Archive for October, 2019

Acupuncture at Lyn-Lake Psychotherapy and Wellness

Acupuncture at Lyn-Lake Psychotherapy and Wellness

By: Andrea Cyr  –  Licensed Acupuncturist, MAOM

You go to your doctor for a wellness visit.  Your doc listens to your chest, checks your blood pressure, knocks on your knee and ankle to check reflexes.  She asks you how you are.  Perhaps you tell her you have been having knee pain.  She checks your knee and perhaps looks at how you stand and walk.  During a well check-up, you spend possibly 30 minutes at most with your doctor.

If you have a particular issue and schedule an office visit, your doc perhaps has 15 minutes at most to determine what is “wrong” with you.  She might order further tests.  But her focus is on the area of your body where you are having issues.  If you have more than one issue, she tells you to make another appointment to address the second problem.

The Assessment Process

Working with an acupuncturist is a significantly different experience.  When one schedules an appointment with Andrea Cyr, a Licensed Acupuncturist and Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at Lyn Lake Psychotherapy and Wellness, the individual is asked to fill out a detailed intake form.

The first appointment is 90 minutes and much of that appointment is spent in conversation.  “First they get to tell their stories”, says Cyr.  “I ask them the top two issues they are having and where they feel them in their bodies.  We have a pretty long conversation about how they are experiencing symptoms right now and what makes them better or worse.  I try to paint the picture they are giving me and we keep talking until I get an accurate picture” she explains.

In addition, she asks about emotional concerns, self-care and lifestyle habits.  The philosophy in Chinese medicine is to treat the whole person.

After making sure that she has an accurate view of her client’s concerns, she will begin assessing them physically.   “I look at their physical appearance and how they hold their bodies, their voice, their physicality.”

In Chinese Medicine, the tongue can say a lot about an individual’s overall health because different areas of a person’s tongue as well as the color, texture and shape can offer clues to what may be going on within “five corresponding organ systems”: the liver, lungs, spleen, heart and kidneys.  Andrea uses this information to check the direction she believes she needs to head.

Next, she palpates the client’s abdomen to check the texture, heat, color, tightness of that area.  She is checking acupuncture points for diagnostic information.

During that first appointment, she will spend some of that time—about 30 minutes on the actual treatment.  “How a person responds to an initial treatment will give me information on whether I need to make changes or to keep going down that path”.

The 101 on Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture.   

Unlike Allopathic doctors, Chinese Medicine practitioners focuses on where energy or Qi is blocked within different meridians—or energy pathways.  Disease can occur when the opposing complex forces Yin and Yang are out of balance.

“I am coming up with a differential diagnosis” explains Cyr. “Depending on what I assess, there are treatment protocols for each diagnosis”.  However, the focus is not coming up with a disease label and one fix.

The Acupuncturist will insert very thin needles along certain acupuncture points.  The important thing is for clients to be able to relax with the needles for a period of time to allow the process to work.  Treatments can run anywhere from 30 minutes to close to an hour. Follow-up visits are an hour to allow time for Cyr to check in with her clients on how they are doing.

As many of us are used to, Allopathic philosophy is a linear way of treating illness.  The goal is to find the disease and prescribe medication or a surgical procedure that will hopefully cure it.

“I want to show people that their bodies have the capability of healing.  So, I help the client determine a baseline so we can track progress.  What I want to explain is that there is nothing wrong with their bodies, but that something is just out of balance”, Cyr says.

What? Needles?

Prospective clients may be intimidated by having needles inserted into them.  But acupuncture is not supposed to hurt.  Cyr explains that it is counter to healing when an individual is laying there in pain during treatment.

“One may feel some tugging or pinching depending on the technique used, but often people don’t feel anything”.  Often, she goes on to describe, there may be an initial sensation as the needles settle, but then patients relax into it and after a few moments typically the sensations go away.

Different Acupuncture Techniques

When Can a Therapist Refer to an Acupuncturist

Cyr outlines several things to consider when determining whether a client may be a good fit for acupuncture.

Acupuncture and Mental Illness

There is robust evidence that acupuncture helps with pain.  The evidence that acupuncture aides in alleviating mood disorders is not quite as clear.  However, one theory is that acupuncture can help control secretion of chemicals such as Serotonin and Norepinephrine that aide in mood regulation.

Another theory is that it can “influence the autonomic system” which can affect blood pressure, heart rate etc.  This area of brain function can affect the fight or flight response.

Depression and anxiety are broad diagnoses and manifest differently in each of us.  The underlying issues that can cause mood disorders are varied as well.  Cyr describes broadly how anxiety and depression may show up within an acupuncturist’s assessment.  Below are just a few “snapshots” that she sees in those with anxiety and depression.

Depression may cause the body to “either not have nor can produce enough energy for the person to engage fully in their life.  Energy may be stuck in a particular way that is preventing access to it.  She may ask, “where do you feel stuck/pain in your body?”

Anxiety, Cyr describes is “the body’s capacity to store energy physiologically as compromised and pathological energy rises to the upper body resulting in agitation”.  She further states that a “pathological lack of warmth and vitality in the body is rising to the upper body and it is being experienced as life threatening”. This can potentially cause panic attacks.

She may determine that there is a lack of balance between alert and resting states.  Questions she may ask in these cases may be, “How does it feel to stop moving?  In your body, how do you feel time moving fast and slowly?

Non-Psychiatric Illnesses that Acupuncture Can Treat

Chronic Pain has the most evidence behind the use of acupuncture: low back pain, migraines, Osteoarthritis.  Acupuncture can also assist in postoperative pain recovery  But many more issues can be alleviated by acupuncture treatment.

How Many Sessions?

Depending on the issue(s), Cyr states that often acute problems such as back pain or an injury could take about 3-6 sessions.  Sometimes individuals will feel a difference after one treatment.  Sometimes it takes a bit longer.  For more chronic issues, such as infertility, she will see clients upwards of one year.

Often, she states, individuals will come to see how powerful acupuncture is in prevention.  Some of her clients come to see her monthly or when they are about to have a big transition or extra stress in their lives to head off problems.

Insurance will cover acupuncture under limited circumstances.  However, a prospective client can pay with out of network benefits as well as with their Health Savings Account (H.S.A.)

The Wrap Up

Cyr states that acupuncture sessions “occur in the context of learning about and knowing oneself and one’s body and recognizing patterns of change that support a healthful life.” Chinese Medicine philosophy is that each person has the ability to heal themselves.  Acupuncture creates a scaffold for individuals to “move into their own sense of vitality and power”.












Pure O: A Silent Battle

Excessive hand washing, counting, putting everything in order just so: these behaviors are how most people imagine obsessive-compulsive disorder, typically referred to as OCD. And while that picture isn’t inaccurate, it is incomplete. There is another, more subtle subtype of OCD, where both obsessions and compulsions exist, but the compulsive behaviors are not apparent to anyone else. This subtype was initially called Pure O in the mistaken belief that sufferers have only obsessions but no compulsions. Although it is not an official diagnosis (people with Pure O are still diagnosed with OCD), this variation of the disorder often looks quite different from what we consider “typical” of OCD. 

OCD by the letter

To understand Pure O, it is essential to place it in the context of the broader OCD diagnosis. As mentioned earlier, OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and according to the DSM*, the obsessions are defined as:

Recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges, or images that are experienced, at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), OCD appears first as obsessive thoughts, commonly put into groups called subtypes:

The DSM defines compulsions, the flip side of the OCD coin, as:

Repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (e.g., praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the individual feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigidly.

For those suffering from OCD, compulsions are the mechanisms they use to manage stress caused by their unwanted thoughts. NIMH lists some of the more common compulsions as:

How is Pure O Different?

Pure O came by its name because it was initially believed that Pure O sufferers had purely obsessive thoughts with no corresponding compulsions. This belief took root because of the difficulty in distinguishing between the obsessive thoughts and the compulsive thoughts that follow.

Some of the more common Pure O obsessions are:

These obsessions lead to compulsive behaviors such as:

Because the obsessive thoughts typically involve content that is extremely embarrassing, shameful, or even illegal, sufferers of Pure O often keep these thoughts and related compulsions to themselves. Moreover, since this form of the disorder doesn’t readily conform to the more common conception of OCD, many people who suffer from it don’t realize that they have OCD. To make matters worse, mental health professionals don’t always recognize this form of OCD for what it is, since it doesn’t present in the same way as other forms of OCD. Consequently, people with Pure O are at risk of being undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, and thus their condition might remain untreated – or treated incorrectly – for years. 
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Pure O misconceptions

  1. That there are no compulsions
  1. That the compulsions are only internal
  1. That it isn’t OCD, but schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder instead
  1. That the intrusive thoughts are an accurate reflection of character and personality

How is Pure O treated?

The most effective treatments for Pure O are the same that are used for “traditional” OCD, including cognitive and behavioral therapies, as well as medication. 

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)
Perhaps the most common approach to treating OCD, the Exposure in ERP refers to exposing yourself to the thoughts, images, objects and situations that make you anxious and/or start your obsessions. The Response Prevention part of ERP refers to learning how to stop yourself from engaging in the compulsive behavior. By repeatedly exposing yourself to the thoughts you are trying to avoid, and then preventing yourself from avoiding them or carrying out rituals to neutralize them, the obsessive thoughts lose their power. Typically, a therapist will assist in the response prevention process – teaching the client skills for managing their distress while preventing them from engaging in their compulsive behaviors – until the person is able to do so on their own.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), clients are taught how to accept that their intrusive thoughts exist but are harmless on their own, and in doing so, the client slowly begins to tolerate these thoughts and no longer needs to devote all their energy to fighting them. While learning to accept these thoughts without reacting to them takes time and practice, research on ACT for OCD points to this intervention as a very effective treatment for all forms of the disorder. 

Oftentimes, these treatment approaches are combined with medication to enhance their effectiveness. 

How do I know if I have OCD?

Everyone has random, odd, even inappropriate thoughts on occasion and most people can quickly dismiss them, so having those types of thoughts doesn’t automatically qualify as OCD or Pure O. If these thoughts cannot be dismissed, if they cause excessive stress and anxiety, and if managing that stress becomes so intrusive and time-consuming that it impacts regular activities, it is definitely a good idea to schedule a psychological assessment to determine what is causing your symptoms, and what your options are for treatment.  

At LynLake Centers for Wellbeing, we offer comprehensive psychological assessments from experienced, licensed clinical psychologists. We also have compassionate, non-judgmental therapists who are trained in treating OCD. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

OCD Resources

These websites are focused on OCD and contain a wealth of helpful information: