psychology

Come Get Your Pride On With Healing Pathways Psychological Services On June 10th!

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PRIDE FESTIVAL

The festival is on Saturday June 10th from 11am-5pm, costs $10 per person (children 10 and under are free), and is located on the Capitol Mall between 3rd and 7th streets. More about the festival…

ABOUT SACRAMENTO PRIDE

Sacramento Pride 2018 is the 34th annual local commemoration of a pivotal moment in civil rights history, the Stonewall Riots of New York in June, 1969. This moment represented the start of a movement to bring lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans out of the shadows and into everyday society. More recent achievements along these lines have included the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy as well as court victories to equalize marriage rights.

The event has evolved into a high profile celebration and cultural festival, both on the national and local levels. Pride was moved from Southside Park in 2010 to the streets along Sacramento’s symbolic Capitol Mall, with the State Capitol building on one end and the iconic Tower Bridge on the other. Pride 2018 will build upon our successes and continue to grow and improve.

Sacramento is already nationally known as a city with a relatively high gay population. The City of Sacramento is estimated to have a gay population of 9.8%, the sixth highest in the nation. The larger metropolitan area comes in at 5.5% which is still higher than the national average of 4.1%.

Pride is more than just a great parade and festival, however. It is produced by the Sacramento LGBT Community Center and is the largest source of funding for the Center’s programs and services. The Center provides unique services for at-risk youth, a free weekly legal clinic, HIV/AIDS prevention and support services, transgender support, and numerous discussion groups and other activities for LGBT adults. The Center is a 501c(3) charitable organization.

OUR COMMUNITY

Healing Pathways Psychological Services is excited to join the celebration of Sacramento Pride 2018. Our contribution to the event not only educates people about what we’re up to in our city, but we will be putting smiles on their faces with fun activities and prizes. We are so delighted to share these festivities with all of you and look forward to sharing this rare opportunity…

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Come Join the Healing Pathways Team at 2018 Sacramento Earth Day!

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The Annual Sacramento Earth Day Celebration is held every April at Southside Park, downtown

Healing Pathways Psychological Services is excited to join the celebration of Sacramento Earth Day 2018. Our contribution to the event not only educates people about what we’re up to in our city, but we will be putting smiles on their faces with fun activities and prizes. We are so delighted to share these festivities with all of you and look forward to sharing this rare opportunity to spend the day together.

As always, the Sacramento Earth Day Celebration is FREE!

Parking:
During the event, parking meter spaces adjacent to the park may be available, but the meters are limited to two hours.  The two hour parking limits at sites that do not have meters, on nearby neighborhoods streets, are not applicable on weekends.

Food and beverages will be available for sale at the park during the event.  Sacramento Earth Day 2018 will be hosting food vendors in the northwest corner of the park during the event.  Compostable waste, recyclable waste, and landfill waste containers will be stationed in triads throughout the event venue.  Containers at each station will be marked by printed labels and event volunteers will be present at most stations to advise attendees, vendors, and other volunteers on waste separation requirements.

The Annual Sacramento Earth Day Celebration is filled with wonderful food, entertainment, interactive activities and business, non-profit, cultural and government organizations with invaluable and practical information, goods and services for saving money, living healthier, and protecting and celebrating the environment and the Sacramento region.

Additional Links:

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Join Healing Pathways Psychological Services at the 2018 Healing Arts Festival!

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The Healing Arts FestivalHAF-Favicon, originally called Intuitive Healing Arts Festival, was created back in 1999 and has always been a place to find top quality psychics & healers, new thought, and ancient traditions. We pride ourselves on having the best of the best in the metaphysical and holistic community and continue to expand with new offerings. The spiritual journey is exciting. At the Healing Arts Festival, we respect all seekers as they travel their paths. The Healing Arts Festival is a forum to discover resources for your journey of personal growth. We create a safe and uplifting environment, and have zero tolerance for immoral interpersonal behavior or business practices.

spiral in natureThe Spiral is seen in nature, art, and ancient culture. In 3 dimensions it is known as a helix and can be seen in our DNA or the galaxy. The spiral symbolizes our spiritual journey from healing and rebirth into wisdom and compassion. It leads us from ego consciousness to cosmic awareness, from the inner world to the outer world, and represents the ever expanding consciousness.

About The Owner/Producer:

Prasanna Hankins

Prasanna Hankins is a healer and entrepreneur in the metaphysical community. She is a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda and has been practicing and teaching his healing techniques for over 10 years.

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Hello, It’s Nice to Meet You!

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Alicia Cox, MA

By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

I’d like to introduce myself to all of you. I am one of the newest marriage and family therapist associates at Healing Pathways Psychological Services and am so excited to be working with such an amazing and supportive team. I am currently gaining hours towards my license and am working under Dr. Kashersky’s advisement.

As an undergraduate, I majored in genetics and psychology. I think my science background gives me an interesting perspective with clients. I sometimes like to view problems from an evolutionary psychology perspective and use cognitive behavioral therapy in practice. I also have training in Mindfulness and use it in as a therapeutic invention with my clients.

Before going back to school for my graduate degree, I worked in the field of clinical research. I initially started as a research coordinator in a pain medicine clinic, working on research studies focused on pain medication addiction.

Most of my career in research was spent at the UC Davis MIND Institute, where I worked for 9 years. In my position as a clinical research coordinator, I worked with families who had children, adults and families impacted by Autism Spectrum disorder, Fragile X syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder, Tourette’s syndrome, Down syndrome and adults being treated for strokes. Even though I loved my work, I realized the limitations of my position and wanted to pursue a career in which I could contribute more to the treatment of individuals and their families. My trajectory then shifted and I decided to become a marriage and family therapist.

As a graduate student, I completed some clinical training at the MIND Institute. I was a co-leader for multiple social skills groups. I also worked in the ADHD and Learning Differences clinic, helping with a parent education group and completing intakes for new clients in the clinic. From working on research studies and in the clinic, I also gained a lot of experience and training in administering psychological, neuropsychological and academic testing.

My clinical interests include working with families and individuals diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders and/or chronic illness. I also have an interest in working with individuals experiencing pregnancy loss and infertility.

In my time at home, I have a very active life with my husband, two sons, two dogs, two cats and two fish. We are animal lovers and have adopted 4 pets to prove it! I also enjoy traveling, running, playing tennis, reading, gardening and listening to podcasts in my free time.

I look forwarding to working with my colleagues at Healing Pathways and with many of you. Also, look at for my future blogs featuring topics on neurodevelopmental disorders, chronic illness and women’s issues.

 

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On Parenting: A Classroom for Healing the Generational Conflict Cycle

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(Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

“…The universe is part of this one cry,
every life is noted and is cherished,
and nothing loved is ever lost or perished.”
Madeleine L’Engle, A Ring of Endless Light

By Jason Briggs, MA

According to the Global Survey of Violence Against Children put out by the United Nations, “every year, between 500 million and 1.5 billion children worldwide endure some form of violence”. 1 Alice Miller, PhD, is a psychologist, sociologist, philosopher and renowned author of many books on child abuse describes in her book, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Societies Betrayal of the Child, how past child abuse is meted out against children in innumerable ways and typically by parents who assume consciously or not, a “for your own good” maxim.  Miller shows how the many parenting approaches endorsed in western society produce a multi-generational conflict cycle, through overt and covert trauma bonds. These bonds within the child/caregiver relationship are felt and aren’t impacted by analytical thought so they touch all our families equally, regardless of educational level, socio-economic status, race, etc. This blog will explore one aspect of this generational conflict cycle and be a part of a series of blogs with some solutions offered in each blog. The goal is to help parents identify and begin healing to eventually resolve the generational conflict cycle. (See Alice Miller’s book: For Your Own Good: Hidden Roots of Cruelty and Violence in Child Rearing for exploring the ways this cycle is perpetuated.)

The generational conflict cycle begins when parents with unhealed emotional wounds unconsciously attempt to get their own emotional needs met by their children. Parents will do this both consciously and unconsciously and often see their children through the veil of their own unfinished business (by bypassing this aspect of their powerful inner life), which consists of “…past internalized perceptions, which are ‘frozen’ and usually stemming from childhood.” The effects on children are they must idealize their parents to survive as their own healthy needs go unmet, the ability to soothe themselves is further perceived as hopeless, and the true self (the entire access to ones innate inner life: feelings, thoughts, wants, needs, choices, decisions, beliefs, sensations, dreams, fantasies) goes into hiding in the unconscious while a false self emerges. This child’s false self is the one that complies and relates from the parental emotional wounds as solidified judgments, which are projected onto their children, seen predominately as children’s misbehavior, oddities, attitudes, or any other judgement. This is the way a parent unconsciously ends up placing the emotional needs of the parent above their children’s emotional needs and maintains the generational conflict cycle.

Emotionally neglected children, commonly grow up to be adults who in turn, emotionally neglect their inner emotional world and those of their children. Our neglected emotional and psychological needs by the now adult parent are automatically passed on to the next generation. This generational conflict cycle, when denied, operates as generational conflicts maintained in the parent/caregiver/child relationship and takes many forms (See Alice Miller’s book: Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Societies Betrayal of the Child, for exploring more in depth ways we function in society to hold power over children, to the betrayal of children).

As parents, cultivating a mindful stance that addresses the neglect of our own unmet emotional needs helps shift the parenting stance from mindless to mindful. The hope of making this shift from the mindless to the mindful means choosing to end the bypassing of doing one’s own inner work and being self-responsible for the condition of one’s own mind. One way to do this is by choosing to see our pain as an opportunity for healing and growth, rather than a curse. Exploring that opportunity as a healing choice means to begin addressing one’s own generational conflict cycle, regardless of the time, patience, and persistence required. Therapy that helps promote healing maintains that parents focus on certain essentials to recovery, by: 1) slowing down and understanding the steps in going from ‘zero to sixty’, 2) learning about projection and it’s guises (projection is an emotional wound that is seen in another, because it is been denied in ourselves), 3) seeking therapy that focuses on experiential work that at some point includes body awareness work, 4) learning about the nature of the psyche, what constitutes its dynamics, and explore if and when a self-help approach is limiting our efforts to heal (as we may be unknowingly perpetuating a belief  that we must do our inner work alone), 5) being willing to learn about mindsight research in attachment and effective parenting (see Daniel Siegel’s work), and the way the caregiver’s role, emotions, and psyche condition impact our children’s healthy and unhealthy development, 6) exploring new and creative ways to heal and nurture ourselves as parents, as the cause for our truly being there for our children, 7) being willing to cultivate understanding and compassion in our healing and growth process, as parents.

All parents have a thankless job with most never consciously wanting to harm their children, and appealing to that truth, I see this daily in service to my clients who are parents, and see this is true, being mostly out of awareness. The generational conflict cycle may mean we need help in understanding its causes, effects, and what heals it.  One way to explore essentials to healing it is to enjoy a great read by Charles Whitfield, MD, researcher and psychotherapist from Atlanta, Georgia, titled, Boundaries and Relationships, Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the Self. For help with understanding these skills more experientially by using emotional, psychological, or spiritual disciplines, ask yourself, “Is it time to give a gift to myself and my children by seeing my own emotional and psychological pain as a classroom for learning about my inner life?” For me, the answer is an unequivocal YES! Before I cultivated a proper focus on addressing my own unmet emotional and spiritual needs, I was a smiling, charming and successful parent but was only one half alive, meeting only my physical and mental needs! We are here to live life fully and with joy. As parents, one way of taking steps toward that fullness of life is to explore our choices for healing, and when ready, to decide to begin to explore what it means to see parenting as a classroom for healing our own generational conflict cycle.


References

Miller, Alice (1984). Thou shalt not be Aware, society’s betrayal of the child    Toronto, Canada. Collins Publishers

Miller, Alice (1997).  Drama of the Gifted Child, the Search for the True Self   Garden City, New York.  Basic Books

Trout, Susan (1990).  To See Differently, Personal Growth and Being of Service Through Attitudinal Healing. Three Roses Press

Whitfield, Charles (1993).  Boundaries and Relationships, Knowing Protecting and Enjoying the Self.  Health Communications, Inc.

https://www.compassion.com/poverty/child-abuse.htm United Nations, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children. Toward a World Free From Violence: Global Survey on Violence against Children, October, 2013.

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The Healing Power of Sound Intensive Meditation Experience

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Crystal Singing Bowls Mind/Body Connection

Healing Pathways is very excited to bring you the crystal bowls to bring balance to your mind, body, and spirit. The bowls are pure crystal and tuned to specific frequencies and chakras to enhance the meditator’s experience, taking you deeper into meditation. Most ancient cultures used the magical power of sound to heal and to bring the body back into resonant balance. Regardless of your level of meditation practice, the crystal bowls will assist you in reducing stress, anxiety, and pain, promote happiness, peace of mind, and help you hear the music of your life-purpose.

Come and learn to open up to your deeper wise self while resonating with the healing sounds of the crystal bowls. Regardless of your level of meditation practice you will be able to experience a richer grounding, healing and/or connection to your higher source. Mindful practitioners of all levels are welcome to come and enjoy this unique meditative experience. Feel free to bring a blanket and pillow for the meditation portion of the program.

Given her background in evidenced-based healing models, Dr. Leona Kashersky is presenting this ancient practice of crystal singing bowls, chakral system theory, rhythm and mantra meditation with the modern principles of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). This fusion of past, present and future is sure to enhance your inner work of integrating your heart and mind at a serene location provided by Healing Pathways.

Stay Tuned! Next event date to be posted soon!

For registration call: 916-595-7233
Email soundhealinghpps@gmail.com for registration details
Cost $140 3 hour instruction and experiential didactic.

 

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Mental Health Access and Equality: 3 Steps to Freedom!

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By Dr. Leona Kashersky, PsyD

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as many as one in five Americans will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives. This report is likely an underestimation of how many Americans experience mental health challenges during a lifetime. Of the nearly 60 million Americans who experience mental health concerns each year, many will never seek treatment for a variety of reasons including social stigma, cultural norms, and lack of access. In fact, a recent report published in the journal Psychological Science and the Public Interest found that an estimated 40% of individuals with serious mental health concerns either never receive care or start an intervention program without completing it.

The stigma surrounding mental health issues can be a significant barrier to care. Unfortunately, many people unknowingly contribute to the stigma simply with their everyday language choices. A poor choice of words not only stigmatizes, stereotypes, and creates unrealistic assumptions about certain people, but also can trivialize serious mental health conditions and their accompanying experience. As we move forward into a more enlightened future where mental health access and needs are considered just as normal and standard as the need to address a flu or more chronic physical health challenges, let’s dream of this brighter and more hopeful world together here!

In this new and more beautiful world our hearts know is possible, we would accept mental health hygiene and seeing professionals as part of living a normal and healthy life. Acknowledging and discussing symptoms wouldn’t be secretive or shame-based. Just as our communities gather to support those with physical illness, we would gather to do the same for those with depression, anxiety, and neurological differences. We would have more open dialogue about how this gathering would look different because the needs of these individuals are different than those suffering from flu or other chronic physical health challenges. This more beautiful world would allow us to come together armed with education and support to face life’s most challenging mental health setbacks without the shame and judgement we often face in our world today.

In this more beautiful world our health plans would adequately cover inpatient and partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient programs. All of us would have access to appropriate levels of care when we need it. Communities and families would know how to embrace and integrate individuals who are struggling with appropriate and supportive boundaries. Substance abuse treatment would be easy to access and affordable, saving countless lives. If we really want this beautiful new world, we can begin this journey by taking 3 simple steps.

  1. Accept what is! All of us need mental health maintenance. All of us grieve. All of us suffer. It IS the human condition. Let’s accept it and help each other.
  2. Suspend judgement! Judging ourselves or others in their mental suffering only serves to extend the duration of suffering. LET GO of the shoulds and other criticisms.
  3. Dream of the life you want and believe it is possible! Imagine how you will feel when this happens. Allow yourself to experience the full emotion and somatic sensation of those emotions. Allow your mind to fully appreciate all that is there for you.

These steps will allow you to magnetize to your ‘More Beautiful World’ tribe. This community will be the seeds to this more beautiful world in our hearts we all know is possible. These roots are already growing and taking hold, so let’s keep dreaming together. We are manifesting our hearts desire and creating a new reality together!


References

Corrigan, Patrick. (September 4, 2014). Stigma as a Barrier to Mental Health Care. Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved from: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/stigma-as-a-barrier-to-mental-health-car.html

Mental Health America. Mental Health Information. Retrieved from: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/mental-health-information

Eisenstein, Charles. (November 5, 2013). The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. North Atlantic Books.

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The Healing Power of Sound

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By Dr. Leona Kashersky and Nicolina Santoro, MA

The crystal bowls can assist in reducing stress, anxiety, and pain, promote happiness, peace of mind, and help you hear the music of your life-purpose.

The next class is on May 27th at Healing Pathways Psychological Services. 

For registration, call: 916-595-7233
Email: soundhealinghpps@gmail.com for registration details
Cost: $140 for a 
3-hour instruction and experiential didactic

Please enjoy the following snapshot of some of the theory and practice used in the facilitation of sound healing at Healing Pathways!

The Chakra System, in Yogic Practice

The seven chakras, in the yogic tradition are the centers in our bodies in which life sustaining energy flows through.It is thought that blocked energy in our seven chakras can often lead to illness, so it’s important to understand what each chakra represents and what we can do to keep this energy flowing freely.

Root Chakra — Represents our foundation and feeling of being grounded.

  • Location: Base of spine in tailbone area.
  • Emotional issues: Survival issues such as financial independence, money and food.

Sacral Chakra — Our connection and ability to accept others and new experiences.

  • Location: Lower abdomen, about two inches below the navel and two inches in.
  • Emotional issues: Sense of abundance, well-being, pleasure and sexuality.

Solar Plexus Chakra — Our ability to be confident and in control of our lives.

  • Emotional issues: Self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem.

Heart Chakra — Our ability to love.

  • Location: Center of chest just above the heart.
  • Emotional issues: Love, joy and inner peace.

Throat Chakra — Our ability to communicate.

  • Location: Throat, just above the collar bone.
  • Emotional issues: Communication, self-expression of feelings and the truth.

Third Eye Chakra — Our ability to focus on and see the big picture.

  • Location: Forehead between the eyes (also called the Brow Chakra).
  • Emotional issues: Intuition, imagination, wisdom and the ability to think and make decisions.

Crown Chakra — The highest chakra represents our ability to be fully connected spiritually.

  • Location: The very top of the head.
  • Emotional issues: Inner and outer beauty, our connection to spirituality, wonder, and pure bliss.

 

EMDR

EMDR is an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, a tool to process traumatic experience. EMDR works through bilateral neural stimulation or brain stimulation to integrate traumatic material. The singing crystal bowls create a sense of bilateral stimulation, while the meditation focuses on reprocessing, and altering core belief patterns. The bilateral processing is not only possible using the eyes; we can use sound, touch, and movement of any bilaterally moving body parts with a split timed rhythm. Some psychologists conceptualize EMDR as a form of ‘Exposure Therapy’, desensitizing people to traumatic material and thus relating it to exposure therapy. A more accurate description would be that it integrates the traumatic material.

“Memories evolve and change. Immediately after a memory is laid down, it undergoes a lengthy process of integration and reinterpretation—a process that automatically happens in the mind/brain without any input from the conscious self. When the process is complete, the experience is integrated with other life events and stops having a life of its own. As we have seen, in PTSD this process fails and the memory remains stuck—undigested and raw.” ~ by Bessel Van Der Kolkata, M.D. In The Body Keeps the Score chapter entitled Letting Go of the Past: EMDR

Three summarizing factors about EMDR:

  1. EMDR loosens up something in the mind/brain that gives people rapid access to loosely associated memories and images from their past. This seems to help them put traumatic experience into a larger context or perspective.
  2. People may be able to heal from trauma without talking about it. EMDR allows them to observe their experiences in a new way, without verbal give-and-take with another person.
  3. EMDR can help even if the patient and the therapist do not have a trusting relationship. This is intriguing because trauma, understandably, rarely leaves people with an open, trusting heart.

Physiological and Therapeutic Effects of Drumming

Recent studies have shown physiological benefits to drumming meditation practices such as, the reduction of the physical symptoms of anxiety, stress, the body’s immune system, brainwave activity, dual cerebral hemisphere activation, and connection with the present moment.

Because of the deep sense of tranquility that the act of drumming facilitates within the Central Nervous System, the effects of stress, and the accumulation of trauma stored within our cellular memory can be processed and integrated through this non-confrontational and deeply personal act even in group settings. This form of mindfulness based attention has also shown to activate the cells themselves, allowing for deep trauma to be released from cellular memory with little interference from the mind’s protective measures and defenses as the trauma is engaged and released by group participants. The chemical messengers of the brain or neurotransmitters reinforce this practice by stimulating alpha wave activity, inducing feelings of well-being and happiness.

The shared experience of drumming in groups is observed to facilitate a shared space of connection and consciousness among its members, alleviating common feelings of isolation, social fear, and inhibition.

Drumming seems to provide a platform for people to experience religious or spiritual connection through a universal practice that has been used by all cultures in some form or another. Through this connection, a space is created to access the deepest parts of our human condition.


References

  1. The Body Keeps the Score science grounding in sound, breathe, and movement as a healing modality. Bessel Van Der Kolkata, M.D
  2. R. Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion and the Making of Consciousness (New York: Random House, 2000) 28
  3. K. Holzel, et al., “Mindfulness Practice Leads to Increases in Regional Brain Grey Matter Density,” Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 191, no. 1 (2011): 36-43.
  4. K. Holzel, et al., “Stress Reduction Correlates with Structural Changes in the Amygdala,” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 5, no. 1 (2010): 11-17.
  5. W. Lazar, et al., “Meditation Experience Is Associated with Increased Cortical Thickness,” NeuroReport 16 (2005): 1893-97. Pesso
  6. N. Demos, Getting Started with Neurofeedback (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005).
  7. J. Davidson, “ Affective Style and Affective Disorders: Prospectives from Affective Neuroscience,” Cognition and Emotion 12, no. 3 (1998): 307-30.
  8. J. Davidson, et al, “Regional Brain Function, Emotion and Disorders of Emotion,” Current Opinion of Neurobiology 9 (1999): 228-34.
  9. Bittman, M.D., Barry, Karl T. Bruhn, Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC, James Westengard, Paul O Umbach, MA, “Recreational Music-Making, A Cost-Effective Group Interdisciplinary Strategy for Reducing Burnout and Improving Mood States in Long-Term Care Workers,” Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, Fall/Winter 2003, Vol. 19 No. 3/4.
  10. Winkelman, Michael, Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing. Westport, Conn: Bergin & Garvey; 2000.
  11. Bittman, M.D., Barry, “Composite Effects of Group Drumming…,” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine; Volume 7, No. 1, pp. 38-47; January 2001.
  12. Winkelman, Michael, Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing. Westport, Conn: Bergin & Garvey; 2000.
  13. Friedman, Robert Lawrence, The Healing Power of the Drum. Reno, NV: White Cliffs; 2000.
  14. Mikenas, Edward, “Drums, Not Drugs,” Percussive Notes. April 1999:62-63.
  15. Diamond, John, The Way of the Pulse – Drumming with Spirit, Enhancement Books, Bloomingdale IL. 1999.
  16. Winkelman, Michael, “Complementary Therapy for Addiction: Drumming Out Drugs,” American Journal of Public Health; Apr 2003, Vol. 93 Issue 4, p647, 5p
  17. Mikenas, Edward, “Drums, Not Drugs,” Percussive Notes. April 1999:62-63.
  18. Friedman, Robert Lawrence, The Healing Power of the Drum. Reno, NV: White Cliffs; 200
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Using Meditation to Tame this Mind of Ours

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(Photo Credit: Dollar Photo Club)

By Nicolina Santoro, MA

Mahayana Buddha, the progenitor and prophet of the middle way, had encapsulated an entire philosophy into short, clear directives. “Commit not a single unwholesome action, Cultivate a wealth of virtue, To tame this mind of ours; this is the teaching of all the Buddhas” (Rinpoche, 1993). Meditation is part of the practice of taming the mind. Often described as the still mind, or still waters of the mind, meditation appears to be a kind of martial art for one’s thoughts. To even begin to feel the stillness of mind that comes with the practice of meditation, one must endure the onslaught of thought as it runs through the beginning meditator’s mind rampantly. Even more interesting, is the realization that this pattern of thought is a regular occurrence in the mind. Meditation highlights the never-ending barrage of thought, as the student tries to negotiate the noise to a place of quiet within the mind.

Meditation is actually a common practice among many different platforms of faith, although called many different names throughout time, but the goal of calming the turbulence in the mind remains the same. The practical applications of meditation have far reaching benefits to those who suffer from a variety of illnesses. Mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and manias have all shown to be positively affected by the regular practice of meditation. Some of the therapeutic benefits of regular meditation practice include enhanced self-esteem, reduction in feelings of hopelessness and depression, and a sense of spiritual connection.

Since the mind, by its various sense mechanisms can create and maintain a subjective reality, one seems to be at the mercy of the mind and its myriad of emotional states of being. Thoughts create emotional experiences based on the electrical impulses that send messages to various chemical centers to whip up recipes for certain emotional states. These emotional states hold tremendous power over self-efficacy, and emotional well-being. Most people have had the experience of having a “bad” day, or a lack of desire to get out of bed. These types of feelings and their sources are often overlooked by people experiencing them, as the emotional tide they create has a strong influence in coloring one’s perceived reality. Over time, the continuing pattern of similar emotional states can create long-term relationships between neurons in the brain. In other words, relationships between a thought and the subsequent emotional state that the thought triggered become a learned response with different chemical markers for different emotional states.

Meditation is the act of awareness, noting a thought as it travels through the mind’s eye, rather than grabbing on to it for dissection. It is in the act of dissection that the emotional response is created. A sort of fixation then occurs, making it very difficult to regain a sense of calm detachment which is the focus of the meditation practice. Observe, but be not of the waves of thoughts that roll through the ocean of conscious awareness, and breathe which is certainly not as easy as one might think.  Buddhism imparts that suffering, and dis-ease are certainly inevitable in life however, there is an opportunity for personal transcendence in the observation rather immersion in this state of suffering  (Rinpoche, 1993). A meditation posture is grounded, comfortable yet deliberate. One may elect to sit on the floor with legs crossed in front of them, arms relaxed and poised comfortably in the lap, eyes closed. One then begins to notice their breath, every inhalation and exhalation is noted in the awareness space. As this practice begins, the mind seems utterly flooded with thoughts, worries, randomness, and chaos. However, through each breath, the subject becomes accustomed to the flow of thoughts which become a sort of background noise, and the central focus of breathing creates an altered or trance like state in the consciousness of the meditator. This altered state of being allows the meditator to observe self from a place of detached compassion which is the place of mindfulness that the Buddha described.

Common mistakes that people make when entering into the practice of mediation exists in the misapplication of the quiet mind concept. The term is slightly misleading. The mind, it seems, is never truly quiet. Thoughts run constantly because the mind is always taking in information, processing it, encoding it, retrieving it, and deciphering it. The stillness of mind exists in the unfettered observance of this process. Unfettered meaning that one never holds on to, or tries to single out the thoughts as they steadily move through conscious awareness of the subject. As meditation becomes familiar to the mind itself, the thoughts no longer control the emotional state of the meditator, and stillness is observed by a state of total acceptance, and symbiosis.

The meditation process has been reported to be difficult, and even frustrating to those who are new to the experience, but long term benefits have also been relayed by those who were able to get through the frustration, and experience the trance-like state where feelings of calm and clarity exist. Meditation as a response and treatment for stress is now common advice from health practitioners even in the west because of the positive impact it has on the central nervous system (CNS), (Fontana, 1992).  The effect that mediation has on the body is noted further in the American Psychological Association’s book entitled Integrating Spirituality into Treatment. Meditation lowers respiratory rate, heart rate, and brain wave states, placing the body in a state of rest which is very helpful in dealing with chronic anxiety. Meditation has also been used frequently in the redirection of addictive behavior because of the altered state that it can enhance bio-chemically. In behavioral and cognitive behavioral types of therapeutic interventions, meditation is also useful in the reprogramming of negative thinking, through the natural change in thought patterns that are facilitated by the practice.

Research conducted by Lindgren & Coursey, published in 1995 shows a strong positive correlation between the use of meditation practice and increased feelings of well being among those who suffer from severe forms of anxiety and depression.  Those who are being treated for more severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have also reported positive cognitive effects on mood and self-esteem. These trends can enhance the level of care that practitioners bestow upon their clients, giving them the tools to help alleviate some of the distress associated with negative automatic thinking, placing some of the control back in their hands with regard to better self-care.

Self-care is something that even mental health practitioners overlook for themselves. In the mental health fields, burn-out among therapists and social workers is high. The culprit seems to be a lack of self-care and over extension according to the APA. Regular meditation practice can also help alleviate the stress that in the field of mental health seems almost inevitable to its practitioners. Self-care processes that the APA advocates include the awareness of the levels and types of stress in the practitioner’s environment, case load management, outside support networks, and extra-curricular activities that promote a sense of health and well being. A professional support network, boundaries, and realistic expectations upon the self are also highlighted as areas to which the practitioner should attend for optimum results. The clarity that accompanies regular meditation can also invigorate a flagging practitioner, providing a sense of calm and clarity toward the greater good of all concerned.


References

American Psychological Association. ed. by Miller, W.R. (2006). Integrating Spirituality into Treatment: Resources for Practitioners. Washington: American Psychological Association.

Berger, K. S. (2006). The Developing Person. New York: Worth Publishers.

Fontana, D. (1992). The Meditator’s Handbook. Rockport: Element Books, Inc.

Lindgren, K., & Coursey, R. (1995). Spirituality and Serious Mental Illness: A Two-Part Study. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 18(3), 93-111. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Rinpoche, S. (1993). The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

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A Series of Writings for Clinicians on Common Factors Research and What Promotes Change in Couple and Family Therapy, Part 2

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By Jason Briggs, MA

What motivates a client to change and what are the processes therapists can use to help?

In the last writing, in this series on Common Factors research, the discussion was on aspects of two Common Factors used to promote effective outcomes in therapy.  They were client factors and therapist factors. These two Common Factors will be addressed in this second writing as well, along with how they interrelate with a third Common Factor called the therapeutic alliance, all within the Stage of Change known as Contemplation. I will also discuss what some of the change processes I use are and how they are also supported by Common Factors researchers. I will begin with what Common Factors researchers find is essential to Motivational Interviewing, since this was not discussed in my last post. Again, as with all my writings on Common Factors, I am reviewing three Common Factors researchers’ work, authored by Douglas H. Spenkle PhD, Sean Davis PhD and Jay L. Lebow, PhD, referencing information found in their book Common Factors in Couple and Family Therapy, The Overlooked Foundation for Effective Practice.

Motivational Interviewing has elements that when brought together in the context of our clients’ lives, can help therapists join with clients, inviting them to engage in and explore change in whatever Stage of Change they might be experiencing. Common Factors researchers contend and I agree with them, that “within the Motivational Interviewing approach there is no such thing as an unmotivated client. There are only therapists that are out of sync with a client’s motivation” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). So, working systemically, it is often the case that each member in an individual, couple or family system, is in varying Stages of Change and thus motivated at different levels with the different issues they might wish to address. Common Factors suggests part of the therapist role is to shift homeostasis within an understanding of each person’s motivation and the there are five principles to consider, to help us form a better connection with our client and help them move through whatever Stage of Change they are in. We can “(1) express empathy, (2) develop discrepancy, (3) avoid argumentation, (4) roll with resistance, and (5) support self-efficacy” (Miller and Rollnick, 2002) (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). These five principles are suggested to fall into three broad therapeutic alliances, which therapists can use three interventions within each stage and they are: “(1) building motivation for change, (2) strengthening commitment to change, and (3) the follow-through (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). So what exactly do Common Factors researchers know about the value and importance of these five Motivational Interviewing principles?

“Unpacking” what these Motivational Interviewing principles ignite in our clients, is a great way to motivate therapists to learn these concepts both intellectually and experientially with their clients. As noted above, these Motivational Interviewing principles inherently ask each therapist to embody a sort of attitudinal stance in therapy that helps facilitate a client’s movement toward change. They are (1) expressing empathy and is particularly effective with client ambivalence and is promoted by a listening stance and abandoning a superior/inferior stance, typically embodied by telling a client what meaning we give to their story. Common Factors researchers describe the Therapists’ Alliance in this way: (to be) “a supportive companion and knowledge consultant, (rather) than a forceful instigator of change” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). (2) Developing discrepancy, the second Motivational Interviewing principle is reflected in understanding that most, if not all humans’ emotional and psychological pain exists in direct proportion to the disparity/discrepancy between where they are now and where they want to be, “and when they know better, they will do better” ( BJ Davis, 2012). Common Factors researchers point out, “Depending on which Stage of Change the client is in, the therapist focuses on gently amplifying the discrepancy that is already there (for those in contemplation or preparation stages) or developing a discrepancy (for those in the pre-contemplation stage)” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). Here, we see an emphasis on the therapist knowledge about the Stage of Change in general and needing to know where one’s client is in terms of each Stage of Change and on differing issues, exploring the likelihood of a client having varying levels of motivation to change depending on any given issue and the Stage of Change the client is in with each issue. (3) Avoiding argumentation is the third principles used in helping a client experience the motivation to change. Expecting a client to embrace a certain protocol type therapy, a label, etc. is one way an unsuspecting therapist can invite arguments  against, instead of for change (with us or within the client and likely both). Helping to understand a client’s point of view regarding their preferences in therapy, how they have experienced labels, even “mental health issues” can be one way we can allow their meaning to be held up to unequivocal predominance and then join with the meaning our clients make about how they identify this meaning, amplifying, and reflecting it to them. Closely related Motivational Interviewing principle (4), rolling with resistance, which is an essential facet of Motivational Interviewing and the idea of accepting and not rejecting a client’s ambivalence to change. Emphasis is placed on joining with the client not on any particular interventions, trusting a solution will, if acceptance is present, naturally emerge within the client in the space created for them to explore their problems. This assumes an intention on behalf of the therapist, which trusts the client has their own answers within them, assuming a stance of psychological and emotional safety around any issues the client is considering facing. If the therapist achieves this stance and creates emotional safety for a client to explore what they need, want, and are willing to do based on the clients view, their therapist is seen as an “enlightened witness” (Alice Miller, 97). Supporting this safe emotional and psychological space means supporting the next principle in Motivational Interviewing, (5) supporting self-efficacy, the belief that a client can change and unless this empowering attitudinal stance is demonstrated by the therapist in relationship with their client, “a discrepancy crisis is likely to resolve into defensive coping (e.g., rationalization, denial) to reduce discomfort, without changing behavior” (Miller, 1995, p.5) (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).

The therapeutic alliance, another essential Common Factor, will be given its proper weight in understanding how client and therapist factors unite within the processes of change during the Stage of Change known as Contemplation. The therapeutic alliance is defined by Common Factors as both/and, what it is, and what it is not. “It is collaborative. The alliance can be misunderstood as a quality that the therapist brings to the client. However, the alliance is fully interactional and systemic, an operation between one or more clients and the therapist (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).” This is a foundational therapeutic Common Factor. It establishes emotional bonds between a therapist and a client to form a connection and assists with providing effective outcomes in therapy. So, helping a client see choices for healing that the therapist sees the client may identify with and find helpful is only half of the picture, the other half is seeing what our clients are contemplating and helping them negotiate the changes they seek to make within all the Stages of Change and processes of change they are in and viewed as meaningful. Stated in another way, “On more careful examination, (our) successful alliance formation is better viewed as a dance in which everyone participated as the alliance co-evolved between the clients and the therapist” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). I will add that a felt understanding by the therapist of the clients’ worldviews are essential, along with a sense of therapist “okay-ness” about the clients’ interactions within the therapy room. These perceptions and interactions the therapist has in turn, will impact the client in therapy, whether the client is in therapy with their family, in a couple, or individual unit of treatment. When the therapist creates psychological and emotional safety in the relationship to their clients’ ambivalent interactions, and helps the client contemplate what it might be like doing inner work using certain stage specific processes of change, the client will reveal more of their ambivalence and ideas to contemplate that which will promote change.

In the Stage of Change known as Contemplation, clients are intending to act “within the next six months.” (Prochaska, 1999) (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).  Clients seeking to make a change in this stage are expressing discontent with their problems, want to overcome it, want to see themselves living a life without their problems, but also see why they shouldn’t try to change. Clients in Contemplation “are not very good candidates for behaviorally focused, action-oriented programs. Their motivation is not yet at the level where they will put all of their heart into behavioral change efforts. They are better suited for more passive insight-oriented approaches that help them explore their problem, weigh the pros and cons of changing and so forth” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). Like in the previous Stage of Change the suggestion for this stage is to continue to weigh the pros and cons of changing and decrease the number of cons. The only additional processes of change aside from three mentioned in Pre-Contemplation is self-reevaluation, to assist in transitioning to the next Stage of Change Preparation. So, the therapist is supporting the client in evaluating themselves without the problem. Aside from active imagination, guided imagery, self-acknowledgement of healing and growth, help consolidate steps the therapeutic alliance has made and clarify steps one still might make in the therapeutic alliance to successfully transition to the Preparation Stage of Change. “Values clarification, encouraging congruence between one’s own values and behaviors and the like can be helpful in this stage” (Prochaska, 1999) (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).

A therapist being willing to build a foundational relationship with their client depends to a large extent, on a therapist’s ability to listen, explore, and respect the worldview of their clients, not as an intervention, but more as an attitudinal stance toward their shared humanity, a facet of which was addressed above in the therapeutic alliance discussion. Understanding Common Factors research is important and then applying it in our therapeutic practices can help our clients regain a sense of connection often ruptured in their past and current relationships. Common Factors research can help therapists and clients move through change in their own and their clients’ lives in a much more empathetic and meaningful way. Remembering there is always motivation present is essential, and it is the role of the therapist to identify what motivates our clients to bring about effective change, and to “stay with them” as they contemplate ways to move forward while having a timing and pacing that works for them. See the first writing in this series on Common Factors (CF), wherein I discussed what CF researchers suggested as helpful processes of change in the Stage of Change Pre-Contemplation. Doing so will enhance your focus on the processes of change you can use to help clients focus on increasing insight about moving from Contemplation to begin working in the next Stage of Change known as Preparation, our next blog topic.


References

Douglas H. Sprenkle, Sean D. Davis, Jay L. Lebow. Common Factors in Couple and Family Therapy, Guilford Press, Aug 10, 2009

Alice Miller. Jan. 7, 1997. http://www.alice-miller.com/en/the-essential-role-of-an-enlightened-witness-in-society-2/

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