Archive for January, 2020

Four Tips to Help You Fit Therapy Into Your Schedule

Four Tips to Help You Fit Therapy Into Your Schedule

By: Adam Grafa

According to the National Association of Mental Illness, 20% of adults in the US experience some type of mental illness. Still, over half (approximately 57%) don’t seek treatment. Why is that? For some, perhaps it’s because of the stigma frequently attached to mental health treatment. For others, it might be that life is too busy, and it seems impossible to find the time to talk to a counselor. Whatever the reason, there are options available that can help even the busiest and most private of us get the support we need.

Here are four tips to help you fit health care for your mind into your weekly routine. 

Ask About Telehealth

With the advent of secure online video conferencing, telehealth has become more prevalent, and getting therapy can be much easier. Also known as online therapy, web therapy, phone therapy, and telepsychology, telehealth is a convenient way to meet with your therapist without having to leave your home or office. If you’re comfortable with online communication, it can make fitting therapy into your schedule more manageable. If privacy is a concern for you, telehealth may be an especially appealing option. Many, but not all, health insurance providers will pay for telehealth services. If you are planning to use your insurance to pay for your therapy visits, be sure to review your insurance plan or talk to your provider.

Consider Evenings and Weekends

If you would rather stay with face-to-face sessions (you’re not alone!) and breaking away from your weekday obligations is too complicated, many therapists and counselors will see clients outside of regular work hours. Be sure to talk to your therapist about their availability during off-hours, like evenings and weekends.

Use Sick Leave, Paid Time Off (PTO), or Vacation

Most employers provide sick leave, PTO, or paid vacation, and you can use all three for preventive medical care. Be aware, however, that no U.S. law requires businesses to provide those benefits. Because there are no federal guidelines, employers are free to create their own rules for usage, so be sure to familiarize yourself with your organization’s policies. If you use your sick leave, be ready for questions from your boss; they have the right to ask, but also know that the information you provide can be general and brief.

Learn About the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

If you’re unfamiliar with it, the FMLA is a federal law that allows you to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work for family or medical reasons. Additionally, the FMLA lets you continue using your existing health insurance and guarantees “job protection,” which means that if you take FMLA leave, you don’t run the risk of losing your job. Because it is unpaid, most people will use FMLA leave when treatment exhausts the paid benefits provided by their employer.

Some rules and restrictions come along with the FMLA, so you will need to do some research to make sure that you qualify and that your employer is covered by it. All employers covered under the FMLA are required to display the FMLA poster, but if you are uncertain, talk to your HR department. There is also comprehensive information available at the Department of Labor website.

We Hope This Helps!

Managing your health care can be overwhelming, so we hope these tips are useful. If you feel like you need the support of a mental health professional, don’t become one of the many who never get help. You’re not alone!

If you have any questions, please contact us, we want to help!


Somatic Experiencing: A Body-Centered Approach to Treating PTSD

“Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.” –Dr. Peter A. Levine

Somatic Experiencing is a body-centered approach to treating PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) that, rather than focusing solely on thoughts or emotions associated with a traumatic event, expands to include the natural bodily (somatic) responses. It was first conceptualized by trauma therapist Dr. Peter Levine in the 1970s and in the years since it has come to be considered a leading-edge therapy for PTSD, with over 12,000 healing professionals trained.

Trauma vs. PTSD

Before taking a deeper look at Somatic Experiencing (SE), it’s essential to understand the interrelationship of trauma and PTSD. Very simply, a traumatic event, either experienced or witnessed, will happen before PTSD can set in. In other words, PTSD doesn’t happen without a traumatic event to trigger it, but at the same time, just because someone experiences trauma that does not mean they will necessarily experience PTSD.

Whether or not people go on to develop symptoms of PTSD following a traumatic event depends on a number of factors. We all respond differently to trauma, and the circumstances surrounding traumatic events vary widely from situation to situation and from person to person. Some people are also more innately resilient than others. The good news is that for those of us who do not have the ability to heal from trauma, for whatever reason(s), Somatic Experiencing is one way we can develop that resilience.

Common Forms of PTSD treatment

To better understand Somatic Experiencing, it is helpful to contrast it with some of the other common therapeutic approaches used to treat PTSD:

Exposure therapy – As explained by the American Psychological Association (APA), Exposure therapy involves having a client confront the trauma directly in a safe environment to reduce the fear response to that traumatic event and surrounding circumstances. It has been shown scientifically to reduce fear and avoidance behaviors. 

Cognitive Therapy – This method has its origins in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and, according to the APA, entails modifying the pessimistic evaluations and memories of trauma to interrupt the behavioral and/or thought patterns that have been interfering in the person’s day to day life.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) – Rather than focusing on changing thoughts, emotions, and responses associated with a traumatic event, EMDR focuses on specific memories and how they are stored in the brain. Initially this was accomplished with rapid left-right eye movement while focusing on a particular memory, but other forms of bilateral stimulation, like alternating tones or taps, have proven to be equally effective.

While one of these modes of treatment can be successful at eliminating or diminishing the effects of PTSD, no single intervention works equally well for everyone. For some people, because these methods involve thinking and/or talking about the traumatic event(s), the treatments themselves can become another source of trauma.

How is Somatic Experiencing (SE) different?

Merriam-Webster defines somatic as “of, relating to, or affecting the body…” so, by its name alone, Somatic Experiencing telegraphs its difference from other therapeutic models. SE expands the focus of therapy to include the bodily energy created by trauma and seeks to repair and complete the natural cycle our bodies possess to release it. It also follows a less direct and more incremental approach to revisiting trauma, especially in comparison to Exposure Therapy.

According to our Certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioners at Lyn-Lake Psychotherapy and Wellness, SE helps people build awareness, coherence and self-regulation. The result is a deeper understanding of the body/mind connection with improved ability to release and regulate emotions. It also helps manage stress, resolve issues related to trauma, heal from and navigate life transitions, and build resilience.

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Origins of Somatic Experiencing

Dr. Peter Levine developed Somatic Experiencing from his observations of how wild animals recover from repeated traumatic experiences like attacks by predators (imagine gazelles eluding a cheetah). What he noticed was that after the threat was gone, the animals experienced a physical release of their fight-or-flight energy by shaking, trembling, or sometimes running. He also saw that with completion of the physical release, they quickly returned to their normal state.

Dr. Levine believed that humans also possess the same ability to release physical energy from stress but often thwart it by “keeping it together” following trauma. We all probably have direct experience “keeping it together” following a difficult experience. But that very ability to override our innate mechanism for self-care is also what may set the stage for the development of PTSD. By stopping this natural cycle of release, the energy becomes “stuck,” effectively keeping us in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight so that we are unable to return to our relaxed, balanced state.

It wasn’t until sometime later after his initial observations, however, that he was able to validate his thinking. It happened while he was in session with a client suffering from PTSD. His client began vividly reliving a traumatic childhood experience, and as he observed her agitated state, he had a flash of inspiration. He encouraged her to protect herself by running away from the threat, as if she was being chased by a tiger. She began kicking her feet, simulating escape, and with that action completed the natural release of traumatic energy that had been long trapped in her body.

Following this session, she experienced immediate and lasting relief from her PTSD symptoms, and Dr. Levine saw for the first time a human’s ability to enact the same physical release of trauma energy that animals do instinctively and regularly. Thus began his formal development of Somatic Experiencing as a therapeutic modality.

What are Somatic Experiencing sessions like?

No two sessions are alike, but there is a set of activities that typically happen over the course of treatment. The specifics of each step, what is discussed, when to move from one step to the next, are determined entirely by the client and their comfort level at each step.

The first step is getting comfortable in the therapy environment, both with the therapist and the physical space. Only after feelings of safety and trust are established will the process of addressing the trauma begin.

After that, sessions may start with the therapist asking a client to revisit the time around the traumatic event, but not the event directly. For example, if the traumatic experience involved a car crash, instead of immediately exploring the accident itself, the therapist might begin the process of revisiting it by asking what the weather was like the day of the crash. This gentle and indirect approach to revisiting the traumatic event allows our bodies to build the necessary resilience while slowly releasing stuck traumatic energy, a little bit at a time.

The pace of progress, though, is determined by the client’s comfort level at each step along the way. The gentle exploration continues until the client builds enough resilience to productively and completely engage and release the trauma energy.

One LynLake therapist likened the Somatic Experiencing sessions to dancing: “It is fluid, and there is some improvisation that happens, too… the goal is to get to that ‘flow’ state that people talk about, like when you’re dancing and your movements are completely in sync with the music, and you’re no longer consciously thinking about what you’re doing.”

If you are interested in exploring Somatic Experiencing as a modality for treating your own history of trauma, please contact our referrals team today to get started. 


New Year’s Resolutions – Will Power is a Myth

New Year’s Resolutions – Will Power is a Myth

By: Sharon Burris-Brown, National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach, LICSW

‘Tis the Season – for New Year’s Resolutions! These are our new or renewed goals and commitments to eating less, exercising more, spending less time in front of our devices and more time with our families, cleaning out our closets and setting up a system so they stay uncluttered. So many goals – so much frustration.

Smokers who set their quit date on January 1. People join a gym and proclaim they will get there at least three times a week – starting January 1.

But 92% of us will go back to old habits by February. We start… and stop. Then start again… and throw up our hands – until the next year.

And why is that? A new year, a new way, right? Well… no.

Here are reasons why most of us fail:

So, let’s take these expectations, myths, and beliefs that get in our way and look at them, one-by-one:

Change is Hard.

Yes. It is. And many of us have not really examined WHY we want to make this change. Most of us have a thought that we SHOULD make it. And without a why, we are unlikely to be successful.

So, examine what could happen if you do not make this change in a year or five years. AND think about your life as specifically as you can if you WERE to make this change. What would you be able to do that you have a hard time or can’t do now? How would this affect your loved ones and your relationship with them? Specifically, how would you feel? What would your life look like?

The time you take to getting very specific and tangible about your motivators will make a big difference when you are struggling and want to quit.

Things Will be Different in the New Year.

No. You will likely be the same you. And the reasons why it has been hard for you to make the changes you would like will still be there. So, start with that premise and work from a place of reality. You will be the same you and your life will likely look pretty much the same between December 31 and January 1. When you face this head on, you will be able to handle what is and plan for a different outcome.

Change Has a Beginning, Middle and an End.

When you can wrap your head around the fact that change is an ONGOING PROCESS rather than a discrete effort, you can stop believing that if you “fail” to be successful in this effort of change, you have epically failed. You can then reframe your struggles as part of the change process. Struggles are then seen as learning opportunities rather than failures. And you will truly realize that change is very rarely linear.

Unrealistic Goals.

So many of us want to be able to say, “we are done. We are where we want to be”. As a result, we set up goals that, out of the gate, are way too big. We have the expectation that we SHOULD be able to exercise 4-5 times a week at the beginning. And, so, we make it as difficult as possible to create change that is sustainable. Because something will always happen in our lives that throws us off track.

The key to successful change is to START SMALL and make it EASY. Because if it is too hard, it will be that much harder to succeed.

Success in sustaining small changes often increases confidence to tackle bigger ones.

For example, many clients want to bring their lunch to work rather than stopping at a restaurant or for fast food. This is a great intention. But, how do we make this a reality? We might start out with the goal for bringing lunch to work at once or twice a week. We take a look at the steps that must be made in order to be successful—making a grocery list, going grocery shopping, prepping food that is satisfying but easily prepared.

Outcomes are Seen as Goals.

Instead, focus on tasks towards an outcome and widen your perspective of what success looks like. A common mistake people make is to determine that losing weight is the goal: “I am going to lose five pounds in a month”. This is something you do not have complete control over and it then becomes easy to give up if the outcome is not met. However, you do have control over the amount of servings of fruits and vegetables you eat each meal. You have control over the minutes of physical activity you add to your day.

Neglecting to Think About Barriers.

There is a reason why people don’t follow through. There are both mental and logistical barriers that get in the way. First assess whether these barriers can truly be overcome. Brainstorm solutions and choose those solutions that you believe you can sustain. Know that if one solution does not work, something else will.

Seeing Slips as Failures.

When we do not follow through on our goals to our expectation, how many of us make these failures about our own shortcomings? How many of us believe that we are “weak” or “failures”? Cultivate curiosity. See trials as experiments and know that just because one way does not work or does not work all the time, there are other solutions.

Beating Yourself Up.

We beat ourselves up for our struggles when we need to be seeing these slips as NORMAL. Because they are part of the process of change. Research has shown that those of us who can accept that slips are part of the change process, and an opportunity for learning, are more likely to persevere when things get tough.

No Plan = No Success.

How many of us would love to magically just be able to make a change and believe that you just need to assert your willpower? In reality, willpower has little to do with making sustained changes. To go back to that example of the hypothetical client who wants to bring lunches to work, how successful would this person be if he or she did not think about what food to buy, so did not make a list, did not schedule in a time to go grocery shopping and left prepping and bagging lunch to the last minute, because there was no planned time to make the food?

Forgetting Your Why.

Change can feel like two steps forward and one step back. Life can get hard and often early changes can be the first to fall off the list. Create reminders for the outcomes you want to see to stay motivated—affirmations, photos—something you can see. For an example, many older clients keep pictures up of their grandkids when they are trying to quit tobacco or are beginning an exercise program. They want to be around and healthy so they can spend time with their grandkids.

Change is Ongoing!

If it feels good to imagine yourself starting fresh come January 1, great! Just know that you can still understand that you are in the process of change and will always be AND have the start of a New Year be a kick in the pants to get going. The journey towards better health is filled with ruts, obstacles, disappointments, but incredible rewards! TO YOUR HEALTH!


3. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Carol Dweck (2006). Random House.
4. Changing for Good: A Revolutionary 6 Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward. James O. Prochaska. (2010) Harper Collins.