Yoga is now scientifically verified as an effective treatment for depression and anxiety.  Most people think of yoga as physical fitness, often imagining difficult physical poses requiring strength and flexibility.  Yoga is much more than this-what most people think of as yoga is actually Asana or the physical poses which are only one part of the system of Yoga. The 8 limb system also includes philosophy, breathing and meditation practices which lessen suffering and enhance peace of mind.

Slower, body sensing yoga practices are more effective for anxiety, depression and trauma.  In addition, pranayama (breathing practices) and simple seated postures and mudras (hand positions) are powerful methods to calm the nervous system, enhance or calm mood, as well as increase self-compassion.  These ancient practices are powerful proven tools to combat emotional imbalance and negative thinking patterns.  Please see this news article that summarizes some of the recent findings https://www.newsweek.com/yoga-therapy-mental-health-mental-illness-depression-anxiety-eating-disorders-666220 .

In my own life, I have found yoga practices to be an anchor in moving through difficult life transitions and a reliable set of skills that lead to more peace and happiness on a daily basis. If you are interested in joining an upcoming group “Yoga Skills For Emotional Balance” with Suzanne Morgan or would like more information about therapy and yoga, please contact me at suzanne@ca4wellbeing.com.

Counseling Associates for Well-Being would like to welcome Beth Jackson to our CAWB team.  Beth brings a wealth of knowledge to benefit clients in our Alpharetta location.  Beth works with adults and adolescents on a wide range of issues, some of those being family and parenting issues, relationship issues, life transitions, women’s issues, anxiety and depression.  Please read more about Beth on her bio link at https://ca4wellbeing.com/about/beth-z-jackson-lcsw/. Contact her at Beth@ca4wellbeing.com or 706-425-8900.

 

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Most parents are aware how important attachment is for our children and we may go to great lengths to ensure we develop secure bonds with our babies so that they grow up with a sense of security in the world.  We now know from current research with couples that secure attachment is also crucial to an adult’s well-being.  Dr. Sue Johnson, who was called the best couple therapist in the world by John Gottman, arguably our most prolific relationship researcher, has been studying how attachment affects our romantic relationships for decades.  In this video, she decribes how one partner’s sense of physical pain can be changed by secure support and is even visible on MRI :  http://youtu.be/2J6B00d-8lw , and further that attachment bonds can be strengthened.

John Bowlby, a British psychiatrist, first made the psychological world understand the necessity of secure attachment with parent figures as vital for the well-being of children.  He and others noted some children’s “failure to thrive” in hospital and orphanage settings without consistent and loving caregivers.  Although we accept these more nurturing attitudes today toward children and none of us would leave a little one alone in a hospital overnight to tough out such a stressful situation, we often overlook the healthy aspects of interdependence in our adult relationships.  Our culture is one of rugged independence, self-sufficiency and fears about losing our individuality. These are valid concerns as we want to maintain our voices, boundaries, and our identities in relationship, however we may sometimes overcorrect and not allow ourselves the vulnerability and openness that healthy intimacy require. Bowlby coined the phrase “effective dependence” to describe secure adult bonds which allow us to reach for others when we need help and support. Dr. Sue Johnson and others working on Adult Attachment research are validating this healthy dependence is as vital for adults as it is for children.

I recently had the opportunity to complete a 4 day externship in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy.  For years I have read Dr. Johnson’s books and was excited to learn more.  I am certified as an Imago Couples Therapist and value my training and years of experience, but I am always interested in learning more about the enigma that is modern romantic love and committed relationship. I find the newest brain and attachment research to be fascinating as it confirms what Couple therapists have seen for years about the value of a secure bond.  We are healthier, happier and more successful when our most significant relationships are nurturing and work well.

What does a secure adult relationship look like?  Dr. Johnson has an acronym to describe the goal we are aiming for:  A.R.E.  Accessibility asks can I reach for you, Responsiveness asks can I rely on you to respond to me when I need you emotionally, and Engagement asks will you stay close to me and value me?  Essentially, a securely attached adult relationship is one of emotional responsiveness and safety, one where partners meet each other halfway and honor each other’s needs.

Luckily, there is a lot we can learn as an adult about our own attachment style individually and with our partners. We can look at our attachment history, our interactive dances and patterns, and our emotions that are triggered when we are in conflict and feel our relationship security is threatened.  Conscious partners can be part of each other’s healing of earlier attachment wounds, our present emotional safety and ultimately our overall well-being.  And when we feel we are solidly on that path, that is when Love makes sense.

If you would like to learn more about your own relationship patterns individually or as a couple and work toward improving them, please contact me at 706-425-8900 or email me at suzanne@ca4wellbeing.com.

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Robert Lomax

Robert Lomax, LCSW is the newest associate to join Counseling Associates for Well-Being.  Robert brings a wealth of experience and talents, and welcomes the opportunity to assist clients with a variety of issues.  His areas of specialization include depression, anxiety, grief and loss, anger management, trauma, life transitions, gender identity and sexual orientation, and communication.  We are thrilled to welcome Robert!  To find out more about Robert’s unique approach as a therapist, read more here ca4wellbeing.com/about/robert-m-lomax/.

Contact Robert at (706) 425-8900 or send him an email at rob@ca4wellbeing.com.

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Carol S. Dweck of Stanford University has identified mindset as a determining factor in success in her studies of motivation.  Specifically, she has identified that a growth mindset leads to success as opposed to a fixed mindset that often leads to wasted potential.  A fixed mindset believes that talent and intelligence are fixed traits within a person that lead to success or failure, while a growth mindset attributes success to hard work and effort.  You can imagine that failure or difficulties really challenge a person with a fixed mindset, especially if they see themselves as needing to be perfect.  One in that instance is always looking for evidence (or absence of evidence) of the existence of positive traits and failure really creates a situation that is worst case scenario.  However, if one is focused on growth and efforts as key, one might have more curiosity and creativity to offer to a situation and less hopelessness and helplessness.

This is important news for parents in terms of the praise we offer our children.  Research is mounting that praising children as “smart” does not lead to success in school.  It actually can lead to a lack of effort being applied when learning and work is challenging.  When challenges come, even very intelligent children with a fixed mindset will avoid or not make efforts because they believe if they are smart, then they should know the information already or the work should come easy.  Children that have been praised for efforts, on the other hand, tend to stick with challenging work because this work does not test their view of themselves as smart. It simply means they are having to make efforts in order to learn and succeed and that is okay.  It does not say anything negative about their abilities. Check out this video that illustrates the concept with children: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWv1VdDeoRY.

We can see this same dynamic play out in our view on romantic love.  I recently posted about the Unity versus the Journey view of love and how that determines whether we judge our relationships as positive or negative: https://ca4wellbeing.com/imagorelationshiptherapy/.  I see this as a congruent finding that builds on the idea that, if we are to be successful in life and in relationships, we need a perspective that allows for growth and learning. A less fixed mindset allows for the possibility that challenges, problems, and failures are part of the path and do not signal doom or something inherently flawed in the person or the relationship.  Challenges are a given and curiosity, creativity, open-mindedness as well as effort are required to navigate academics, career choices, or love relationships in a way that feels positive and is sustainable for the long haul.  If you are interested in exploring your mindset and how it affects your parenting, relationships or how you see your world, give me a call at 706-425-8900 or email me at suzanne@ca4wellbeing.com.

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Recently, researchers Nobert Schwartz and Spike W.S. Lee published a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology that challenges some of our romantic myths about love, relationships, and marriage. Schwartz and Lee found in two separate experiments that how couples frame their relationship in terms of metaphor,  will influence their ability to work through conflicts as well as their judgments about the quality of their relationships.

One view, popular in our culture (especially in romantic movies) views partners as “two halves of a whole”  or “made for each other”.  In other words, the “unity” idea or the belief that people in love are destined to be together and that love should be conflict free.  The other view, also popular in our culture is that “love is a journey with ups and downs”.  Lee and Schwartz’ work found that couples who hold the belief that love is a journey with challenges are more likely to be happy with their relationships and see conflict as something that is positive and can be worked through.

Harville Hendrix, creator of Imago Relationship Therapy has spent decades teaching couples that “conflict is your relationship trying to grow.”  This new research supports the idea in Imago that conflict is natural and how we frame our ideas about love and conflict are key. Relationships are powerful opportunities to grow and heal, but most growth in life does not occur without getting out of our comfort zones.  And, the very differences that can be so frustrating in romantic relationships come from our powerful unconscious attraction to a partner that will motivate growth.  To learn more about Imago Relationship Therapy visit www.gettingtheloveyouwant.com.

Contact me at Suzanne@ca4wellbeing.com or call me at 706-425-8900 if you are interested in a exploring your relationship patterns and learning new skills individually or as a couple. Enjoy the journey!

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www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2013/08/22/study-to-the-human-brain-me-is-we/

We are wired toward connection! This is an exciting time in terms of the emerging knowledge regarding our minds and our behavior in relationships.  I highly recommend you read the article linked above.  Interestingly, recent MRI studies show that participants react to a threat against a loved one with the same intensity as they would a threat to themselves.  Daniel Siegel, who is a pioneer in the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology, has written and spoken prolifically for years describing how our minds develop through interactions with others and that processes to integrate the mind heal relationships (and the reverse is true as well).  These MRI studies confirm what therapists have known for years about the importance of empathy in our relationships.  Also, this type of research is confirming what we know about couples: partners become emotionally attuned to each other and react to the other’s emotions and moods.

The really good news is that when we learn to have attuned communication with others, we actually integrate and improve the wiring in our brains.  Attuned communication is defined by Siegel as resonating with another’s inner world.  This connects with John Gottman’s research with couples also that happy spouses know each other’s inner worlds.  Siegel says we cannot just focus on the thoughts and feelings, but we have to be mindful of the energy in our exchanges with others.  Mindfulness practices and meditation can improve our ability to be present in relationships as well as improve our well-being.

If you are interested in improving your understanding of your own behavior in relationships and learning tools to enhance them, I am a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist and Certified Hatha Yoga Instructor with expertise in helping individuals and couples improve their communication and lessen their reactivity as well as change patterns that are painful.  Please call 706-425-8900 or email Suzanne@ca4wellbeing.com with questions or to schedule a session.

 

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I am not a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions. I find them to be similar to diets in the way they create a setup of unrealistically harsh expectations for one’s self that are bound to fail. However, there is one resolution I would suggest and celebrate for anyone to make, and this resolution improves outlook and mood, health, relationships and all other aspects of life. This resolution would be a commitment in the year 2014 to improve one’s relationship with self. The relationship we have with ourselves is the longest and most important as it forms the basis for how we see the world and make choices for our behavior.

How does one improve that relationship? One way we improve it is by becoming aware of and improving our self-talk.  Many of us have developed a strong inner drill sergeant that seeks to motivate us to “be better” and “do better”.  I would argue that we get a lot further with compassion for self and treating ourselves as we would a dear friend.  Compassion for self does not mean denial or dishonesty, but looking at situations in our lives with the understanding we are human and deserve unconditional emotional support first and foremost.  With compassion and honesty with self, we are more likely to make choices such as better self-care or reaching out for help when it is needed-and we all need help as human beings.

I would suggest mindfully starting with this intention each day.  Take a few quiet minutes to meditate on the intention to be compassionate toward one’s self on a daily basis.  This alone could create quite a lasting change this year.  Contact me at suzanne@ca4wellbeing.com if you would like to work on a new approach to making changes and dealing with challenges. Happy New Year!

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Recently, a client shared with me after a few sessions of working on their anxiety using therapy combined with yoga and mindfulness skills, “This has been life-changing for me.  I have tried so many things to deal with my problem and this has really worked.”  I am honored to be a part of such a transformation in a person’s life.  It is important when we are struggling with our emotions and thoughts, not to ignore the body’s powerful role.  Through integrating mind and body awareness, we can reconnect with who we are apart from the thoughts, feelings and situations that are distressing in our lives.  As a seasoned therapist and Certified Hatha Yoga Instructor, I assist my clients in seeing their problems from a more holistic vantage point.  Contact me if you are interested in trying a unique approach to individual or relationship therapy.  I am also excited to announce the start of my new group “Mind Body Awareness for Healing from Loss” beginning in October.  This ongoing therapy group explores how we can reconnect to ourselves and ultimately thrive after grief and/or traumatic loss.  Contact me at 706-425-8900 or suzanne@ca4wellbeing.com.

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I am excited to announce that I have completed my 200 hour training as a Certified Hatha Yoga instructor. I am passionate about combining yoga skills and techniques (no mat or flexibility required) with traditional talk therapy to enhance healing from grief, trauma, anxiety, and depression. In addition to the scientifically verified benefits for anxiety and depression, yoga and mindfulness also increase our ability to be present in relationships and in our daily lives, increasing our quality of life. Call me at 706-425-8900 or email me at Suzanne@ca4wellbeing.com to schedule an individual or group session today.