier world. This means getting out of the therapy room and working together, every once in awhile. Have a safe and wonderful weekend and remember...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Grounding and Centering 101

One of my favorite tools to share with people, especially when we're feeling helpless and overwhelmed, is grounding. The curriculum I use for my women's trauma treatment group defines grounding as "detaching from emotional pain." We practice grounding in order to stay calm and be better able to respond to what is happening around us. Grounding, or centering, is a practical skill because it can be used anytime anywhere. The more you practice it, the more your body remembers it. Grounding is not a relaxation exercise or meditation practice. It's closer to useful distraction. I hope the following two examples illustrate the usefulness of this skill.
  • Sara, who experienced panic attacks in the past, felt a familiar panicky sensation coming over her while walking to work. She knew from experience that worrying about these sensations would only make it worse. So, instead, she focused on counting her footsteps and on the pavement beneath her feet. This allowed her to ride out her symptoms.
  • Terry hated it when people raised their voices but she didn't want her co-worker, who had a habit of raising her voice, to have the power to make her feel hopeless at work. So, when her colleague raised her voice, she focused her attention on the presence of her supportive co-workers and the thoughts, "she's just being herself" and "it's not my problem." 
Ready for a taste? Answer the following questions and notice your experience.
  • Mental grounding orients you to time and place. What day is it today? What is the time? Date? Year? What is your current location? What objects are around you in your environment, right now? How many colors do you see? Are there doors or windows around you? If so, how many? 
  • Physical grounding shifts your focus to your physical surroundings. Are you sitting down? If so, what are you sitting on? Is it hard or soft? What is its temperature? Select a nearby object and notice everything you can about it- it's texture, color, weight, temperature, size, shape, etc.
  • Soothing grounding has do to with creative visualization. What is your favorite song? Sing the lyrics to yourself. Think of a favorite person or animal who brings you comfort. Visualize this being in as much detail as possible. Bring to mind a calm place and what it is like to be there. 
Did you notice your attention shift away from your internal experience as you focused even stronger on your external environment? This is the usefulness of grounding, which can be effective before, during, or after stressful events. To take a common fear, public speaking, think of what it would be like to focus on feeling your feet on the floor before giving a speech, on the audience's desire for you to do well during the speech, and on the comforting words of a mentor or friend afterwards...

Have a grounded day! Who knows, your presence may help to ground someone else. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

7 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People

Disclaimer: By difficult, I mean people who have historically been hard to deal with, please, or satisfy. We have all been difficult, at times, and this is not meant to be a terminal diagnosis for anyone. In fact, it is my belief that we can transcend these patterns. It is with this understanding that I write this post.

Everyone has a difficult person in their life. How do I know this? Because we live on planet Earth. Over seven billion of us and counting (if I Googled that right). Have you ever asked yourself, What do I do here? Should I cut my ties with this person? As for questioning whether or not you should stay in contact with a difficult person, only you can answer that- but, whatever you decide, here is some information to get you considering your best coping strategy. I hope it offers some relief from the grief!
  • Don't take it personally. You are only responsible for 50% of an interaction. A difficult person's problems with you (their 50%) may not be about you at all- and they definitely aren't all about you. You become a screen upon which their difficulties (fears, pain, sorrows) are projected.
  • Have compassion for yourself. Dealing with difficult people is painful (because they are in pain). We need our compassion most when we are suffering. Be kind to yourself- you deserve it!
  • Have compassion for the other person. It's hard being a difficult person in this world! Another word for difficult is unhappy. Imagine being in their shoes- and be glad you're not. It can help inspire compassion to imagine them as a young or hurt child. Healthy people aren't difficult. 
  • Don't give your power over to a difficult person. It makes no sense to place your happiness in the hands of an unhappy person. Think about it. Ultimately, you must decide your actions.
  • Set boundaries. Limit your time with difficult people. Take breaks and deep breathes. Practice the art of distraction. It's all about staying clear-thinking and grounded. Staying in control of you.
  • Detach when it makes sense. There is a lot to lose and not much to gain from sharing vulnerable parts of yourself with someone who is unable or unwilling to go there with you. What might be a more comfortable level of sharing? Keep it surface. Keep it light. Keep yourself safe.
  • There are no rules, no wrong or right way of doing relationships with difficult people- even if they're family. Remember, you have choices. And, you can change your mind at any time. 
No one's as simple as a stereotype! We can transcend those patterns that have proven problematic. I'm rooting for us 100%! Our time together depends upon it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Happiness is...

The question, what would I most love to offer? has been on my mind a lot, lately- along with the question, what is there a need for? My passion is helping women create the lives that we desire and I am especially drawn to working with women who are down and have been hurt. This drive comes from my own past and the past of other women I've known. Has there been a time when you've desperately wanted a roadmap to help you feel better? We all want to be happy healthy women, but sometimes the way before us gets murky. How? is a question I hear a lot in my office.

I would like to offer a recipe not only for making it through the day but for crafting a happier healthier life in the process. If this sounds appealing to you, know that these ingredients have been gathered with care. They have been a long time coming. Some of them difficult to grasp. This is no expert's recipe but one that I hope will continue growing more potent through the years. I share it with you, now, because life is short and messy, as you well know, and has a mind of its own. Life doesn't wait for perfection so why should we? Your first tip: you already know more than you think!

Happiness Is...
Knowing that you have a voice and a choice in how you use it.
Saying yes to people, places, and things, that nurture you.
Saying no to people, places, and things that hurt you.
Knowing that you can change your mind at any time.
Freedom from the highs and lows.
Relishing in a calm life.
Knowing who you are- inside and out.
Resisting the urge to follow downward spiraling thoughts.
Following what inspires you instead.
Being thankful for what you have.
Allowing yourself to be loved.
Allowing yourself to cry.
Stopping when something is no longer serving you.
Asking for help when you need it.
Knowing that you deserve love and happiness in abundance.
Sharing your light with others.
Being open to and inspired by life's little signs.
Knowing the signals your body is giving to you.
Responding time and again with kindness.
Celebrating the small things, which are really the big things.
Making something out of nothing.
Learning how to trust yourself.
Accepting the contradictions that are you.
Starting small when you feel overwhelmed.
Not a constant- but sadness isn't permanent either.
Being willing to take reasonable risks.
Understanding that change is often uncomfortable.
Knowing you can handle it and emerge stronger.
Paying attention to how you talk to yourself.
Telling yourself, "I will no longer throw myself under the bus!"
Telling yourself, "I love you and I'm proud of you."
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable in safe ways.
Knowing only good things remain when you let your guard down.
Taking the time to care for yourself by careful planning.
Not taking things personally.
Actively seeking out what makes you happy.
Making your healing the most important thing in your life.
Knowing each of us is on a healing journey.
Knowing you deserve your own time and attention.
Learning to stay with yourself when times are hard.
Learning to stay with yourself when times are good.
Appreciating instant gratification.
Taking the long view in life.
Knowing what's most important to you.
Living your life by putting your values into actions and words.
Forgiving yourself and who you need to forgive.
Accepting your imperfections.
Understanding that we all experience both the good and the bad in life.
Knowing in your heart that you can live a meaningful life.

Finally, add a generous heaping spoonful of doing whatever makes you laugh! This is hard work but you are the best possible person to do it! Be easy on yourself if things go awry. We've all been there. Thankfully, there are do-overs. This recipe isn't set in stone. You can always go back and change it- take something out that doesn't work for you or add something else in. Improvise! You are the head cook in your kitchen. I am rooting for each and every one of us and I wish you every possible success!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Recovery: Many Healing Journeys

No one single method of trauma treatment works for everyone. Rather, the road to recovery is made up of many healing journeys. I use the word "journey" to illustrate that recovery is a process that requires maintenance but gets easier with time. Treatment gives you a roadmap. A therapist can guide you but only you can read the signs and use the tools needed to rebuild a sense of safety in your life.

Treatment methods that have proven track records of reducing trauma symptoms include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and medication. CBT is a form of talk therapy in which you and your counselor work on your thoughts and behaviors. EMDR is a type of experiential therapy that uses a tool called bilateral stimulation or dual attention stimulus to help you desensitize traumatic memories. Antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been shown to be beneficial. As research continues, we will likely add more methods to the list of effective treatments.

The emphasis of trauma treatment has shifted across the board from focusing on processing the past to practicing safe coping in the present. Why? Past and present centered treatments have been found to be equally effective. Revisiting the past may never be needed after finding and using one's best coping strategies in the present. In any case, the past should never be revisited until we have established safety in the present. All effective trauma treatment keeps you in the driver's seat.

One present centered approach called manual-based treatment, in which the therapist draws from a book or manual designed especially for helping people heal from trauma, has proven helpful for 60% of people completing it. Combine this with the folk wisdom that we are more likely to change in a group that believes change is possible and you have two compelling reasons to consider joining a group. However, manual-nased treatment can be done in group or individual counseling formats.

If you find this topic a bit overwhelming, you are not alone. It can be hard to master all of the information available to us today but have faith. Your healing journey is worth it. My invitation is to keep it simple. Be wary of people who promise results with a particular brand of treatment. How could they know what works for you? Try things out, ask questions, take  a break if you want to, and come back when you are ready. Staying the course of your recovery is the hardest and best work you can do.

May your journey be meaningful and your support abundant along the way...

*In the service of being transparent, I offer all of the above evidence-based trauma treatment methods- omitting, of course, medication, as I am not a psychiatrist- and have found each to be helpful for different people. As the song goes, "different strokes for different folks." That's what keeps us adding new tools to our toolkits.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Brief History of Trauma

We have learned a lot about treating trauma since PTSD was first introduced in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980. The condition was conceptualized to diagnose and treat veterans suffering from what was formerly known as "shell shock." The women's movement and clinicians like Judith Herman helped us see that not only combat but abuse can also result in PTSD.

Some say that we are in a golden age of neuroscience. At the same time, it seems the more we know, the more we realize we don't know. It can be hard for a counselor such as myself to keep up with all of the advances in the field. Perhaps the most encouraging news is regarding the changeable nature of the mind, referred to as neuroplasticity. In a nutshell, we now believe that we can rewire our brains- just as the brain is hurt from trauma, it can heal from it.

In trauma treatment, we rewire our minds by practicing safe coping in the present when we feel dis/stressed and then, once we have a few safe coping tools under our belt, processing the traumatic memories of the past. We can think of trauma treatment in three phases: present, past, and future. By practicing safe coping in the present, we are then able to process the past. By processing the past, we are then able to create the future we desire by living out our values.

When I say process, I mean desensitize the traumatic memory. Becoming able to stay grounded in the presence of triggers. For example, a survivor of physical abuse may have learned to numb out or shut down as a coping strategy. In her life after abuse, confrontations may continue to trigger this so called freeze response. With treatment, she can learn to stay with herself and respond how she chooses.

The vast majority of people with PTSD don't get the help they need. Common obstacles include fears that it won't work or what people might think. The truth is, if you are able to stay in treatment, whether it's individual or group therapy, it can help you feel better- whether or not PTSD has been diagnosed. Are people "cured" from PTSD? Certain treatments have proven track records of helping most people who complete them. The hardest thing is getting in treatment and staying there.

I look forward to sharing more with you about advances in the field, including more about the specific treatments I referenced, in future posts. If you or someone you know has been impacted by trauma, have hope. Effective treatments exist. The hardest part is behind you. From here on out, it's establishing safety, putting away the past, and truly living your life. You are much more than your trauma.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Transcending Childhood Trauma

So called "adult children" of dysfunctional households share certain characteristics. Can can see yourself in the tendencies listed below? If so, it may be a time to "heal the child within" so you can finally create the life and relationships that you desire! Don't forget to breathe as you read this list, as the traits described below can be painful to read. We will go on to explore how to deal with and heal from these behaviors:
  • Feeling that you are always waiting for "the other shoe to drop," feeling that you are constantly "on edge," "walking on eggshells," or "hyper-vigilant"
  • Marrying or becoming a person with addictions or compulsions of your own (cleaning, working, picking, drinking, drugging, watching Netflix, you name it)
  • Tending to be on the lookout for reasons not to trust those close to you, as well as distrusting your own behavior 
  • Having difficulty discerning healthy from unhealthy behavior in those around you
  • Expecting abnormal rather than normal behavior, expecting things to be unpredictable and chaotic
  • Experiencing difficulty setting appropriate boundaries with others, taking on too much, which makes you feel resentful, or saying "no" to everything, even when it could be beneficial
  • Keeping your true self, feelings, or inner experience hidden, keeping your guard up
  • Overreacting when you didn't mean to, feeling easily set off or triggered
Childhood abuse and neglect is traumatic and can result in a condition called Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What we know about psychological trauma is that it is a normal reaction to abnormal events. It makes sense to develop these strategies to survive growing up in a tumultuous family system. However, as adults, these behaviors can keep us from living the lives that we desire- but they are not terminal!

We can "heal the child within" as adults. Like anything, it takes time and practice but it's definitely do-able! First, we have to recognize what's happening- we're stuck in the past trying to fight, flight, or freeze our way out of conflict with our current partner. Then, we can realize that we're actually safe, now- unless we're in an intimate partner violence situation, which is entirely different and you can read more about here. Finally, we can center or ground ourselves and choose to work towards our healing in the form of a new response.

For example... When your partner triggers you and you instantaneously feel like a scared and angry child who wants to shut down, rage, or run away (your partner is a good source of feedback if you're not sure how you come across), you can notice this old pattern, take a break, and come back when you're ready to talk about it. Together with your partner, you can distinguish the past from the present by having a conversation about what happened and creating new solutions in the here-and-now.

I know, I know. Easier said than done! It's true that this is deep and life-changing work that takes time and effort. There is a lot that goes into it. Learning how to notice what's happening in the moment, how to self-sooth, and how to effectively communicate your experience to your partner are all skills that require training and practice. I keep the following tools in my counselor's toolbox to assist clients with this empowering work:
  • Mindfulness
  • Non-Violent Communication
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Trauma Treatment
If you are an "adult child," know that you're not alone. Hope and healing are most definitely possible! Counselors such as myself are here to assist you and there are free and confidential 12 step groups in the community, as well. Only you will know what's right for you. As always, I am wishing you only good things. Until next time, be well!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Living Your Own Script

You know how when someone else tells you what to do, you automatically feel less likely to do it? Even when you asked for the other person's advice? Is it in our nature to resist other people's well meaning advice? I believe that for our answers to be true they must come from within us.

From deciding what to wear to whether or not to stay in a job or relationship, answers are meaningless unless they are our own. We may ask for others' input from time to time but part of us knows that our happiness depends on our ability to make the right call. We are the ones who have to live with it.

Often times, clients come in to counseling with a pressing question. Together, we observe the dilemma from all angles, compare it to their own and others' experiences, and practice skills and strategies to assist in arriving at their own answers in their own time. There is no magic formula involved but, together, we find relief in choosing the the most beneficial path to creating the lives that we desire.

Is there a source of stress that's been occupying your mind, lately? Maybe an issue you've thought long and hard about? Or, perhaps something you've been ignoring, hoping it would go away on it's own (we all know things don't usually work this way- but that doesn't stop us from trying, right)?

If something comes to mind for you, hold the situation in your mind loosely. Take a breath and just notice what thoughts and emotions it brings up. Does it bring about changes in your breathing or posture? We're not judging this information, just observing the feedback. If you can, open up to your experience without trying to change it. Accepting rather than fighting your experience.

I invited you to do this, because, ironically, it often isn't until we stop trying to "fix" a given situation that the answer comes. There are definitely things that we can do, such as seeking out our own and others' time, space, support, and expertise. But, ultimately, we're the expert of our own experiences.

Consider this quote from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, "There is grace in denial. It is nature's way of letting in only as much as we can handle." Life happens on its own time. We may want an answer, now, but if the mind is flooded with the racing thoughts and black-and-white thinking of stress hormones, it makes it difficult to think clearly and make a decision (when this is the case, there are ways we can do to calm down, such as reminding ourselves that we're safe, now, if we aren't in direct physical danger).

You are not a visitor here. You are the leading role in your life, not a supporting actor. There are no right or wrong ways to do life, only different options. You are writing the script of your story as you go in how you respond to life's circumstances. I invite you to take a few creative liberties with this process (is there any other way to do it?). This is your life. Your story. Your time. If you don't do it, who will?

I invite you to shine.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What to Expect from Transcending Trauma

I created this group to offer a gentle calm space for women to learn to trust in our healing process at our own time and pace- and because we cannot heal alone. Group allows you the support we need to practice effective new ways of being- as well as a place to just be ourselves and belong. Others who have had similar experiences can relate to our often contradictory feelings, helping us find compassion for ourselves and each other. Knowing you are not alone is one thing. Feeling it is something else.

Perhaps a group about healing from trauma sounds helpful but also a little scary. We all experience events in our lives that cause us to feel highly overwhelmed and helpless and the resulting symptoms of psychological trauma. You don't have to be diagnosed with PTSD to benefit from a trauma treatment group. This group is geared towards healing from trauma, which is a part of all of our lives but doesn't always resolve itself on its own. If trauma is still impacting your life, this group is for you.

Group is not a time to retell traumatic events or share anything you are not comfortable sharing (this is in our treatment agreements because we want to avoid re-traumatizing ourselves at all costs). Group is about finding safety because without it there can be no healing so safety always comes first. That's it.

Together, we will learn about psychological trauma and how to assist in our healing from it, find and practice our best coping strategies, feel the support of being with a group of people who "get it," realize we are not alone, and trust that we can transcend trauma. Shedding the shame and isolation of trauma by joining in a group is a hugely empowering step in our journey. Each and every decision we make to cope safely is another stone in rebuilding a foundation of safety in our lives after trauma.

Could Transcending Trauma be right for you? Call our intake coordinator at 706-850-7041 or email me directly at for more information or to enroll. You may also wish to check out my recent article on the subject. New members are welcome. We look forward to hearing from you. Take good care.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Circle Up

I never thought that I'd be in a women's circle or that my husband would be in a men's group (although I longed for it) but this is our Tuesday night routine, now. Then, there are the professional counseling supervision and consultation groups I am involved with- and the women's trauma treatment group I am facilitating. Just call me the group lady! Gatherings like these used to make me squirm. But, today, I relish in the opportunity to come together for our personal and professional growth.

There are many benefits of groups, including:
  • More affordable than individual therapy
  • Relating and feeling less alone
  • Practicing new ways of being 
  • Learning from others' experience
  • Sharing in a supportive space
These don't make the idea any less anxiety provoking for those of us with social anxiety or other aversions to groups. To me, it has been worth the risk of showing up and trying something new, riding out my own nervousness time and again, to come through it feeling more connected. When we allow our experience- breathing and letting our self-consciousness move through us- we stop it from getting in the way of living the lives we desire. We all have some old fear that gets in the way, sometimes.

Interested in local opportunities to try a group or circle? Check out:
What other groups would you like to join or check out? Where there's an interest, there is an opportunity. Chances are, you are not the only one interested in a given topic. Groups can be grassroots- comprised of you and a couple other people. The possibilities are endless. My women's circle consists of myself and six other women who connected through word of mouth. We meet weekly at each other's houses at an agreed upon time. It costs nothing and offers so much nourishment.

Local lady, Baraka Elihu, inspired our gathering with her book, Birthing Ourselves Into Being. What would inspire you to reach out? A different book? An interest in learning a new skill or activity? Support in healing from a particular condition? I am hoping that we each find belonging, support, and understanding when we need it most. After all, we are all connected with life on this planet and no one can survive in isolation. We can always feel more connected. Groups can help!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Women's History Month Outro...

Many women in my life have helped me know that I am not alone. We have to be courageous because what we choose to say and do affects us all. I am thankful for all of the women- past, present, and future- who have positively impacted the lives of those around them. I want to be one of those women. And, I hope that you do, too (guys, we need y'all, too, to be the change that you wish to see).

As we honor Women's History Month, consider your responses to the following:

We want to live in a world where...

We want to live in communities where...

We want to live in neighborhoods where...

We want to live in families where...

We want to be in relationships where...

What unique gifts do you have to offer? You affect those around you simply by existing. But, you are much more than that! You belong here. And, you matter.

May we create the lives that we desire.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Coping With Night Terrors

I wanted to follow up my last blog post on sleep with a piece about night terrors. A night terror is a traumatic nightmare that can leave you reeling- perhaps waking up crying or screaming. Thank goodness, night terrors pose no actual threat to our safety but it sure feels that way at the time. Coping safely with night terrors and other symptoms of trauma is possible and essential to our healing.

Healing from trauma is a process of re-estrablishing safety in our lives. The same is true with coping with night terrors. Upon waking, we must ground ourselves to the here-and-now, reminding ourselves that we are safe, now. If "safe" is too triggering a word, try using the word "calm" or another word that works better for you instead. In healing from trauma, you are the expert of your experience.

Some ways to cope with night terrors are:
  • Remind yourself that you are safe, now. It was just a dream. 
  • Notice where you are by labeling the objects in your room.
  • Try putting an imaginary buffer between you and your negative feelings.
  • Feel your feet. Wiggle your toes. Tense and release your hands.
  • Get out of bed and move around. Feel the support of the ground.
  • Find a pet or loved one who is capable of offering comfort.
  • Prepare yourself a snack or a glass of water or tea. 
  • Write a compassionate letter to yourself. Be your own best friend.
  • Think of a real or imaginary calm or safe place. Notice every detail.
  • Turn your attention towards a book, crossword puzzle, music, or tv.
As painful as they are, night terrors are a normal symptom of trauma. Research suggests that night terrors might be one way that our bodies try to process traumatic memories, which are stored differently than normal memories. Our intentions are wise but, at the same time, we have to feel safe in order to heal. When reliving the trauma through night terrors, flashbacks, thoughts, or memories, we heal by coping safely.

If you are a woman interested in practicing effective grounding techniques and finding your best coping strategies, you may wish to check out a group I am facilitating at The Banyan Tree Center called Transcending Trauma. The group meets Wednesday evenings. New members are always welcome. Contact our intake coordinator or email me directly at to enroll.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Getting Your Zzz's...

How many times have we been awake in bed at night, trying desperately to fall asleep? But, were we really trying to fall asleep or beating ourselves up for not being able to fall asleep instead? You know how it goes. How will I handle my day on no sleep? What's wrong with me? Why can't I just go to sleep? When we fight our experience, it tends to only make it worse. Why not try a more useful approach instead?

The next time you find yourself in the common scenario described above, what would it be like to...

  • Tell yourself, "Resting is as good as sleeping." "It's good to rest." "I can let myself just rest."
  • Count your breath. Inhaling, 2, 3. And, exhaling, 2, 3, 4, 5. Just finding your own rhythm. 
  • Get up and move if that's what your body is calling for and then return to bed when you're ready.
  • Listen to a book on tape or guided meditation that tends to lull you to a sleepier place.
There are things we can do ever before we're in bed that are proven to help us catch some Zzzz's...
  • Reduce your screen time before bed and make sure there are no screens visible in the bedroom.
  • Have some chamomile tea before bed. Cut out any caffeine intake for several hours before bed.
  • Get some physical activity in somehow in the earlier part of your day to naturally tire you out.
  • Create a nighttime routine that relaxes you, such as taking a hot bath or shower before bed.
These are just a few ideas. You will come up with the best practices on your own because you are the authority on your bedtime experience. I hope you have many restful nights ahead of you and that you are easy on yourself on those nights when good sleep is more difficult. Rest assured that our bodies will go to sleep when needed in order to keep functioning. May we be patient and peaceful with ourselves in the meantime. Best wishes for your most replenishing Zzz's..............................

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

ABC's of Healing

A is for awareness, which is always the first step! Take what you need from this list of tools from A-Z to support and assist with your healing or recovery.

A- Affirmations come in handy during times of stress (ie "May I be safe").

B- Being easy on yourself tends to be more beneficial than beating yourself up.

C- Compassion for yourself greatly enhances your healing process.

D- Do away with what doesn't serve your goals- and do more of what does.

E- Envision the life that you desire. Enjoy the process as much as you are able.

F- Faith is taking the first step when we can't see the whole staircase.

G- Go to places and people that guide you towards greater health and wholeness.

H- Healthy habits are not created overnight. Have patience. You're worth it.

I- I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. Anything is possible.

J- Just keep going. Journaling can be quite grounding.

K- Kindness heals. What would be a kind response to this situation?

L- Love yourself. Let go of what gets in the way. Let it be easy when it can.

M- Make time for you. Movies. Music. More of what you want.

N- No can be a great word. Say no to what doesn't feel right. You know what is best.

O- Over and over again. Healing is a process that occurs over time.

P- Put yourself first. Plan for some pleasure as part of your healing process. 

Q- Quiet time can be helpful. It's okay to have more questions than answers.

R- Rest up for the task at hand. Replenish, restore, and rejuvenate.

S- Slow down. Slow and steady wins the race. You have your whole life.

T- Take what you need. Trust that you have a right to be here.

U- Understand that you are the authority on your experience.

V- Value your whole self. We have to be vulnerable in order to heal.

W- What would you be doing differently if you were already "there?"

X- X marks the spot where your healing begins. Is this that spot for you?

Y- You deserve your own compassion. You have always been more than enough.

Z- Zzzzzzzzzz... Still awake? Nice work! :~)

What would your own list look like? What else would be on it? What wouldn't be on it? Use the alphabet or a word of your choice, like C-A-L-M, to get you started...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Taking Good Care of Ourselves

This Valentine's Day, let's consider a key ingredient to our healing from trauma: taking good care of ourselves. All types of trauma- from being bullied to surviving a sexual assault- are devastating and require our self-compassion to sustain and nourish our healing process. Do you feel that you have been impacted by trauma? If you do, how does this impact your choices in taking care of yourself?

Taking good care of ourselves in the context of healing from trauma means:

  • Valuing yourself and your right to be safe, happy, and healthy.
  • Learning to ground yourself and use safe coping skills in times of stress.
  • Knowing who you can call on and reaching out when you need support.
  • Making time to attend to your wellness through diet, sleep, and exercise.
  • Allowing yourself to play, have fun, and pursue pleasurable activities.
  • Taking reasonable measures to ensure your safety, such as having safe sex.
What common thread do you see running through these items? Taking good care of yourself is all about safety. We didn't feel safe when the trauma happened, but we can take steps to experience safety, now. In fact, we cannot heal without feeling safe. Taking good care of ourselves is a direct antidote for the disrespect and re-victimization that can result from trauma. The truth is, we deserve to feel safe.

On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being not safe at all and 10 being as safe as you can imagine, how safe do you feel, now? How safe would you like to feel? What keeps your number from moving up or down the scale? How could taking good care of yourself change your number? Do you feel you're worth it?

This Valentine's Day, I am wishing you the heartfelt knowledge that you deserve your own love and affection...

For more in-depth information about the symptoms of trauma and types of treatment available today, check out my latest article, "Is Trauma Treatment Right for Me?" at The Banyan Tree Center. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Transcending Trauma: A Women's Group

I'm pleased to announce that our new women's trauma treatment group, Transcending Trauma, will begin next month at The Banyan Tree Center in Athens, Georgia. This confidential group will take place weekly on Wednesday evenings from 6-7:30pm. New members are welcome to join at any time after a brief intake process.

Transcending Trauma will offer participants an opportunity to learn new skills and information about PTSD and psychological trauma as well as share in the support that only a women's group can provide. Together, we will follow a curriculum that has proven to help other women in similar situations, called Seeking Safety. I look forward to facilitating the group and will be sharing more articles about the symptoms of psychological trauma and how we can benefit from trauma treatment.

If you or someone you know is interested in attending this group, please give our intake coordinator a call at 706-850-7041. We understand that thinking about trying a group can be nerve-racking. That's why we're here to assist you in deciding if Transcending Trauma is right for you. The call is free and confidential.

May this winter's winds bring about some positive change for us all. Be well.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

New Year: New You

What defines you? It's a great time to ask ourselves this potent question as we step into the beginning of a new year. Those of us who have been through a trauma or traumas sometimes feel that who we are is defined in a limiting way by what happened to us. We may have difficulty imagining a happy future- or a future at all.

Healing from trauma can feel daunting but it is possible. In facilitating groups in an emergency shelter, community outreach center, in jail, and in private practice, I've found that it can be easier to find what works for us in a group setting with the support of other women. For this reason, I will be offering a counseling group for women impacted by trauma at The Banyan Tree next month.

I want trauma survivors to know that you don't have to go it alone. Whether we choose to try out a group, pick up a book, reach out to a trusted friend or relative, or tune into a healing program, you can find support. We can turn trauma into growth and resilience. It does not define who we are. We are much bigger than that.

(Details of the counseling group will be posted as they are finalized.)