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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 pamela@ca4wellbeing.com or call (706) 425-8900.

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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

Robert Lomax

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 rob@ca4wellbeing.com.

 

Robert Lomax

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 rob@ca4wellbeing.com or call (706) 425-8900.

You have graduated from high school, spent the summer making memories with family and friends, and now it’s time to start college.  You may experience mixed emotions given this new journey in your life.  You might be excited to have a new independence – living on your own, deciding when and what to eat, hanging out late with friends.  Perhaps, sharing a room with a complete stranger makes you a little nervous or maybe you are enthusiastic about having a new friend to study with or to join you for social events.  You may have concerns about your courses- will I like them?  Will they be too hard?  Will I meet the professor’s expectations?  All these emotional responses and thoughts are normal when adjusting to college.  It will take some time for you to acclimate to this new environment and to become comfortable with this new chapter in your life.  So don’t think that everything will fall into place the first day of school.  Here are a few tips to help you make a smooth college transition and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

  1. Get to know the campus.  Take a tour with an upper-class student.  Learn the buildings where you will have classes, meetings, and social events.  Becoming aware of your surroundings will make you feel more comfortable with the new environment.
  1. Give attention to food choices.  The endless amount of food at the dining halls and late night food runs makes it easy to develop unhealthy eating habits.  Be mindful of the foods you are eating and make food choices that you feel are best for you.
  1. Make time to move.  You may refer to this as exercise but moving your body can help you with managing stress, anxiety, and depression.  You don’t have to go to the gym in order to reap the benefits.  Simply walk to or around campus instead of riding the bus or driving your car, play an intramural sport, or enroll in a dance class.
  1. Get some zzzzz!  Late night studying or hanging out late may result in poor sleeping habits.  It’s important that you are getting proper sleep in order to be alert and productive.  Lack of sleep can impact your memory, mood, ability to learn and retain information, increase stress, and may result in injuries or long-term health issues.
  1. Ask for help.  Avoid waiting until mid-semester or the end of the semester to seek help with your academic work.  Take advantage of tutoring services, the writing center, study sessions, and professors’ office hours.  If you have a disability, register with the Disability Resource Center in order to arrange for accommodations.  Planning ahead can help you be successful in your classes.
  1. Have a healthy relationship with your roommate(s).  Having a roommate can be a big adjustment for all parties.   It is important for you and your roommate to meet and communicate expectations.  Develop an agreement about how you all will share your space.         
  1. Meet your professors.  You might think your professors are only interested in lecturing but faculty like to get to know their students as well.  Visit them during their office hours and introduce yourself.  If you have questions about the class, class preparation, or ideas discussed in class, talk with the professors about them.  Don’t wait until you need a recommendation letter to introduce yourself to your professors.  Meet with them now!
  1. Make new friends.  College is a time to meet new people and make great connections.  You will encounter people from different backgrounds and even from different parts of the world.  You may find it easy to make new friends or it may take time for you to establish relationships.  Regardless, take the opportunity to meet someone new.  You may just gain a lifelong friend.

With these tips in hand, you should be well on your way to having a successful first year of college.  If you find that you are having a difficult time with this transition, you are welcome to meet with me.  I have over 14 years of experience working with college students.  I’d be glad to help you on your new journey.  I can be reached at Marian@ca4wellbeing.com or 706-425-8900 ext. 704.

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Have you ever felt stuck in your career? Perhaps, you know what you want to do but you’re unsure of how to get started. Career counseling can provide you with the steps you need to get unstuck or to pursue your dream career. Career counseling is a specialized area of counseling that focuses on assisting individuals with their career, work, and life planning. It is a process of discovering the career that may be best for you given your interests, skills, abilities, personality, values, and experiences. It also involves career preparation. Whether you need to learn job search strategies, how to put together a resume, cover letter, or prepare for an interview, career counseling can provide you with the steps you need to land your next career.

A career counselor is a professional who has the training and experience to effectively facilitate the career counseling process. She can assist you with exploring your career options while also helping you understand job requirements, responsibilities, and the type of training needed. A career counselor can teach you appropriate strategies for pursuing a career and help you develop a plan of action.

Career counseling services are not limited to helping you find a career but you can also discuss workplace issues. Perhaps, you may feel stressed at work or you want to advance in your career. A career counselor can assist you with these issues as well.

If you are interested in career counseling, schedule an appointment with career counselor, Marian Higgins. She can be reached at marian@ca4wellbeing.com or 706-425-8900 ext. 704.

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We have a new Career counselor in Athens! We at Counseling  Associates for Well- Being are  very happy to welcome our newest associate this week. Marian Higgins, PhD., LPC  is joining us. She is an experienced Career Counselor who specializes in helping people with all things work related. This includes making choices about career paths, dealing with work stress, workplace diversity issues, work or career transitions, and  workplace relationship challenges. Dr. Higgins is an experienced speaker and educator as well. She presents on topics related to leadership, inclusion, and strategies for  college success . Check here for information about her speaking:  http://www.marianhiggins.com/#!speaking/cv53

She can help if you are feeling stuck in your career and looking for direction. If you are struggling with a difficult job change, having problems with co-worker relationships, or managing things related to your work-life balance, consider seeing Marian.  These are all great reasons to see a great career counselor. She has a great deal of experience with helping young adults with navigating educational choices as well. We are thrilled to have her join us!

https://ca4wellbeing.com/about/marian-higgins/

Please call her for all your work and career related needs at 706-425-8900

Marian Higgins

Marian Higgins, PhD., LPC, Career counselor

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The moment that judgment stops through acceptance of what it is,you are free of the mind.  You have made room for love, for joy, for peace.-Eckhart Tolle

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.– Lao Tzu

My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations. – Michael J. Fox

Acceptance is often a necessary process for creating change and reducing suffering.  It is a fundamental piece of several proven therapies.  Some include Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), developed by Marsha Linehan, PhD., Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy).

Acceptance is a simple concept, and at the same time is really difficult.  Marsha Linehan, creator of DBT, offers some ideas about acceptance.  First, she clarifies that acceptance does not mean approval or disapproval of what is being accepted.  It means acknowledging on purpose without a label of “good” or “bad”. She also offers that in order to accept, one must recognize his or her own willfulness or non-acceptance.  One way to recognize non-acceptance is to listen to your inner dialogue.  If you hear sarcasm or statements implying what should or ought to be different about someone else, a circumstance, or yourself, you are likely in a state of non-acceptance.   .

If you notice these non-acceptance thoughts, do so gently with curiosity and compassion.  In other words, accept your non-acceptance.  This will allow space to notice your thought and decide if you want to work toward change.

Another idea for find acceptance is recognizing this as a state of being and a process instead of a single skill that is achieved once.  Linehan suggests to radically accept something; you must practice turning the mind over and over.

Acceptance of one’s thoughts, emotions, circumstance, and other people seems like a lot of work, and it is.  However, it offers freedom from the suffering that comes with non-acceptance, making it worth the effort.

If you’d like to learn more about acceptance to reduce suffering and make space for change, please contact me.  I can be reached at 706-425-8900 ext .703 or alice@ca4wellbeing.com

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Life based on gratitude, optimism and meaning is presented in this video: http://www.learning2connect.com/node/2074

Under dire circumstances, Alice Herz Sommer kept her focus “where it is good”, knowing that both “bad and good” are simultaneously on-going, and yet consciously choosing to keep her focus toward the good; in that place, everything is a present. And when you see and hear her laugh, you know this is genuine.

From birth she was optimistic and she wanted to have fun ; almost like she’s received the optimist gene at birth and passed it on to her son as well!!

Her love of music seems to be an intrisic part of her life and her love for life. At the time of her life when she and her son were in concentration camps, music, in theses circumstances, was not an entertainment;  “music was a much bigger value: it gave people moral support… The music gave us undescribable beauty”, may be satisfying the need for Inspiration or Meaning, like Viktor Frankl proposes in his book “Man’s Search For Meaning”.

I so enjoy her simple determination and clarity about her focus in life. It appears that she has practiced theses for ever, and I cannot help but believe this comes from the way she was raised, from parents who mirrored her with joy. I’d love to get your feedback about how this touches you. And contact me if you feel inspired and want to explore this further, at: aline@ca4wellbeing.com, or 706 425 8900, ext 705.

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Summertime has always been a time for a change of pace.  Going on vacation, reading a few good books, spending time with grandparents and summer camps.  This summer, during the break of the normal routine, consider neurofeedback training as an option to change your brain and improve your life.

What can neurofeedback provide?  ŸIncreased focus and attention…… Ÿ Reduced stress and anxiety….. ŸBetter sleep….. ŸLetting go of destructive repetitive thoughts and actions….. ŸGaining a competitive edge in academics through peak performance training.

Studies have shown that students lose a portion of what they have learned over the summer school break.  Neurofeedback can keep the brain active, develop new patterns for learning and allow for improved brain functioning.  It’s the perfect time to train your brain and make it a summer of positive change!

Join Pamela Key for an information session on Neurofeedback on Tuesday, May 20th at 6:30 p.m. at Counseling Associates for Well-Being.   Let us know you will attend.  RSVP:  Pamela@ca4wellbeing.com or contact her for more information.

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