‘Tis the Season to be… Managing holiday stress

Posted by & filed under Stress.

December is the month for many things: gift giving, family reunions, parties, and a general message that this is a time where people should be happy.  However, for some people it can be a lonely time, and one when the conviviality of others reinforces a sense of isolation.   It can also be a challenging time for people who just don’t have the money to meet either their own feelings of generosity or the pressure created by the marketing of consumer products.  Despite all the idealized wishes for everyone in the family to get together and get along, there can be an underbelly of tension as some relatives rediscover why they don’t see each other that often throughout the rest of the year as well as some wishing to recapture feelings (real or fantasized) of how things were “back in the old days”.

People are used to having normal routines and the human mind craves regularity which may not mesh well with the increased obligations of the holiday season. Suggestions to cope with holiday stressors are to first realize that the stress and pressure of holidays are real, and that it will soon pass.  It’s OK to feel temporarily blue, but try not to fall into a rut.  It’s also important not to isolate yourself and to acknowledge that you may need more support during the holidays. It’s also a good idea to be moderate in daily activities, including shopping, socializing, eating, and drinking, and to continue to participate in typical activities such as reading or working out. Anticipate the season, pace yourself, and give yourself permission to put breaks in your schedule.

Kristen UnKauf, PhD

Self Mutiliation Therapy

Posted by & filed under Therapy in Metairie.

Self-mutilation, also known as self-injury and self-harm, is the act of intentionally harming one’s self without the desire or intent to die.  Self-mutilation includes, but is not limited to, biting, hair pulling, burning, breaking bones, amputation, and, the most common form, cutting.  Individuals who harm their self usually do it as a form of relief from their internal anguish.

The physical harm is a distraction from the pain they are feeling emotionally.

Unfortunately, self-mutilation comes with a stigma; many people do not understand self-mutilation and view those who suffer with it as different or wrong.  Those who self-mutilate often feel shame and embarrassment because of this stigma and create their injuries in places that can be hidden easily.

About 3 million people self-mutilate. Of this three million a majority are females.  Adolescents go through many changes and face a substantial amount of pressure; this pressure may lead to self-injurious behaviors.  Using punishment, embarrassment, and judgment are not an effective way to handle self-mutilation.   If you believe someone you know is suffering from self-mutilation, do not judge or criticize their behavior but encourage them to seek help for it.

Self-mutilation can be helped through therapy with individuals specially trained in self-injurious behaviors.  Helping the individual suffering from self-mutilation learn to accept the things in their life that they don’t have the power to control and learn effective ways to deal with the realities of their life are helpful in treating self-mutilation.

Therapy helps with self-mutilation by helping to identify the triggers that lead to the desire to harm on self.

Once triggers are identified the individual then learns positive behaviors to replace the harmful ones.  The individual will also work through the emotions tied to the triggers to help resolve the negative feelings that trigger self-mutilation.   Meditation is also effective when it comes to treating self-mutilation as it allows the individual to target the triggers to their self-injurious behaviors.  Journaling is also an effective tool used in the treatment of self-mutilation as it allows the individual another outlet for understanding triggers to self-harm, the consequences of self-mutilation, healthy ways to resolve these uncomfortable emotions, and build their motivation to use healthier means to alleviate these feelings.

Michelle Hauer

M.Ed., NCC, Counselor Intern

The Process of Therapy

Posted by & filed under Therapy in New Orleans.

While the decision to come to therapy and the actual act of going may be a difficult thing to do for you, the benefits have proven to outweigh the challenges any day. Speaking to a counselor or therapist can help in many ways. While speaking to a complete stranger about personal, problematic situations in your life may seem uncomfortable, a neutral, unbiased individual can often provide input to help view your life differently.

Therapy is beneficial because it can help you overcome challenges, regain pleasure in your life, and experience emotional growth, just to name a few. Utilizing techniques taught by a therapist can also help you react differently to difficult situations or have a better sense of control over emotions.

Therapy and counseling can focus on a specific problem, such a depression or a traumatic event, or it can encompass overall guidance to help you handle life’s challenges better.

Casie Depreo, CRC, LPC-I, MHS

In New Orleans, contact our Metairie therapy office here.

In Mandeville, Madisonville, Covington & Hammond, La, contact our Mandeville counseling office here.

EMDR: training the mind with positive therapy

Posted by & filed under EMDR, Therapy in New Orleans.

When words aren’t enough, EMDR therapy

Have you been through years of therapy but still feel as though you are suffering?  Do you have a lot of insight into your issues but feel that talking about it isn’t helping?  If so, EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) might be the right approach for you. EMDR is a mind-body system therapy. Traditional talk therapy can be helpful for many issues but talking alone doesn’t access all of the elements of what is disturbing you or keeping you unhappy.   Consider that our brain has two hemispheres; the left is more logical and the right, more emotional. EMDR connects what we logically already know with what we feel, both emotionally and physically through body sensations.

EMDR combines elements of several different therapies with alternate right and left (bilateral) eye movements, tones, or tactile stimuli. In essence, the bilateral stimulation encourages the left and right sides of the brain to communicate effectively. The brain releases the fight or flight response. As a result, clients find that they feel more in the present and less controlled by what lies underneath.  EMDR helps to identify, process, integrate and release negative emotions and memories, and it is used worldwide to help victims of trauma to heal and move on with their lives. EMDR is used to address everything from resolving the effects of life trauma to enhancing personal performance, rebuilding the Self and healing anxiety and depression.  For more information about the process of EMDR and what happens in the session visit the following web site:  http://www.emdria.org/

In New Orleans, contact our Metairie therapy office here.

In Mandeville, Madisonville, Covington & Hammond, La, contact our Mandeville counseling office here.

Dana Duet-Champagne, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

The Many benefits of Mindfulness

Posted by & filed under Stress.

The term Mindfulness comes from Eastern spiritual and religious traditions like Zen Buddhism.

It refers to being completely in touch with and aware of the present moment, as well as taking a non-judgmental approach to your inner experience.

Simply put, being mindful means knowing what you are doing (and thinking and feeling) in the present moment.  “Sounds simple” you say?  Think of the last conversation that you had with your child or loved one.  How many times did you check your phone or drift off thinking of what you had to accomplish next?  Or the last time you went to a party in hopes of enjoying yourself but instead were distracted by negative thoughts such as “what do they think of me” or “I’m not good enough to be here”.  This inner dialogue distracted you from enjoying your moment.

Mindfulness practice helps us know clearly what is happening, and how we are reacting to what is happening, as it is happening, so that we might choose a skillful response instead of reacting mindlessly and ruining our moments. Many people are lost in worries about the future and regrets about the past. They are caught up in their projects and their fantasies, and their minds are not connected to their bodies. If the body is not united with the mind, we are not really alive.  Many of the therapists at Northshore Counseling and Wellness incorporate mindfulness into their treatment plans.  We use this practice not only to teach general health and happiness but to heal a host of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, PTSD, eating disorders and many others.

Life is short so learn how to get back into your life and enjoy your moments with the many benefits of mindfulness.

Dana Duet-Champagne, M.Ed, NCC, LPC

What is (EMDR) Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Posted by & filed under EMDR, Stress, Therapy in New Orleans.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a treatment that can resolve long-standing and recent trauma.

During EMDR, the client is asked to hold in mind an image of the trauma, a negative self-cognition, negative emotions, and related physical sensations about the trauma. While doing so, the client is instructed to move his or her eyes quickly and laterally back and forth, following the therapists’ fingers or scanner, which desensitizes the troubling material and allows positive cognitions to replace the negative cognitions. Theoretically, EMDR evokes a mind-brain state that enables traumatic memories to be effectively processed and become integrated with more adaptive information. While there is no well-supported account of how eye-movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation alter clients’ experience of traumatic memories, this bilateral stimulation can reduce the vividness, emotionality, and completeness of unpleasant or traumatic memories, therefore driving improvements in how individuals experience these events. One theory is that this dual-task component of EMDR disrupts a memory image in the working memory, which then leads to the client feeling a greater distance from the associated traumatic experience. As traumatic memory is desensitized, the general functioning of the client is improved, resulting in less anxiety and depression, fewer somatic symptoms, and improved self-esteem.

While we do not yet understand in detail how any form of psychotherapy works, EMDR appears to be a viable treatment option for trauma and other disturbing events.  The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense Practice Guidelines highly recommend EMDR for the treatment of trauma, and is also highly endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association as well as the National Institute of Mental Health.

Dr. Kristen UnKauf, LPC

In New Orleans, contact our Metairie therapy office here.

In Mandeville, Madisonville, Covington & Hammond, La, contact our Mandeville counseling office here.
 

What is Addiction

Posted by & filed under Addiction Counseling Metairie, Therapy in New Orleans.

The process of addiction..

…begins with the use of a substance (alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, etc.) to feel good or at least better, until ultimately we must use it just to feel normal and to function. We lose the ability to feel pleasure except through use of the drug. We start off thinking we will stop before it gets out of control. But, in addiction, we stop feeling good a long time before we stop using. According to Dr. Nora Volkow, one of the nation’s leading experts on drug addiction and its effects on the brain, “addiction is a result of adaptations in the brain that leads to changes in behavior.  That translates…in the inability to control the intake of the drug”. It can cost us everything – our children, our relationships, and our employment.  We lose the ability to regulate our own behavior, and we do things almost as a reflex rather than out of free will. In addiction, the area of the brain that allows us to make free choices is not working properly.

All drugs of abuse activate dopamine

.. a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that plays a major role in motivating behavior by producing the sensation of pleasure. These drugs “hijack” the brain’s pleasure system, and they reward more efficiently than our brains do naturally. However, they ultimately reduce the amount of naturally produced dopamine in our brains. Thus, we become less able to feel good without the drug of abuse. In this process, the brain becomes “hardwired” to the change, and addiction results. Lack of the drug puts the addict in a state of deprivation, and craving takes over the body. Procuring our drug of addiction becomes the primary focus of our lives.

Experts have pondered whether addiction is a psychological disease or a physical disease. Dr. Volkow’s opinion is that addiction is a disease of the brain that translates into abnormal behavior. It is an interaction between genes and environment. Some of us are born genetically vulnerable to addiction, or to depression or other problems. Likewise, there are some environments that put us at a higher risk for addiction, while other environments are protective. Adolescents who are unsupervised, situations with high levels of stress, high levels of abuse, and high levels of access to drugs are situations that put us at high risk for addiction.  People are more likely to become addicted if they start taking drugs in adolescence or childhood.

Brain imaging has taught us much about how the brain changes in addiction. Often, by staying “clean” the brain can recover completely or at least significantly. What is the process to getting clean? Recovery always begins with detox – getting the drug out of one’s system. Then an individual should be assessed for co-occurring disorders such as depression or anxiety. Medications, therapies, and services are treatment modes for attaining recovery. Once a person is in recovery, AA, NA, church groups, and other support groups can assist in maintaining one’s sobriety. The best outcome is achieved when one continues a period of supervised normalcy for at least a year.

Source: HBO Addiction Series in conjunction with National Institute on Drugs Abuse and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

 

Janis Caserta, LPC, LAC

Stress: Its Effects and How Therapy Can Help

Posted by & filed under Stress.

There is no question about it… We all experience stress from time to time, but if stress creeps into your life too often or lasts over long periods of time, it can cause serious negative effects on both your physical and mental health.  Over time, stress can affect many crucial parts of your body, including your immune system, heart, stomach, lungs, muscles, reproductive organs, and skin.  Stress can also affect the way you think, act, and feel; causing concentration issues, fatigue, and moodiness.  It can also lead to more serious issues such as depression and anxiety.

There are many things that can lead to stress and/or worsen your stress.  Without the proper coping skills, it can be very difficult to deal with problems that may arise in your life.  Common problems that cause stress include, relationship conflict, major life changes, stress in your family, a demanding job, conflict with co-workers, unemployment, financial issues, loneliness, health problems and emotional problems.

The best way to manage your stress is to learn and use healthy coping skills.  It is important to incorporate stress-relieving techniques into your life to help relax both your mind and body.  Some of the simpler techniques include journaling, doing something you enjoy, tapping into your creativity, talking to a family member or friend, starting an exercise routine, joining a yoga class, getting a massage, or occasionally indulging in your favorite sweet treat. Something that can be slightly more difficult, but extremely helpful, is partaking in techniques that help you relax your mind by focusing on the present. One such technique is meditation, a method of relaxation that requires you to focus your mind on one thing such as your breathing, so that your mind can be free of all distraction.  Another technique is guided imagery, a method in which you listen to your therapist or a recording of someone describing a peaceful scenario in great detail to help your mind relax. These techniques are like mini vacations for your mind. Other techniques that focus on relaxing your body include deep abdominal breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Both relieve muscle tension and can help to slow your heart rate.

The above mentioned are some of the great ways to relieve stress in your life, but if you find your level of stress or the effects stress has taken on your life to be too much for you to handle on your own, then it may be time to seek outside help.  A therapist can be a wonderful guide to help you navigate through some of the more difficult and complex stresses in your life.  A therapist can personally teach you the coping skills you need, and be the supportive shoulder you need through your difficult journey.

 

Priscilla Hurd

M.Ed., NCC, LPC-I

Process of therapy & counseling

Posted by & filed under Therapy in New Orleans.

Counselors will use a variety of techniques derived from a variety of theories to work with any given individual. I would like to take a moment and tell you a bit about one of mine. I know that when a client comes through my door, it is important that I do at least three things. First, I mentally prepare myself for the new client. I take a moment to have a few deep breaths and I visualize all of my personal issues being waved out the door until later as I need to be present for the person that will come through that door. Next, as I greet my client, I want them to feel comfortable and welcome in my office, so I offer them a cup of water or coffee. I also joke and ask them if they had any questions as they read through the mountain of paperwork that they are bombarded with when they decide to make an appointment.
More often than not, this will be a person’s first visit to counseling, so I want to be sure that I explain to them my philosophy about counseling without throwing around a bunch of theoretical jargon. What I tell them is that as I visualize how human brains work, and I compare it to a file cabinet. I believe that all persons’ experiences in life, good or bad, small or big, make up the person, and all that information is stored in the file cabinet (brain). Some people are able to take the time to process and organize thoughts and feelings regarding each of these experiences, and do a nice job of keeping the file cabinet tidy. Many people, however, may not do such a great job with this. Perhaps an experience is too painful, sorrowful, bittersweet, or just taken for granted. Sometimes time does not permit, and experiences are tossed into the cabinet drawers without regard for how they are thrown in. If this happens, often the file cabinet drawer becomes too full too fast. Then things get crowded, messy, and things start to spill out. This is when a person may begin to experience that feeling of being overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious. This is the point where I usually enter the picture.
To me, counseling is that process that helps the person pull out the files in the cabinet, put all the pieces together, organize the experiences, and make sense of them. It is at that point that the person can begin to store away all of those experiences again. Some are discussed at length, while others are simply acknowledged and relished for a moment. I believe a person gains a perspective during this process that it is possible has never been seen before. This is how I define an “ah-ha” moment. This is my favorite moment. The light-bulb moment. When this process is complete, what the person finds is that not only have their files stopped spilling all over the place, but that they have a significant amount of room still available to them. More room in that cabinet for filling it with life and love, with hope and sorrow.
At the end of that process I simply remind the person of the work done, and let them know that my door is always open should they find that they need me again. It is my hope that at the end of any counseling relationship, the person leaving my office feels more empowered, and knows how to file away their experiences in a more healthy way.


Micah P. Hatchett, Ph.D., LPC, NCC
Clinical Director & Counselor
Northshore Counseling and Wellness

Parents, children & technology

Posted by & filed under family.

The other day my friend came to me because she found porn on her ten year old daughter’s iPod Touch and she didn’t know what to do.

Technology has made life easier, multitasking more convenient, but it has also given children and adolescents access to a greater number of things that they shouldn’t be exposed to just yet. This is why I suggest parents be more aware of what their child is participating in on their electronic devices. There should be a common set of expectations between the child and parents. The rules should be based on the age of the child and parents should regularly check and monitor their activity. If having time to monitor this activity is an issue, there are parental controls and applications that can be used. I think in these situations it is probably better to be a little more involved instead of blissfully unaware. Kids have more respect for parents that put in the time to be tuned in to what they are accessing, and this can result in a better relationship between parents and teenagers.

Suzanne Kelley
M.Ed, NCC, LPC-I