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 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.
School will be out soon and now is the time to enroll your child in a brain enrichment program. A brain-training program called neurofeedback is available in the Athens area and is designed to rewire neural pathways into efficient, highly functioning pathways. Neurofeedback training can help your child with ADD/ADHD by increasing focus, attention, memory and organization. It can improve sleep and decrease anxiety and depression. Neurofeedback can train your child’s brain for flexibility and peak performance—it’s a great way to give your child an edge in their education and in their life.
It all begins with obtaining a qEEG brain map. An individual will wear something that looks like a swim cap. This cap has EEG sensors inside of it, which allows for brainwave activity to be measured and recorded. Once that data is obtained, a brain map is generated which pinpoints the areas of the brain where inefficient brainwave patterns are operating. Those patterns are retrained into efficient, higher functioning neural pathways.
Training the new neural pathway is quite simple with neurofeedback. It’s very similar to training a new muscle through repetitive movement at the gym, only it’s neural pathway training and it’s more fun! Neurofeedback training consists of watching a movie for 30 minutes on a movie screen while your brain trains and moves into the programmed zone. When the brain moves into the efficient brainwave pattern, the movie screen stays light and when the brainwave pattern defaults back to the old inefficient pathway, the movie screen will turn dark. The brain brilliantly seeks to stay in the new efficient pathway so that the movie may be viewed. This is a form of operant conditioning and will entrain/rewire a brain to stay within the efficient neural pathway.
The training is as enjoyable for an individual as watching a movie or a favorite television show. The brain is doing the work on it’s own as it is being guided by the neurofeedback software. Neurofeedback is non invasive and does not have negative side effects like so many of the prescription drugs used to manage similar issues in the brain.
Contact Pamela Key, Neurofeedback Practitioner, at Counseling Associates for Well-Being for brain training in the 2016 Summer Program. (706) 425-8900 or email@example.com
Anxiety has reached epic proportions in America – 31% of the American workforce is dealing with anxiety issues. With all of the new technology options and social media platforms, we’re connected to work more than ever and have difficulty finding time to disconnect and relax.
According to Tony Schwartz, founder of The Energy Project and best-selling author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, Americans are in constant “fight or flight” mode. This should raise a red flag in our lives and we should recognize this isn’t a healthy way to live. But many of us are just toughing it out. Schwartz notes, “If you can’t build a sense of safety and security, it will compromise every aspect of your life, including work.”
He makes it clear, your body can’t distinguish between a lion attack threat and other safety and security threatening stressors. According to a recent Business Insider report, Schwartz discovered the most common anxiety arises when someone’s sense of value is threatened. “Almost any time you move into a negative emotional state, you can trace it back to an experience where you perceive your value has come under some type of threat,” Schwartz explains. “That awareness is power. I have the capacity to decide, is this a real threat? Almost always, it isn’t. It’s much less of a threat to your body than you think.” But, our mind is processing the threat as “fight or flight” and anxiety levels are maximized. Understanding that our immediate environment may be difficult to quickly change, we can take charge of a few things – our thoughts, nutrition and exercise.
The primary anxiety triggers that may threaten your sense of safety or value:
• Serious life events like the death of a loved one or a divorce
• Problems in personal relationships, marriage or close friendships
• Work stress
• Financial stress
It’s apparent most of us experience life stressors and many of us are certainly living in “fight or flight.” With this awareness, and through working with people with high levels of anxiety, I have developed a powerful program to identify and address the aspects of anxiety, and provide clients with the tools to move into a more peaceful, productive life.
I hope you will join us. Take this life-changing opportunity to learn and experience new techniques designed to take you from the “fight or flight” mode to living in greater “peace and harmony.”
School is officially out and summer has begun. While summer is filled with many fun activities such as family vacations, lazy days at the pool, and adventures at camp, it is also a great time to improve your brain through neurofeedback!
Neurofeedback is a process of self-regulation of the brain that retrains neural pathways into effective, efficient, functioning brainwave patterns. It’s a high tech way to retrain your brain to work in a way that allows greater ease in dealing with life’s challenges – whether it’s work, school, relationships, sleep, or the ability to relax. Neurofeedback training can help you or your student in a variety of ways including:
- Improve attention, focus, and motivation
- Ease anxiety during pivotal transitions between elementary school, middle school, high school, and college
- Retain academic knowledge in order to counteract summer learning loss
- Give your high achieving student an edge for next academic year
- Decrease irritability, mood swings, and depression
Take this summer to do something BIG for your brain. Neurofeedback is the pathway to a better brain – and a happier life!
To start your journey to improve your brain, please contact Pamela Key at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (706) 425-8900.
Our ancestors spent a great deal of time worrying, and for good reason. Other cave neighbors might try to steal their food…or their shelter…or their mate. Other animals might try to make them lunch. To protect themselves from these threats, our ancestors’ brains were frequently dialed in to the “fight-or-flight” response—a very primitive and very essential function of our brains that is designed to keep us safe.
We still regularly access this fight-or-flight response, but the threats in modern life are waaaay different than what our ancestors faced. Sure, there’s still the potential for danger, but more often than not, our anger is triggered by the day to day, non life-threatening stressors of modern life: annoying co-workers, being stuck in traffic, disagreements with our loved ones, money troubles, etc…the list goes on and on.
And here’s the problem. Although our anger is designed to protect us, in these situations, it’s actually endangering us, because staying mired in the threat response of anger robs us of joy, makes us more susceptible to stress and chronic illness, and causes our relationships to suffer. In short, anger can deprive us from being our true, best selves.
The True Strength program, originally created by Dr. Russell Kolts, utilizes Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) to teach new ways of coping with problematic expressions of anger. CFT blends centuries-old meditative practices (mindfulness) with evolutionary psychology and modern neuroscience in ways that are easy to understand and extremely useful. Through this course, you will cultivate a deeper sense of compassion for yourself and others, replace aggression with assertiveness, and improve your relationships.
TRUE STRENGTH: A CFT Program for Taking Responsibility of Your Anger
Six Week Course Starting Wednesday May 18.
Session Times: 6:00PM – 7:30PM
This group does not accept insurance
Fees are $45/group or pay a one time fee of $240 and save $30
Call Robert at (706) 425-8900 ext 706
Chances are if you’ve been in therapy before, your therapist may have worked with you on a technique called “thought reframing.” It’s a common practice in modern psychotherapy, rooted in the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tradition (CBT). A therapist trained in CBT will guide clients to identify, challenge, and reframe unhelpful thinking patterns and beliefs that lead to BIG, unwanted emotions (e.g. if you go to a party and think ‘no one here likes me,’ chances are you will not be brimming with confidence and, hence, won’t party at the party). A therapist trained in CBT would prompt a client who thinks “nobody likes me” to consider alternative ways of thinking about the situation—e.g. ”I was invited to the party by ____, and I had a good time talking with ____ the last time I saw her, so I’ll probably enjoy myself this time as well.” Likewise, even if you’ve never set foot in a therapist’s office before, there’s a good chance that family and friends have intuitively utilized aspects of CBT to support you…perhaps by encouraging you to consider alternate ways of looking (i.e. thinking) about a difficult situation, with the intention being to “cheer you up.”
CBT is a widely accepted treatment for one simple reason—it works. But…in the spirit of CBT, which cautions against seeing the world in absolutes (i.e. always, never, all the time, etc), I would clarify that CBT works…some of the time…
When I was in school studying to be a therapist and during the early years of my practice, I learned and often incorporated elements of CBT into my work with clients. The treatment was often effective, but I noticed that amongst a certain segment of clients, it proved strikingly less so. Clients that possessed high levels of shame and self-criticism tended to intellectually get the concept of thought reframing, but their insights didn’t produce significant changes in how they were feeling. For example, a client might acknowledge being equally, if not more, qualified than other applicants when considering whether to apply for a job, but would remain mired in doubt and anxiety and still revert back to the old familiar pattern of self-criticism—so much so that maybe they wouldn’t even apply for the job they expressed an interest in in the first place.
To my mind, shame is that deeply felt sense of not measuring up—of not being ____ enough (for perhaps the most vivid description of shame I’ve ever heard, take the time to watch this Ted Talk by noted author and social theorist Brené Brown). Shame is an intense, multi-layered emotional experience (think embarrassment times a thousand) that we all feel from time to time, but some of us, particularly those with early childhood experiences that contain abuse and neglect, experience high, problematic levels of it. The rumination that often accompanies shame tends to be filled with self-criticism and, in turn, contributes to frequent reoccurrences of depression and other mental health issues. Shame…or the anticipation of feeling it…is like a vampire, draining us as we consciously (and unconsciously) avoid experiences that might otherwise bring vitality and purpose to our lives.
I was elated to come across a wealth of scientific research that backed up my initial observation regarding CBT “thought reframing” techniques not being particularly effective for individuals with high levels of shame and self-criticism. As it turns out, British psychologist Paul Gilbert has devoted much of his life’s work to this very topic, and he has developed Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), in part, in response to that gap in care for individuals who struggle with shame and self-criticism (for a review of just what compassion is, see my previous post). Although CFT incorporates elements of CBT, it differs in that CBT targets emotional suffering through reframing thinking, while CFT seeks to cultivate emotion-focused experiences that elicit the innate, self-soothing capacities we all possess. In other words, as Dr. Gilbert points out, “In order for us to be reassured by a thought (say) ‘I am lovable’ this thought needs to link with the emotional experience of ‘being lovable’” (citation here)
If you tend to be someone who struggles with shame and/or self-criticism, the felt sense of “being lovable” may be unfamiliar, even scary territory. In my practice, I utilize Gilbert’s CFT techniques in conjunction with other treatment modalities that also emphasize compassion (the work of Christopher Germer and Kristin Neff in particular…more on their good work here and here). All of these treatments blend centuries-old meditative practices (the “old wisdom” I mentioned in the title) with evolutionary psychology and modern neuroscience. My hope for all my clients who struggle with shame-related issues (frankly, I don’t know anyone, myself included, who doesn’t) is to reach a point where one recognizes they are lovable and can offer compassion for themselves and others. Unlike self-esteem, which is contingent on us doing “stuff” (i.e. determining our worth through our accomplishments), self-compassion emphasizes that we have inherent worth…just because we exist. It’s our birthright.
In the weeks to come, I’ll be sharing more about the cultivating a “compassionate mind” on this blog. If you are interested in learning more about the healing potential of compassion, and cultivating a deeper sense of it for yourself and others, please call me at (706) 425-8900 or email me at email@example.com.
Courtesy of PhotoDune
Love the One You’re With: Understanding Personality Differences and Communication Styles in Your Marriage
March 21st, 10am-12pm, Cornerstone Church, Athens, GA
Facilitated by Marian Higgins, LPC
Do you ever find yourself wondering why you and your spouse communicate differently? You are not alone. Many couples struggle in this area. Our personality differences can challenge our relationships but they can also be one of the greatest parts of our marriages.
During this interactive workshop, you and your spouse will:
- gain a better understanding of your personalities and how to best communicate given your personality type.
- take the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, a personality assessment that can help couples with communication in their relationship.
- and engage in a series of activities and learn techniques that you can use in your marriage.
Whether you are engaged, newly married, or have been married for years, you will benefit from this workshop.
Registration is $60 and includes two assessments and a book. Space is limited. Sign-up today by contacting Marian Higgins at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-425-8900 ext. 704. The deadline to register is Thursday, March 19th.
Modern science is steadily corroborating what many spiritual traditions have known for centuries. Compassion—the recognition of human suffering coupled with the courage to do something to alleviate it—is associated with greater levels of life satisfaction, happiness, resiliency, improved immune system functioning…possibly even increasing lifespan. There’s even actual science that backs up the timeworn cliché “it’s better to give than receive” (click here for a great article highlighting recent research into the mind and body benefits of compassion).
My practice is informed by many of these exciting developments in the field of compassion studies, and one of the things I always stress to clients is that we are all hardwired for compassion—it’s innate (e.g. think about how a parent responds to an infant’s cry…that response doesn’t happen without compassion). We are already compassionate beings, but just like going to the gym, we can train our hearts and minds to make our capacity for compassion stronger.
A fundamental piece of compassion is developing an awareness of interdependence—the sense that as a species we are all connected. I came to a deeper understanding of this practice when attending a foundation course for Emory University’s Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) program recently. Dr. Geshe Lobsang Negi, a former Buddhist monk who is the founder of the program (and founder of the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta) led the training. CBCT was created at Emory University in 2005 in response to an alarming increase in depression and suicide amongst the university’s undergraduate population. The implementation of CBCT has been instrumental in promoting wellbeing amongst the student population at Emory, and CBCT researchers are extending their focus in a variety of settings to studying the beneficial aspects of compassion practice on human health. For more info on the CBCT program, click here:
Here’s an approach that Dr. Negi teaches for gaining a deeper sense of interdependence. Take a moment and consider a talent you have. It can be anything…maybe something as seemingly simple as cooking a pot of spaghetti…or some exceptional feat of derring-do like tightrope walking—doesn’t matter…just something you have gained a sufficient level of competency with and also something that brings you a sense of satisfaction and/or purpose. Then, reflect on ALL the individuals who had a role, either directly or indirectly, in making that talent a part of your life.
Actually, before you do, I’ll share an example from my own life to illustrate this concept…
I love to play the drums. I’ve played since I was about 14 years old. When I reflect on the idea of interdependence—the idea that we cannot thrive in life without the support of others—in relation to this love of playing the drums, it becomes so apparent to me just how many people have supported me in helping me cultivate this talent.
At the age of 14, some friends and I wanted to start our own band. We even had a name for the band. BLATANT DISREGARD. With a name like that, we figured we were well on our way to rock and roll stardom!
There were only a few barriers (somewhat significant barriers mind you) to making Blatant Disregard a reality. For starters, most of us had no actual musical ability. I mean zero talent. Also, only one of us I think actually owned an instrument! I think because my dad had been a drummer, and there was still an old pair of drum sticks that had been lying around the house, I appointment myself as the band’s would-be percussionist. I approached my dad with my idea of taking up the drums, and he was very open to the idea (I think one motivation for him, beyond supporting his son, was to have a drum set in the house that he could play as well). He agreed to help with the purchase of a drum set, with the caveat being that I would take some lessons.
The lessons led to another person who was instrumental in developing my talent. Willy. I have to admit…I never actually got his last name. Willy was my drum teacher. If you are at all familiar with “the look” of 80s rock-n-roll, particularly the hard rock or heavy metal genres, you’ll be able to get an approximate visualization of Willy’s fashion sensibility—e.g. BIG, frizzy hair, ripped, acid washed jeans, tank tops, moon boots (white Reebok hi-tops). I remember he drove a gold corvette with a compact disc that hung from the rear view mirror. Willy had style for miles.
I only took lessons for a short time, just enough to learn the rudimentary basics of playing, but I still am very grateful to Willy for what he taught me. In addition to being musically talented, he was patient and also very enthusiastic—attributes that, to my mind, are essential for a good teacher. I still have fond recollections of stumbling through songs like the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”—songs I don’t think I had even heard at that point in my life—with a pick up band of similarly-skilled students (Willy taught every instrument at the music store where I took lessons). Willy would serve as our little pick-up band’s lead vocalist and keyboard player, conducting the band and throwing himself rapturously into the performance as if he was on stage at Madison Square Garden.
There have been so many others, like Willy or my dad, who have played vital roles in supporting my love of playing drums. Some I’ve known closely…some I’ve never met. Countless bandmates (sadly, Blatant Disregard’s career was short lived) shared their talents, each inspiring me in their own way and playing a role in shaping my own musical sensibilities. I also have to be thankful for exceedingly tolerant family members, friends, and neighbors—all the individuals who have put up with hearing the same tune played over and over (and over ad infinitum) as I developed my skills. Less directly, music store clerks or fellow musicians selling the instruments I’ve purchased and, by extension, the designers and manufacturers of said instruments, have all been essential to my musical development. And just think? Someone had to own the stores where I purchased the instruments, and city planners, developers, architects, and construction crews all had to devote time and energy to the building of those stores. Oh, and what about the individuals responsible for producing the materials that built those stores? As well as the trucks that transported those materials? Not to mention the roads that the trucks drove on? See how this goes? Once you start “down the rabbit hole” in this examination of interdependence, it’s hard to find an endpoint…
Isolation and a distinctly felt sense of otherness (feeling alone and apart from the group) correlate with high levels of anxiety, depression, and other poor health outcomes. Compassion offers a way out. When we start to closely examine the contributions others have made on our lives—particularly aspects of our lives that our dear to us—the illusion of separateness (and the pain which accompanies it) subsides. We feel less alone and energized to enrich our own lives by, in part, a deeply felt appreciation of others. If you are interested in learning skills to develop your sense of compassion, both for yourself and others, then contact me, Robert Lomax, at email@example.com or call (706) 425-8900.
Premarital counseling can offer couples the insight they need to prepare for marriage. It is designed to provide marriage education while also helping couples to develop the skills needed for a successful marriage. Participating in premarital counseling does not mean something is wrong with your relationship. In fact, it means that you are ready to establish a solid foundation for your marriage and want to prevent future problems from occurring in your marriage.
Some Benefits to Premarital Counseling include:
- Increasing commitment to your relationship and marriage
- Developing and enhancing your communication skills as a couple
- Learning effective techniques for handling conflict
- Reducing your risk for divorce
- Giving more attention to a healthy marriage
As a counselor, I utilize the Prepare Enrich couples counseling program. Prepare Enrich offers a customized online couples’ assessment that identifies a couple’s strength and growth areas. It is one of the most widely used programs for premarital counseling and premarital education. Over 3 million couples have completed this program. It is also used for marriage counseling, marriage enrichment, and dating couples considering engagement. Based on a couple’s assessment results, we will schedule 6-8 feedback sessions in which I will use various exercises to help couples discuss and understand their results as they are taught proven relationship skills.
The major goals of the PREPARE/ENRICH program is to help couples:
- Explore strength and growth areas
- Strengthen communication skills
- Identify and manage major stressors
- Resolve conflict using the Ten Step Model
- Develop a more balanced relationship
- Explore family of origin issues
- Discuss financial planning and budgeting
- Establish personal, couple and family goals
- Understand and appreciate personality differences
Couples who sign-up for premarital counseling will receive 2 Prepare/Enrich workbooks, 2 copies of customized comprehensive couple reports, and a certificate of completion. The certificate of completion can be used to save on your marriage license in Georgia. Other states may offer this incentive as well.
To schedule your initial session or to inquire about rates and packages, contact Marian Higgins, Ph.D., firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-425-8900 ext. 704.