How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Help Us Better Understand the Black Lives Matter Movement

Most human beings have implicit biases. And that’s okay, as long as we are aware of them and aware of how our attitudes affect others.

In the United States, black people have lived through a long history of violence and social injustice. With the recent deaths of George Flynn and Rayshard Brooks, the Black Lives Matter movement has organized many protests around the nation, inspiring people from all walks of life to take a long hard look at themselves and their own beliefs.

To this end, cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT for short, can help us all better understand the Black Lives Matter movement and how we can help heal the divide among the races. The entire goal of CBT is to change a person’s thought patterns in order to change their responses to difficult situations.

CBT combines psychotherapy and behavioral therapy. Psychotherapy emphasizes the importance of the personal meaning each individual places on events and circumstances. Behavioral therapy looks at the relationship between our thoughts, our problems, and our subsequent behaviors. Most therapists who practice CBT personalize the therapy to the specific needs and personality of each client.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been used for decades to treat adults, families, children, and adolescents. It has shown great success in treating depression, general anxiety disorder, PTSD, stress, anger issues, OCD, and marital difficulties. It has been so successful in treating myriad mental conditions precisely because it helps individuals reframe what they think about a particular belief or event. It is for this reason that I and other therapists have begun to use CBT to help people understand the BLM movement and how they can help it grow and make powerful changes.

Finding the Right CBT Therapist

If you are interested in exploring CBT treatment, it’s important to look for a licensed therapist with specialized training and experience. Beyond these credentials, it’s also important to look for an individual you feel comfortable with.

If you are interested in exploring CBT, please reach out to me. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

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Telehealth for Support Group Therapy

Many of us continue to try and make sense of this new world we live in – one in which the novel coronavirus dictates much of our daily routine. Some states are still mandating social distancing and wearing of masks. And many people are still out of work or working remotely for the unforeseeable future.

This quarantine has certainly made life more difficult in many ways. One of those ways is making it difficult for some people to continue to get the mental therapy they need. Luckily, more and more therapists are offering their services through telehealth (telemedicine).

This means you can still receive your one-on-one or group therapy support via online therapy sessions.

Is Online Therapy as Effective?

Many people who are used to face-to-face therapy may be wondering if telehealth or online therapy is an effective form of therapy. Very much so. Both face-to-face and telehealth therapy operate from the same guiding principle, so you can be sure you will receive the same level of service through the internet as you would face-to-face.

There are actually many pros to online therapy. So much so that when this pandemic is behind us, we are apt to see many people continue to receive care via digital channels.

Online therapy is incredibly convenient. You can get the help you need from the comfort of your own home. This means you don’t have to spend money on gas or deal with traffic to get to your support group.

There is also a heightened sense of privacy when choosing to receive mental health services online. You don’t have to worry about someone seeing you walk into a therapist’s office.

And finally, you may find that since you and your therapist are meeting online, you can do so at times that are more convenient for you. This means nights and weekends may become available should your support group decide to go the online route.

You will want to be sure to check with your insurance provider to see if they cover telehealth services. Many do, and more are hopping on the telehealth bandwagon, but there are still some companies that may not, so ask first.

If you are looking for telehealth support group therapy, please get in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

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Creative Interventions for Trauma

Do you find traditional talk therapy to be boring, uncomfortable, or simply not “for you”?

If so, you may be better suited for a more creative intervention. Expressive arts therapy uses a multimodal approach that allows individuals to explore their innermost thoughts and feelings through the use of various art processes.

Over the past couple of decades, expressive therapies such as art therapy, music therapy and sandtray therapy have experienced tremendous growth, not only in advancing treatment options but also in the different populations we’re now able to serve. People of all ages can benefit from these techniques, including children, teens, and adults, as it helps people more easily communicate ideas and emotions that may otherwise be too difficult to articulate.

Before we dive into the different types of expressive therapies that can be used in the treatment of trauma, it may be helpful to first understand the neurobiological effects of trauma on the brain.

The Neurobiology of Trauma

The considerable advancement of expressive therapies over the past 20 years can be largely attributed to the exponential growth of the field of neuroscience. Through imagination and creativity, we can now better understand the effects of trauma on the brain and nervous system (Farokhi, 2011)

Traumatic memories are often stored in the brain as pictures and sensations rather than in words. Creating art – whether it is painting, music, dance etc. – helps individuals release those memories that may have been previously inaccessible.

Brain imaging has revealed that the part of our brain in control of speech shuts down when recounting a traumatic event. This makes it very difficult to treat individuals suffering from trauma with traditional talk therapy methods. Expressive art therapies, on the other hand, have been shown to activate the right (creative) side of the brain, allowing for less reliance on verbal communication.

Often survivors of trauma are left without a means to place memories in historical context through language. Combined with neurobiological, somatic, and cognitive-behavioral approaches, expressive art therapy can further assist individuals in bridging sensory memories and expanding on that narrative; promoting a more comprehensive healing process.

Expressive Arts Therapy

Sure, traditional talk therapy can be very beneficial for some but it’s certainly not the ideal trauma treatment for all and the use of expressive arts therapies provides us with even more ways to promote therapeutic healing. They’re particularly effective because they provide a sensory means for individuals to express the deep-seeded thoughts and feelings surrounding their traumatic memories.

To help you decide if this type of treatment is right for you, let’s dive a little deeper into the most common types of expressive arts therapies:

Art Therapy

Art therapy is a technique rooted in the theory that creative expression allows individuals to explore their inner emotional world which, in turn, can foster deeper healing and mental well-being. A 2014 review of case studies exploring art therapy discovered evidence suggesting that art, either by creating it or simply viewing it, can help people explore their emotions, develop self-awareness, boost self-esteem, and cope with stress, depression, and anxiety (Chancellor 2014).

Art therapy is commonly used to treat a wide range of mental disorders, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance use, trauma, psychosocial issues, and more. This type of therapy not only sparks creativity, but it also then provides you with the unique opportunity to analyze what you have created and form connections based on how it makes you feel. By exploring different forms of art, people can identify themes and potential conflicts that may be affecting their inner thoughts, emotions, and behaviors (Stuckey).

Music Therapy

Music has the unique ability to evoke emotion and influence our mood which is why we all have a favorite song. Music therapy consists of creating, singing, dancing to, and/or listening to music or other sounds. Much like art therapy, this method also offers individuals a way to safely uncover and express emotions they may not be able or ready to discuss.

For centuries, music has been used as a healing tool for a wide variety of physical and mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, development of speech and auditory skills, high blood pressure, and much more. It is also particularly effective in the treatment of trauma because music activates the limbic area of the brain which is where our memories are stored – both positive and traumatic. Music therapy serves as a far less invasive approach to traditional trauma treatment by gently uncovering these memories so they can then be discussed between the individual and their therapist.

Sandtray Therapy

Sandtray therapy, also sometimes referred to as sandplay therapy, combines the use of play therapy and art therapy by encouraging individuals, couples, or families to spend the next 30-60 minutes creating a “play world” inside of a sandbox using a collection of miniature figures provided by the therapist. The therapist rarely interrupts during this time, rather simply observes the creative process.

Afterwards, the therapist generally explains their observations, including which figures were used, how they were arranged, how many times they were rearranged, and so on, as well as what they perceive to be the meaning behind these choices. This can be very helpful in the treatment of trauma because it can reveal internal struggles and conflicts that the individual may not have otherwise been able to express verbally. This type of therapy may also be a good choice for teens and/or adults who may be feeling “stuck” in traditional talk therapy.

Bottom Line

No matter which intervention you look at, all of these creative therapies provide individuals with integrative care and coping mechanisms to help them process past and present emotions to heal from trauma and other mental health issues.

After experiencing the benefits of creative interventions such as these, many people have found that they prefer these sessions over other more traditional forms of therapy. Common reasons for this include; these methods are non-threatening, they put less direct focus on the individual, they’re a safe outlet for expressing what is felt inside, they offer individuals an increased sense of control, they make for a more interesting and creative session, they help individuals discover underlying thoughts and feelings, and many found it easier to develop a strong relationship with the therapist during these sessions.

If you or someone you love has experienced trauma and would like to explore creative therapy treatment options, please be in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

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Are You Doing Self-Care All Wrong?

The topic of self-care is one that has been discussed openly and often over the past decade. But for many, the concept of self-care is one that is still a bit mysterious, if not downright confusing.

What Is Self-Care?

First, self-care is a practice and a commitment we make to ourselves. It is any activity we do deliberately to support our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Not only does the right kind of self-care improve our health and life, but it can also improve the relationships we have with others.

Some examples of self-care might be:

  • Creating better habits
  • Eating right
  • Getting plenty of quality sleep
  • Exercising
  • Meditation
  • Spending quality time with loved ones
  • Making time to enjoy a hobby
  • Learning something new

Self-care isn’t always fun or easy, but you do it anyway because you know that the activity is what is BEST for you. In this way, self-care is a bit like acting as your own parent, making sure you do the things you don’t necessarily feel like doing because it is what your mind, body, and spirit need.

What Self-Care Isn’t

Self-care isn’t necessarily about making yourself feel better.

Person A has had a very bad day. They practice proper self-care and, when they get home, they change clothes, go for a 3-mile run, then cook a healthy dinner that refuels their body.

Person B has also had a very bad day and practices phony self-care. On their way home, person B stops at the store and gets a 6-pack of beer and a gallon of ice cream, then spends the entire night on the sofa drinking and eating poorly in an attempt to make the bad day go away.

This phony style of self-care is very immature. It is not parental but something a child does. If the parent insists you eat your veggies because they are good for you, the child will eat only candy bars when the parent isn’t looking.

Self-care is about making decisions based on what is good for you, not what you FEEL like doing at the moment.

Self-care should also not be confused with pampering. While there is nothing wrong with getting massages and pedicures, these again tend to be quick fixes we give ourselves to make ourselves feel better in the moment.

At the end of the day, self-care is a commitment to yourself to live, grow, and evolve in healthy ways. It means making choices that will lead to your best self and greatest potential.

 

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