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Creating Everyday ‘Insta’ Moments with Nature

The old pond
A frog leaps in.
Sound of the water.
– Basho, (1644-1694)

In therapy, one of the things counselors like to share with clients is the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is something that everyone, even kids, can learn. It is bringing attention to the experiencing of the moment. The idea is sensual noticing, acknowledging thoughts and accepting feelings. But practicing mindfulness can also be incorporated into daily life, to uplift the moment. For this exercise, we will use the frog haiku poem as mindfulness inspiration.

Basho, a famous Japanese poet, wrote the above haiku in the fifteenth century. It recalls just one single moment of nature. The silence is part of it. The sound of the water is easy to imagine. When you think of it, can you visualize the moment? What do you see, hear, smell?

Here is an exercise in mindfulness that anyone can do. Pay attention to the details and experience of nature like Basho. Think of it like producing mini ‘Insta’ moments for your senses and mind. This can be done anywhere there are elements of nature. When you notice something beautiful or special, breath it
in deeply like you are smelling a beautiful rose.

Here are some ideas:
-Take a nature walk in your neighborhood and focus on the flora and fauna in all the yards, any nature sounds you hear and the state of the sky. Breath it all in.

-Go to a botanical garden and give yourself permission to soak up the beauty of each tree, flower and shrub. Breath it all in.

-Go bird watching. Take in all the splendor of the environment. Enjoy the movement of bird flight. Breath it all in.

-Sit or take a walk on the beach, noticing the sounds of the waves, the colors and shapes of the shells, the rocks, and the composition of the horizon. Watch the sun rise or set. Breath it all in.

-Buy a beautiful bouquet of flowers and take time to study them. Look at their textures and colors and smell each part of them. Breath it all in.

-Listen to the birds in the morning through your windows. Florida is a place with birdsong. Tune in to them like a radio channel. Breath it all in.

-Try kayaking or paddle-boarding and notice all the life under the water. Breath it all in.

-Grow a seed and observe each stage closely. This one is great for kids. Teach them to breath in the moment.

-Stare at the clouds. Notice subtle colors, the sky in in motion. Look for beauty. Breath it all in.

-Houseplants are also a reliable source of connecting with nature. Study the beauty of an orchid, or the smell of a basil plant.

The exciting news is that you can bring mindfulness to anything. You can do your dishes mindfully. You can play with your children mindfully and interact with your partner mindfully. You can bring it into the shower, and to yardwork. Mindfulness is kind of like magic because it transforms the moment. If you transform enough moments, your life will be transformed.

Written by Megan McKeon – Mental Health Graduate Student at University of the Cumberlands

CBT and The Cognitive Triangle

Cognitive behavior therapy is a widely utilized and popular form of therapy based on the cognitive model of psychopathology. CBT states that our emotions, body responses, and behaviors are influenced by our perception of events that we are currently experiencing or have experienced in the past. According to the CBT model, situations do not initially determine what people feel or how they behave. However, it reflects how our perception of these events determines the emotions we feel, resulting in patterns of behavior. In contrast, it is the interpretation of the event or situation that contributes to our feelings of distress which is referred to as the cognitive model triangle. According to this model, the cognitive triangle illustrates how thoughts, emotions, and behaviors affect one another. This idea forms the basis of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). In addition, an important aspect of CBT is centered around “automatic thoughts” which shape our perception of an event that is taking place. This implies that when we change our thoughts, we will also change our emotions and behaviors. By focusing on irrational or maladaptive thoughts, mood, and behavior can be improved, therefore shifting our understanding or perception of the events that have or are currently taking place. Educating a client on the importance of their automatic thoughts can lead them to understand how past traumas and significant experiences have shaped their current worldview. This realization can lead to the healing required to overcome past traumas and assist in the treatment of PTSD. CBT is known to be quite effective for depression, anxiety, stress, and trauma. In conclusion, the cognitive triangle shows how thoughts, emotions, and behaviors affect one another. This means changing your thoughts will change how you feel and behave.

Written by Dr. Jason-Anthony Prendergast – Doctorate in Pastoral Psychology and Registered Mental Health Intern

Therapy Goals

We have all experienced moments in which we felt we were at a loss for handling a situation or a feeling. It is during these times we seek outside assistance, be it from friends, loved ones or with a therapist. Because these are difficult and stressful times, problem solving, positive thinking, or solution finding can seem impossible. However, in therapy this is exactly what we strive for in the midst of these chaotic moments.

This first requires an individual’s awareness they have exhausted their mental and emotional resources and acknowledge the need for professional guidance through this process. Finding a therapist with whom you can share this space continues this process through the sharing of these experiences, feelings, and struggles. It is through this exchange of honest and often difficult information the therapeutic alliance is formed. This alliance between therapist and client is the foundation on which therapy goals are created and refined.

Many individuals do not have clear therapeutic goals at the outset of this journey. Taking the time and making space to sort through uncomfortable situations and emotions brings clarity to one’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and therefore, their goals. Therapeutic goals can and will change throughout the process but having a goal on which to focus allows us to see solutions, successes, and areas of improvement. Therapy goals could be considered the mile markers on the journey to wellness.

Working with a therapist to achieve these goals requires individuals, couples, and families to join together, taking the information and insight acquired in sessions into their everyday lives. This day-to-day application solidifies new skills, new ways to view or assess problems, and ultimately achieve goals. Once the goals for therapy are achieved, the skills and benefits of these changes can be applied to future issues and concerns resulting in lifelong improvements in one’s well-being.

Written by April Daniel MS, NCC, LMHC – National Certified Counselor (NCC) and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor

 

Protecting Your Peace

Peace is often thought to look like a straw hammock on a sunny beach or a crackling indoor fireplace on a cold day. And as comforting as these moments are, what they represent is something deeper and more crucial for fortifying our mental health. How can we cultivate feelings of peace that carry over into our day-to-day lives?

In our era of 24-hour news cycles and constant smartphone notifications, it may feel like there’s simply no time for real peace. When free time arises in our busy lives, we have an instant abundance of bite-sized video clips, clickbait headlines, and social messaging to drown our attention in. And somewhere in the constant reach for pleasing distraction, we might occasionally wonder why we feel drained, strained, and burnt out.

Now more than ever it is up to us to be deliberate about cultivating peace. It starts with finding what practice works best for us – prayer, mediation, reading, walking, journaling, or other focused, lowkey activities. It should facilitate a shift from preoccupation to centered mindfulness, creating time for presence, reflection, and grounding. With enough consistency, practices like these can open up a new perspective quite different from the hustle mindset that colors modern life. But what happens when the practice ends, and we step back into daily life?

Just as peace is cultivated, it also needs to be protected. As a calm perspective helps us recognize the inner habits and outer noise that shake our focus, we can also find new approaches. This may look like restructuring a room to limit distractions, setting healthy boundaries in relationships, or challenging negative patterns of thinking or action. In doing so, we protect the restorative peace that prepares us to take on more of life’s challenges.

So, in those times when a vacation is still aways off and it feels like our responsibilities are piling up, we can always choose to be deliberate about cultivating and protecting our peace. When we set aside time for lowkey reflection and mindfulness, it can flow outward and refresh other areas of our busy lives.

Written by Louis Nicholas, IMH24151 – Registered Mental Health Intern

Walk + Talk Therapy by the Bay

Walk + talk therapy by the bay is one of my favorite approaches to mental health therapy. As a trauma-informed therapist, I utilize many different therapeutic techniques to best accommodate each client’s needs. I know that sitting on a therapist’s sofa doesn’t feel safe or comfortable for many people. That’s why I offer walk + talk. It’s just like going for a walk with a friend (if your friend was a highly trained mental health professional who knew therapeutic techniques that are clinically proven to improve your mood). ♡

For people who have experienced trauma, the idea of meeting an unknown person in a small office in a new building can feel paralyzing. With walk and talk, we are able to meet in a public park where we are surrounded with other people and beautiful views. While the name implies that we will walk the entire time, there are many seating areas along the route to enjoy the shade and the warm breeze from the bay.

Walk + talk therapy offers an opportunity to reduce stress, relieve body tension, improve circulation, breathe deep and clear the body-mind of intrusive, negative, and ruminative thoughts. These sessions can help you decrease anxiety, regulate mood, enjoy more restful sleep, and more. Additionally, you can receive the feel-good brain chemical benefits of exercise, mindfulness practice and eco-psychology. In session, you can enhance insight, release body trauma, and alter behavior patterns while verbally processing your authentic truth.

In urban planning, there is a concept of integrating waterscapes into cities called “blue spaces.

👫Studies have found that short, frequent walks along waterscapes (blue spaces) are good for your mental health.

👫There is a significant improvement in well-being and mood immediately after a person goes for a walk in a blue space, compared with walking in an urban environment or resting.

👫Waterscapes have healing effects that enhance psychological resilience to promote mental health.

👫Walk + talk therapy by the bay gives clients an opportunity to enjoy some blue spaces while boosting their mental health.

Similarly, when urban architects add nature elements to cities such as trees, plants, and grass, these are called “green spaces.

👫 Green spaces provide fresh, healing air to the body

👫 Some mental health benefits of green spaces include: lowered stress levels, reduced rates of depression & anxiety, reduced cortisol levels, and improved general well-being

👫 Enhance your cognitive functioning, improve your sleep, and increase your levels of physical activity.

👫Walk + talk therapy by the bay gives you an opportunity to spend some time outside connecting to nature while working on your mental health.

If you’re joining me for walk + talk therapy, here are a couple things to keep in mind:

👫We don’t have to walk the whole time!

👫There is plenty of seating along the route should we choose to sit by the water and/or stop to talk in the shade.

👫Walking shoes or comfy sandals are recommended.

👫Please bring a water bottle—we’ve got to stay hydrated!

Written by Kalli Portillo, IMH24576 – Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern, EDMRIA-Approved EMDR Therapist, Certified Prepare/Enrich Couple Counselor

To learn more, review the following open access research studies or google “blue and green spaces mental health benefits.”

Benefits of walking psychotherapy:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8892051/

Waterscapes for mental health:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8618438/

Importance of greenspace: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5663018/

The Marvel of EMDR Therapy

Research shows that the brain has up to 70,000 thoughts per day, and most of them are negative! It is just the way that the brain has been wired through our collective evolutionary experiences, but now we have this wonderful tool, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), that can allow for the engagement of the part of the brain that looks for creative solutions and adaptive thinking-the cerebral cortex. So, if you’re wondering why some thoughts and unpleasant emotions stick around much longer, no need to ruminate, try EMDR. Many people are not aware that EMDR can be used for many unhelpful thinking patterns and not just what we define as traumas. If something has affected you, and it is still on your mind in the present day and guiding or influencing your, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, that too can be accessed and processed in an efficient manner and bring you relief. What may create a trauma for one person, may not for someone else, but distress can be a very subjective matter. Don’t hesitate to consult with an EMDRIA-approved therapist to assess whether EMDR is right for you, as unhelpful thinking can cause unnecessary suffering. Through EMDR, you can truly have a more balanced brain.

Written by Michelle Gissendanner – Registered Mental Health Intern/EMDRIA-Approved EMDR Therapist/Certified Integrative Mental Health Professional

Steps for Starting Therapy

Starting the therapy process can be simultaneously exciting and nerve-racking, especially if you have never done it before. There may be a lot of questions regarding what it looks like or what to expect. You might even be envisioning what we see in TV shows or movies where you have a client laying on a couch and staring at the ceiling while the therapist is sitting nearby, jotting things on a clipboard, and asking, “How does that make you feel?” In a space of many questions and uncertainties, I have found that these guidelines can help out tremendously in preparing for a therapy session and ensuring you feel comfortable and informed.

Identify the reason(s) why you want to receive therapy – This can include symptoms, life stressors, personal development, and so on.

Do research on providers – This part is twofold: (1) Find providers that are covered by your insurance or have rates that work best for you and (2) explore what the therapists of that practice specialize in; the aim is to pair your needs with someone who knows how to tend to them.

Schedule a consultation – If you have further questions you would like answered before your session (i.e. rates, scheduling, etc.), set up a phone call with the office manager to gather more information.

Test it out – Like a good pair of jeans, you want to test out your therapist to see if it is a good fit. While they are the experts of how to treat mental health issues, you are the expert on your sense of safety and comfort. You should never feel unseen, unsafe, or dismissed with your therapist.

Maintain open communication – If you have questions, concerns, thoughts, or anything at all, be sure to talk about it with your therapist and be as transparent as possible. The only way to fully assess your needs and come alongside you to lend support is to fully know what you are experiencing.

Work collaboratively – While the therapist is learning more about you, you will also be learning more about yourself. Some interventions might work and others might not, but so long as you continue collaborating with your therapist, the both of you will learn what works best and what helps you get to where you want to go.

While the logistics of each session may vary, these guidelines should become standard practice. If you are going to enter into a space where you are required to be vulnerable and open, you should ensure you take all the measures possible to be informed and feel prepared for what is to come.

Written by Cindy-Joy Rosado – Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

The Little Girl Who Grew Up to Be You

I have been fascinated by this phrase – the little girl, or the little boy who grew up to be you. Think about that little kid, the one who ran around playing, going to school, trying to figure out how to get along in your family. That little child is still in you, still trying to figure out what happened, and how to negotiate the path before you. You carry that precious little person everywhere you go. The problem is, you don’t always take care of that child.

I used to meet with a small group of men on Thursday mornings. We met to talk about our inconsistencies, not the problems with the world, or with our wives, but the problems we brought into the mix. How can we be more true to our principles? — I remember telling them what I felt inside. I felt that I was a six-year-old boy in first grade, being hurt and confused, and trying just to get along, to meet expectations, to do well in a place where things were never quite clear. Guess what? They all nodded in agreement. We are all still trying to figure out what to do next, making mistakes, and hoping we won’t be punished or ignored.

Later, I would learn a technique that addresses the pain I feel every day. These were the pains of embarrassment, rejection, lack of self-confidence, and a hundred other things that keep me from having peace in my soul. This technique brings out the little boy who grew up to be me.

Take an average counseling session. Say that a woman is struggling with self-confidence at work. Her boss criticized her, a colleague puts her down in subtle ways, or she is nervous about a big assignment. Something happened last Tuesday that made her feel awful, either angry, afraid, or made her feel like giving up.

It takes 45 minutes to tell the story and begin to work through what happened and how it made her feel. This is how we talk therapy, what we call counseling. There is comfort in just getting it all out, and in finding validation. You are not crazy. It did happen, and it should not have. You are more than what they say you are. That is true.

And underneath all that, there is the little girl who grew up to be you. We can take what you felt last Tuesday, when you were put down by yourself, or by others — and we can find the moment in your childhood, the moment when you were put down and first felt so inadequate. In that moment you were astonished by how inadequate you were. Someone who was supposed to love you, they let you know that you were no good at all. It was crushing.

That little girl – the little girl who grew up to be you – she is still there inside. She has worked all her life to live up to expectations, to be good enough. And last Tuesday when someone criticized you, she was awakened, and she was hurt. She is right there, sad, and angry because she has tried so, so hard to meet expectations.

Let me ask you to do one thing. Be kind to that little girl. Love her. Pick her up and give her a hug. Smile at her. Look at her in the eyes and tell her out loud – “You are so pretty, so smart, so good. I love you.” You can do this with a teddy bear, any stuffed animal. Put your little girl out there and hold her close.

From this little boy who grew up to be me, to the little kid who grew up to be you – God bless your little heart. There is more to therapy than this. We can find not only validation for what you feel, but we can change how you feel in those hurting places. We can find meaning.

 

Written by David Hall, LMHC

-Retiring from emergency medicine, David Hall returns to his first love, counseling. His passion in life is to heal people from their trauma caused by life circumstances and from painful emotions.

Sex Therapy for Intimacy Issues

When people desire to be in a relationship, they are not wanting or needing company or someone to do things with. Most people look for that perfect relationship because they want real, true intimacy in their life. But what is intimacy, really?

Intimacy is NOT the same thing as sex. You can have sex without intimacy.

Intimacy is TRUE and genuine closeness with another human being. It is a connection that is developed over time. While intimacy brings unparalleled joy into our lives, it can also feel incredibly frightening to some people. Because to be intimate means to open yourself up to another human being. It means showing up, flaws and all, and putting in the work.

Ultimately, intimacy is a wonderful byproduct of an emotional connection that has been built over time by two individuals who deeply love and respect each other.

What Does Fear of Intimacy Look Like?

While many people struggle with a fear of intimacy, not everyone knows the signs and symptoms, as they can be mistaken for other emotions.
People who fear intimacy often have low self-esteem and trust issues. They may experience episodes of anger from time to time and have a history of toxic relationships. Many avoid physical contact and are unable to easily share their feelings or express emotions.

How Therapy Can Help

There are a variety of reasons a person may experience fear of intimacy. From childhood trauma to low self-worth and fear of rejection, people from all walks of life, all ages, and all backgrounds have developed a fear of getting close to another person.

If you believe you have a fear of intimacy, sex therapy is a powerful tool that can help you work through any underlying causes. A therapist can help you identify the root of your trouble and help you weed it out. He or she can also help you heal from any past traumas so you can start to get close and connect with others.

The bottom line is, intimacy is a wonderful part of life. To miss out on it would be a tragic shame.

If you’d like to work with someone on your intimacy issues, please reach out to me. I can provide tools and techniques to help you develop a deeper connection with your partner and yourself.

 

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