I’ve been thinking about the opportunity that the winter holidays bring for us to focus on our wellness. Sometimes the season brings extra time with our family and friends, which allows us to focus on our relational and social wellbeing. However, sometimes the holidays bring extra stress that comes from pressure we put on ourselves to travel, meet the needs of different family members and attend lots of extra fun, but sometimes taxing events. This year, why not take a moment or two to focus on just one area of wellness that you would like to pay attention to. Do you need some spiritual refreshment? What has brought you spiritual wellness in the past? What about your physical wellness? Does that mean trying that yoga class you’ve been meaning to check out or just getting some extra rest? Wellness means different things to different people. I invite you to think for a few moments about your views of physical, spiritual, relational, intellectual and emotional wellness. Reflect on your best hopes for each area this holiday season and then pick one or two areas to engage with more deeply. Try and envision the small steps you could take toward achieving optimal wellness in those particular areas. See if this opportunity to make incremental changes toward growth in those areas leads to a better sense of overall wellness this holiday season. Wishing you well this holiday season!
“Why would I make excuses for myself?” is a common response I get from clients when I talk about self-compassion. My response is normally something along the lines of “would it be OK if you COULD excuse yourself?”. Or, “What if in order to find the change you’re looking for you first have to learn to unconditionally love all parts of your self–including your “flaws” non-judgmentally with kindness and patience?”.
So much of our pain is derived from the critical voices in our heads. That critical voice may remind you of a certain time in your life when some terrible thing happened to you, or maybe it convinces us that things have always been this way and there’s no change in sight. We may feel ashamed, isolated, or sad because we have failed to live up to our own, our parents, or society’s expectations and believe that we won’t be lovable or acceptable until we do.
Self-Compassion is the recognition that no matter what is happening in our lives, we are lovable. When things are going well, we give ourselves permission to experience that joy–instead of anxiously waiting for the next bad thing to tell us that we should not be experiencing joy. Or, when we are suffering, self compassion becomes a kind of supportive voice from within that helps us find beauty and meaning. It is a reminder that we are all universally connected in this world through our experience of suffering — we are not alone!
Self compassion is NOT self-indulgence, self-pity, or passivity. Self compassion includes an understanding that learning, growth, and failure are fundamental parts of life; it is the desire to relieve suffering and that in order to do so a concrete change may need to be made in our lives. It provides us with an internal source of emotional regulation and resilience. It is the belief that we are inherently worthy of love and respect.
If you or someone else you know in the Atlanta area could benefit from cultivating self-compassion please contact Isom E White, LCSW of Counseling Associates for Well-Being – Smyrna/Vinings for an appointment today!
Isom E White, LCSW
3050 Atlanta Rd Smyrna, GA 30080
Aaron Kirkwood, LAMFT, with Counseling Associates for Well-Being in Athens, GA talks about the importance of checking in with your stress level throughout the holiday season and why you might not want to skip self-care.
(706) 534 – 8558
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.”
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.”
Maybe you’re the kind of person that has trouble focusing. One thought seamlessly leads to another and that thought takes you to something else and so on, making it difficult to complete the task at hand or listen to a speaker for more than a few minutes without your mind wandering.
Perhaps your mind races about with one exciting idea after another, inhibiting your ability to concentrate on one concept for any length of time. You could be coping with ADHD, depression or anxiety, any of which can cause you to lose focus or make it hard to find it in the first place.
For whatever reason, an inability to concentrate is more than frustrating. It impedes kids’ schoolwork and adults’ careers. It strains friendships, stresses family relationships and detracts from self-worth.
The good news is the mind can be directed to concentrate better through neurofeedback, a non-pharmaceutical method of retraining wayward electrical impulses in the brain.
Measuring brain waves
While it’s normal for brain waves to vary in rate according to what a person is doing, some people’s brains get stuck in a too-fast or too-slow pattern for extended intervals, making it hard for them to focus. For example, a prolonged period of a slower state, which is called theta, can cause people to drift and make it hard for them to return to full awareness. On the flip side, experiencing the fast beta state for too long can leave someone too anxious or too excited to concentrate. Neurofeedback works by assessing and retraining such electricity in the cortex, or top layer, of the brain.
To begin, a map of a person’s electric activity in the brain is created by having the individual sit in a chair and don a thin cap fitted with 19 sensors that detect and measure the activity in the brain’s cortex. The results are compared against a normative sample, bringing to light any areas where the electrical activity is too fast or too slow, either of which can impede concentration and focus.
Re-training electrical activity
To retrain electrical brain activity, the practitioner will place one to four sensors on the individual upon those spots where the activity reads as too fast or too slow. The sensors, which are connected to a computer that’s linked to a video monitor, read the person’s brain activity as the individual begins to watch a movie. When the person’s brain activity fires too quickly or too slowly, as determined by the sensors, the image on the monitor screen dims. As the brain’s electrical impulses go toward the norm, the picture brightens and a click sounds, thereby reinforcing the better brain activity on two levels.
Each session lasts about 30 minutes, with two sessions per week recommended. The number of sessions required varies with the type of problem experienced by the individual and his or her response to training. Some people get a “tune up” session after six months or a year, and many people have been able to modify or stop taking related medications after treatment.
Although the brain likes to stay on a set course, the positive reinforcement achieved by neurofeedback challenges it to shift accordingly and permanently, thereby calming overactive impulses or boosting ones that are too slow, helping improve a person’s ability to focus and concentrate.
Better and better
Neurofeedback also can help with anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, autism spectrum disorder, traumatic brain injury, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It also can contribute to peak performance in athletics, music and dance. Members of the Italian soccer team underwent neurofeedback therapy before winning the World Cup in 2006.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information supports neurofeedback as a viable treatment for ADHD (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19715181). The treatment can be “efficacious and specific,” that is, equal to or better than the current accepted standard of care, as rated by the International Society for Neurofeedback & Research.
Typically, changes are seen gradually over time, with, perhaps, a child’s teacher noticing a student’s improved behavior first, followed by the child’s parent and then the child himself. Gradual shifts that can lead to desired change and increased well being.
Pamela Key provides neurofeedback services for children and adults at Counseling Associates for Well-Being. Contact Pamela 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 706 425 8900, ext 705.
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? Increased focus and attention…… Reduced stress and anxiety….. Better sleep….. Letting go of destructive repetitive thoughts and actions….. Gaining 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.