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Hakomi: Contact

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By Paul Hubbard, MA, AMFT

At the level of technique in Hakomi, making contact and staying in contact involves using contact statements. A contact statement succinctly summarizes the situation the client is describing after the client has spoken and then paused, waiting for the therapist to respond. Without interrupting, the therapist offers a simple, direct statement like, for example, “sad, huh” in response to the present-time experience like sadness that the client is sharing. Other examples of contact statements include: “that surprised you, didn’t it”, “that’s scary, isn’t it” or “that was intense, huh” “A statement like ‘you seem a little nervous to me,’ offered without judgment and without breaking the rhythm of the other’s presentation, is a way of making feelings real, okay to have and okay to talk about” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 80). Also, after offering a contact statement, it is important for the therapist to pause and wait for the client to respond (Kurtz, 1990).

“Verbal contact is naming the client’s present experience. We contact something we have tracked, something the other person is doing, feeling, or focusing on in the moment” (Martin, 2015, p. 155). This may be something she is aware of or it may be outside her awareness. It’s important to not contact the story or content of what the client is saying, except to let her know that you are listening and following her. Contact statements let a client know you are hearing what she’s sharing and are present in a heart-centered way, interested, nonjudgmental and understanding her inner experience and feelings (Martin, 2015).

“A contact statement is open-ended, almost like a question” (Martin, p. 155-156, 2015). But contact statements are not questions as asking a question indicates that the therapist doesn’t know what’s going on for a client and therefore isn’t really in contact. Questions interfere with spontaneity. Questions also involve thought and distance but contact statements involve experience and intimacy (Kurtz, 1990).

An important part of a therapist’s job is to create safety for the client to dig deeper. By “letting them be, by supporting them taking the lead if they will,” you assist them in feeling safe and understood (Kurtz, 1990, p. 80). If a client is quiet then the therapist can meet them in that quiet place by saying something like, “It’s hard to talk about it, isn’t it?” or “hard to talk, huh” (Kurtz, 1990, p. 80, 82). Statements like these address what is going on for a client in the present time.

Also, a contact statement needs to be worded in a way that allows a client to disagree if they want to. We don’t want disagreements but, in therapy, the client is “automatically right” because it’s the client’s experience (Kurtz, 1990, p. 82). It is much more important to have safety and win the cooperation of the client than for the therapist to be right (Kurtz, 1990).

Finally, using contact statements for someone in a crisis situation may not be appropriate since the goal is to stabilize rather than explore deeper wounds and core beliefs. For example, using a contact statement might be too powerful of a tool to use with a more fragile psyche like that of a paranoid client. But to just hold a space and trust that what is coming up for them is a part of their healing process will have a positive impact. You can subtly mirror and adjust your body language and speech to be congruent with whomever you are working with. Clients feel this regardless of whether or not one ever uses a contact statement (Moody, 2013).


References

Kurtz, R. S. (1990). Body-centered psychotherapy: the Hakomi Method. Mendocino, CA: Liferhythm Press.

Martin, D. (2015). The skills of tracking and contact. H. Weiss, G. Johanson & L. Monda (Eds.). Hakomi mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy: a comprehensive guide to theory and practice (pp. 151-160). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Moody, J. (2013, March 8). Using Hakomi with clients with chronic mental illness. Retrieved from http://joannamoody.net/blog/using-hakomi-with-clients/

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Let’s Put a Stop to “Mom-Shaming”

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By Alicia Cox, MA, AMFT

The experience of “mommy-shaming” is a common occurrence many mothers have shared. The Urban Dictionary defines “mommy-shaming” as “criticizing or degrading a mother for her parenting choices because they differ from the choices the shamer would make.” I have had personal experience with this as a mom and felt it was unhelpful and toxic. I also know as a mental health professional that it can be damaging to moms who are already questioning if they are doing everything they can and should do for their children. It seems to be more prominent now with the existence of social media.

The focus of mom-shaming has recently changed. A study published in Communication, Culture and Critique characterized the idea of mom-shaming as “combative mothering” and explored what this looks like for today’s moms. Previously, mom-shaming was centered on working moms versus stay-at-home moms. More recently, the issues that come up in combative mothering are related to differences between mom’s philosophies and practices that they chose in raising their children. Sometimes this can be more toxic because moms feel judged based on their choices and it can isolate them from other moms who believe their choices are wrong.

In a recent poll, six out of 10 mothers reported that they have experienced “mommy-shaming” directed toward their parenting choices. Most of the mom shaming reported in this poll came from family members. In four out of 10 cases, moms felt insecure about their parenting skills and sought out professional advice to reassure themselves that they are making fair decisions. One of the directors of the poll, Sarah Clark, believes “family members should respect that mothers of young children may have more updated information about child health and safety, and ‘what we used to do’ may no longer be the best advice.” Mothers with young children may already be feeling overwhelmed since young children require a lot of additional care, so advice may also be viewed as criticism instead of a recommendation.

Knowing how destructive mom shaming can be, what should we do to support moms? It is disheartening that women are turning against each other when we should be helping each other through the challenging but beautiful experience of being a mother. We should all be each other’s biggest cheerleaders through all the challenges of motherhood. We should be open to being a shoulder for one to cry on when we had a difficult day since we have all had those difficult days. We should be able to be raw in our emotions whether it’s extreme joy or shame.

Being able to be open about the trials and tribulations of motherhood would significantly reduce feelings of anxiety and isolation that results from feeling judged by others. Being supportive rather than judgmental would be one of the greatest tools to help each other through the experience of motherhood. So instead of feeling the need to let a mother know what you think would be best for her children, try to use supportive language and give her the benefit of the doubt that she may know what works best for her children.


References

Abetz, J. & Moore, J. (1 June 2018). Welcome to the Mommy Wars, Ladies: Making Sense of the Ideology of Combative Mothering in Mommy Blogs. Communication, Culture and Critique, 11(2). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1093/ccc/tcy008

Mom-shaming. (n.d.). In Urban Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=mom-shaming

Preidt, R. (20 June 2017). “’Mommy-shaming’ is common, survery reveals.” CBS News, Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mommy-shaming-is-common-parenting-poll-reveals/

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Wellness for Caregivers

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

“Life may occasionally become chaotic, so be prepared for it, accept it and cherish the times of status quo.” – Future of Personal Health

Being thrown into the role of a caregiver can be a stressful endeavor. Caregiving can mean many things, but typically it involves caring for another who cannot provide themselves with one or more aspects of their well-being. However, often caregivers fail to help their loved ones because of a lack of self-care. They tend to get so lost in their duties that they neglect their own needs, which can become a detriment to emotional and physical well-being for both the provider and the recipient of said care. Below explore ways to manage the stress of caregiving to ensure wellness for both the giver and recipient of care.

All Emotions are Valid

We often find ourselves feeling overwhelmed by a flood of negative emotions in stressful situations. We may feel depressed, resentful, or angry at the receiver of care and oneself. You may also feel anxious about your situation, resulting in symptoms such as constant urges to cry or sleeping for long periods. This can result from unchecked emotional stressors, so it is essential to be aware of what is troubling you and how you can change it. Let’s remember that we are human and therefore not perfect. We may make mistakes in caretaking, but it’s important not to let it turn into guilt. Instead, we can learn from our mistakes so that we can lead happier and healthier lives in the future. Whatever the situation, remember that you, too, are important. All emotions, good and bad, about caregiving, are not only allowed but valid (Family Caregiver Alliance).

Seek Support

It can be much easier to manage these emotions when speaking with a support group of others who are in similar situations (Future of Personal Health). And if stuck at home, online support is also available. Members of support groups will know your fears and worries better than anyone else. If you feel overwhelmed by your obligations, there is also no shame in contacting friends or family for help (Future of Personal Health). More often than not, they will not know how to help or what to do, so delegating minor tasks can help guide them and take a huge weight off of your shoulders. Accepting their help can give you more time to maintain proper physical and mental health, such as exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep. It is also crucial to stay aware of when you should contact professionals; we all have limitations. And if you ever feel you are not equipped to handle certain aspects of care, training is available. Even a small amount of professional aid can make a huge difference.

Caregiving is stressful for everyone. It pains us all to see loved ones who need help taking care of themselves. But neglecting your own self-care does more harm than good to everyone in the long term. Managing scenarios such as these can ensure a better quality of life for you and whoever is in your care.


References

“8 Things Caregivers Can Do to Take Care of Themselves.” Future of Personal Health, Future of Personal Health, www.futureofpersonalhealth.com/prevention-and-treatment/8-things-caregivers-can-do-to-take-care-of-themselves.

“Emotional Side of Caregiving.” Caring for Adults with Cognitive and Memory Impairment | Family Caregiver Alliance, Family Caregiver Alliance, www.caregiver.org/emotional-side-caregiving.

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Bringing Awareness to Post-traumatic Stress (PTSD)

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By Elaine Townsend, Ed.D.

Approximately one in 11 people will have post-traumatic stress (PTSD) in their lifetime, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Individuals with PTSD can have disturbing thoughts and feelings related to a traumatic event. These individuals can avoid situations or others that remind them of the past trauma. Sometimes just learning that a friend or family member died accidentally or suddenly is a trigger. However, not everyone who is exposed to these events is triggered. Most people recover from the fight or flight response to a traumatic event (APA, 2018).

Individuals who experience PTSD can have varying degrees of symptoms from intrusive thoughts, avoiding anything that might remind them of the event, negative thoughts about who they can trust, as well as arousal and reactive symptoms such as angry outbursts, reckless behavior, and feeling startled (APA, 2018).

Military personal are at a greater risk of PTSD, due to being in war zones. Operations Iraqi Freedom had about 11-20 military personal out of 100 suffer from PTSD. Those that served in the Gulf War had 12 out of 100 suffer from PTSD. The Vietnam War had about 15 out of every 100 veterans diagnosed with PTSD in the 1980s. Out of those, about 30 out of 100 will have had PTSD in their lifetime (The Disposable Heroes Project, 2017).

Symptoms experienced by the soldiers included recurring nightmares, sleeplessness, loss of interest, anger or irritability, being always on guard, trouble concentrating and becoming easily startled. Symptoms may not show for months or years after the event (The Disposable Heroes Project, 2017).

Children and teens experience trauma differently. They may wet the bed, forget how to talk, act out scary events and be unusually clingy. Older children may develop disruptive and disrespectful behaviors. This might include thoughts of revenge or feeling that they should have prevented the incident (NIMH, 2016).

Proven treatment for PTSD includes medication and counseling. Also, it helps to seek support from friends, family or a support group where one can respond in an effective manner despite feeling fear. It has been studied that resilience factors can be genetic or neurobiological in nature. Education and learning about the triggers and symptoms are helpful in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT teaches about trauma and how to use relation and anger-control skills. CBT can include exposure therapy, where one faces fear gradually. Also, Cognitive Restructuring helps with looking at trauma without feeling guilt or shame (NIMH, 2016).

Mild activity can reduce stress, along with setting priorities. Some individual’s symptoms improve naturally over time, according to The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 2016).

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” – William James


References

20 Inspiring Quotes to Relieve Stress, Anxiety & Tension (2018). Retrieved from https://sayingimages.com/quotes-relieve-stress-anxiety-tension/

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (NIMH, 2016). Retrieved from: https://nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

Symptoms of PTSD: Learn How to Catch it Early On. (Walker, B. 2017). Retrieved from https://dhproject.org/symptoms-of-ptsd/?utm_source=5SG<Google&utm_medium-CPC&u…

What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder? (APA, 2018). Retrieved from https:www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd

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