When it is chronic and untreated, adverse events can become toxic stress and severely impact individual health, social and cultural structure, and economic stability.
Trauma affects everyone and has known no boundaries. It affects children and adults from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. It is one of the common denominators for individuals receiving services from social services organizations, and its structural disorganization shows up in correctional institutions, jails, schools, hospitals, and the workplace.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.” [https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/trauma-informed]
The upside of recognizing the commonality of adversity and toxic stress causes us to respond compassionately to ourselves and others!
This continual horror, triggered by events in the individual’s world, leads to a nervous system shutdown that has repercussions in the ability to read and express social cues, access executive brain skills, and find motivation or purpose in life. For researchers like van der Kolk, the body is key to understanding trauma treatment. This insight into toxic stress opens the doors of hope to helpers burdened by the cold cognitive concepts consisting of thought processes alone.
Recognizing the body’s role on the mind and the mind on the body has opened the door to new therapies that allow for deeper healing!
Get more healing for you and your family with Ron Huxley’s online courses at FamilyHealer.tv or schedule a session with Ron today.
According to the National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Telehealth or TeleMental Health services are an effective treatment strategy for trauma. Telehealth uses information technology, such as email, phone calls, FaceTime video, and Secure Online Video to conduct therapy services. This technology allows a therapist and a client to engage in real-time two-way interaction. Services that can be provided via Telehealth include assessments, individual and group therapy, psychoeducational interventions, and general therapeutic interactions.
Traditionally, mental health services are engaged in face-to-face, office visits. Just because this is traditional, doesn’t mean that is is more effective. There are times when face-to-face visits are preferred due to lack of adequate technology, challenges with privacy at home, or personal limitations of the client in using technology. In all other situations, TeleHealth is a unique service that provides several benefits, including:
Savings in time and money,
Overcome geographic distance for rural populations,
Increased access to care for individuals with mobility issues (lack of transportation),
Flexibility of appointment times (e.g., out of town for work, babysitting concerns, or other restriction on clients availability like a lunch hour, etc.),
Promotion of physical health by avoiding spreading a contagious illness (COVID-19 or general sickness, like a cold).
Telehealth is not new. It has been used for six decades, in the medical field, and is now being adopted by TeleMental Health as a flexible option for individuals. It is not a “lesser” alternative to mental health care. Outcome research has proven it to be very effective in many areas of mental health issues, like anxiety, depression, and trauma. It also offers convenient support for many general concerns, such as parenting education, life transitions, spiritual direction, and more.
A recent article from the Washington Post points out how global pandemics, like the COVID-19 virus, have shifted the landscape of mental health services through the use of technology allowing more people to attend to their mental health needs. Therapists and individuals may be just blocks away from one another geographically, but medical issues isolate and create an insurmountable “distance” between them. The use of Telehealth or TeleMental Health eliminates geographic and social distance.
The reality is that people around the world are suffering and in need of mental health treatment, education, and support. Children and adults who have experienced trauma cannot wait for medical cures or be punished for lack of mental health access. Telehealth/TeleMental Health is a powerful tool to bring immediate hope and healing.
A common struggle for modern people is a disconnection between the head and heart. We know one thing to be true, in our head, but we don’t feel or experience that truth, in our hearts or lives. We might have “Know-ledge” that someone love us (a partner, family, friend) but we don’t feel or experience the “know-ing.”
The result of this disconnection is a wide rage of negative emotions and physiological reactions. This lack, of knowing in our hearts, is rapidly creating anxiety in the world. The manifestation is broken relationships, depression and suicidal ideations, and addiction to handle pain. A simple remedy is to reconnect the head and heart.
Neuroscience provides the key to reconnecting head and heart through the new science of neuroplasticity. This refers to the brains ability to reorganize into new networks and mental patterns. It used to be believed that the brain and nervous system only grew during childhood and then stopped. All our learned patterns were fixed once we were adults or at least drastically slowed down. We know know that this is not true.
Learning can occur across the lifespan and the brain can reroute circuits, repattern networks, and even create new brain matter in response to new social emotional inputs, environmental influences, repeated practices, and even small amounts of psychological stress (yes, stress). The brain can also relearn skills, like speaking and motor movement, following brain damage.
Because the brain can be redesigned it is called “plastic” or moldable. Children are an example of neuroplasticity. Developmentally, they are “experience-dependent” coming into the world with neuro-hardware possessing basic operating instructions but needing software or experiences from loving caregivers to program the brain and its resulting behaviors or actions.
The infant brain is primed for social contact and seeks healthy attachments. If those attachments are missed or the attachment bond is frightening, as in case of abused and neglected children, the result is a child with severe emotional and behavioral disturbances.
Fortunatley, if a chlid did not “inherit” a healthy attachment, an adult, through deep inner work and repairing with healthy adult partners, can “earn” their lost security.
NOTE: You can learn more about attachment in our free online course at Traumatoolbox.com
Here is a simple two-step practice that has been proven to change the brain in a positive way and connect the head to the heart:
1. Activate your head. What is you WANT to believe but don’t currently feel is true? Write this statement out on a piece of paper and say it outloud. Of course, it will not FEEL true because it is your head that is saying it, not your heart.
2. Activate your heart. Picture this statement “as if” it were true. Hold that image in your heart while you take slow, deep breaths. The breathing will keep the body from overriding the statements as not true. It just wants to protect you from hurt or disappoinment. Ignore it, or better yet, thank it for trying to protect you and continue to picture it.
This is not “whoo-whoo” philosphy. This is science. Research has proven that daily expressions of gratitude create literal changes in brain structure and mental functions. This is measureable change! The brain looks for reasons to validate what it believes. If you believe that you people are rude to you, your reticular activating system (a group of neural connectsion in your brain stem that play a crucial role in maintaining behavioral arousl, direct focus, and conciousness) will filter sensor input to be congruent with the thoughts you think about yourself and your world. The brain validates what you believe! If you think people are rude, you will see rude people everwhere. They are not hard to find…
If you think that people are kind and generous toward you, the reticular activating system will filter out the rude people and notice only kind and generous people. In turn, this will reinforce your knowledge of kind and generous people, and increase your knowing additional kind and generous people, developing new neural pathways in the physical brain so you have new mental capacity and memories, and new moods and behaviors will develop.
If this doesn’t convince you, listen to this interesting fact:
The heart is a more power, electrical object than your brain! The heart is about 100,000 times stronger electrically and up to 5000 ties stronger magnetically than the brain. Although imperceptible to us, the heart give off an electromagnetic (EEG) field that can be measured up to three feet away from our bodies. It you are depressed, angry, bitter…can others experience it whether they mentally understand it or not? Of course, they can. Ask any highly sensitive person and they will tell you how challenging it is to be in a room with another sad or angry person. The emotional field will shift their emotional state as well unless they mentally (head and hearts connection again) rehearse this this feeling is not their but belongs to others.
Here’s another fact:
The heart is not just a blood-pumping organ, it is a sensory organ. It acts as a “sophisticated information encoding and processing center that enables it to learn, remember, and make independent functional decisions.”
An emotion is e-motion or energy in motion. It is not just thoughts, in our head, that direct our lives. Our heart is an important area of personal and spiritual growth as well. We need it to have healthy relationships, make successful business decisions, and overcome traumatic events. This latter area is called “neuroresilience” as is a term coined by Ron Huxley in his online course: TraumaToolbox.com
It is really time to stop using our heads without connecting our hearts. Use the two-step practice, allow the principle of neuroplasticity to affect new change, and find more freedom in thoughts and emotions.
The new paradigms for PTSD that you will learn include:
Understanding PTSD, the Road to Resilience, Tools for Building Resiliency, Healing the Hurt, How’s Your Heart exercise, Trauma and the Sensory System, Dealing with Dissociation, Grounding Tools, Building Your Family Stress Toolbox, Healing Affirmations for PTSD, Learning Your ACE Score, Post-Traumatic GROWTH Inventory, Trauma and Your Family, Coping Strategies for Coping with COVID.
No one, in my generation, has every experienced a global crisis like the pandemic that kicked off in 2020. The unfortunate consequence of this medical crisis will be a new global crisis that affects our mental health.
As a therapist that specializes in anxiety and trauma I have seen a dramatic increase of both in the lives of children and adults. Individuals who already struggled with these issues have increased in personal distress, substance abuse, and suicidal ideations. Even people, who never had problems with depression, anxiety, or panic are now showing symptoms that damage their jobs, health, and relationships.
Government agencies and mental health clearinghouses have ramped up funding to meet this challenge that is likely to continue for the next fear years. The cost is greater than the monies supplied to treat it. We all pay emotionally and spiritually.
Now is the time to address these issues with information, advocacy, and proven methods that help prevent and stop mental health concerns.
Do you have racing thoughts and anxiety attacks? It’s hard to focus on anything else when anxiety takes control of your mind. It can ruin sleep, relationships, and your health. All you want to do is calm down and rest.
Fortunately, there are ways to control anxious thoughts. And it just takes practice to master the techniques.
Try these tips to control your anxiety:
Distance yourself from the worrisome thoughts. Learn to look at your anxious thoughts differently.
The key is to reshape how you think about things.
When you get an anxious thought, immediately identify it as a sign of your worry and not reality.
Labeling your thoughts raises self-awareness and makes it easier to control them. It also gives you something else to focus on instead of a constant worry.
Ask yourself questions. When you get an anxious thought, stop and ask yourself these questions:
What is the real reason for this anxious thought? What am I terrified about?
Is there a real danger, or is my mind merely playing games with me?
Is the negative outcome I imagine likely to happen?
How can I stop or change these negative thoughts into something positive?
View your thoughts as data. Sometimes it’s helpful to view your thoughtss as data and your mind as a data processing center.
You’ll get a lot of data coming in throughout the day. Some of this data can be incorrect and confusing. This is an example of anxious thoughts.
You may also misunderstand the data. This means you allow the anxious thoughts to take over and control you. You let them grow and fester.
As the data processing center, you get to decide how to handle all the information. Remember, you’re in control. This means you can choose to toss out or ignore the incorrect data.
Also, keep in mind that the brain is designed to detect danger and is hypersensitive to it. You may pick up on things that aren’t even real.
Focus on the present. Many anxious thoughts are focused on either the future or the past. You can break free by focusing on the present.
Avoid overthinking about the past or future by interrupting these thoughts. Notice when you’re thinking about the past or future and guide your thoughts back to the present moment.
Sometimes thoughts from the past can make you afraid of the future. Remember that the past doesn’t have to repeat itself. You have the power to change how your future will look.
Take action. Anxious thoughts often prevent you from taking action. They keep you stuck in fear and worry. Learn to take action even when you’re afraid.
Find one thing you can influence positively at that moment and take action.
Action can decrease the number of anxious thoughts you have daily. It can show you that there’s nothing to be afraid of, that you’re powerful, and that you can make a positive difference.
Get rid of unhelpful thoughts. Some thoughts may be real, but they aren’t helpful.
Learn to tell helpful and unhelpful thoughts apart.
Then, start to filter out the unhelpful ones. For example, if you know that the odds of making a perfect presentation at work are low, but you still have to do it, this is an unhelpful thought. It doesn’t encourage you to do your best.
Anxious thoughts don’t have to control your life. You can use these tricks to effectively take control of your mind when you find yourself worrying. If these tips aren’t enough, consider talking to a therapist for additional help.
A common complaint of couples and families is poor communication. We have to communicate our needs, wants, and dreams. Trauma and pain can shut communication down or result in explosive words and feelings that damages our relationships. Here is a simple tool to help you build better communication skills. Use the acronym BRIEF to start improving your ability to connect today.
B = Be calm and concise. Request a good time to talk. Don’t discuss more than one thing at a time. “I would like to talk about what happened this morning. When would be good time to talk?”
R = Recognize the other persons situation. See to understand be being understood. For example:
“I realize you were busy trying to get ready for work and worried about your meeting today when…”
I = Use “I Messages.” “You messages” create defensiveness. I messages create safety that allows you to be heard and known. For example:
“I feel hurt and ashamed when you call me ugly names and slam the door.”
E = Express your wants and needs. Families can develop rules that wants and needs are not allowed. Complete inner lifes can be shut down by angry, abusive parents. For example:
“…and I need you be respectful towards me and not run away when we talk.”
F = Focus on a solution that will benefit both of you. This communication skill is not just for me. It creates a win/win opportunity for both parties. For example:
“I will TRY not to talk to you in the morning when you are on the way out of work or I would like to start seeing a marriage counselor together.”
Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.
The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.
The Four Laws of Behavior Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits. They are (1) make it obvious, (2) make it attractive, (3) make it easy, and (4) make it satisfying.
Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.
It is tradition, at the beginning of each year, to set New Year Resolutions. We have great intentions for lasting change but soon lose motivation and drive to complete them. Consequently, most people will stop trying to set habits to avoid the disappointment of failure. There has to be a better way to see real change that actually work, isn’t there?
Enter the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. As the byline states, this book will help you “build good habits and break bad ones.” Sounds simple!
The key to making changes in your life that are successful is to take a new perspective of change from the one’s we are used to. The problem isn’t us. It is the systems we surround ourselves with that fail us and result in feelings of failure. See big idea #2 above.
The book lists 5 Big Ideas about how to create effective habits. You will have to read the entire book to get all the details for each big idea or you can read this summary here (Link) or watch a YouTube video here (Link). I have affiliate connections to there resources…
My focus for this blog article is on big idea #3: The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become. Repeats this big idea to yourself a couple of times. Let it soak in. It is possible that everything you have tried to do to change your life has been wrong. You might have blamed others for the way you are or blame your bad luck or situation. These could be serious issues that make your habit difficult but it is not the final reason. Or, as I like to say, “it is a reason but isn’t a good excuse.”
Real change occurs from the inside out. This is true of parenting, marital relationships, business endeavors, or anything you attempt to do in your life. A habit, by definition, is a the tendency to behave or act in a regular manner. Habits require very little energy because it has become an automatic way of reacting. Initially, they take a lot of energy and practice but soon become reflexes that take little to now thought to initiate. It is their strength and their weaknesses when we try to break them.
Many habits start out of a reaction to traumatic situations. They start off as ways of coping with stress and pain, splitting off parts of ourselves to manage or protect from further pain. This may be a very “normal way to react in a very abnormal situation.” Unfortunately, traumatic habits can end up being “abnormal behaviors” in a new, more “normal situation.” The ways you had to behavior in an alcoholic home, for example, may not serve you will now, in a healthier relationship and home.
Find a way to change or develop new habits can become extremely urgent to maintain a healthy relationship and avoid new forms of pain in our lives.
One place to start is with you. Work on your character issues instead of waiting for others to change. The only thing you have 100% guarantee of change is through your own growth. You can change other people. You can coerce them, threaten them, or manipulate them but that will always backfire on you. Stick with you and the big idea working on who you want to become.
Start with a vision of what character traits you wish for yourself and picture how these traits will bear positive fruit in your life. It is just imagination so you run no risk of disappointment at this stage. Be sure to write this vision down. It may change from day to day but continue to modify it till you have something that truly inspires you. People have motivation for things they really want and desire. Make this idea of a new you very attractive!
Problem are destined to get in the way of this new habit of being you. That is a good thing. What is predictable is preventable. Predict what will get in the way, how you will look your motivation, who will try to stop you, what limitations might pop up…Set a plan for how you will encounter them before they show up so you are ready.
Small changes every day will reap big results in the end. Focus on a 1% change every day. That’s not a lot, right? You can do one thing to be a new, better version of you each day. Taking on too much, too soon, will choke out your efforts.
Use the power of gratitude for positive things in your life every day. Science has demonstrated that gratitude changes the very structure of our brain and enhances motivation to healthy, positive behaviors.
Conflictual coparenting acts like it is a form of competition but that is an illusion. High levels of conflict has no winners, only losers! Parents fight to one up each other or get revenge for past hurts and this includes the children.
Most mediators, myself included, want parents to put the “best interests of the child” first but this is difficult for parents to do when consumed by anger and resentments. The costs are high, and not just financially with on-going court costs. The emotional costs are high for everyone. Research is clear that children who go through long-term, conflictual divorce, are negatively impacted. There is the risk that children will have severe mental health issues into adulthood.
The legal definition of the “best interests of the child” is about who the child belongs to…the psychological definition of the “best interests of the child” is who belongs to the child. There is a big difference between these two definitions but they don’t have to be mutually exclusive of each other. Setting boundaries, using strength-based language, and keeping the needs of the child paramount will help a true cooperative parenting process.
The best way for parents to reduce conflict is to learn to manage themselves. Keeping the focus on personal healing and not on how the other parent should act or be. Managing ourselves is the only guarantee that we can have of making the coparenting relationship healthy.
Get more support and help with your coparenting conflict with a session with Ron Huxley today.
Parental alienation is a controversial diagnosis but a common concern in modern-day divorce. Psychology and legal professions disagree on using the term Parental Alienation. Still, both fields recognize the harm that parents can do to one another and their children in a high-conflict divorce.
What is parental alienation, and why is it so controversial? According to Wikipedia, parental alienation “describes a process through which a child becomes estranged from a parent due to the psychological manipulation of another parent. The child’s estrangement may manifest itself as fear, disrespect, or hostility toward the distant parent and may extend to additional relatives or parties.”
The controversy involves whether this action is a form of child abuse, family violence, or a criminal act. It should not be used as a formal diagnosis and may not be allowable in a legal court battle. However, it is useful to know the behavioral characteristics of a parent or child to navigate this painful reality of modern-day divorce.
“The theory of parental alienation has been asserted within legal proceedings as a basis for awarding custody to a parent who alleges estrangement, or to modify custody in favor of that parent. Courts have generally rejected parental alienation as a valid scientific theory. Still, some courts have allowed the concept to be argued as relevant to determining the child’s best interest when making a custody determination. Legal professionals recognize that alienating behaviors are common in child custody cases, but are cautious about accepting the concept of parental alienation.” (Wikipedia)
Parental alienation places the child in a “loyalty bind” where they must choose between parents. To resolve this inner conflict, they will start to prefer one parent over the other. They may refuse to go with the non-preferred parents when it is their time for custody, and they may make false claims or accusations against the non-preferred parent.
One reason for alienation and loyalty binds is to view what is in the “best interest” from a legal vs. a psychological perspective. From a legal view, child custody is determined by “who the child belongs to” vs. a psychological view of “who belongs to the child.”
This is not merely semantics. Many people could belong to the child’s emotional security. The legal viewpoint is rigid and creates one winner and multiple losers in the custody situation.
In high-conflict divorce situations where alienation may occur, all family members can engage professional support and guidance. Family therapists and mediators can be essential to reduce estrangement and manipulation and set a straightforward course of behaviors to prevent harm to children and their parents.
The effects of COVID-19 has resulted in many business and services moving to remote work. This has many benefits and costs for society and this is especially true in the field of mental health.
Traditionally mental health was done face-to-face, in a office with a licensed therapist. At times, it took place in the clients home, when they were unable to come to an office, due to health or lack of transportation. In rare cases therapy took place over the phone when all other options were not possible. Today, all of this has reversed with online options being the first choice and in office being last.
In reality, online options for mental health has been researched for many years, although the application of it was rare. As technology has increased, and federal and state laws have adjusted, we are recognizing as online or TeleMental Health works.
Information from a recent conference on TeleMental Health reveals 4200 articles show the safety and effectiveness of this modality.
Consequently, many clients are finding that the convenience of doing online options outweigh the disadvantages. Some of these advantages include not having to find baby sisters, more flexible appointment times, quicker access to help when needed, reasonable rates for therapy, and better time management.
Supportive research shows TeleMental Health to be effective in addressing a wide variety of mental health issues and concerns, compatible to in-person care, and is creating new models of care through the use of powerful technologies.
New models of therapy maybe be an example of “fighting fire with fire” where TeleMental Health/technology rises to the challenge of increased mental health and substance abuse problems in a world that is locked down and social isolated. According to a report by the Center for Disease Control: “Overall, 40.9% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder (30.9%), symptoms of a trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TSRD) related to the pandemic† (26.3%), and having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19 (13.3%).”
New models of care should not result in lower standards of care. TeleMental Health must follow the highest standards to deliver personal, confidential, and effective treatment. This involves appropriate informed consent, intake and assessment, progress note documentation, mandatory reporting, and duty to warn/protect.
Ron Huxley is a licensed marriage and family therapist with 30 years of experiences. He uses traditional and non traditional mental health models to provide the highest level of care to individuals and families. He has been the director of community-based mental health, provided direct and online training, and was involved in the early research and delivery models of telemental health with organizations such as the TeleBehavioral Health Institute (TBHI) and works with national institutions, such as the National Center on Adoption and Permanency.
You can schedule an online TeleMental Health appointment with Ron immediately or go take an online course on anxiety and trauma at FamilyHealer.tv