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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are so happy to announce that on May 1st, 2019 Isom E. White LCSW will be opening his new office in Smyrna / Vinings Georgia. We will be sad to see him leave the Athens area, but he will be a tremendous addition to the Atlanta area. Isom sees a variety of clients. He is excellent with the young adult, college age group, and also has experience with professionals struggling with high pressure careers, or those in life transitions. Isom is in-network with Blue Cross Blue Shield, Kaiser and Medicare, and he can also file with other insurance plans for out of network benefits if needed. He is ready to schedule you an appointment, whenever you are. Call him at 706-425-8900 or email him at Isom@ca4wellbeing.com
We here at Counseling Associates for Well-Being are so excited to announce that Stephine W. Smith, LCSW, CADC II is joining us in our Athens office. She is going to start seeing clients in our Athens office starting April 1st. Stephine has most recently been serving clients at The Samaritan Center for Counseling and Wellness, and we are thrilled to have her make her new professional home with us. Here is a little bit about Stephine that she wrote about herself so you can get to know her:
I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a history of working with individuals and families with Co-occurring Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders. I discovered my calling while visiting my sister in the hospital after she had been burned in an auto accident. The therapist who prepared us to support her on her journey of healing was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and that wonderful experience enabled us to know how to support her and my family. For this reason, I believe one of the most important aspect of therapy, is the relationship between a client and therapist.
I’ve had the privilege of working with a diverse population of individuals and families on their journey of discovery and healing for over 20 years. I’ve gained knowledge, experience and wisdom working in the field of behavioral health and substance use disorders. My career started at Phoebe Putney Health System/Behavioral Health in Albany Ga, which was my first introduction to direct care for those living with and managing mental health and substance use related concerns. I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help and accepting help can be a sign of strength, which is sometimes the most powerful thing one can do to heal.
My holistic approach to therapy centers on the connections of mind, body and spirit, and equal attention to these areas are important in the healing process. My client centered approach strives to provide a safe, compassionate, relaxing, non-judgmental environment in which individuals, couples and families find the opportunity to grow and heal. I believe my role is to help clients identify their strengths and encourages each person to live their best, authentic life as defined by themselves.
I utilize techniques such as CBT, ACT, REBT, Solution-Focused
You can contact Stephine W. Smith to make an appointment at 706-425-8900 ext 720 or email her at Stephine@ca4wellbeing.com
We are so excited to welcome Isom E. White, LCSW to Counseling Associates for Well-Being here in our Athens office! He is a very thoughtful, skilled, and warm clinician who enjoys working with older adolescents, young adults, and adults through the lifespan. He has some rich experience working with people to help them heal from trauma as well as helping them navigate life transitions. He enjoys helping people with relationship struggles, anxiety and depression. He is available to schedule new clients in our Athens location. Isom is offering a limited number of reduced fee openings for those that cannot pay regular fees. Please contact him at 706.425.8900 ext 719 or by email at Isom@ca4wellbeing.com to set up a time to get started.
From Isom about himself:
“My passion centers around guiding clients throughout the journey of life while assisting them in the cultivation of their dreams, ambitions, and goals. My approach to treatment begins through a compassionate lens of the “person-in-environment”, the idea that an individual, couple, or family cannot be understood fully without respect for the various aspects of their social, familial, temporal, spiritual, economic, and physical environments.
I enjoy working with a variety of populations: late-adolescents, college students, adults, LGBTQIA, couples, and families dealing with anxiety, depression, anger, grief and loss, trauma, and life-transitional issues. I also embrace working with men’s issues and athletes with performance issues. As an African-American therapist I hold a strong commitment to enhancing the quality of life and empowering people of African ancestry through advocacy, human services delivery, and research.
In both my personal and professional life, I am cultivating a mindfulness practice. Practicing mindfulness has allowed me to intimately connect with the present moment thereby enhancing my relationship between mind-body, with loved ones, and with nature. I find incorporating mindfulness-based Cognitive behavioral interventions including Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) enhance the therapeutic process by cultivating non-judgemental awareness, compassion, and purpose. I apply these principles to the therapeutic relationship by cultivating a warm, non-judgmental environment, allowing clients to feel safe in connecting with the most intimate parts of themselves so that they may begin the healing process.
My therapeutic philosophy incorporates trauma-informed approaches to therapy. Often times out of necessity, survivors of trauma need to disconnect from themselves (mind & body) to survive the most difficult and horrific experiences of their lives. Using a trauma-informed lens, my hope is to assist clients in healing the fractures of trauma by re-establishing the connection between their mind and bodies. I find the use of the evidence-based trauma treatment “Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing” (EMDR) assists individuals in the healing process by making links between unhelpful aspects of traumatic memories and present day problems.In my personal life I am a husband, brother, and devoted dog-parent to my, pitbull-boxer mix, Maple. Georgia has been my home for over 15 years now but I still consider myself a native Chicagoan. During my spare time, hobbies I enjoy include: coaching & playing lacrosse, video games, weightlifting, and caring for my Bonsai tree collection.”
We are so very happy to announce the latest associate with Counseling Associates for Well-Being. Leslie Sessley, LCSW has a fabulous new office in Decatur. This is another location to add to our already existing locations in Athens, Madison, and Alpharetta, Georgia. She is available to see clients in Decatur and surrounding areas. Leslie accepts Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plans.
She is a skilled family and individual therapist who has some valuable experience helping those who are stressed by the tasks of caregiving or having aging parents as well as other complicated family dynamics. Leslie has training and expertise on neurodegenerative conditions and does peer training on these topics. She has completed training in mediation. She is warm and friendly and super smart. We couldn’t recommend her more.
Please check here for more about her.
Many individuals have experienced some form of trauma in their lives, ranging from mild to catastrophic. The good news is the recovery from a traumatic event is more than possible, it is a true probability. Evidence based treatment methods, to include EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Memory Reconsolidation Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Yoga, and relaxation/meditation techniques are instrumental in providing relief and recovery for some of the debilitating symptoms of a past traumatic experience. Evidence based treatment methods used in counseling have proven time and again to work as well as, and sometimes better than, psychiatric medications which are typically used to treat depression and anxiety.
The interesting thing about traumatic experiences are the varying degrees with which individuals perceive the same experience. For instance, a car accident could potentially prevent someone from riding in a car for as much as the following year. Another person may have the same type of accident but experience it much differently with different effects. Maybe the second person is okay to hop in the driver’s seat the next day after a major accident. We are all unique and experience this world in various ways. No matter what the outcome, it is possible to rise above the despair and fear, no matter how great or small, and to overcome any distress or symptom which may linger.
The loud sound of a crowd, horns beeping in traffic, sudden noises, particular places, certain smells, or any trigger which leads to the memory or response of the trauma can lead to extreme discomfort, to say the least. Don’t give up hope. Help is just around the corner and counseling can have significant results in alleviating your symptoms! If you would like to speak with me regarding the techniques, please do not hesitate to call me at (706) 425-8900 ext. 717 or email me at email@example.com.
Janet W. Beasley, LPC
We are so pleased to welcome the latest addition to our team at Counseling Associates for Well-Being, Aaron Kirkwood. Aaron is a masters graduate of a marriage and family therapy program. He is available to see couples, individuals, and families in our Athens office. He is offering reduced fee services for those that need that and offers some evening and weekend hours. He will also be serving as our new intake coordinator, assuring that people who contact us for care are connected to the best options for them.
Congratulations to our colleague and friend who has just opened her own new office in Athens. Susanna Rains Moriarty, LPC, CRC. She can now be found here:
I love movies.
In my undergraduate years, I may have logged more time in the student movie theater than I did attending classes. Although my schedule now doesn’t afford me the luxury of getting to the theater as much as I would like, I still try to “watch my stories” as much as I can. A good film offers an immersive experience…a chance to be absorbed in the present moment via our senses (sight and hearing especially…but then again there’s always popcorn to fill in the rest), but beyond mere escapism, the medium can offer us an opportunity to connect with our uniquely human capacity for meaning making.
The other night, I was scrolling through my Netflix queue, looking for something to watch at home, and I came across the 2014 Spanish film Living is Easy (with Eyes Closed). I had never heard of the film, but was immediately intrigued by its title—a reference to the opening verse in the Beatles’ song “Strawberry Fields Forever,” which just happens to be one of my favorite songs ever (more on that in a bit).
Anyway, I watched the film and loved it. The film, apparently something of a true story, chronicles a teacher’s journey to meet John Lennon in 1966, when he was in Spain filming the Richard Lester movie How I Won the War (notable in Beatle lore for being the period when John wrote “Strawberry Fields Forever”). The teacher, Antonio, records Beatles’ tunes off the radio and then translates them to teach his students English. He wants to ask the “Smart Beatle” to translate and clarify the meaning of some of the songs, because it’s hard for Antonio to get all the words right to teach his students.
Along Antonio’s journey, he picks up two teenagers who are hitchhiking, fleeing two separate but simultaneously unfortunate circumstances. The unlikely trio journey from Madrid to the coastal town of Almeria, where John Lennon is temporarily residing. The film is filled with picturesque views of the Spanish countryside and coast, but underneath the beauty lurks subtle and not-so-subtle reminders of the oppressive environment that existed in Spain under the rule of Francisco Franco, the dictator who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975.
You might be wondering why I’m talking about movies in a blog dedicated to a psychotherapy practice. Well, I’ll explain. Actually, I’ll let twentieth century American existential psychologist Rollo May explain instead…
In his 1991 book “The Cry for Myth,“ Rollo May notes that “a myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths are narrative patterns that give significance to our existence” (p. 15). May emphasizes that, throughout time and across cultures, myths have served to aid humanity in formulating personal identity, connection with others, clarifying values, and providing meaning to the otherwise unexplainable.
Film is a modern means to access this mythic tradition.
When the topic of movies comes up in my sessions, I tend to steer the conversation toward connecting film with its mythical tradition. For example, we can use film narratives and film characters’ struggles as a means to externalize problems, so those issues that bring us into therapy seem less threatening. Or…maybe we can gain a new, more helpful perspective on a difficult past experience by considering it part of our “origin story”—an event that we have no control over apart from the meaning we derive from it…e.g. the murder of Batman’s parents contributing to his decision to protect the citizens of Gotham City.
I noted a lot of mythic elements in my viewing of Living Is Easy (With Eyes Closed). In one of the film’s opening scenes, Antonio teaches his class the words to “Help!”—another iconic Beatles’ tune. Antonio asks his students what the song is about, and after weathering a few non-committal answers from his disinterested pupils, he conveys to his students that the songwriter—once again…Mr. Lennon—is imploring us to help. He emphasizes the word “help” multiple times, and in doing so extends the meaning beyond a literal interpretation of the song’s lyrics.
To my mind, Antonio is suggesting we consider the song’s meaning from more than one perspective. The way he says “HELP,’ almost as an incantation, suggests fear…the terror of existence, but it can also be read as a command—not to live in fear but to offer HELP to humanity in general. The song’s seemingly simple message blooms into a mythic call for empathy and compassionate action.
Time and time again in this film, you see characters helping each other in tiny…and sometimes very significant ways, their kindness standing in stark contrast to the occasional random acts of cruelty a few peripheral characters exhibit (a thug in the town of Almeria seems to symbolize the dumb hate that fuels Fascist regimes like Franco’s). It’s almost as if the viewer is being presented with a choice—to live compassionately or live as an oppressor of others.
This emphasis on helping, to live compassionately, makes the film’s borrowing of the “Strawberry Fields Forever” lyric ironic. I’ve always found “Strawberry Fields Forever” to be a beautiful, atmospheric song, but lyrically the song is extraordinarily bleak—something of a sad, fragmented ode to nostalgia and escapism.
Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone
But it all works out
It doesn’t matter much to me…
The protagonist in the song (once again, is it John Lennon?) seems confused and uncertain of their identity and sense of purpose…always second-guessing themselves (“always, no sometimes, think it’s me…but it’s all wrong, that is I think I disagree”). The solace found in escaping (“let me take you down”) to Strawberry Fields might suggest permanence (the “Forever” bit), but I hear/read it as a temporary respite—a fleeting act of emotional avoidance—confirmed by the increasingly nonsensical tone of each subsequent verse.
Antonio does not live a life of avoidance, of the escapism of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Sure…there is struggle along the way, and there appears to be something of a loneliness to his existence (“take me…all heart and lonelier than a fart”), but he possesses a secure identity and engages open-heartedly in vital, valued living that is rich in compassion (that desire to HELP that I mentioned earlier). In one of the film’s key moments, when Antonio confronts the town bully who has been terrorizing one of his teenage traveling companions, he provides this challenge:
“let me say something…really important. You can’t live in fear. Too many people live in fear in Spain. But you need to change things dammit…you need to erase fear. Life is like a dog…if it smells fear, it bites you…”
Although he is speaking of fear that permeates 1960’s Spain, he could just as easily be referring to the present day United States. We can live a “half life” compromised by fear, or we can learn accept fear, and move forward in our lives in directions that matter to us.
I’m so happy I stumbled across Antonio, as he’s stimulated a lot of reflection on my part, connecting me to some of the key elements that energize me in my work with clients.
I love engaging clients in dialogues—should they be willing to do so—that are designed to inspire meaning making and clarify values. If we don’t know what is important to us, we run the risk of pursuing false, unfulfilling goals and living a life that will leave us disengaged from others and ultimately dissatisfied (i.e. the non-Antonio existence). Additionally, much of my practice, as I’ve delineated in some of my other blog posts, is informed by Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), an empirically-proven, mindfulness-based psychotherapy that encourages the cultivation of a compassionate mind as an essential piece in promoting psychological change and well-being. When we have the courage to recognize suffering, whether our own or someone else’s, and connect with our innate capacity to HELP (once again, thanks Antonio)—to alleviate suffering through compassionate action—we access the best, most vital part of ourselves.
Hope you enjoyed the “Long and Winding Road” (another Beatles’ reference…a hat trick!) that is this blog post. If any of the content here around film and its use in psychotherapy, compassionate mind training, or…well…the Fab Four engaged you, feel free to contact me. I’m accepting new clients! Also, if you’re just looking for a good movie to watch tonight, and you don’t mind subtitles, check out Living is Easy (With Eyes Closed).
May, Rollo (1991). The Cry for Myth. New York: Norton.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.