March is Social Media Awareness Month- Week 2

This week, in the spirit of the Social Media Awareness Month we’ve created for March, I want to discuss our individual social media personas. First, Dictionary.com defines “persona” as “the aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others.” We all have different personas to get through our days- I think most of us can agree that we are different at work than at home or with our friends. With the advent of social media, it has become the norm to engage with the world from behind screens, picking and choosing the best parts of ourselves to show the world.

The result? We sit with our insecurities while we watch everyone’s highlight reels, taking the things they choose to share for the gospel truth, while comparing ourselves to everyone else. And other people probably aren’t trying to make anyone feel inferior, they’re just proud to show their cute selfie or their new house or car or baby or puppy. But the result is the same.

And don’t even get me started on public comments sections. People find any excuse to bash each other, and turn a mistake, grammatical error, or opinion into a judgement on that person as a whole (and it’s usually a negative one). It’s enough to scare anyone out of commenting or having any sort of opinion on anything. Throw in the misinformation that’s constantly tossed around, and it soon becomes hard to decipher what’s real and what’s not.

So this week, I want to invite you to be mindful of the social media persona you are cultivating through your shares and your comments. Are you being authentic? If not, why? How representative is your social media persona of your true life? Are you compensating for something? What is the intention behind what you’re sharing? Are you finding yourself arguing with or attacking people in the comments? Why? If you’re feeling attacked, what would help you feel better? Do you need to take a break from social media, or set limits with yourself around the time you spend on social media? Are you using it for an intended purpose, or is it just part of a routine/time filler? Is there something you’d rather be doing with that time instead?

I would love to hear your thoughts! If you need help breaking away from social media, or want to start turning your social media persona around to connect with people in a more authentic way, please feel free to reach out directly!

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

March is Social Media Awareness Month at MHCC and The Nest!

March is Social Media Awareness Challenge Month at MHCC and The Nest!

At MHCC/The Nest, we’re declaring March the first annual social media awareness month. This month, we will be addressing the harmful impacts of social media, ways to mitigate these impacts, healthy social media diet, and we will also be providing various recommendations for inspirational and informative social media accounts to follow.

            Social media has a deleterious impact on overall emotional well-being. Just scroll through the comments on any public image, video, or article circulating outside of your friend group, and I can guarantee it’s a parade of partially or ill-informed people bashing each other. Society seems to forget that human beings with actual feelings are reading this. Reacist, sexist, homo/transphobic comments about, making it difficult to speak up on issues that may be important to us or the ones we love.

            Social media, by-and-large, seems to squash individuality in favor of conformity to the status quo. People arguing in the comments sections appear hell-bent on conformity or trying to get other parties to think exactly as they do. There is no respectful discourse. Others try to set themselves apart as individuals, and when they go viral, the general public immediately sets to work at imitating or tearing down, rather than creating and being open to inspiration.

            People are less and less connected with each other, and I can’t tell you how many times I go out to restaurants and see entire families scrolling social media rather than connecting to and conversing with each other. It’s almost as if they don’t value each others’ time. We’re all a step removed from each other and use screens as an interface between ourselves and the world. This causes us to have increases in depression, due to unprecedented isolation, and anxiety if we can’t see exactly what others are doing all the time. Because we’re only exposed to the highlight reels in Instagram/Facebook/Snapchat stories, we assume the people behind those stories live those perfect lives 24/7. This creates an issue of comparing ourselves to others, especially celebrities, worse than ever before. Or, one of my favorites, the people with terrible boundaries who share every single moment of the day, when they would never share anything so ridiculous about themselves in the days before social media.

            My call to action for you this week is to take notice of the social media intake you have each day. How much time are you spending on social media apps and sites? How much time are you feeling like you’re really wasting on social media? What would you like to be doing instead? If you didn’t have social media for a whole year, what do you think you could accomplish? Is there a way to compromise? How do you feel about the main accounts you’re following- do they bring you closer to your goals? Journal on these questions, and try to find out exactly what you were looking to get out of following those accounts, and what you’re actually getting out of following them.

In Solidarity, 

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Mindful Monday!

In last week’s Mindful Monday post, I shared a Time Magazine article about the benefits of yoga in regards to mental health. In keeping with that theme, I want to share another article this week about how to begin having a healthy relationship with your body again. This is especially important for clients who have a history of some sort of physical trauma, medical trauma, and chronic illness that can often create a disconnect from the body throughout the years. Enjoy, and hope this helps! If you, or someone you love, is trying to recover from trauma and heal your relationship with your body, contact us at MHCC! Email me directly for a referral at Rebecca@mhccholistichealth.hush.com!

https://consciousreminder.com/2017/04/01/how-to-heal-yourself-by-talking-to-your-body-your-cells-are-listening/?fbclid=IwAR0I2cqeeXZNqEdQU8Y20moxQs4VQHHx_N5OefSF6ZeqpdxJRM0TJzCjo_A

In Solidarity,

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Friday Feature: Lauri Weber, MFT, LADC

Does Addiction REALLY Affect The Family?

As a LADC and a Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in addiction and families, I found this article Spot On!!! The devastation can be multigenerational whether its active addiction or a family history of addiction. The layers of anger, hurt, shame, guilt, resentment and depression (to name a few) run deep. Every family member can be affected differently, depending on their role and there are 6 of them:

Addict: Individual struggling with substance abuse live in a constant state of chaos. Alcohol becomes the primary way to cope with problems and difficult feelings, and in turn, he or she will stop at nothing to supply this need. As a result, they burn bridges, lie, and manipulate those around them. They isolate and angrily blame others for their problems. It comes as no surprise that their actions create negative effects for the entire family; they can’t seem to focus on anything other than the next drink.

Enabler: Deny, deny, deny – this is an enabler’s M.O. The goal of this role is to smooth things over within the family. In order to “protect” the family, enablers convince themselves that alcohol isn’t a problem and, in order to make light of a serious situation, they make excuses for their loved one’s behavior. While the enabler is most often a spouse, this role can also be taken on by a child.

Hero: The family hero is your typical Type A personality: a hard-working, overachieving perfectionist. Through his or her own achievements, the hero tries to bring the family together and create a sense of normalcy. This role is usually taken on by the eldest child, as they seek to give hope to the rest of the family. Unfortunately, a driving need to “do everything right” tends to put an extreme amount of pressure on the hero, leaving them highly anxious and susceptible to stress-related illnesses later in life.

Scapegoat: The scapegoat is just what you would expect: the one person who gets blamed for the whole family’s problems. This role tends to be taken on by the second oldest child; he or she offers the family a sense of purpose by providing someone else to blame. They voice the family’s collective anger, while shielding the addicted parent from a lot of blame and resentment. When scapegoats get older, males tend to act out in violence, while females often run away or participate in promiscuous sex.

Mascot: Think of the mascot as the class clown, always trying to deflect the stress of the situation by supplying humor. This role is usually taken on by the youngest child; they’re fragile, vulnerable, and desperate for the approval of others. Providing comic relief is also the mascot’s defense against feeling pain and fear himself. Mascots often grow up to self-medicate with alcohol, perpetuating the cycle of addiction.

Lost Child: The lost child role is usually taken on by the middle or youngest child. They’re shy, withdrawn, and sometimes thought of as “invisible” to the rest of the family. They don’t seek (or get) a lot of attention from other family members, especially when alcoholism is present within the family. Lost children put off making decisions, have trouble with forming intimate relationships, and choose to spend time on solitary activities as a way to cope.

 

In addition to these Roles, Claudia Black wrote about The Family Rules:

DON’T TALK, DON’T FEEL, DON’T TRUST!!!!

These rules are Very Covert and Rarely Spoken About!! Less they need to be as Addiction in the Family is similar to a Very Defined, Highly Orchestrated SILENT Dance. Each Family member has inherently learned when to step in, step out, bring in or let out another member. At any one moment their dance will consist of 2, 3 or more members. If you learn to look closely you will witness first hand negative feedback loops as well as first order change.

 

By The Fix staff 10/31/17

Alcohol and drug addiction can rot families from the inside. Many people never see it coming, either. Strong, seemingly unbreakable bonds can suddenly (and without warning) become soft, brittle and broken.

Addiction isn’t something that happens once and then it’s suddenly over and done with. Sadly, that’s just not how it works. It’s not isolated to one event, nor is it tied to a single person. Addiction can smolder or simmer for years, hidden and unacknowledged. Then again, it can also be a shockwave in how it destroys families, reverberating for many years to come. It’s important to understand not only the devastating effect that addiction has on families, but what options are available for family members to cope, survive and persevere. When someone is struggling with an addiction, they aren’t moving forward with their lives. They’re stuck in the same place. Truth be told, everyone around them is stuck, too. Addiction affects every single person in the family in different, unpredictable ways. 

Addiction is a disease that doesn’t just affect the person who has it, but absolutely everyone it comes in contact with. It’s as swift as it is patient. Addiction causes instability and uncertainty at every turn, and it can be maddening to try reaching a sense of normalcy.

More often than not, addiction has taken up a lot of time, energy, and attention—so much so that the family becomes a distant priority. As a result, family members can feel resentful, angry, neglected, hurt or, sometimes, jealous of the drug or the drink. Unfortunately, addiction can have the greatest effect on children, damaging them psychologically and emotionally. The effects of alcohol and drug abuse on children can last the rest of their lives, which has a direct impact on everything from their education to their social stability. Homes hit with addiction are unhappy homes. There can be no rules and little to no consistency. Children raised by parents with alcoholism or addiction aren’t just confused and hurt: studies show that they often turn to substance abuse in order to escape their own lives, which only serves to make the problem worse. In other words, addiction can be a never-ending downward spiral for everyone involved.

Marriages don’t escape the blast zone of addiction, either. Many spouses find themselves neglected and ignored when their loved one is drinking or using. It doesn’t help that many people with addiction tend to isolate themselves from everyone and everything. They also sometimes find connections, relationships and satisfaction outside the marriage, which only complicates things—often leading to separation and divorce.

Despite vows to work “through sickness and health,” many marriages just can’t survive the destruction of addiction. For many people, there’s no going back to the way things were before the drinking and drugging started. In those cases, it’s about picking up the pieces and figuring out what there is left to work with, if anything at all.

Addiction also has a very literal cost, too, in that families usually experience great financial strain due to the disease. People in the grip of alcoholism or addiction won’t let anything stand between them and a drink or a drug, so the financial toll can spiral out of control until there’s no coming back. It’s also common for families to be torn apart when someone loses their job thanks to an addiction. Many families get caught in bankruptcy, foreclosure or losing their life savings in order to support a loved one’s addiction.

When it comes right down to it, it’s staggering to discover the negative impact one person can have on so many people. And it’s also important to consider that someone else’s addiction doesn’t affect everyone equally. Family therapy focuses on educating everyone in the family, both young and old, about the disease of addiction and how they can address the problems so they can move toward a place of healing. If nothing else, family therapy isn’t about becoming normal again. It’s about finding a new “normal” and reaching a collective place of calm, peace, and surrender. 

 

Lauri Weber, MFT, LADC is a substance abuse and trauma therapist who specializes in working with addiction and its impact on couples and families. To get in touch with Lauri, contact her at Lauri@mhccholistichealth.hush.com!

Lauri Weber, MFT, LADC is a substance abuse and trauma therapist who specializes in working with addiction and its impact on couples and families. To get in touch with Lauri, contact her at Lauri@mhccholistichealth.hush.com!

Seasonal Affective Disorder Part IV: Hygge!

I am so beyond excited for this part, I’ve actually been looking forward to writing and sharing it for some time. I’m going to have to reign myself in and not ramble on, because I’ve so fallen in love with many aspects of the Hygge lifestyle (especially during those long, dark winter months). 

 

Basically, hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) is a Danish word and lifestyle, meaning an acknowledgement of a feeling or moment alone or with loved ones, at home or out, as cozy, charming, or special. What the lifestyle has come to mean in recent years is basically the art of getting cozy, in the present moment, and soaking up the warm and positive feeling. While hygge is a mindset to work towards, it does encourage us to think about what actions to take, as well as people and objects to surround ourselves with, in order to feel as cozy and internally warm as possible. 

 

This is the time to indulge in warm, soft sweaters, cozy sweatpants and blankets, muted lighting, cozy socks or slippers, warm and tasty beverages (like my new favorite mushroom vegan hot cocoa), and even a nice mug to drink from.

 

This is the time to enjoy those books you’ve been meaning to read, take on self-improvement projects you’ve been wanting to work on, and to turn inward to find ways to be more comfortable with one-on-one time with yourself.

 

It’s also an excellent time to reconnect with friends and family on a more intimate level. Consider having or attending a small gathering for coffee, a glass of wine, book club, cookie swap, a crochet/quilting group, a card game, or any other activity to help you feel more connected to yourself and others. 

 

Other ideas to connect with a hygge lifestyle: 

            -Bring the outdoors in! This is a major tenet of hygge, because often it’s too cold/dark/the weather is too bad to enjoy nature the way we normally do. As humans, we’re hard-wired to respond positively to nature. Plants recycle energy and oxygen and remind you that things are alive, especially in those late winter months when we’re tired of looking outside at things that appear to be dead or dormant. Add some small plants to your indoor décor where you will see them every day! I also like to have rocks from some favorite places I’ve visited (looking at you, Block Island!), birch coasters, and flowers. It may not seem like much, but nature has a major positive effect on the psyche!

            - Get a fire going or turn up the heat! I have a small space heater that has a faux flame in my office, which adds to the coziness factor, along with the quilts on the walls. Just make sure you’re aware of fire hazards! Sitting next to a fire reading, journaling, or connecting with loved ones feels incredibly intimate and is guaranteed to raise your spirits! Weighted blankets offer warmth and slight pressure that can be extremely comforting for many people, and can even lead to better sleep according to one of my friends who uses one.

 

Since we’re talking about intimacy, it’s time to de-clutter your space. This will help you feel more organized and relaxed, rather than chaotic and trapped inside. What can you get rid of? What is in your way or no longer serving you? If you haven’t used or worn something in six months, is there someone who may get more benefit from it? 

 

It’s also suggested in this Mental Floss article ( http://mentalfloss.com/article/91378/10-ways-master-danish-art-hygge-your-home ) to surround yourself with things that are meaningful to you, rather than mass-produced items. So if you’re reaching for a soft blanket, why not try to make one? Or maybe cover yourself in an afghan or quilt made by a loved one? The item will be associated with memories, which will feel much cozier and more nostalgic.

 

The Mental Floss article further suggests that sharing meals in the winter is an intimate practice that everyone involved benefits from. Have your friends over for a small meal and some warm drinks, or meet them out at a cozy, intimate restaurant with muted lighting, soft music, and a hearty seasonal menu. Put your phones on “Do Not Disturb” and really commit to spending time connecting!

 

Once you start incorporating some of these hacks into your lifestyle, you’ll see why they’re so popular and how the practices can help you to overcome some of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Who knows? You may even find yourself adopting these practices year-round!

 

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Mindful Monday!

Any of my clients would probably tell you I talk about yoga ad nauseam, especially in regards to trauma-related dissociation. It’s a wonderful way to repair your relationship with your body (and let’s face it, even those of us without severe trauma are probably not very kind to our bodies day-to-day). It calms down our over-stimulated nervous systems and helps us relax and move with intention. Here’s some research supporting the amazing impacts of yoga for your Mindful Monday!

http://time.com/4695558/yoga-breathing-depression/?fbclid=IwAR0ifmPRf3FCsDfljzLU15dZUZYxMTpxcmUkH4loN3T362zfq9dxI7B-Jsw

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

 

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Seasonal Affective Disorder Series Part III: Natural Remedies

In this third part of the four-part series addressing Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter, I will discuss some things anyone can do to mitigate the severity of SAD symptoms without needing to add medications. If you are already taking medications, these strategies may add to the benefits you may be feeling or looking to feel with your current regimen. 

 

1.)  Natural Light- align your schedule as much as possible with the sun. Wake up at sunrise, or even a little before, and spend the time meditating, stretching your body, moving your body in some other way, or even reading/listening to soft music. I don’t recommend starting your day with the news or scrolling through social media. Take the time to be alone with yourself and appreciate the sunrise before having to launch into your day. Sometimes a nice, warm beverage is great too!

a.    Take every opportunity to expose yourself to sunlight throughout each day. Sit next to windows at work if you can. Take lunch breaks in your car if you must! Bundle up and go for walks or enjoy some light yardwork- anything to give you more access to light!

2.)  Other options for light- amber bulbs, especially those that mimic light are preferable over LED bulbs (link: https://www.amazon.com/MiracleLED-604592-Replacing-Replicate-Organically/dp/B07DB4KWSG/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1542046093&sr=8-4&keywords=amber+light+bulbs+sunrise). They block blue light, which can be harmful for your eyes over time, and send mixed messages to your brain about how awake you should be. 

a.    Happy Lamps or other similar products are inexpensive and are a great idea to expose yourself to some natural-simulation light. I use one to wake up as my alarm clock, and it mimics the gradual light of the sunrise. This means a much more natural wakeup process, so by the time my alarm actually goes off I feel rested and ready to wake up. It’s great for those pre-sunrise workout wakeups! 

(link: https://www.amazon.com/Sunrise-Nature-Sounds-Bedside-Simulator/dp/B07FFW8GPX/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1542046222&sr=8-7&keywords=sunrise+alarm+clock+wake+up+light&dpID=41X8Y97jmZL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch)

3.)  Mitigate blue light- as mentioned, blue light sends the message that you should be wide awake, which can be harmful to your eyes first thing in the morning and can keep you awake longer at night. Devices, such as TV, computer, phones, and tablets, are a major source of blue light. If you’re trying to sync your body’s rhythms up with the sun, exposing yourself to devices after dark can be a major roadblock. Since it’s getting dark by 5 pm where I’m from, screen exposure after dark is basically unavoidable. There are blue light cancelling glasses that can be worn while having post-sunset screen time in the earlier part of the evening (link: https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Light-Blocking-Glasses-Artificial/dp/B07CXYT17C/ref=sr_1_1_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1542046398&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=blue+light+blocking+glasses&psc=1).

a.    Many electronics also have settings where light can be turned down. I have Apple products and can even set a timer each day where the light turns down to a softer amber color, which is less harmful for eyes and allows for better sleep.

4.)  Go to bed earlier! This may be a challenge for many, and falling asleep earlier may be difficult at first. It may be helpful to discuss with your medical professional some vitamins or natural supplements to help you sleep. I take a magnesium gelcap before bed and I wake up feeling fairly refreshed, however it’s important to discuss this with your professional beforehand as everyone’s needs are different, and different bodies will respond differently. Plus, I’m not a medical professional. So don’t take my word for anything- do your research and speak with your doctor!

a.    When it gets dark so early, it’s easy to lose track of time and go to sleep too late. This is a change to get cozy (more on that next week- I’m so excited for that part!), turn off the TV, and grab a book, put on some meditation music, and do whatever you need to do to release your day and embrace sleep. 

5.)  Sleep hygiene- This is important any time of year, but if you don’t want to feel like you’re losing it, it’s even more important in the winter. Some helpful tips:

a.    Try to keep your phone away from your bed or in another room if you can

b.    Maintain a similar routine each day, and commit yourself to it! This means avoiding sleeping late on days off, because your body needs the consistency.

c.     It’s OK to say no to activities if you’re tired. 

d.    Don’t drink anything caffeinated in the afternoon.

e.    Get cozy! Make your bedroom a sanctuary where you want to be! Do this with aromatherapy (just please don’t fall asleep with candles on!), soft sounds, soft lighting, comfy/soft blankets and pillows, and don’t do anything in your bedroom other than sleeping. Keep food and work out of your room- you have other rooms in the house that can be used for that!

f.     Mitigate disturbing noise (anywhere but especially in your bedroom). At night, use theta waves and binaural beats or guided meditations to relax before going to sleep. They basically act as a massage for your brain and nervous system (I’ll get into it more on a later date). This is the only time I advocate for keeping your phone near you at night- using Youtube or apps such as Insight Timer to access these is instrumental in helping me get to sleep each night.

g.    Journaling- I look at this as a “brain dump” of all the things I found myself still carrying from my day. It’s just a nice way to let it all out, process my day and package it all up so that I’m done with it (good or bad) and ready to rest before starting again the next day. 

 

I hope this list has been helpful! Next week we’ll get into my favorite part of this series- the art of getting cozy!

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Mindful Monday!

Today’s Mindful Monday resource comes from the incredible Brene Brown (seriously, if you haven’t read her work, you should!). She discusses blame, how it impacts our relationships, and what we can do to change this pattern!

https://www.mindful.org/two-lessons-on-blame-from-brene-brown/?fbclid=IwAR3TB_l_IeRGTjanYTvLT-KisGzqAlOECQP_Ko8J8328gBzUNzgWC54atus

If you’re interested in breaking the blame cycle, reach out to us at MHCC! Email me at rebecca@mhccholistichealth.hush.com to get connected with a therapist today!

NEW GROUP ALERT!

Lauri Weber, MFT, LADC is thrilled to be running mini-groups! These will be educational groups intended to provide resources, recommendations, and direction for adults whose loved ones are struggling with substance abuse. There will be a separate group each for those whose loved ones are adults, and another for those whose loved ones are youths are emerging adults. If you or someone you love is struggling to set boundaries and create real change within your loved one struggling with substance abuse, or you just want to be in a safe community of others who also experience this within their own personal lives, we would love to have you! Space for each groups is limited! $40 per person, per group. There’s also the added option for ongoing groups, depending on feedback from these groups! Get in touch with Lauri today at Lauri@mhccholistichealth.hush.com to secure your spot! Lauri is also accepting referrals for individual treatment sessions if you’re unable to make groups!

www.mhccholistichealth.org-2.png

Seasonal Affective Disorder Series Part I: What is it? How Does it Work?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very common shift in energy and mood that typically begins and ends around the same time each year. Most people experience an increase in depressive symptoms in the late fall/winter, but others can also experience a sharp increase in energy once the sun returns in the late spring and early summer.

 

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include: carb and sugar cravings, lethargy, moodiness, and just feeling “in a funk,” according to the Mayo Clinic

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

In the winter, this can be amplified by holiday-related triggers that can remind us of traumatic or recent losses, tricky family dynamics (especially the ones that leave us having to expend more time and energy on upholding boundaries, and the demands of the holiday social schedule can leave us feeling zapped, moody, and overwhelmed, especially with the ever- decreasing access to light in the winter. 

 

Also, according to the Mayo Clinic, other symptoms can include feelings of hopelessness, guilt, trouble concentrating, changes in weight/appetite, trouble sleeping or oversleeping, and loss of interest in preferred activities.

 

The reason is believed to be due to the lack of light- in winter, New England (where I live) is dark more hours of the day than it is light. This, coupled with snowstorms, frigid temperatures, and ugly words like “wind chill factor” can make even the most well-adjusted person feel despondent and isolated. Plus, winter can start as early as October/November and last all the way until mid-April. It can feel like it will never end and like it has been cold and dark forever!

 

I don’t want you thinking that this blog is intended to create more hopelessness about the winter than you may already have. The good news is, there are tons of tips for battling SAD in the winter that I will be touching on in this upcoming blog series. That way, you can hopefully look forward to at least one small part of your day and find the energy and tools to create some meaningful daily practices to leave you feeling more hopeful and fulfilled.

 

In the next several weeks, join us on the blog to discuss how SAD can impact pre-existing mental and physical health conditions, natural remedies to ease symptoms of SAD, and some ways to remind yourself of some of the best parts of winter, even if you hate the cold weather! If you find that you need to connect with someone to manage more acute symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out!

 

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

How Therapy Helps Unlearn Procedural Learning

Previously in a social media post, I touched very briefly about procedural learning and its implications with trauma. I realize that can sound like a death sentence, and I wanted the chance to explain a little more as someone who works with this material every day. Basically, procedural learning can work both ways- negative things can be unlearned, and then new learning can be put in its place. 

For a solid example and recap of how general procedural learning works, follow this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFzDaBzBlL0

 

As we become adults, our brains are less plastic than they were when we were kids, meaning it’s somewhat harder to learn new things because our brains are fully formed. Basically, due to our ages as adults, there’s more information to sift through and unlearn. There has to be more time to reinforce that which we know, which means the negative procedural learning of trauma patterns have had more time to be ingrained into our brains.

 

How does the process of unlearning procedural learning begin? Well, we do it small ways fairly often on our own. When we’re trying to do something one way and it doesn’t work, we try a new sequence or new approach until we are able to achieve the results we want.

 

Like the guy in the backwards brain bike video, our brains need time to make new connections. As with the man in the video, this can take months, or even years, with daily practice. The same principles apply in therapy when addressing anxiety and trauma.

 

In sessions, I generally frame it like this: I like to identify a moment when a client had a panic/anxiety attack that had them feeling triggered. We then break down, moment-by-moment, what triggered the reaction and what the steps are to their reaction buildup. We look for patterns, and we discuss which parts feel the worst or most outside of the client’s control. Then, depending on the client’s treatment plan and our already established goals, we either do some sort of talk therapy to identify possible shifts in thinking and behavior that can be made while the client is still feeling like they can manage their response to the trigger. The other option I use is EMDR to reprocess the trigger and the feeling of not being in control. The eye movements in EMDR (more information at www.emdria.org) can help make new neural connections to change where certain procedural memories are stored in the brain, so that the memories can be recalled with an appropriate amount of feeling in a voluntary basis as opposed to involuntary and disproportionate reactions from re-living a trauma.

 

With something like attachment trauma, which is where I specialize, the procedural learning of the trauma reaction (anxiety, dissociation, physical reactions) often happens before the age at which a child is able to speak, and long before they can articulate what they are experiencing. This is usually before the corpus callossum is developed enough for the child to be able to self-soothe. You can imagine that the same patterns throughout that child’s lifetime can create a long, difficult, but very possible road for unlearning reactions to triggers. This process is extremely difficult, but the payoff is beyond worthwhile. It takes patience, daily practice outside of therapy appointments, strong rapport with a good clinician, solid natural supports, and the biggest undertaking of all for those who have attachment trauma- extra kindness toward oneself throughout the entire process.

Procedural learning is just that- learning. While it may take a long time and lots of patience, it can be unlearned and then re-learned. It should be noted that adults often become frustrated during the process because they forget that they are trying to unlearn one thing and re-learn something else simultaneously. I just want you to know, dear reader, that it is NEVER too late, and there is no issue that is “too far gone” if you’re willing to commit to healing and creating a strong relationship with the right therapist. If you’re ready to learn something new that feels more empowering than your usual response to triggers, if you’re ready to commit to a new practice that includes lots of self-love and patience, reach out to a therapist!

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Ritual vs. Routine, Part II

Last week, I talked about routine and asked you to write out your daily tasks to be completed, or block off your schedule on your calendar to get a visual idea of how much of your day your routine, or pursuit thereof, actually takes up. I asked you to notice what your mind does and what your body feels during that activity. Where did/does your energy want to go when writing it out and looking at it? Are you making time for yourself?

The answers to these questions may have surprised you, but also are excellent tools to consider ritual. Ritual should be some series of behaviors or activities geared towards a specific goal. Rituals can be small, daily rituals, such as prayers before bedtime to clear the mind, meditating for a few minutes before getting up in the morning, wearing a specific pair of socks to every hockey game because it may draw more luck to help your team win, or taking a power or yin yoga class. Rituals can also be more community-based and bigger or occur less frequently, such as eating turkey with family and friends on Thanksgiving while discussing what we are thankful for, or the funerals and death rituals of any culture. The point isn’t so much the activity, although that definitely matters. The true importance is the intention behind the activity, and connection to self as well as community. For example, Catholic people have funerals when a loved one dies, as a means of saying an individual goodbye, communing with Spirit, and sending off the spirit of their loved one while recapitulating and grieving together. Every culture and religion in the world has rituals around birth or death, and they exist for a reason. These rituals are obviously much bigger than what I’m addressing in the average person’s everyday life, but the takeaway message is the same- we intentionally take time out of our day to connect with ourselves and possibly others, and there may or may not be a spiritual component.

The same ritual mindset is applied to mindfulness and meditation practices, but can be applied to basically everything we do so that we are more present in the moment, and can be aware of the needs of our bodies, minds, and souls- besides only when it feels like something is lacking or there’s a crisis. Rituals can mark the passage of time, and mindful connection to even our small, mundane daily rituals can lead to a greater sense of satisfaction than simply checking items off a to-do list because we feel like we should.

While I don’t want to sound preachy, I do like to use myself as an example in this blog (good and bad, because I’m human and at the end of the day I can only ethically speak to my experience). So, if you’re looking for some ideas for how to incorporate positive rituals into your day, here are some of my favorites:

Morning coffee or other hot beverage- make sure you’re not multitasking and distracting yourself while doing this. Actually sit with yourself, notice each level of flavor, the warmth (or cold if that’s more your thing), maybe find a mantra/quote/intention for your day and think on it for a few, uninterrupted minutes. And don’t do it while you’re driving. Actually make time for yourself the way you would a beloved friend.

Yoga- different classes exist for different purposes. I like to take a power yoga class in the beginning of the day to start positive conversations with my body, and for strength/empowerment, working out anger/other lingering emotions, etc. I like yin classes at the end of my day for deep emotional release, flexibility, and relaxation after a stressful/high activity day or impactful yoga class.

Cooking- can often be like a moving meditation. When considering a meal, don’t just listen to what your taste buds are craving (which is totally one of my biggest struggles, I will admit openly!). Asking myself “what does my body need to refuel?” is a huge help, as des finding something delicious and nourishing. Then, the process of cooking the meal feels almost meditative and I can get lost in the multi-sensory experience. When I don’t have an abundance of time and energy to make food, I usually make sure I’ve prepped enough leftovers to heat up, or I’ll sometimes even treat myself to a nutritious meal out. I know that feeding myself an over-abundance of junk food won’t make me feel energized. But a small treat here or there is OK, as long as I avoid trigger foods for my immune system.

Also, I like to make sure I take care of the day-to-day stuff, like drinking my smoothies, taking my new vitamin regimen (it works miracles, I swear), and drink plenty of water and stretch throughout the day!

Exercise- walking, hiking, some weight lifting, spin classes, yoga classes, whatever! I just take extra care to make sure I’m doing these activities with the intention of loving and caring for my body, rather than punishing and hurting it or being angry at it.

Journaling- every day, even when I don’t know what to write about. Where do you think I find inspiration for blogs? Sometimes, I’ll even do a card pull from my favorite oracle decks, find an inspirational quote online, listen to an audiobook, read a poem, shamanic journey, or meditate for a few minutes for inspiration. Sometimes, tension I didn’t even realize I had gets released and things I didn’t realize I was hanging on to gets processed along the way. 

Body/Energy Work-I cannot recommend massage enough! Along with aromatherapy, energy healing/Reiki, shamanic healing session if I’m feeling off. 

I hope that this two-part series has clarified the importance of ritual within our daily routines, and how it doesn’t necessarily require a major shift in behavior, but more mindful awareness, in order to have a better connection with yourself. If you’re interested in connecting with others who are also looking to connect with themselves, there’s still time to join my Goddess group starting next week! We will be meeting for two hours on Saturdays, for six weeks, discussing our inner goddesses, learning about our needs, how to meet them in our daily lives, and journaling outside of the group to notice the changes in our lives! Contact me directly at rebecca@nestcoaching.org!

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Self-Care Guilt- How Does it Impact You?

I’m storytelling in this one, in hopes that some of you may be able to identify some harmful patterns in your own lives that you’re absolutely able to take control of now!

So, in last week’s blog post we discussed the difference between self-love and self-care. Today I want to piggyback on those ideas and discuss the unspoken guilt about self-care in our society.

            I don’t know about you, but I know that in the past when I’ve needed a day off from work or school for the purpose of preserving my own mental health, I’ve had to lie. Is it not just as important to ensure that my mind and spirit are healthy, the way I would need to ensure my body was healthy before returning to life as usual after the flu or a cold? I recall never being able to understand this even as a teenager, and was disappointed to see that it carried through my years in college, graduate school, and every job I’ve ever had (even while working in the mental health field!). While I certainly had some bosses who would have been more than understanding if I had just said I needed a mental health day (and some were- one would even set an example and take a mental health day now and again), I still had coworkers, clients, or upper-level administration whom would not have been so gracious. This often made me feel as though I needed validation from others that I was “ill enough” to justify missing a shift at work. This got me thinking- why should I be putting work ahead of my own well-being, especially when I’m preaching self-care to my clients?

            This is the depth of disregard for mental health and self-care our work has. I know everyone’s experience is their own, but I’ll go ahead and use myself as an example hoping that others can relate. The day-to-day reality of internalized shame patterns around my own self-care looked something like this: 

·     Ignore and repress my own feelings until they reached a boiling point, at which time I would have a meltdown. This would often result in me not taking good care of myself until I got sick or injured, which was essentially my body trying to get my attention and tell me I needed to slow down.

·     Completely shut down for a day or two, because I couldn’t focus on anything else, but I wasn’t doing anything to recharge either.

·     While I was in that shut down state, I wasn’t even able to fully recharge my battery because I was vacillating between checking out and being anxious about the things I wasn’t doing because I just didn’t have the energy or mental capacity. My body, mind, and soul felt completely separate from each other and I had no clue how to begin bringing them back together and restoring a sense of normalcy. I thus would sink further into helplessness, which just made me want to shut down more. It would also take significantly more energy to repress whatever emotions were coming up, which they were more often because I was so burnt out.

·      I thus became irritable, and got to a point where I didn’t know what to do with myself outside of work. I allowed people to treat me in ways I didn’t deserve to be treated, because I was too exhausted and shut off from myself to demand or seek something better. The actions of those people just reinforced my belief that something was wrong with me. And guess what? Something WAS wrong with me. Guilt and negative self-beliefs were getting in the way of engaging in useful, productive self-care.

 

With a significant amount of my own work in therapy and dharma school, meeting with life and business coaches, biting the bullet and getting out of toxic work environments and into self-employment, a daily yoga practice, breaks from social media, reading, audiobooks/podcasts, and regular journaling and meditation, I’ve been able to engage in much better self-care. But it was not overnight, and it was in spite of the cultural messages I was receiving about self-care both at work and outside of work. To most of my friends throughout my twenties, “self-care” looked like thinly veiled binge drinking or just checking out on Netflix for hours and taking naps. While these things can sometimes help us shut our brains off to recharge, I couldn’t do it all the time. I knew I needed more.

            This is an invitation to you to pay attention to your own self-care: is it actually recharging you? What messages are your receiving in your daily life about self-care? Are they congruent with your values around self-care? While it’s certainly noble to work hard and make ends meet, there’s no glory in completely draining yourself and becoming irritable and reactive towards the people around you, or withdrawing into victimhood. This means you’re hurting people by lashing out at them, and hurting the community by not sharing your gifts.

            If you’re a woman who is local to Central CT and want to change your self-care, January 2019 is the time for you! I will be running a six-week Goddess group designed around the Goddess archetypes, how they apply to the modern woman, and how women can come together in community. We will specifically be addressing how self-care guilt is culturally passed on to women in the USA, and how to make small mindset/realistic lifestyle changes to live a life connected to purpose. If you’re interested in learning more, please contact me directly at rebecca@mhccholistichealth.hush.com.

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Self-Care vs. Self-Love

I’m trying to write this blog post without sounding preachy, but this is a big soapbox issue for me. Our culture, while many individuals are trying to make changes, almost doesn’t even value self-love of self-care. In the USA, it’s almost a badge of honor contest to see who can be the most exhausted. We laugh at and glorify binge drinking, pumping our bodies full of toxic crap, getting poor sleep, and we act like it will all be fine until we have major, irreversible health issues. These health issues are happening on an epidemic level, and it’s almost as if there’s some sort of romance in being overworked and feeling trapped in a constant cycle of racing and working hard with no clear payoff or goal in mind. So, I’d like to try to do my part in dispelling some myths about self-love and self-care, reminding my amazing audience of the importance of both, and use my platform in contributing to a cultural shift towards better self-love and self-care.

 

What is Self-Care?

Self-care is an action term, and should be the basis of reasoning for anything you do, no matter how big or small. If you know your purpose in life, everything you do in accordance with that purpose counts as self-care. For example, I know that my dharma type is educator, and I live that purpose through being a therapist and life coach. I thrive off of lea ring new things so that I can use the skills and information to empower and heal others. However, if we don’t balance out with other types of self-care, constantly immersing ourselves in our purpose 100% of the time can be extremely draining. So it’s out of self-awareness that we must constantly assess our bodies, luminous energy fields, emotional and mental well-being, and energy levels.

            When we’re drained and in need of a little bit “more”- energy, love, relaxation, tyime, or anything that replenishes us, self-care mustshift. On days when I need to recharge, I have to add extra things into my daily practice to supplement the output of the energy. Things like playing with my dog, or my friends’ toddlers, some extra yoga, journaling, an oracle card reading, getting a massage/energy healing session, listening to an inspiring audiobook/podcast, or listening to the legends of my Celtic and M’iqmaq heritages all help to replenish my energy on tougher days. Sometimes, we have to allow ourselves time to actively check out to shut our brains off temporarily. This is self-care as well, but only if we are aware of why we are doing it, what we’re looking to get out of it, and when we plan to check back in. If we just totally check out and binge-watch Game of Thrones for hours or days, with no real purpose other than avoiding life, this is not replenishment or self-care, and I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t feel better afterward. 

            We do what fulfills our purpose, and sometimes check out to take a break, ideally because we love ourselves. Anything that falls under that umbrella counts as self-care. For example, sometimes I forego my early morning workout or yoga (yup I do it too!) because even though those things are for my own self-care and the well-being of my body, sometimes my body also needs more sleep and rest. So I’m still engaging in self-care if I let myself go back to sleep for a couple more hours, so that I’m rested and able to be more fully present for my clients and all the other things I have to do that day.

            Boundaries are another very important form of self-care. Setting boundaries with those in our lives isn’t out of punishment or malicious intent towards them, but rather to preserve our own well-being based on the bare minimum we know we require in order to feel well. People often feel guilty about setting boundaries, especially those with a long-history of people-pleasing. I plan to talk more about that in a later blog post, but if you have specific questions and would like some help with setting boundaries, please get into contact with me directly.

 

So, What is Self-Love?

Self-love is the intention with which we engage in any of our self-care activities. So if self-care is the action, self-love is the emotion and intention driving the action.

            Self-love is often hard for us to access. We don’t live in a society that wants us to know our true value and step into our power- rather, our society wants us to conform and not make waves. In indigenous tribes, the belief is that each member of the community is born with incredible gifts, and it’s the community’s collective responsibility to love and foster that person and their gifts, so that the whole community can benefit. This fosters the individual’s sense of themselves and their own identity, which is fluid throughout the journey of their lives. The person is thus able to acquire new skills and gifts to give because of this community value of self-love and self-awareness.

            In our society, self-love is anything that keeps passion and energy going, so that you can fulfill your purpose and keep doing your self-care activities with vigor. We have become more individualistic, especially as volatile political climates have shown many marginalized or more introverted people that being part of a community can be unsafe. The result is we don’t have the self-awareness that membership in a community can foster, and we believe we need to be selfish with our gifts because the world doesn’t know how to appreciate them. If you want the world to change, the first place you have to look is within yourself- how do you feel about how you show up to the world, and what gifts do you have to offer? How generous are you in sharing those gifts? How nurturing are you in encouraging others to share their gifts? What would help you to be more giving with your gifts, and nurturing of others?

            This is an invitation to you to engage in all your daily activities and practices with a new awareness of why, and assess whether now feels like a good time to identify and make any changes you may feel called to make. How connected with your own purpose, your energy, and your physical and emotional feelings are you on a day to day basis? What about your soul? What are you in need of changing in your own self-care or self-love regimen?

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

** if you would like to revamp your self-care routine, join me in January for my Goddess group! Contact me directly at rebecca@nestcoaching.org!

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Are They The One For Me? Finding the Right Therapist

Questions to Ask Yourself to Find Out if Your Therapist is the Right Fit

 This is the third of a three-part blog installment designed to help you get started with the right therapist!

Entering into a therapy relationship can be tense and sometimes uncomfortable, even in the best situations. Here are some helpful tools to help you decide if your therapist is the one for you! Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and everyone’s experience is different, so please understand these are just guidelines and you must use your own judgment. If you’re having doubts, the best thing you can do is discuss them with your therapist! How they respond will definitely tell you what you need to know. Remember, my suggestion is to give it at least 3-5 sessions with your therapist to get past the initial housekeeping and goal setting and get into rapport building and deeper work- unless you’re feeling truly threatened, unsafe, gaslit, or invalidated during your sessions. Then you should leave immediately!

 

Are they empowering you with the questions they ask?

Are they inspiring you to continue working outside of sessions?

Do you get a sense that they want to help you heal, or do you feel as if they want you to be dependent on them for emotional validation? Is it because of something they’re doing, or because of where you need to work?

Are they challenging and pushing you, or are they smiling and nodding?

Are they supportively challenging, or are they hostile and blaming?

Are you just venting? Or is actual work getting done?While venting occasionally has therapeutic value, therapy should be more goal-directed. A good therapist should be empowering you to handle the situations that are stressing you out, so that you won’t need to vent because you’ll feel capable of handling it (probably not going to be evident in the first 3-5 sessions). Your therapist should be respectful of your investment of time, energy, and finances to help you keep your goals in mind and start working towards them.

 

Body Language Awareness

Are they engaged with you? How is their eye contact?

Are they leaning in, legs pointed towards you, open arms?

Are they leaning back, legs open, taking up space?

How do you find yourself reacting to their body language?

What is your body language communicating in sessions? Does this apply to other areas of your life?

What does your energy want to do in sessions? Does it feel comfortable and relaxed, like you can actually be calm enough to do work? Or does it feel bottled up and tense? Does your body want to do something?

Do you feel they are physically close to you? Do you feel they are too close to you?

Will they be receptive to feedback if you communicate what you need or do what your body feels like it needs to do?

How is their tone of voice? How do you find yourself reacting to it?

 

Again, this is a short list just meant to generate thought and honest self-assessment as well as awareness of the therapist and what they are or are not communicating during sessions. Please use your own discretion and judgment, journal on these questions and challenge yourself to come up with more. And I cannot stress this enough- if you’re having doubts or concerns, have the courage to bring them up to your therapist. They will be receptive and it is TOTALLY OKAY for a therapist to not always be the best fit for you! They are ethically bound to help you, and sometimes that may mean helping you find the therapist with the “right stuff” for you. Maybe if it doesn’t work after the first several sessions, they may have a good enough idea about what you’re struggling with, your needs, and your communication style to be able to refer you to a trusted friend or colleague! You don’t get what you don’t ask for, so challenge yourself to discuss it with them!

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Preparing For Your First Therapy Session: Part 2

This is the second in a three-part blog series geared to help you prepare for your first session in therapy ever, or just with a new therapist for the first time in a while. This article will cover what to expect from your first session (also called an intake), as well as some things the therapist is assessing for during an intake.

(Bet you didn’t think there was so much to consider before you even walk in the door for your first session! But, you’ve made it this far. So, let’s say you’ve followed some of the advice laid out in the first edition of this topic, you’ve found one or more therapists who seem like they might be the right fit, and maybe you’ve even reached out and scheduled an intake or two. What’s next?

What to Expect in an Intake:

Your therapist is going to have a LOT to get through within the first session. They have to cover intake documents, informed consent, limitations of privacy laws, and tell you all about how they tend to operate and what the attendance expectations are. Then there’s the fact that they have to get an idea of what you’d like to achieve in therapy, and assess your supports, strengths, coping skills, safety, connection to community resources, your day-to-day life, and establish rapport while simultaneously being as genuine as possible and starting to formulate rough ideas for goals and treatment plans if you choose to continue beyond the intake. They also have to make sure they get releases to talk to doctors/lawyers/agencies/other providers if necessary, and assess whether they are the best fit for you and your needs. That’s a TON to get through! Needless to say, it often takes two or three sessions to get a basic idea of what therapy with the clinician would actually be like. To help with some of the time management, many practices are starting to require electronic signatures of paperwork prior to the first session, then quickly covering the necessary points during the intake. My practice does this, and requires the paperwork to be completed with insurance and credit card information submitted electronically a minimum of 24 hours prior to the scheduled appointment, or the appointment will be cancelled. 

            For the rest of the rapport building, treatment planning, clinical assessment, and collaboration on goals- the process can be several sessions long. I have many clients on my caseload for several months where we focus on establishing trust, rapport, and safety- often because there is significant attachment trauma and they need to experience me as consistent and nurturing for a length of time before they’ll truly feel safe exploring further and doing some of the deeper work. Be patient, trust the process, and don’t expect to be cured or even given an idea of how many sessions need to happen before you feel relief from your symptoms. You get out of therapy what you put into it. Don’t give up on the potential right fit therapist before you have a chance to actually start doing the real work to meet your goals. 

 

What Your Therapist is Assessing for:

This is going to vary depending on the type of therapist you’re seeing and the type of therapy you’re looking to do. But some general topics I usually assess for include:

Safety:Is this person going to be able to tolerate deep work? Are they likely to continue their work through daily practices outside of treatment appointments? Do they have the distress tolerance to handle it, or should we first focus on resourcing and rapport building through various interventions before we do the trauma work? What community and natural resources are needed outside of therapy, and how accessible are these things? Does the person need a higher level of care than I’m able to offer? What are their needs, and do they have healthy insight into some ways to get those needs met, or are they too traumatized and invested in more comfortable/maladaptive ways of meeting those needs? Who are supportive people they can turn to? Can we make a plan for when they’re feeling close to a crisis, so that they can call on those people? Are they familiar/in contact with local crisis services?

 

Goodness of Fit:

As a Licensed Professional Counselor, my licensing board and the American Counseling Association, as well as the EMDR International Association all have various versions of the same ethical requirement that states I need to refer clients elsewhere if they’re not a good fit for what I feel able to provide. Most behavioral health governing bodies have some version of this same guideline. If I feel as though my relational style or specialty is very different from what I perceive the client’s needs to be, it’s my duty to best serve the client by referring them to someone much more suited to handling that specific issue than I am. For example, while my license allows me to work with children and I have done so as a pre-licensed therapist, this is not my passion and I have not had continuing education in working with children. I know that I can probably do decent work with children, and that I have before, but I also know that there are some excellent colleagues of mine whom I would feel much more comfortable referring minor clients to (and for the record, I’m more than OK with this- I know I excel at the work I do with my adult clients and I am highly specialized in something I am passionate about). So, rather than taking on minor clients anyway, I refer them to the colleagues whose work I am familiar with, whom I trust and who specialize in working with populations I don’t. The client’s needs are thus met by a provider more equipped to give them what they need. If your new therapist is making it seem like they’re a jack of all trades but a master of none, they may be skilled and intelligent but may not be the best fit for what you specifically need. 

 

From here, the therapist’s assessment will really start to depend on the therapist you’re meeting with. For example, I am a strengths-based, person-centered trauma therapist specializing in attachment trauma and dissociation. So, I’m assessing for trauma, especially hidden or repressed trauma, certain buzzwords and telling phrases, trauma narratives, symptoms and how they are presenting in daily life, what those symptoms are interfering with that caused the client to want to meet with me in the first place, what about me stood out for them in selecting me as their therapist, feelings of being “checked out” or not being able to remember significant periods of time, and ego strength/distress tolerance. If there needs to be some ego strengthening, I’m getting an idea of how we can collaborate on that together in order to set a strong foundation for the deeper trauma work. I’m also assessing for strengths and skills because I believe those are going to provide the foundation to build up some of the things that are in need of improvement to facilitate healing. 

            Other therapists, however, will have different approaches and specialties and will be assessing along those lines. A substance abuse counselor, for example, will want to know about length of use, substances of choice, any periods of sobriety, positives that would help the client maintain sobriety, etc. Those who specialize in working with children will be looking for some indication of boundaries and expectations in the home and at school, social engagement, and possible reasons behind behavioral disturbances (depending on age). 

 

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of what each therapist assesses for or how they operate during intake sessions, but I hope it has provided some useful information that will help you prepare for your first intake. It’s also totally fine to write down some thoughts/lists of things you want to work on, and maybe make some mention of the work you’ve done to start trying to address this stuff on your own. It’s helpful for the therapist to get an idea of what’s realistically going to translate from therapy into your daily life, so this would definitely be a great tool!

Rebecca L. Toner, MA, LPC

Freer of Souls. Connector to Purpose. Healer of Lives.

 

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.

Rebecca Toner, MA, LPC is a group private practice owner, EMDR therapist and consultant-in-training, and a life coach operating out of Plainville, CT. She specializes in treating clients with chronic attachment trauma and dissociation, and has passion in working with coaching clients who are learning how to reclaim their power after processing trauma.