When Your Partner Doesn't Understand Your Trauma

*The names and characters in this article represent a composite of people I have know personally and professionally. No real person is represented in this article, which is intended for educational purposes.*

When Your Partner Doesn't Understand Your Trauma

Image credit: Canva

Image credit: Canva

Michael can't understand it. He just doesn't get what is going on with his wife of over 25 years, Amy. Michael is concerned about her and wondering when she is going to "get over" the childhood physical and sexual abuse she went through years ago.  He really just wants her to be okay. And honestly, he's sick of her trauma symptoms affecting her, him and their children. He's not sure how much longer he can take it. 

Why can't she just get over it?

To be fair, Michael doesn't realize that Amy's mood and behavior are related to her childhood trauma. He just knows that despite years of therapy with various therapists, she sometimes becomes deeply depressed and can't seem to get off the couch for days. Other times the smallest thing will seem to trigger her becoming highly anxious, which can turn into controlling behavior towards himself and the kids. She will sometimes go shopping, overspending with abandon even though they have agreed to stop running up credit card debt - then she hides it from him and acts like she is afraid he will hurt her when he receives the credit card bill. Although he does get really frustrated when this happens, it bothers him that she feels afraid of him at times, because he feels he would never harm her, and he never has gotten physical with her in more than 25 years. He also suspects she may be binging and purging, but they don't talk about it. He's afraid to bring it up and he suspects she would deny it if he asked.. Although she takes medication, her mood swings are still pretty unpredictable and he's never really sure whether he is going to come home from work and find the smiling, got-it-together wife he married; or the disorganized, scattered, overwhelmed and controlling woman she sometimes becomes; or the sad, crying woman he barely recognizes who just wants to sleep as much as possible. He doesn't know how to help her.

"She's Changed."

All Michael knows is that Amy has changed.  He knew when they got married that she had a "difficult" childhood. He also saw how resilient Amy was then. Despite being abused throughout her childhood she had finished college and started a great career before they married. Although she spoke openly about having experienced that abuse, it didn't seem to have a negative impact on her then. Other than acknowledging that it happened, she didn't really talk about it. And he didn't really want to talk about it - then or now - because just the thought of what she went through, particularly the sexual abuse, horrifies him.  He's not sure if the physical abuse was really all that bad, or why it affects her so much. He wonders if she is really trying in therapy, or whether she somehow is doing all this just for attention.

Michael isn't sure how to deal with the emotions that come up for him when Amy is not okay. It reminds him of how he felt responsible for taking care of his mother after his dad died when he was 10. He would often come home from school and his mom would be sitting in the dark on the sofa in her bathrobe. He found himself needing to be adult-like to take care of her, and he was kind of on his own to take care of himself and his younger brother too. He was so relieved to get away from that unhappy childhood, to go to college and start his career, but sometimes he wonders if he married someone he will always have to take care of too. The burden of handling Amy's emotional needs feels very heavy and familiar to Michael. He feels sad, hopeless and discouraged.

Image credit: Canva

Image credit: Canva

She feels disconnected.

Amy, too, was overjoyed to leave her abusive family behind to marry Michael. She thought things would be so much better once she got away from her controlling, abusive father and her passive mother who was mostly focused on pretending everything was perfect. And things were so much better! She loved her career, she and Michael got along great, and she was very happy to raise her three beautiful children. However, when her third child, little Megan, turned 5 years old Amy started having flashbacks to the abuse that her father inflicted on her as a little girl. A part of her had always felt that she was somehow responsible for the sexual abuse and deserving of the beatings. But seeing her sweet, innocent little Megan, a bright, inquisitive kindergartner, she pictured herself as a little girl and wondered whether it was really true that an innocent child could ever be deserving of being harmed the way her father had harmed her. These thoughts were so sad and overwhelming she tried to push them away. Sometimes she was successful, but other times, particularly in the Spring, she was overwhelmed with fear and worry that something bad would happen to Megan or her two sons. She is bothered by nightmares, trouble sleeping and physical symptoms like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and a feeling that someone is watching her which makes her skin crawl. Sometimes she suddenly vomits, just out of the blue, and she never knows when a panic attack is coming. Much of the time she feels like she is going through the motions of life. She feels disconnected from her neighbors and the other moms in her community. She describes herself as "on the outside looking in" to her life. She doesn't work outside the home now, and she's not sure if she ever will again. Most of the time she feels like she is barely holding it together. She wishes Michael were more empathetic and supportive of what she's going through but he doesn't seem to understand why she can't just "put the past behind her." She feels alone and disconnected from him, and wonders what happened to the happy newlyweds they once were. She is sad and worried about the way she feels, but she doesn't know what to do about it.

The Truth Is, They Are Both Struggling

This dynamic is all too common and I hear stories from both sides of the relationship described above in my office every day. Many of my clients are women like Amy who feel deeply ashamed that they are still affected by the abuse from their childhood years. And others are men like Michael who wonder if they can handle the emotional burden of their partner's PTSD. Regardless of gender, both Amy and Michael could be any one of us. They both feel alone and don't know how to reach the other partner.

Whether you can relate to Amy's feelings or Michael's, it's helpful to understand a few things. 

Three Things to Remember:

1. You are not alone. Whether you are the person who experienced childhood trauma or the person who loves them, what you are feeling is common. Many people are affected by childhood trauma. It is so much more common than most of us realize. Click here to learn more about the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) and the prevalence of childhood trauma. 

2.  Trauma survivors aren't trying to be difficult. They are actually just trying to feel normal. In the scenario I described above, both Amy and Michael are affected by childhood trauma, though neither of them understands the effects in depth. Amy could be described as the "identified patient" - she's the one who is seen as having a problem and needing help. And she does need help. She is suffering so much. Amy's trauma is that she was physically and sexually abused by an adult (her father) whom she trusted to take care of her and keep her safe. Her mother was unable to protect her and pretended nothing was wrong. So both of her primary caregivers, whom she depended on for safety and protection, let her down. She is affected by a loss of attachment as well as the effects of the abuse.

But Amy's not the only one in this example who needs help. Michael, too, experienced childhood trauma. His father died when he was only ten, and in her grief his mother was unable to attend to Michael's emotional needs. Instead, in order to be safe, Michael had to take care of his mom's emotional needs, and his own needs were ignored. He also had a younger brother to look out for. So Michael experienced a loss of attachment when neither of his parents was available to take care of his emotional needs, as well as the trauma of his dad's sudden death.  It's no wonder that Amy and Michael were drawn to each other, because they both had unresolved pain they were trying to escape when they met. However, Michael's role as a caregiver in his family may have helped him feel comfortable marrying someone who he perceived as having gone through something terrible (without realizing how he himself was affected by his own trauma). Both Amy and Michael were young when they met, and they were both doing the best they could. They both wanted to be okay, and they were trying to be okay together. For a while they were, but the effects of trauma always pop up just when you least expect them. Neither Amy nor Michael is able to be a support for the other, because they are both affected by their own childhood trauma. They can both benefit from counseling with a skilled trauma therapist.

3. Trauma therapy can help. The reason Amy has been in and out of therapy for 10 years without experiencing relief from her trauma symptoms is that she hasn't had the right kind of therapy. 9 times out of 10, my clients with extensive trauma histories will tell me that their previous therapists never explained trauma to them or told them that their symptoms could be related to trauma. Why? The therapists probably didn't know. Trauma is still a newer field of study, although its effects have been documented for years.  Understanding that your symptoms are caused by trauma helps take an overwhelming set of symptoms that are seemingly unrelated and offers hope and clarity. You begin to recognize that you developed these coping methods (like dissociation, comfort eating, compulsive shopping, depression, anxiety) because of the effects of trauma, and not because there is something wrong with you. 

Can You Relate?

You may be wondering if you are an Amy or a Michael. I can't answer that for you, but here are some symptoms which may indicate that you are affected by childhood trauma. 

If you have had some kind of disturbing experience in childhood that has always bothered you, for example:

  • Loss of a primary caregiver
  • Any unwanted sexual experience
  • Any sexual experience you were too young to understand
  • Witnessing violence, whether it happened to you, your caregiver or another family member
  • Feeling that no one understood you, no one cared about you, or that you were abandoned, unwanted, or unloved
  • Being bullied
  • Receiving physical punishment, including spanking, beating, whipping, or being physically abused or harmed by an adult when you were a child
  • Having a parent or primary caregiver who abused alcohol or drugs
     

These are just a few examples of situations that could be traumatic in childhood. Read this article for more, and consider taking the ACES quiz as well. 

So if you have some kind of childhood experience you think might have been traumatic AND you have some of these symptoms:

  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, nightmares, sleep paralysis
  • Feeling numb, detached, zoning out, trouble concentrating, easily distracted, losing time
  • Memory issues - feeling forgetful, being disorganized
  • Feeling a nagging sense that there is just something wrong with you, something that makes you different from everyone else
  • Feeling like you are on the outside looking in
  • Trouble feeling close with other people, trust issues, feeling suspicious of other people's motives, thoughts like "no one can be trusted" and a feeling that it's you against the world
  • Panic attacks, anxiety, need to maintain control at all times, rigidity, need for order
  • Feeling mistrustful of your partner, feeling judgmental and critical of others and yourself
  • Body image issues, physical symptoms like chronic pain, stomach issues, migraines, 
  • Sexual problems - lack of interest in sex, shame related to sex
  • Constantly on high alert, watchful, vigilant, can't relax - you hate it when someone comes up behind you and touches your shoulder or stands too close to you

You might be affected by childhood trauma. No article can substitute for talking with a qualified therapist. If you are wondering if you are affected by childhood trauma, talk to a therapist. You can usually speak to them by phone before scheduling an appointment to make sure they feel qualified to help with the issue that affects you. 

Here are some resources for finding a qualified trauma therapist:

National Child Traumatic Stress Network

ISSTD

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute

EMDRIA

Sidran Institute

Somatic Experiencing Institute

RAINN

And here are some suggestions for further reading and learning:

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

In the Realm Of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Maté

ACES Primer (video)

Finding a therapist who understands the effects of trauma on child development and has specialized training in trauma recovery can make a huge difference. Whether you are directly affected by childhood trauma or it is a problem for someone you love, therapy can help. You don't have to keep suffering.  The first step is understanding that your trauma is real, that it matters, and that you can feel better. Then the hard part comes - trusting a therapist to help you. I know there are many caring and skilled trauma therapists out there who want to help. I am one of them. If you're in the Baltimore area of Maryland, I would love to talk about how we can work together to help you feel better. Give me a call at 443-510-1048 or e-mail me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. You can also contact me directly through my website at this link. Or visit my website to learn about how I work with trauma. 

I hope this article was helpful to you. If it was, please share and/or leave a comment below! 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Sources:

ACES Primer video found here: http://www.acesconnection.com/g/resource-center/blog/resource-list-aces-videos

ACES Quiz found here: https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/

What Is Trauma? Maybe Not What You Think.

What is trauma? Maybe not what you think.

When you hear the word "trauma," what do you think of? If you're like most people, you probably imagine that people experience the effects of trauma after a plane crash, surviving a fire, a major car accident, or participating in military combat. It's true that all of those things can cause someone to experience trauma symptoms, but there are many other traumatic experiences which are more common in the general population that we don't always recognize as being traumatic.

I must point out, though, that I have talked to many people who have survived house fires or military combat. Most often when I describe that these experiences - which you and I can pretty much agree, can we not, are considered by most people to be experiences fitting the definition of trauma - could have been traumatic, the person sitting with me in the therapy room will say, "I don't really think of it as traumatic. I mean, so many people have been through much worse." 

There is a reason why that statement is so interesting, which I'll explain in a minute so bear with me.

Going back to my first point, that there are many traumatic experiences which are more common to most of us than plane crashes and military combat. Some may be more common than others. Tell me, have any of these things ever happened to you? 

  • The loss of someone dear to you
  • Witnessing violence and feeling helpless to do anything about it
  • Any unwanted sexual touching
  • Being hit or hurt as punishment
  • Feeling unsafe in your home
  • Feeling unsafe in your community
  • Being afraid of being physically hurt by one of your family members
  • Being bullied in your family, at school or in your community

Some other types of trauma are more common

When it comes to sexual violence - my definition is ANY unwanted touching of your sexual body parts - or any touching of your private areas that you felt powerless to stop - it is so much more common than most people realize. For example, one out of five women has experienced some kind of unwanted sexual touching. Look around. If you are female, and there are 4 women nearby, one of you has probably experienced unwanted sexual touching. Most of us don't even identify many of these experiences as sexual assault because they happen so often to us and people we know that we think it's normal. But thinking it's normal doesn't mean you are unaffected by such experiences. By the way, if you're having trouble believing that statistic you can go here for reference. To understand more about childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault at any age, listen to my podcast episodes on the subject. 

do I have trauma

Speaking of violence, intimate partner violence is another common cause of trauma. Children who witness domestic violence in their homes often become adults who are in abusive relationships. Intimate partner violence includes pushing and shoving; the larger, stronger or more aggressive partner using the threat of violence to intimidate and control the smaller or less aggressive partner; and can also include controlling one partner's whereabouts, isolating them from their friends and other sources of support. Children often feel they need to intervene to protect one parent when there is domestic violence in the home. When children feel responsible for protecting adults, they are doing so to help themselves feel safe. If the adults are not safe the kids are not safe. You can find more information on intimate partner violence at this link

I talked about a character from the show "Mad Men" and how he exhibits the symptoms of trauma but doesn't realize it in Episode 54 of my podcast. Listen here.

I talked about how children watch adults to find out if they are safe in this podcast episode.

Physical violence is another confusing experience which we often struggle to characterize as being traumatic. There are many ways children can experience physical violence in childhood under the umbrella of punishment. I know several people in my personal life who were hit by their parents - with wooden spoons, hairbrushes, belts, brooms - and laughingly tell of running away from their parents or putting a book in their pants to avoid the pain. Ask any of these people if that was a traumatic experience and they will likely tell you that they deserved it because they were mischievous kids. But children depend on their parents for love and protection. It is a very confusing message that the person you trust to keep you safe also hits you and hurts you to teach you to behave properly. That was common in the 1960's and before, but we now know hitting children does not make them behave better.  In fact, it often increases undesired behavior. It is hard to admit that your parent did something that harmed you, and since a child depends on their parent being benevolent in order to feel safe in the world, the child tells him/herself that s/he is the bad one. In reality, parents who used physical punishment often believed they were doing what was right, and certainly what was done to them, in most cases. However, I have heard far too many stories of the parent hitting the child with an object until the object broke, or using a wooden spoon of just the right size and shape to hurt the most, to deny that sometimes the parent's anger was running the show in those situations. Listen to my podcast interview with Eric Greene of 1 Awesome Dad on peaceful parenting.

Another common but often overlooked experience which causes trauma is called Childhood Emotional Neglect. This term, which was coined by Dr. Jonice Webb, refers to experiences in childhood of not having your emotional needs met by the adults who took care of you. It could be because your parent grew up with their own emotional needs unmet, so they didn't know how to meet yours. It could be because they were depressed, or affected by substance abuse, or chronically ill, or taking care of a family member who was chronically ill, or they may have been physically absent for a variety of reasons. Listen to my interview with Dr. Jonice Webb on Childhood Emotional Neglect here.

Childhood Emotional Neglect is a type of attachment trauma. For more about attachment trauma, listen to my podcast interview with Amy Sugeno here.

How does trauma make us feel?

I specialize in working with people who have experienced Childhood Emotional Neglect, sexual assault, witnessing domestic violence in childhood as well as physical abuse in childhood. I mentioned earlier in this article that it is interesting that people who have lived through house fires or military combat often say "I don't think of it as traumatic, because so many other people have been through much worse."  Guess what. My clients who have been physically, emotionally and sexually abused say the same thing. Another thing they often say is "it wasn't that bad because I had a roof over my head, I never went hungry and I had clean clothes to wear." It's great that your basic needs were met, but emotional needs are important too. 

trauma makes us feel alone

Trauma makes you think what you went through isn't that bad. But there is a part of you that knows that it was very hurtful. That part might be an inner voice that says "you deserved the abuse because you were a bad kid." Now here is adult me responding to that. There is nothing you could have done as a child that warrants you being kicked, slapped, punched, whipped, hit with a hairbrush, forced to participate in sexual activity before you were old enough to understand what was happening, called stupid, told you were worthless, beaten with a broom - whatever it was. Children are small and powerless. The adults in their lives should not hurt them. And that voice inside that tells you your pain isn't real, or isn't worthy of being addressed (or maybe that you are too screwed up to be helped) is not accurate. 

Okay, so I realize I have experienced trauma - now what? 

Finding a therapist who understands the effects of trauma on child development and has specialized training in trauma recovery can make a huge difference. You can feel better than you believed possible. The first step is understanding that your trauma is real, that it matters, and that you can feel better. Then the hard part comes - trusting a therapist to help you. I know there are many caring and skilled trauma therapists out there who want to help. I am one of them. If you're in the Baltimore area of Maryland, I would love to talk about how we can work together to help you feel better. Give me a call at 443-510-1048 or e-mail me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. You can also contact me directly through my website at this link. Or visit my website to learn about how I work with trauma. 

If you are not in Maryland (or if you are and you don't want to work with me), you can find a therapist specializing in trauma through these resources:

National Child Traumatic Stress Network

ISSTD

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute

EMDRIA

Sidran Institute

Somatic Experiencing Institute

RAINN

 

Sources:

Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Retrieved on March 15, 2017 from: http://www.mcasa.org/_mcasaWeb/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/National-SA-Prevalence-Updated1.pdf

National Network to End Domestic Violence. Retrieved on March 15, 2017 from: http://nnedv.org/downloads/Policy/AD14/AD14_DVSA_Factsheet.pdf

University of Texas. Retrieved on March 15, 2017 from: https://news.utexas.edu/2016/04/25/risks-of-harm-from-spanking-confirmed-by-researchers

Cornell University. Retrieved on March 15, 2017 from: http://www.human.cornell.edu/pam/outreach/parenting/parents/upload/Spanking-Research-Brief.pdf

 

 

 

My 6 Favorite Podcasts Right Now

Looking for some new podcasts to listen to?

I'm on a bit of a holiday hiatus from new episodes of Therapy Chat podcast. In the meantime, I wanted to tell you about some other podcasts I love. Here are 6 podcasts I'm listening to and recommending frequently! I hope you will check them out and please comment with your favorite podcast!

[Click here to listen to this post in podcast episode format]

Click here for all episodes of Women In Depth!

Click here for all episodes of Women In Depth!

1. Women In-Depth with Dr. Lourdes Viado, MFT - I love this podcast because my friend and colleague Lourdes Viado conducts interesting and (as the name implies) in-depth interviews on topics that people don't usually talk about. Lourdes is a depth psychologist who was mentored by Jungian analyst and author Dr. James Hollis. She is so knowledgeable about her work and I love listening to her soothing voice. The podcast is fantastic and I recommend it without reservation! Some of the episodes I frequently recommend to my clients include:

Episode 10: Spiritual Abuse: What It Is & Why It Matters with Tamara Powell, LMHC

Episode 23: Understanding Spiritual Abuse (Part 2) with Tamara Powell, LMHC

Episode 14: Women and the Midlife Crisis with Diann Wingert, LCSW

Episode 21: Healing the Mother Wound with Bethany Webster

Women In-Depth covers subjects that people may consider off-limits or taboo, such as infidelity, sexual abuse, staying in an unhappy marriage, and much more. I hope you'll check it out! Let me know what you think! 

I must add, Lourdes has been a guest on Therapy Chat too. I frequently tell people about her episode, which was about "The Shadow." To listen to that episode click here! I've also been a guest on her podcast.

Click on the image to listen to Mom and Mind!

Click on the image to listen to Mom and Mind!

2. Mom & Mind with Dr. Kat Kaeni - Dr. Kat is a clinical psychologist who specializes in maternal mental health. She is knowledgeable, skilled and experienced at helping people who are struggling with infertility, emotional health related to pregnancy - including pregnancy loss, and post-partum stress like depression, anxiety, OCD and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Her podcast is a fabulous resource offering information to pregnant and parenting moms, fathers and people who are trying to conceive as well as healthcare providers and psychotherapists. I have learned so much from Dr. Kat and her podcast and I recommend it frequently! Start out with these episodes:

Episode 1: My Postpartum Story: Anxiety and Depression

Episode 3: Resources for PPD Healing and Learning

Episode 7: The Good Mother

Mom and Mind is a great resource. Stay tuned to my podcast to hear an upcoming interview with Dr. Kat. I can't wait to share her with my audience! 

Click on the image to listen to all the episodes of Galactic Vibrations!

Click on the image to listen to all the episodes of Galactic Vibrations!

3. Galactic Vibrations with Keri Nola and Lloyd Burnett - if you've listened to my podcast you've heard Keri Nola there. She's been on twice, talking about intuition and the Shadow. I am a huge fan of both Keri and Lloyd, who are amazing energy healers and coaches. Their podcast is brand new (it came out less than a month ago) and it is a huge hit already. If you are into the "woo woo" stuff like I am, you'll enjoy hearing their energetic forecasts, oracle card readings, and so much more.  Get started by listening to these three episodes:

Episode 1: Understanding & Healing the Energy of Denial

Episode 2: Using the Energy of Fear to Unlock the Mystery of Ascension

Episode 3: The Shadow of Force, the Truth of New Years Resolutions, and People Pleasing

I've done coaching for business and personal growth with both Keri and Lloyd. They're great at what they do! And as I mentioned, Keri has been on my podcast. She talked about using intuition in therapy in Episode 11, back when my podcast was called The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast. And she contributed to my series of episodes on the Shadow (after Lourdes's episode, mentioned above) in Episode 42.

Click on the image to listen to Launching Your Daughter!

Click on the image to listen to Launching Your Daughter!

4. Launching Your Daughter with Nicole Burgess, LMFT - My friend and colleague Nicole Burgess, LMFT, practices in Indianapolis, Indiana with a focus on teen girls and women. Nicole is super passionate about her work and it comes through when you listen to her podcast.

She has been kind enough to have me on her podcast twice!  Once I talked about The Daring Way™ and the second time was about helping your daughter (or son) if they experience sexual violence. Nicole's podcast covers a wide variety of topics related to the issues of parenting girls.

Here's a sampling of some of her episodes that I've enjoyed:

Episode 34: How Art Therapy Can Be Effective With Teens

Episode 33: How to Create Healthy Boundaries In Your Family

Episode 31: Ways Parents & Teens Can Receive Support Around Suicide Prevention

I hope you'll enjoy listening to Launching Your Daughter as much as I do.

These last two podcasts are super amazing ones for therapists who are building private practices. Both of the podcasters are my buddies - they've both helped me in tons of different ways and if you're a therapist you probably already know of them. If not - prepare to have your mind blown!

Click on the image to listen to Selling the Couch!

Click on the image to listen to Selling the Couch!

5. Selling The Couch with Dr. Melvin Varghese - Melvin is an awesome psychologist in Philadelphia who wanted to start his own private practice so like any good student, he set out to learn from people who have already done it. Melvin has interviewed dozens upon dozens of therapists and other experts in practice-building to learn how they have managed to build successful private practices and other types of businesses. Melvin has interviewed experts on marketing, multiple income streams, running groups, building websites, creating Psychology Today profiles, writing books, mindset shifts, and so much more. He's had over 100 episodes so far and his podcast is listed in the top 100 business podcasts on iTunes, which is a pretty significant accomplishment! I'm super excited for Melvin as he's now building his private practice, following all that great advice he's received, and I know he will help many people! Here are a few of his most recent episodes. There are so many - if you're a therapist trying to build your private practice I recommend you listen to every episode - but here are a few to get you started:

Episode 93: How Comparison Can Steal Your Joy

Episode 92: My Morning Routine & Productivity

Episode 85: Saying No As a Private Practice Owner

Melvin was on my podcast talking about how therapists can use podcasting to grow their practices. He knows his stuff. He taught me pretty much everything I know about podcasting. Podcasting has enriched my life in so many ways and it's mainly Melvin who I have to thank for it. Here's Episode 49 of Therapy Chat with Melvin Varghese.

Click on the image to listen to the Blissful Practice Podcast!

Click on the image to listen to the Blissful Practice Podcast!

6. Blissful Practice Podcast with Dr. Agnes Wainman - this is another brand new podcast. Disclaimer - I was the first guest on this podcast. But I don't love it only because I've been on it. Agnes is a psychologist in Ontario, Canada who has learned the hard way how to create a private practice that feels blissful. She spent time at the other end of that spectrum, feeling burned out, and she wants to help therapists who are building private practices find their own bliss.  On her podcast, Agnes talks to therapists about their journeys to private practice. I love her perspective and I think you'll love her podcast. Check it out here:

Episode 3: Why I Became A Therapist

Episode 2: Networking Guru Allison Salmon Puryear

Episode 1: Therapists Can Change the World: A Discussion with Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Agnes was one of my early guests on Therapy Chat (back when it wasn't called that). Check out our interview here!

Click here to listen to Therapy Chat!

Click here to listen to Therapy Chat!

So now you have my list of 6 podcasts I'm loving right now. When you have downtime this holiday season, check them out! I am sure you'll find at least one that you really love. 

Of course, you're always welcome to listen to Therapy Chat, there are 64 episodes counting the podcast version of this blog post, and I would love for you to listen, subscribe and leave a rating and review! 

If you want to read more of what I write, follow me on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Pinterest. You can also visit iTunes to subscribe to Therapy Chat. There you'll hear me talking about what I talk about and interviewing other people about what I'm interested to discuss. Or you can listen to Therapy Chat on my website, or on iHeartRadioStitcher or Google Play.

If you're in Maryland, and you want therapy to explore the vulnerable parts of yourself that are in need of healing, check out my website. Therapists can learn about my Trauma Therapist Community by clicking here.

You can also call me at 443-510-1048 or e-mail me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. I look forward to connecting! In the meantime, take care and I hope you enjoy the holidays!

 Warmly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Doing Hard Things

Doing Hard Things

We Can Do Hard Things Glennon Doyle Melton

Today, I did something hard. Have you heard Glennon Doyle Melton say "We can do hard things"? Well, we can. I can. I think. It's not always something huge - for me, today, it was trying something new and very challenging.

Fulfilling a promise I made to myself and to listeners of Therapy Chat (talk about accountability!), I took my 45 year old body which has not been on the back of a horse for 32 years - and even then, at age 13, my experience was limited to two or three times I rode a horse while someone held on and walked it - and had my first horseback riding lesson. My first lesson, ever. It was clear that the people at the barn and at the shop where I bought my helmet today expected I had SOME kind of experience on a horse when they were talking to me. They kept saying "so you're coming back to riding?" I was like, "no, I'm an absolute beginner. I've never done it at all." 

I like knowing.

I'll be honest, I hated how it felt to admit that I didn't know ANYTHING about horsemanship. I am realizing more and more - I LIKE KNOWING! Not knowing is totally uncomfortable! At this stage of my life I feel like I KNOW in most situations. Maybe it's because I'm a parent and I've become comfortable in that "bossy know it all" role. Maybe I don't push myself out of my comfort zone often enough. Yet I do challenge myself fairly often! In fact, when discussing this with my husband he noted that it seems easy for me to do new things. Not really! Recent experiences of stepping into unfamiliar territory have reminded me (i.e. I've reluctantly accepted) that it's okay to be a beginner. But I am not going to lie, I strongly dislike that feeling. 

It seems like a metaphor for what it must be like for my clients to come to therapy. And what it has been like for me to go to therapy. It's vulnerable!!! Vulnerable is an understatement. Vulnerability makes my skin crawl.

In fact, the more I know as a therapist, the harder it is to be the one on the couch. Yet I also know that I will be my best self as a therapist when I continue exploring the parts of myself that I don't really enjoy looking into. For all of us, those parts are there and they are either in the shadows, where we don't see them as they are calling all the shots, or they are in our conscious awareness and we can manage them more effectively. [Listen to previous Therapy Chat episodes on the Shadow here, here, here and here]

So today I was struggling with not knowing, being a beginner. Pretending I don't feel that way - or avoiding noticing this overwhelming sense of wanting to know - might seem easier. I certainly don't need to write about it here! I'd rather play it cool. I could just have this private experience and not say anything about it publicly. I am sharing it here because I hope it will help you sit with that discomfort when it comes up in your life. You can turn toward the discomfort - feel it - or turn away from it - avoidance.

It's much more fun and interesting, from my perspective, for me to sit back and tell you how much I know about what you might want to try doing differently so you can feel better in your life. But what I really know all comes from my own experiences of struggling and figuring stuff out the hard way. Yes, I have a lot of training and experience but if I couldn't apply these lessons to my own life something would be missing. So showing you that I struggle too is a way I hope to help. 

How did I get here?

How did I end up on the back of a very large horse today? I've been talking about wanting to learn horsemanship. I've been talking about it for more than 10 years. I talked about it in a previous blog and Therapy Chat episode.  I've told myself that all I need to do is sign up and get started. True. So this year I signed up. I got started today. And this is what happened:

Spoiler: it wasn't all rainbows and butterflies.

I was scared. I was nervous. I struggled with not knowing. I found myself using self-deprecation while purchasing a helmet at the Saddlery and while learning how to groom and tack at the Equestrian Center. I probably won't remember how to groom and tack and will have to re-learn next time. I judged myself - fairly harshly. I told myself my body isn't able to do this - even while knowing that my body is strong. I kept telling myself I am too big for this - too tall, not slim enough. Maybe the people who ride are slim because it's great exercise. Maybe I will become slimmer too. Maybe I won't. Maybe they aren't all slim. Maybe it doesn't matter.

A horse weighs over 1,000 pounds. The horse did not seem troubled or disturbed to have me sitting on his back. He wasn't groaning at holding me up. I watched myself in the mirror, thinking, "ugh, do I look like that?" even while knowing my body is strong. Knowing I've never done this. I don't have muscle memory for this. I will learn this. I am strong! But I was judging myself. Judging my appearance. Judging myself for judging myself. Yes, I'm serious. 

Getting up on that horse was HARD. It was SCARY. It was really high up! I was afraid I wouldn't be able to mount the horse. I literally felt like I felt when I went skiing at age 13 and I fell, and I didn't think I would be able to get up. It is not easy to follow verbal directions in that kind of situation when the animal you are trying to climb onto is moving and you can't really see where to place yourself. By the way, getting down was even harder and I almost fell. But I didn't. And even if I did. so what? Even if I got hurt?! I will be okay.

There is an element of trust to this. I'm working on it. Do I need to trust the horse or trust myself? Maybe - probably - both. As my daughter said to me today when I was telling her how hard it was, "Not everything is a therapeutic experience, Mom." Well, true. But I am convinced that this can be. And I am struggling - so apparently it already is. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. Copyright: Petri Volanen

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. Copyright: Petri Volanen

[Click here to listen to my episode with Charlotte Hiler Easley, LCSW on Equine Assisted Psychotherapy]

When my hourlong lesson was over today, I wanted to be like "this was so amazing!" But I didn't feel like it was amazing. I had about 5 seconds during the whole experience when I was like "Wow, I'm doing this!" I also thought "Does this horse like me? I'm grateful he hasn't tried to throw me off of his back. Am I doing this correctly?" That last thought occurred at least 20 times. I said it maybe 5 times to the instructor. I wanted to say it like 100 times, at least. I judged myself for feeling scared and unsure. I wondered how the horse and the instructor were judging me.

Judging, judging, judging

When I got in my car, I felt like maybe I wanted to quit. Maybe I can't do it. And I was judging myself for feeling that way. Are you confused yet? Me too! I hated feeling like this vulnerable kid who doesn't know how to do things and doesn't believe in herself. But I allowed myself to feel that way instead of pretending it was different. I was telling anyone who would listen - my friend Anne, who I talked to after the lesson; my husband; my daughter; the saleswoman at the Saddlery; the riding instructor  - how hard it was, and how discouraged I feel. As I was telling them my feelings I was judging myself for feeling that way. At home I felt exhausted. Bone tired. Emotionally worn out and physically worn out. An Epsom salt bath is in my future. 

Has this ever happened to you in any situation? How often do you push yourself outside of your comfort zone? Do you like it? Hint: NO.

So why don't I just quit this silly horsemanship idea? Well, I actually believe that I will get better at this. I believe that I will have the experience of learning how to do something new, overcoming my doubts, and it will result in not only a sense of mastery - eventually - but also it will remind me that I can do hard things. I am strong. I'm stronger than I think I am. Emotionally and physically. Cognitively, in my logical brain, I know this. The part of me that is a scared little girl is just one of my parts. There are also other parts of me that are confident. Somewhere in there a part of me knows that this will be FUN! One day! If I keep at it. I am giggling to myself as I write that. Somewhere inside I know that's true.

No Mud No Lotus Thich Nhat Hahn

Again, it's like therapy. You go through the hard parts because you know something better is on the other side. Or you believe it is. You hope it is. And it is. Something good will come from it. I realize therapy isn't all fun and games. But it's better than staying where you are and what comes from the hard work is so beautiful, indescribably so. And you're permanently changed - you can never go back to who you were. As Thich Nhat Hahn says, "No mud, no lotus." That is true of large and small experiences of discomfort over our lifetimes. And what's the alternative? 

Embracing what is (?)

So I'm going to treasure this experience of being so new at horsemanship. I'm going to try to enjoy this feeling of being a beginner. I'll remember that once I didn't know how to do this at all. One day I'll be on the back of a horse, galloping through a field, maybe even jumping. Who knows? The sky's the limit. I have a long life ahead of me and I am going to do hard things, even when I'm scared. I mean, I don't actually know how long my life will be. Of course, no one does. But in this moment, I did this hard thing. And I am embracing that feeling, in all of its glory. The good and the bad.

I hope this will inspire you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, too. That is where the magic happens. That is where we grow. And that is really what life is all about - a journey toward self-actualization, whatever that means for each of us. It's going to be okay. 

My next lesson is on Thursday of this week. Wish me luck.

If you want to read more of what I write, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. You can also visit iTunes to subscribe to Therapy Chat. There you'll hear me talking about what I talk about and interviewing other people about what I'm interested to discuss. Or you can listen to Therapy Chat on my website, or on iHeartRadio, Stitcher or Google Play.

If you're in Maryland, and you want therapy to explore the vulnerable parts of yourself that are in need of healing, check out my website. You can also call me at 443-510-1048 or e-mail me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. I look forward to connecting! In the meantime, take care!

Warmly,

 

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Finding Heart and Soul Connection In A Barn

I found my heart and soul connection in a barn.

  Hear this post on Therapy Chat Podcast!

  Hear this post on Therapy Chat Podcast!

Yesterday I had a new experience which was a game-changer for me. I've been saying for at least 10 years that I want to take horseback riding lessons. I talked about it on an episode of Therapy Chat earlier this year, vowing that I would make it happen.

Image credit: Eduard Syslynskyy/Shutterstock

Image credit: Eduard Syslynskyy/Shutterstock

I've ridden a horse maybe 5 times in my whole life, all between the ages of 10-13 years old. For a time I was obsessed with them, as many children are. I grew up in the city but close enough to rural areas that there was one horse farm many of us knew to visit. 

Recently as I've learned more about equine-assisted therapy and the benefits of spending times with horses, I've become determined to increase the amount of time I spend with horses. I'm now 44 years old and my body has changed quite a bit since I was 13. I think it's safe to say that my heart hasn't changed much, if at all, though, as I learned through this experience. 

Before I tell you what happened, let me give you some information from Equine Assisted Growth And Learning Association, also known as EAGALA. From their website, www.eagala.org:

 

 

How Does Equine-Assisted Learning and Growth Work?

  • Horses are bigger and stronger than us. They are powerful creatures, and being around them can feel intimidating, which creates an opportunity to get up close and personal with our fears.

  • Like humans, horses are social creatures who live in herds. They have a social hierarchy in terms of how they relate to one another in the herd. Working on how we relate to horses is a way to work on how we relate to other humans and ourselves.

  • Because horses are prey animals, they rely on non-verbal cues to stay alive. Their lives depend on accurately reading these cues. Humans are predators. Yet for some reason horses are willing to interact with us anyway, if we let them know we are safe.

  • Horses know when what we are saying and doing don't match what we are feeling and sensing, even though we might not know. They reflect back to us what we are feeling and sensing, or the incongruence between our feelings, sensations, words and actions, even (especially) when it's outside of our conscious awareness.

The Shadow...Again?

Horses can bring our Shadow to our awareness. Yes, the Shadow again. As a wise person told me, once the Shadow is out in the light you can't ignore it anymore. I am finding this to be true again and again.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out these episodes of Therapy Chat podcast: Episode 53; Episode 38 with Renee Beck, LMFT; Episode 40 with Lourdes Viado, MFT, PhD; Episode 42 with Keri Nola.

So this is what happened yesterday. I went to a workshop on learning with horses. I gathered in a barn with a group of two other women, the instructor and the horse trainer. I really didn't know what to expect, because I haven't done anything like this before, although I have heard about it from fellow therapists. The whole experience was on the ground, not on the horses. 

We were introduced to two horses, a darker colored one and a lighter colored one. I felt super vulnerable and nervous. I wanted to know what to do and not to do, and how, and what was going to happen. I told myself to sit with the discomfort, knowing that this is where growth happens. Part of me wanted to relax, be in the moment, let go and see what happened. Part of me wanted to know, to check whether or not I was doing it right, if I was okay, to understand, to know why. These parts of myself battled for that entire two hour period. 

When we walked up to each horse I had lots of thoughts. I wondered how to touch the horse, if it was okay to touch him, and whether he would hurt me. I was acutely aware of how large and heavy he was, and that he could kick me, bite me or step on me if he felt like it. Then, I went a little deeper into my emotions. I suspected that he didn't like me. I felt self-conscious about being uncomfortable and worried who could tell. I was pretty sure he could tell, though he didn't say anything. I felt his soft, velvety coat and tangled mane. I noticed that he was beautiful and he looked like he had been through some things. I decided maybe he wasn't judging me as harshly as I was judging myself. This all happened in a span of maybe 2 minutes. Feeling a little softer toward myself, I approached the other horse.

One of the other women was standing with the horse, and I felt protective toward her time with him. I held my hand out to him, wondering if he was okay with me petting his nose. He gently nuzzled my hand. I didn't know if this was what they always do, or if he liked my touch. I awkwardly stood there for a few seconds, continuing to let him smell my hand and nuzzle it.

Then something surprising happened. He tilted his head toward me and sort of snuggled up to my neck. I don't even know what to call it. Immediately, tears sprang to my eyes. I felt seen and understood, probably better understood by the horse than I was understanding myself, at least in that moment. I had the strange experience of a felt sense - when you just know something that is coming from within. Your inner wisdom, your soul, your wisest self, whatever you want to call it, it tells you something from within yourself. It's more than just a thought. The felt sense told me "he knows I'm sad."

Image credit: Melory/Shutterstock

Image credit: Melory/Shutterstock

One of the reasons it was weird is because I hadn't known I was sad until that moment. I felt apologetic toward the other woman standing there, because the horse was giving me more attention, and because I was fighting back tears, which is pretty uncomfortable any time, but especially in front of a stranger. At the same time, I was incredibly grateful to the horse. 

As Brené Brown says, "Vulnerability is courage."

All of that happened in the first 30 minutes of this experience. After that we alternated between activities with the horses and seated in chairs. But more strange things happened. During the time we were seated in our chairs as a group, the horses were free to roam this indoor space. 

We were talking and I was continuing my struggle between the parts of myself that wanted to avoid the discomfort of this new experience and the parts that were trying to be open and let it unfold. I'll point out that while this experience was new, that struggle is not. In fact, it is quite familiar, if I'm honest.

I practice mindfulness by checking in with myself many times throughout a given day. I notice what I am thinking, what I am feeling, what my body is holding. I frequently ask myself what I need, or what my body wants me to know. There is always an answer, if I listen. What I often notice is this struggle to know, to have the answers. It is something that pops up when I am in situations where I feel unsure. It is an attempt to avoid discomfort. I don't do it consciously, it is a defense that I'm sure developed quite early. I know I was always praised for being smart. This quality is one that I never doubted I had, and I received much attention, love and acceptance around being smart when I was a child.  

I felt very uncomfortable quite a lot of the time during childhood, so this defense (it's called intellectualization) served me very well back then and it has helped me many times since. But it does get in the way. I'm grateful for my intelligence, yet I need to ask the part of myself that wants to know to step aside quite frequently so I can stay in the moment. It's okay to be curious, as long it doesn't take me away from the current moment. 

The Most Powerful Moment

So now I'll get back to the most powerful part of the experience in the barn. After the horse snuggled up against me, while we were sitting in the chairs as a group, the horses moved around the barn. Slowly they moved toward us. Eventually, both horses came to stand behind me. While we talked, one by one they slowly crept forward until both horses were standing with their heads over me. I wish I had a picture, because to the others in the group I must have looked funny with one horse's head coming over one shoulder and the other horses's head coming over my other shoulder. They kind of crossed their heads in front of me.

It was so strange, with a result that I couldn't see the other group participants. The group leader noted that the horses could have stood anywhere they wanted, and for some reason they chose to stand over me that way. They remained that way until we stood to do another activity, and then when we returned to sitting, they did it again, just as gradually as the first time. I can't really say what happened, other than the horses knew I needed something. But that can't be all because I'm sure the other group members were having their own emotional experiences in their seats. Yet the horses gravitated to me.

I think the leader was suggesting that they knew I needed either comfort, protection or something. She didn't come right out and say it (I think she wanted me to figure it out myself). All I know is I was in love with these horses. I felt like they got me. I felt like we had a connection. I am laughing as I write these words, but I really mean it, and I still feel that way, even though more than 24 hours have passed. In fact, I've had more experiences of self discovery (what I like to call shifts) since doing that. I am eager to do more work with horses and see what happens. It was truly a magical experience.

Why Am I Sharing This?

Image credit: Rob Strok/Canva

Image credit: Rob Strok/Canva

You might be wondering why I'm sharing this. There are a few reasons. First, I want to document this magical experience for myself. Also, I want people to know that spending time with horses can be incredibly powerful, almost unbelievably so. Some things you just have to experience for yourself, and I hope this article will encourage some of you who are reading to try Equine Assisted Learning and Growth. Lastly, I'm sharing this because it's important as a therapist that I live the way I encourage my clients to do. I've been on a journey of personal growth - intentionally only for the past two years, but probably for my whole life.  

I believe we never stop growing and learning (unless we refuse to try), and that we must continue pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones, because that is where growth happens.

I can't take my clients anywhere that I haven't been. The more I allow myself to be vulnerable and expose myself to new experiences allowing me a deeper connection with myself, the more capable I become of walking alongside my clients as they are on that journey. I have seen this to be true, and I know as my connection with myself deepens my skill as a therapist will deepen as well. 

Next week I'm taking time to venture deeply inward as I spend time with an intuitive coach in California to reflect on the direction of my business in the year ahead and do more Shadow work (gulp!). This will also be a reunion with some beautiful souls who live across the country and I am so honored that I will be spending time with them there. More is ahead, as I head to the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York in November for a retreat with horses and fellow therapists and other healers. I can't freakin' wait. Honestly, I have been bitten by the horse bug now and I can't wait for my next opportunity to spend time among these amazing creatures. And yes, I am still planning to take horseback riding lessons. It will happen! I'm currently exploring various locations to learn with horses in a different way. That will be a new arena (literally!) for me. I know what Brené Brown means when she talks about Daring Greatly. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out her book by that name.

So that is the story of how I found my heart and soul connection, with two horses and with myself, yesterday in a barn. I hope it somehow inspired you to get more connected with yourself. Let me know in the comments!

If you're interested in walking together on your journey of personal growth, and you live near Baltimore, Maryland, get in touch with me. You can also follow my musings on social media. You'll find me on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. And don't forget my podcast, Therapy Chat. 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

5 Podcasts To Listen To Now

It's International Podcast Day! Find out why you should be listening to podcasts, how to do it, and get started today with these 5 recommendations!

International Podcast Day image Canva

It's International Podcast Day! To celebrate, I created this list of 5 podcasts I recommend to clients and other people in my life on a daily basis. If you are interested in emotional health, wellness, family, parenting, relationships, trauma and improving your most important relationship - with yourself - you will find at least one on this list that you will enjoy. I think you'll love all of them! I do.

First Things First.

Have you wanted to start listening to podcasts but you're not really sure how it works? I felt that way too - and look at me now, I'm a podcaster myself! Listening to podcasts is easy! There are so many ways you can do it. Here's a mini tutorial and then we'll get to the list of recommended podcasts.

How Do I Find Podcasts?

Podcasts can be found in many different places - I'll use my own podcast as an example to show you. Each podcast is posted in various places, depending on the preference of the host. They are usually available on the host's website - see example of my podcast here. You can find almost every podcast on iTunes (mine is here); they are also found on Stitcher; iHeartRadio; Google Play Music; and even YouTube! There are many other places to listen to podcasts. Once you find one you like, see which places it's hosted to find your favorite.

What Can I Use to Listen to Podcasts?

Your Smartphone - You can listen to podcasts using a smartphone with a podcast app. There is a podcast app built into iPhones which connects directly to iTunes. There are other apps you can download to your iPhone or Android phone which have various features making it easy to subscribe to your favorites and make playlists. The great thing about listening to podcasts on your phone is that you can take it with you to the gym, on a walk, or while you are making dinner. 

Image credit: Pixabay

Image credit: Pixabay

Your Computer - If you're not a smartphone user or you spend more time at a desk than out and about, your computer is another great option for listening to podcasts. iTunes is available on both Mac and PC, but if you don't like iTunes you can also open up YouTube and listen that way. You can learn more about topics you choose while performing other tasks on the computer.

In Your Car - Here in the DC area, where I live, most people have long commutes from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Podcasts are perfect for listening in the car. You can bring up the podcast on your phone and plug it into your car's Aux port, connect it with Bluetooth, or just listen through the phone's speaker. Many newer cars have built in music players where you can access podcasts now, and more will be coming in the future. If you have a long commute but don't drive, that's fine too! That's an excellent time to listen on your phone. 

Why Should I Listen To Podcasts?

Variety - You can hear anything on podcasts: how to cope with anxiety; listen to comedy performances or the news; learn a new language; hear TED Talks; get help falling asleep (not while driving); start building a business; find out what your favorite sports team is doing; and many, many more subjects. There is most likely a podcast for any subject you are interested in. If not, why don't you start one? Nothing's stopping you! Anyone can podcast! 

Control - If you don't like a certain episode you can skip it. Unlike radio, if you miss the newest episode you can listen to it later. Many podcasts have ads, but far less than radio, and you can skip them if you choose. You can listen over and over to your favorite episodes and share them with your friends by sending them a link in an e-mail or text message. You also have privacy. If you want to think about how to cope with erectile dysfunction but you're uncomfortable talking about it with anyone, even your physician, you can bet there is a podcast out there on that subject. You can listen without anyone else even knowing. By the way, if there isn't a podcast on ED yet, somebody should get on that because I'm sure it would be a huge hit! 

Free Content - Most podcasts are free to listen to, and you can listen as many times as you want. Some podcasts have membership sites where you can make a donation or pay a minimal subscription fee to support production costs, and if you love a podcast and want it to keep going you can feel good knowing you're helping out. 

Okay, so now you know how to listen and why you should start listening to podcasts - so let's get to the nitty gritty! Here are 5 podcasts I frequently recommend to my therapy clients as well as my friends and family members. Full disclosure - I've been a guest on every one of these (and one is my own). Read on to find out what you can expect on each of these podcasts and why I love each one. Then add your favorite in the comments!  

My 5 Most Frequently Recommended Podcasts:

1. Women In-Depth with Lourdes Viado, MFT, PhD 

I love this podcast. Lourdes Viado, MFT, PhD is a Jungian psychologist in Las Vegas. Her podcast, Women In-Depth, is focused on discussing some of the subjects that women talk about amongst themselves, as well as many topics that are off limits in polite company. I talked with Lourdes about how to respond when your child discloses having been sexually abused. Some other recent episodes have covered the issues of spiritual abuse, infertility and midlife crisis. I recommend this podcast to someone almost every day - and here's a secret: it's not just for women! Many of the topics are applicable to everyone! Check it out on iTunes here.

Click on the image to listen to my interview on Women In-Depth on how parents can support their children who disclose sexual abuse.  These are the kinds of uncomfortable, but super important, discussions that happen on Women In-Depth.

     Image credit: Lourdes Viado, LMFT, PhD

     Image credit: Lourdes Viado, LMFT, PhD

2. Mindful Recovery with Robert Cox, MA, PLPC

Robert Cox, MA, PLPC is a counselor in Missouri who is in recovery himself. He is super down to earth yet passionate about mindfulness, substance abuse recovery and trauma. He also has a specialization in working with individuals who are on the Autism spectrum. On Mindful Recovery Robert moves between offering mindfulness tips, psycho-education about substance abuse, trauma and other important subjects, and interviews with fellow professionals and experts. One episode I frequently recommend is on the subject of process addictions. Robert and I share a passion for advocating for survivors of sexual abuse, and you can hear us talking about it soon on Mindful Recovery. I recommend you check out Mindful Recovery Find it on iTunes here. 

3. Launching Your Daughter with Nicole Burgess, LMFT

Launching Your Daughter podcast with Nicole Burgess, LMFT is a podcast about parenting, with a unique twist. Nicole focuses her podcast on the issues specific to parents raising daughters into adulthood. Nicole and her guests talk about topics related to improving parents' relationships with their daughters. Nicole and I recently talked about sexual violence, an issue that can affect women at any age (as well as men and people of any gender identity), and I'm looking forward to that episode being released. Nicole interviewed Sharon Martin, LCSW about embracing imperfection in episode 15, which is here.  Find Launching Your Daughter on iTunes here.

4. Parenting In The Rain with Jackie Flynn, LMHC, RPT

Play Therapist Jackie Flynn, LMHC, RPT hosts Parenting In the Rain, another parenting podcast I frequently recommend. Jackie covers subjects that are relevant to the parents' emotional experience - when a parent struggles with depression, for example, as well as that of the child, like helping a child with back to school anxiety. Jackie interviewed me about emotional abuse not too long ago. You can listen to Parenting In The Rain on iTunes by clicking here.

5. Therapy Chat with Laura Reagan, LCSW-C (that's me)

I'm obviously biased, but I frequently recommend my own podcast, Therapy Chat. I talk about the subject of psychotherapy, often interviewing fellow therapists who are practicing in ways that are outside of what people usually think of when they consider going to counseling. I've interviewed therapists and other experts on the subjects of mindfulness, trauma, self compassion (with Tim Ambrose Desmond), attachment (with Dr. Jonice Webb) parenting, perfectionism (with Sharon Martin and Dr. Agnes Wainman), self care and worthiness. Dr. Dan Siegel talked to me about his upcoming book The Mind. In the next six months I'll post a series on trauma treatment and a series on attachment, and I published a practice building series for therapists this past summer. You can find Therapy Chat on iTunes here.

So what's your favorite podcast? Let me know in the comments! 

Wholeheartedly, 

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

I'm Only One Person, What Can I Do?

I'm Only One Person, What Can I Do?

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
— Mahatma Gandhi

This quote, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world," has inspired me since the first time I heard it. If you follow this page you probably know that I'm an advocate for ending sexual violence. You could also say I'm an activist in the movement to end sexual violence. Why? Because I'm horrified that this continues to occur, day after day, and rather than sit in my horror and helplessness, I've decided to do my part in changing that reality.

If you are dissatisfied with how things are, get involved! You can make a difference. I posted an article earlier today in which the author suggested that if you're outraged at Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer who was caught in the act sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, getting out of jail after serving 3 months of a 6 month sentence, you can do something about it. And you can! I can. We can together and individually.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has!
— Margaret Mead

Because while what he did is reprehensible and completely unacceptable, it is not only what that one rapist did and the inadequate punishment he received that is the problem. If that were the only problem we'd all be outraged that this thing happened this one time and it was such an unusual situation. But it's not that unusual. Neither his actions nor the punishment he received are all that unusual - other than the fact that he was convicted at all. I wonder if he would have been, had two men not witnessed the attack and physically intervened to stop it. As gross as it is to say that, it's true that many survivors report assaults and are not believed. I know this is true. I have talked with hundreds of survivor who haven't been believed. I've sat in courtrooms hearing offenders admit their actions and still be found not guilty. Turner's disgusting actions are a huge part of the problem but there are many other problems with the way our legal system handles reports of sexual assault which cause re-victimization.

Triumph of evil

Often when someone reports a sexual assault, there is skepticism and disbelief - from friends, loved ones, law enforcement, university administrators, prosecutors, judges and juries. Often survivors decide after telling the first person what happened that they do not want to report the crime to authorities, based on the very real awareness that the process of convicting the offender is likely to be extremely difficult. This is why sexual assault is still the most underreported crime - see statistics here. If the person who reports the assault is believed enough by enough of the decision makers along the way to participate in a judicial process, his/her/their actions are questioned in much more depth and with less respect for personal dignity than the perpetrator's. When convictions are obtained in criminal court, many jurisdictions mete out minor sentences like Brock Turner received. 

So what can we do?

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

What I have written above may be very discouraging. It could make you feel like there is no point in trying to end sexual violence, because it's too pervasive, too complicated, the problem is too big. You might be thinking, I'm just one person, how can I make a difference? Well you can make a difference! And yes, you're one person but there are thousands more like you who believe that we can be the change we wish to see in the world. Those people who have been fighting to end sexual violence for decades know that things are getting better. Too slowly, but change IS happening.

Without the power of social media Brock Turner's conviction and sentence would just be another day in the courtroom. But a great number of people are shouting out that this is wrong. That is different! 20 years ago I wonder if this would have even been considered newsworthy. Call me cynical, but I'm a realist. And even though I realize we have a long way to go, I know we can get there! You CAN make a difference.

So what can we do? Let's get specific. Here are four ways you can start NOW to end sexual violence.

1. Use your voice.

never doubt change the world
  • Speak out on social media. Tell people why this matters to you. Share articles that get people thinking. Share some of the statistics I've included in this article.
  • Challenge rape myths. When you hear someone saying "how do you know [the survivor] didn't consent?" point out that someone who is passed out, asleep or unconscious can't legally consent to sexual activity. Or answer "because she/he/they said they didn't consent and I have no reason to doubt it." Break out your stats on how unlikely it is that people lie about being sexually assaulted. You can find info here.
  • Support a survivor. If someone tells you they were sexually assaulted, just believe them. It's not up to you to decide what happened. Treat them how you would want to be treated if you experienced a traumatic event.
  • Know how to help someone following a sexual assault. There are specific steps to take following a sexual assault, especially if you want to preserve evidence. Knowing this information can make a big difference for a survivor. Get info here. 
  • Let your legislators know you support legislation at the local, state and national levels which protects the rights of survivors of sexual violence. Did you hear about the bill that my state, Maryland, can't get passed to limit rapists' custody rights when a child is conceived through rape? In spite of national outrage, our legislators can't seem to agree about it. But Maryland's not the only state with this problem.

2. Put your money where your mouth is.

3. Volunteer your time.

4. Fight rape culture.

  • Visit the One Billion Rising website. You will find opportunities to get involved and learn more.
  • Teach your children about consent beginning at an early age. Learn how here. 
  • Don't laugh at rape jokes. Believe people who say they were sexually assaulted. Get educated. Get involved. 

I hope this has inspired you that you can be the change you wish to see in the world. You can. I can. Together, we can. What will you do? Leave a comment below letting me know how you plan to make a difference! 

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Episode 33: Worthiness, Perfectionism & Self Compassion

Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 33: 

Worthiness, Perfectionism & Self Compassion

Hitting My Growth Edge

Click here to listen to this on Therapy Chat podcast! 

Click on the image to hear podcast episode 33!

Click on the image to hear podcast episode 33!

Once in a while an experience comes along which is just beyond what you ever imagined. It’s like you never really dreamed things would get this good. I don’t know if everyone has a growth ceiling, but I think most of us do. It’s the point that is the highest you thought you’d ever go in your life. It might be that you thoughtyou’d one day get married, but you hit your growth ceiling when you make plans to marry someone so wonderful, who seems so much better than the partner you thought you’d end up with. This can cause a lot of anxiety, because we are going past what our expectations were for ourselves. Another example – maybe you hoped you’d become a doctor, but you didn’t expect to attain the position of CEO of a huge medical organization.

Maybe you always fantasized about being a musician but you weren’t expecting to be invited to write all the songs for the next Broadway hit. For me, I always hoped to become a therapist (and there were many times I doubted I’d achieve that goal). I even thought one day I might go into private practice. I never imagined having a thriving full time private practice where I’d love going to work with the clients I most enjoy serving. I never expected to have a podcast and when I did begin podcasting I surely didn’t think I’d have the chance to interview so many wonderful guests. I really never even dreamed I’d be able to interview someone like Dr. Dan Siegel. I’d admired Dan Siegel’s work on the neuroscience of attachment for about 6 years when I made a contact who facilitated my opportunity to interview him. It was then that my feelings of scarcity began to show up and loudly make themselves known.

Scarcity Rears Its Ugly Head

As soon as I heard the news that Dan Siegel had agreed to be interviewed I was elated. I was literally screaming and jumping up and down. Yes, it was that big of a deal to me! It only took about a day for me to begin wondering what was going to happen to prevent this from happening because I knew it must be too good to be true. In Brené Brown’s work, she calls this “foreboding joy.” She talks about when she was on the plane to go be interviewed for the first time by Oprah and she was super excited, but a delay was announced. Immediately she realized the plane was likely to crash and she would never have her moment with Oprah. Every time the foreboding crept in as the day of my Dan Siegel interview drew closer, I reminded myself of that story.

Kristin Neff's Three Elements of Self Compassion

Kristin Neff's Three Elements of Self Compassion

When thoughts of “who am I to think I, a humble podcaster, am going to interview someone like Dan Siegel, a world famous expert on attachment, neuroscience and mindfulness?” crept into my head, I reminded myself of Brené Brown on her way to Oprah and told myself to stay in the moment. Just feel how excited I am, and stay with that. I’m a podcaster, and I have a platform to ask Dan Siegel some questions. There’s no reason the Universe (God, Source, whatever spiritual being fits for you) would think I don’t “deserve” to interview him. In fact, the Universe doesn’t think Dan Siegel is more worthy as a human being than I am, because to the Universe, we are all equally worthy. Here I used the three elements of Self Compassion identified by Dr. Kristin Neff: self kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.

Worthiness and Shame

Even as I used self compassion and mindfulness to help me remember that it’s okay to feel really excited about the amazing opportunity to interview someone I respect so highly on Therapy Chat, I struggled with scarcity. Here’s how I knew I was operating from a place of scarcity:

I didn’t want to tell my podcasting friends I was interviewing Dan Siegel. Why? I was secretly afraid it wouldn’t happen. I was secretly afraid they would snag him before me. I was secretly afraid something would happen to make them all see that I’m a fraud and a phony, and that I was a fool to think I could ever interview someone like that. I told a few trusted friends (only one was a podcaster – this person has a totally different podcast focus) and family. I’m hiding this exciting news like I’ve got a shameful secret.  In truth I really doubted I was worthy. I was so starstruck! It was kind of ridiculous, looking back. For all of his accomplishments, Dan Siegel is just a person. A brilliant person, but still just a person.

So the day finally came. It was my big moment. I have never been so prepared. I checked and double checked everything. I made sure I didn’t schedule anything else that day except for dinner out with good friends and my husband afterwards. We had the interview. It was incredible. I felt like I was floating, I was so happy to be able to interview Dan Siegel. It was a fascinating conversation and when it was over I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. I immediately checked the recording to make sure everything was okay.

Here’s where things get ugly. Everything wasn’t okay. When I listened to the recording, I only heard my voice. There was no Dan Siegel voice. I actually wondered whether I had hallucinated the whole thing. If so, I knew I was really losing it. I tried several things to see if I could get his voice to come up, and I couldn’t. I called a podcasting friend, Christy, to see if she could help me. She kindly and generously spent an hour on the phone with me trying everything to fix the recording. She never shamed me or made me feel stupid. But it was all for naught. It turned out I had a bad version of the recording software many of us use, and I never knew because before that day it had always worked great. Apparently after an update there was a compatibility issue with Skype, which I use to conduct my interviews.

How Self Compassion Saved Me!

But this is the crazy part. I wasn’t freaking out. After all that buildup, to find out the episode didn’t record, I would normally have gone into a shame spiral. I would have been so embarrassed, thinking, “I knew I was crazy to think this was going to happen for me!” I would have felt like I didn’t want anyone to know what happened. I would have wanted to hide. But I didn’t feel that way. Even though it didn’t record, the thoughts and feelings that made up about 95% of my conscious awareness were: wow, I just had such an amazing discussion with Dan Siegel. How lucky am I that I got to have that beautiful conversation. I even thought, “how can I be upset? I just got to spend an hour having a personal conversation with Dan Siegel that I will never forget, and I’m considering the nature of consciousness and the Universe...” Of course, I immediately reached out to his assistant, apologetically explaining there was a technology failure, and requesting to re-record if possible. In the past I would have been so afraid to let him know everything got screwed up and his time was wasted. But basically I felt that I hoped he would agree to re-record, and if he didn’t, then it would be okay. Not because I didn’t care, but because I was at peace.  I can only attribute this sense of calm belief that everything would be okay to my self compassion practice.

I’m not going to pretend that I have this Zen lifestyle in which I meditate daily for an hour and nothing rattles me. But I have been practicing self compassion, through regular meditation, since September 2014 when I learned about it at Brené Brown’s Daring Way™ training. If you’re interested in doing this (developing a self compassion practice), you can find free Self Compassion guided meditations on Kristin Neff’s website, www.selfcompassion.org. I also highly recommend her book, Self Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.

My self compassion practice saved me. After all of this, I had sent the e-mail to Dan Siegel’s assistant and then I went out to dinner with my husband and our friends, a therapist and her husband, a college professor.  I told them all what happened and I wasn’t that horrified. Don’t get me wrong. I felt bad that Dan Siegel’s time was wasted. But other than that I was still feeling gratitude and some disbelief that I had such an amazing conversation with him. I just couldn’t find myself feeling devastated. And I didn’t want to hide. I wasn’t ashamed. I wasn’t blaming myself. This is different. The perfectionist in me would have fallen apart 2 years ago. It was incredible to observe myself and the difference my self compassion practice has made in my life, and I felt so grateful for that change! What a better way to feel.

My sense of worthiness remained intact; I told all of my friends who knew about it what happened. People were shocked, horrified, several friends said they had tears in their eyes imaging how they’d feel if that happened to them. They felt humiliated and ashamed for me! But I told them they didn’t need to worry about it, because I was okay. And late that evening I received a very kind and non-shaming e-mail from Dan Siegel’s assistant saying that they were sorry to hear about the technology failure and he was willing to re-record. I was so grateful, and I can’t wait for you to hear our interview in Episode 34, which will air next week.  I even mentioned to Dan Siegel how I felt about it and how mindfulness helped when we re-recorded. I would never have been able to say that to him if I were operating from a place of shame – I would have hoped he’d forgotten and be afraid to mention it. It’d be the elephant in the room. You’ll hear how he reacted in Episode 34.

So that’s my story. I can’t recommend self compassion practice enough. It has truly changed my life, and this experience proved that to me. Please check out Episode 34 and if you like Therapy Chat, visit iTunes to leave a rating and review, download episodes and subscribe so you can hear the latest episodes as soon as they’re released. Thanks for listening!

You can also listen on Stitcher and Google Play (available now!). And for more of what I'm doing, please  sign up for my newsletter. You can also sign up for information on my Daring Way™ offerings and other groups and workshops; sign up to receive the latest episodes of Therapy Chat when they're released; sign up to receive my latest blog posts when they are posted, and follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterest, Instagram & Google+If you're a trauma therapist you may be interested in my new Trauma Therapist Community, forming now. Click here for the info. I look forward to connecting! 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Four Reasons People Hate Mother's Day.

Mother's Day Can Be Tough! 

This is an updated version of a blog post I published last year on Mother's Day. I added links to a few podcast recordings from Therapy Chat and an updated guided meditation link.

Click here to listen to this blog post on my podcast!

As another Mother's Day approaches, you may be feeling a little less than enthusiastic about the big day. No need to feel guilty if it doesn't feel joyful to you. You're not alone! Most of my clients and a good number of my friends share that they have mixed feelings about Mother's Day too. This post is for all of you out there who hate the second Sunday in May for whatever reason. And there can be lots of reasons! 

Write here...

Write here...

There are so many reasons why people find negative emotions coming up near Mother's Day. Here are some that I hear frequently, along with a few suggestions for dealing with these feelings. Feel free to share any ideas I missed in the comments below. 

4 reasons why people say they hate Mother's Day:

"I hate Mother's Day because my mom's not here. Mother's Day reminds me how much I miss her and makes me wish I could tell her one more time how much I love her."

Maybe you were close with your mom and she passed away. Or maybe you weren't as close as you wanted to be, and her death left a lot of unresolved feelings about the relationship. You might feel the loss even more acutely on Mother's Day, even if her death was a long time ago. Maybe you were adopted and you want to connect with your birth mother. The marketing of Mother's Day means you see and hear commercials which tug at your heartstrings. Be gentle with yourself, knowing that you are sad about her loss. Allow yourself to feel your feelings on this tough day. Ask yourself what you can do in remembrance or to honor her. Think about what would make you feel nurtured, and do that, whether it's lying on the sofa wrapped in a cozy blanket watching Steel Magnolias, or going roller skating with your best friend, or cuddling with a puppy at the local animal shelter. Maybe your most special friends or family are not nearby. Can you call, video chat or text them? I'm sure you know what makes you feel loved and taken care of. Do that!  

Click on the image above to listen to past episodes of Therapy Chat! You can also visit iTunes to leave a rating and review,  and subscribe to Therapy Chat so you can get the newest episodes delivered as soon as they're published!

Click on the image above to listen to past episodes of Therapy Chat! You can also visit iTunes to leave a rating and review,  and subscribe to Therapy Chat so you can get the newest episodes delivered as soon as they're published!

"Mother's Day is hard for me because I have always wanted to be a mom and I'm dealing with infertility."

Infertility can feel very isolating, especially if your friends and family members are getting pregnant and having babies, and you have miscarried or had trouble conceiving. Even if you have made the decision not to have children, or you have delivered a baby or adopted after experiencing infertility or pregnancy loss, Mother's Day can stir up a lot of mixed feelings. Many people say they feel no one understands what they're going through. It might be helpful to spend this day doing something that feels comforting to you. Don't worry about what other people are posting on social media today. Honor your own experience in a way that feels right to you. Are you part of a support group, in person or online? If not, would you like to find one? The National Infertility Association has a list of helplines and support groups as well as a number of other resources on its website. Through The Heart has ideas for coping on its website. 

"I feel sad seeing everyone's Facebook posts saying they love their moms so much, and my mom was never there for me emotionally when I was a child. We still don't have a good relationship. I am mad at her for not taking better care of me."

I specialize in working with people who have experienced some kind of abuse or neglect in childhood. Therefore, many of my clients find Mother's Day triggers their trauma symptoms. Our culture places such importance of the mother role! Many people who are disappointed in their relationships with their moms also feel guilty about having those feelings. It is okay to feel however you feel about your mom. You do not have to pretend your relationship with her is different from how it truly is just because of Mother's Day. Here's a podcast episode I did on being estranged from important loved ones you may find helpful.

This is a good time to do what makes you feel special. If you have a partner, letting that person know this is a tough day for you and asking for extra support can be helpful. You can nurture yourself, even if you were not nurtured as a child. If you need extra support with this, therapy can be helpful. Here's a podcast episode on how childhood emotional neglect can make us feel as if we have a "fatal flaw" making us unlovable.

"I am a single mother and no one supports me on Mother's Day or any other time of the year." 

Mother's Day might feel just like any other day if you have little kids and no partner to make sure that you are celebrated on this day. I'll add it might be just like any other day, with an extra dose of resentment about feeling overworked and unappreciated. Once again, I recommend you try to do what you can to take care of you. Your kids will understand everything you do for them when they're older, but for now, they don't get it. Reaching out to a friend who is also a single mom could be helpful. Maybe it would feel nice for you and your kids to get together with a mom friend and her kids. While the kids play you can provide one another with moral support.  Or maybe you can take your kids to the park, so they can play while you get a bit of respite. Do you have any family or friends who would be willing to watch the kids so you can do something that makes you feel special on Sunday?  

A couple more things that might help:

I have two more recommendations that might make the day easier if you struggle on Mother's Day. First, it might be wise to avoid social media that day and the day after. Just like on Valentine's Day, Mother's Day is a notorious day to catch a bad case of comparison-itis when you see what your friends on social media are posting. There will be "perfect" family photos, flowers, and many photos of the fabulous brunches that someone's wonderful spouse or kids treated them to on Mother's Day. I'm not taking anything away from your friends and the wonderful Mother's Day experience they want to share on social media, but if you know this is going to be tough for you, it might help to just not look that Sunday and Monday.

My second recommendation is to try this meditation if you need a little Loving-Kindness (Metta) in your life.

To begin, sit comfortably on a chair or meditation cushion, with your feet on the floor or legs crossed. Sit up tall and breathe deeply for three inhales and three exhales. Bring your awareness to your heart and try to recall loving feelings from someone who made you feel nurtured. Slowly repeat these words:

Click on the image to visit my website where you can listen to and download two free guided meditations. 

Click on the image to visit my website where you can listen to and download two free guided meditations. 

May I be safe.

May I be happy.

May I be kind to myself.

May I be free of suffering. 

Notice what feelings arise. You may feel the loving kindness spread over your body. You may also notice that sadness or anger are felt. Do not try to push these feelings away, but just notice them. If you can allow yourself to feel them you might find that they pass. Continue taking deep breaths in and out, and just notice how you feel. There is no right or wrong way to feel. This simple practice can be done for a minute or two, or for longer if you wish. It is up to you. 

I hope the meditation I have described above will offer some comfort, even if you hate Mother's Day. If you'd like more guided meditations, Here is a link to two free meditations on my website. 

If you have a reason for hating Mother's Day that I didn't mention, please comment below! I'd also love to hear of any other ideas you may know of that are helpful in getting through Mother's Day if it's a hard day for you. And please remember that you are not alone.

With loving kindness,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

If you liked this post, please feel free to follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Click here to read my latest e-mail newsletter. Click here if you'd like to receive my newsletter in your e-mail. And if you are interested in working with me in therapy or attending one of my workshops, groups or intensives, click here to contact me or give me a call at (443) 510-1048. I'd love to hear from you! 

Mom and baby cat Mother's Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

National Infertility Association (2015). Support groups list. Retrieved on May 5, 2015 from: http://www.resolve.org/support/support-group/support-groups-list.html

Through the Heart (2015). Retrieved on May 5, 2015 from http://throughtheheart.org/

 

Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 27: Sexual Assault Is Not Someone Else's Problem!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO HEAR EPISODE 27 OF THE PODCAST!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO HEAR EPISODE 27 OF THE PODCAST!

Welcome! Trauma therapy became my passion after I volunteered at a Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Virginia starting in 2002. I got great counseling experience and went through extensive volunteer training before I became an employee in 2003. I learned a lot about trauma, and even though sexual assault is not something we like to talk about, it’s a common problem. Statistics show that one in four women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but I'm focused on ending sexual violence every day.

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • Two types of sexual assault are Childhood Sexual Abuse (listen to Episode 30 for that) and Sexual Assault/Rape not involving a child. The latter is our focus today.
  • If you are sexually assaulted, you have several options to consider. To help you make sense of what to do I recommend the following:
    • Call a Sexual Assault Crisis Hotline. Visit the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network at www.rainn.org for the national phone number which will connect you to your local Sexual Assault Crisis Center. You will speak with a trained person who knows your local area's policies and procedures and can help you understand your options.
    • Be aware that many hospitals provide a forensic evidence exam at no cost to you, within 120 hours of the assault. You can also get checked out by a doctor, but that type of medical exam is not the same as collecting forensic evidence which will be needed if you plan to report this crime to authorities. Your local sexual assault crisis center can provide information on which hospitals have forensic nurses to collect evidence, and most will offer you an advocate to accompany you and help you know your rights in the process when you're making decisions about having a forensic exam.
    • Whether or not to report the assault to the police or other authorities is a very personal decision, and you have options. If you are in the military you have another process you can choose to participate in, and if you're a college student your school will have a non-criminal reporting process you may elect to use. 
    • Reach out for support to someone you believe will be supportive. For friends and loved ones wanting to be supportive, visit www.evawintl.org (End Violence Against Women International.) Check out their “Start by Believing” campaign.
  • Keep in mind that the civil legal process is another option outside the criminal investigation; a lawsuit can be another way to hold offenders accountable even if a criminal prosecution is unavailable. 
  • The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA) is an outstanding resource for survivors, and has information on survivors' legal rights as well. www.mcasa.org .
  • Find a Sexual Assault Crisis Center using the Directory at www.centers.rainn.org.
  • There are some common reactions of victims following sexual assault/rape. Find a comprehensive list at www.musc.edu
  • There are many community events across the country in April to bring awareness to sexual assault. The events include The Clothesline Project, The Monument Quilt, Vagina Monologues (www.vday.org), Take Back the Night, and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.  Although April has ended, events may go on throughout the year and it's never to early to plan your participation next year!  
Click on the image above to listen to Therapy Chat!

Click on the image above to listen to Therapy Chat!

Nobody likes thinking about sexual assault but until the day there is an end to sexual violence, we need to be aware of how to get help and what options are available.  And that day, when there is an end to sexual violence, will come if we all get involved to make a difference. Imagine a world without sexual violence. It is actually possible and I'm working with many others to make this happen. I hope you'll get involved too. Visit www.rainn.org to find your local Sexual Assault Crisis Center and find out how you can help.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you liked this episode, please visit iTunes to download episodes, subscribe, rate and review! You can also listen on Stitcher and Google Play (available now!). And for more of what I'm doing, please  sign up for my newsletter, and follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterest, Instagram & Google+If you're a trauma therapist you may be interested in my new Trauma Therapist Community, forming now. Click here for the info. I look forward to connecting! 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

 

Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 26: Using the Body to Process Trauma

Welcome! My guest today is Lisa Ferentz, LCSW-C, who is in private practice in Baltimore and specializes in treating child and adult survivors of trauma, abuse, and neglect. She’s a nationally known author, speaker, trainer, and consultant. Click here or on the image below to listen to today's episode! 

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • After 32 years in private practice, Lisa knows that trauma survivors use coping strategies such as eating disorders, addictions, self-mutilation, depression, anxiety, and relationship problems. 
  • Lisa does consulting work for clinicians in the US and Canada; she has written two books and has two more in process. Lisa is an expert on Dissociative Identity Disorder and consulting with her is a great way for clinicians who are less experienced in this work to help their clients most effectively.
  • Early in her practice, Lisa realized how important it is to approach her work from the viewpoint of being a good student and learning from your clients.
  • In the exciting world of therapy today, incredible connections are being made between trauma and the impact on the brain.
  • Lisa advises that clinicians be more aware and mindful in working with the body in trauma work.
  • Lisa explains “dual awareness,” meaning being aware of what’s happening in both the client’s and clinician’s body during therapy.
  • Lisa explains the “vasovagal zone” of the body and tracking sensations in the area that houses 80% of emotions.
  • Trauma is stored visually and viscerally, and can present with actual physical pain, such as:
    • Limb pain
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Chronic migraines
    • Stomach/GI upset
    • Fatigue 
  • One technique is to start with the body and work your way into words to deal with trauma.
  • Movement and expressive arts can also be used in trauma therapy.
  • Simplistic art therapy strategies can open the door to visually-based modality when a client is unable to communicate with words.
  • Lisa uses drawing, collaging, and sand tray art so a client can SHOW their narrative, share a memory, or process an emotion.
  • Clinicians have to refrain from interpreting the client’s art for themselves.
  • Lisa explains the stigma associated with borderline personality disorder as opposed to identifying the same client as a “trauma survivor.”
  • Lisa introduces her books: Treating Self-Destructive Behavior in Trauma Survivors: A Clinician’s Guide and Letting Go of Self-Destructive Behaviors: A Workbook of Hope and Healing. One is for clinicians and one is for laypeople.
  • In treating trauma survivors, you have to give them new tools to replace self-destructive behavior—other ways to self-soothe and regulate their pain.
  • Lisa explains why she doesn’t like standard safety contracts because they introduce a power struggle between client and therapist.
  • “The goal is that trauma therapy doesn’t re-traumatize.”
  • Lisa gives details about her Institute in Baltimore, in its 9th year of offering certification programs in Advanced Trauma Treatment, working with expressive modalities and traditional talk therapy. The Institute offers ethics training and has graduated 700 clinicians. Her website includes a calendar of CEU training and the details about Trauma Certificate Levels 1 & 2.
  • Find out more about Lisa and her work: www.lisaferentz.com

I hope you enjoyed this episode, which was all about healing trauma. I'm so grateful that Lisa agreed to be interviewed. If you liked this episode, please visit iTunes to download episodes, rate and review! You can also listen on Stitcher and Google Play (available now in some areas). And for more of what I'm doing, please  sign up for my newsletter, and follow me TwitterFacebook, Pinterest, Instagram & Google+If you're a trauma therapist you may be interested in my new Trauma Therapist Community, forming now. Click here for the info. I look forward to connecting! 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 25: What Is Childhood Emotional Neglect?

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO EPISODE 25 OF THERAPY CHAT!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO EPISODE 25 OF THERAPY CHAT!

Welcome! My guest for Episode 25 of Therapy Chat is Dr. Jonice Webb, a clinical psychologist and blogger for Psych Central. She’s the author of the book, Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect. We’ll delve into this topic and its impact in our society today. Listen to Episode 25 by clicking here or on the image at right.

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • The definition of Childhood Emotional Neglect: a parent’s failure to respond enough to the child’s emotional needs
  • This is different from physical neglect and abuse.
  • In her private practice, Dr. Webb kept seeing clients with the same patterns.
  • She has identified 12 different types of parenting styles that lead to Childhood Emotional Neglect.
  • Children who experience may grow into parents with the same communication patternsif CEN isn't identified and addressed.
  • Dr. Webb has developed a questionnaire, designed for adults, to determine if you’ve been affected by this CEN.
  • Her book gives case examples of parent-child dynamics leading to CEN.
  • She explains how to overcome CEN. 
  • Dr. Webb wants to put together CEU trainings for therapists who want to work with this specialty, but first, she wants to complete a research project to compile results.
  • She has a special offer for therapists working with clients who struggle due to Childhood Emotional Neglect. Listen in to hear it!
  • Contact Dr. Webb at www.emotionalneglect.com or email her at jwebbphd@rcn.com. Sign up for her newsletter on her website and check out her blog at Psych Central!

It was great hearing Dr. Webb share her knowledge about Childhood Emotional Neglect! If you liked this episode, please visit iTunes to download episodes, rate and review! You can also listen on Stitcher and Google Play (available now in some areas). And for more of what I'm doing, please  sign up for my newsletter, and follow me TwitterFacebook, Pinterest, Instagram & Google+. If you're a trauma therapist you may be interested in my new Trauma Therapist Community, forming now. Click here for the info. I look forward to connecting!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 24: Vicarious Trauma

Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 24: Vicarious Trauma

Welcome! Today’s topic is one that’s important to therapy professionals and to first responders, too - for anyone who works with people who are suffering, Vicarious Trauma is important. I just attended a workshop on this topic by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, the author of Trauma Stewardship

Here’s what you’ll hear in this episode:

  • The terms Vicarious Trauma and Secondary Traumatic Stress are interchangeable as I'm using them here.
  • Therapists bear witness to the traumatic stories of clients and are affected by them.
  • The nature of therapy work requires empathy; it’s honorable, brave, and important work intended to make the world a better place.
  • There are small ways to lessen the impact of trauma, by mindfully checking in with yourself and using positive coping methods.
  • As a therapist, how much are you “numbing?” We discuss examples.
  • Laura recommends spending 12-60 minutes each day, for six days a week, working out to the degree of breaking a sweat.
  • We owe it to the people we help to take care of our Vicarious Trauma, and regular exercise is one way to do that.
  • Isolation is common in trauma work, because we feel like “nobody understands.”
  • The American Counseling Association lists several signs of Vicarious Trauma, including:
    • Having difficulty talking about feelings
    • Feeling diminished joy
    • Feeling trapped by work
    • Limited range of emotions
    • Exaggerated startle reflex
    • Hopelessness
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Exhaustion
    • Conflict with other staff
    • Trouble with intimacy
    • Feeling withdrawn and isolated
    • Impatience, apathy
    • A change in worldview
  • What can you do to make a difference?
    • Have a mindful presence
    • Exercise (12-60 min. several days each week)
    • Cultivate connection with yourself and others
    • Enrich your life by doing things you love, apart from work
    • Make meaning

Resources:

ACA Fact Sheet on Vicarious Trauma

Trauma Stewardship by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky

Trauma Stewardship Institute 

I also shared information on my new community for trauma therapists! Registration begins soon and if you want to be notified when registration starts, you can sign up here!  

If you liked this episode, please visit iTunes to download episodes, rate and review! You can also listen on Stitcher and Google Play (available now in some areas). And for more of what I'm doing, please  sign up for my newsletter, and follow me TwitterFacebookPinterest, Instagram & Google+. I look forward to connecting!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 22: Handwashing As A Self Care Practice?

Therapy Chat Podcast Episode 22: Handwashing As A Self Care Practice? 

When you take care of yourself, then you take care of clients.
— Ashley Davis Bush

In case you missed it, I was so lucky to interview Ashley Davis Bush, LICSW on my podcast, which is newly renamed Therapy Chat. Click here to listen to past episodes of Therapy Chat. Ashley is a psychotherapist in private practice in southern New Hampshire with over 25 years’ experience. She has written six self-help books, including Transcending Loss and Simple Self-Care for Therapists. She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and has some great tips to share with us about increasing our self-care. Join us! Click here or on the image to the right to listen to Episode 22.

Click on the image above to listen to my interview with Ashley Davis Bush!

Click on the image above to listen to my interview with Ashley Davis Bush!

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • Ashley loves her work and counts it a privilege to be part of peoples’ lives. Her private practice is in her home, and it’s “a fun job, watching life unfold in front of you.”
  • Even the simple choice of working from home can be a self-care choice.
  • Ashley’s work focuses on grief, couples, and anxiety, but self-care is a common thread that is woven into her work with all clients.
  • Ashley says that much of her practice patterns itself after her books.
  • Her most recent book introduces the idea of “micro self-care.”
  • “Macro self-care” practices are the big things that we normally think of regarding self-care, but micro practices are short, simple things that can be done in 1-2 minutes.
  • Ashley focuses on self-care to avoid burnout, which she categorizes as “little b” and “BIG B” types of burnout.
    • “little b” burnout is when you are exhausted at the end of the day or week. You may need a good night’s rest or a few days off to regenerate and recover.
    • “BIG B” burnout is when you need to leave the field because you can’t take it anymore.
  • Ashley addresses “vicarious trauma,” in that ALL therapists do some sort of trauma work.
  • Personal and professional experience can cloud the lens with which we see the world, but life’s pains are a constant trauma.
  • Ashley explains self-care vs. self-violence: when you don’t take care of yourself, then you’re doing harm (violence) to yourself.
  • Mindfulness leads to grounding, bringing us into this moment right now.
  • Ashley shares her Tibetan bell practice to help bring clients into mindfulness.
  • She recommends using micro self-care practices at the beginning, middle, and end of your day.
  • Ashley’s book lists 40-50 suggestions as to how to scale down macro self-care practices into small micro practices. It's amazing!
  • Making the transformation from macro to micro self-care practices requires thinking creatively, but shouldn’t be overwhelming.
  • Neuroplasticity is the science that shows the brain can change in response to repetitive behaviors. You can rewire your brain to be more peaceful!
  • When your brain is rewired, then your default setting comes to a place of gratitude and feeling good.
  • Ashley’s three takeaways:
    • Have a basic plan for 3 micro self-care practices each day.
    • Sleep 8-9 hours each night so you aren’t tired during the day. You can tell from our interview that Ashley is well-rested! 
    • Prioritize self-care, and you’ll soon realize that you can’t live without it!
    • Be aware of the seasons of life, but regardless of the season, you can fit in micro self-care every day!
  • Find Ashley at www.ashleydavisbush.com
Everyone has 3 minutes a day in which to do something nice for themselves.
— Ashley Davis Bush

I'm so grateful that Ashley agreed to share her wisdom on the podcast. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! If you liked this episode, please visit iTunes to download episodes, rate and review! You can also listen on Stitcher and Google Play (available now in some areas). And for more of what I'm doing, please  sign up for my newsletter, and follow me TwitterFacebookPinterest Instagram & Google+. I look forward to connecting!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

 

Coming Home To Yourself: My Interview With Mara Glatzel

Podcast Episode 23: Coming Home To Yourself

March 11, 2016

Listen here! or click on the image to the right.

Welcome! Today’s guest is Mara Glatzell, MSW. She is an intuitive guide and energy healer for women who facilitates daily conversations about intention, truth, and celebration. A creative leader, Mara is expert at living in her own skin with grace and ease. At the core of her work is the desire to live a well-intentioned life, which means more joy, grit, and vibrant imperfection to spare. She is MY kind of person—how about you? Her website makes you feel warm, glittery, and nurturing, and her writings and programs are truly inspiring. Want to learn more? Join us!

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • Mara works with women who want to live with more intention and responsibility.
  • She likes to take nebulous concepts that are hidden in layers and break them down into tangible, relatable pieces.
  • Mara’s work isn’t like other therapies or focused on symptoms, but is based on self-love and self-compassion.
  • Mara found this niche after finding herself “not fitting into” the standard therapy role.
  • She knows what it means to struggle with body image, fears, and trusting yourself.
  • When we sacrifice ourselves in order to “belong” to the world around us, then loneliness is the result.
  • You can have all the “right” things happening in your life, and be MISERABLE!
  • Mara’s writing background flows perfectly into her intimate newsletter offerings, which happens to be her very favorite place to write!
  • Mara is gifted in being able to talk about difficult topics in ways that people can receive them.
  • Her newsletter features the unusual option, “Click here if you want me to read this to you.” People love it!
  • “Why aren’t there MORE spaces in which people are lovingly spoken to?”
  • Mara’s “Open to Receive” program is offered at certain times throughout the year, but is now being offered as an on-demand resource on her website with daily audio to support and nurture.
  • Mara offers classes, e-courses,  workshops, online resources, and events. She loves group work and one-on-one work, too!
  • Sign up for her “The Ferocious Truth” event, starting in two days! “The Deep Exhale” comes later in the spring. Visit www.maraglatzel.com/newsletter for more info about events, resources, and more!

If you liked this episode, please visit iTunes to download episodes, rate and review! You can also listen on Stitcher and when Google Play supports podcasting, it will be available there too! And for more of what I'm doing please sign up for my newsletter, and follow me TwitterFacebookPinterest Instagram & Google+. I look forward to connecting!

Therapy Chat Podcast

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

The Secret To Raising Well-Adjusted Children

Three simple rules for raising well-adjusted children

I think we can all agree that a central goal of parenthood is to raise children who are well-adjusted - meaning they can handle the ups and downs of life, function well in relationships as well as at school and work, and have satisfying inner lives. So how do we accomplish this? There are so many different ideas out there about how to be a "good" parent. So I'll add my voice to the discussion. Click here or on the image below to listen to podcast episode 21. 

I believe there are three simple rules which will help your children grow up to be well adjusted, generally happy adults. Read below to learn what they are! 

1. Learn about child brain development. 

Click here to listen to podcast episode 21! 

Click here to listen to podcast episode 21

Much of the frustration of parenting comes from our failure to understand the child's behavior. For example, many of us find it extremely upsetting when a two year old says "No!" over and over. They call those years the Terrible Twos. I know when I was a parent of a young toddler I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to get my child to listen to me once he turned two. I had no idea how to handle toddlerhood. 

However, there was one thing I did right. Knowing that I was clueless about babies and being a parent before I had my first child, I bought books and subscribed to magazines that taught me what I needed to know. This was before the internet was really a thing. I mean, it existed, but nobody I knew used it then. I really wanted to be a good parent and I had absolutely no idea how. So I called in the experts, and it made a difference!

Learning about child brain development is useful for several reasons. First, it helps you know what to expect and how you can adapt as your child grows and changes. If you haven't noticed, children are constantly doing that. The more flexible we can be, the better we can work together with our children.

There are tons of great resources for learning about child brain development. Now that we have the internet at our fingertips, literally (you're probably reading this on your phone), we can use websites like www.healthychildren.org, operated by the American Academy of Pediatrics, for trusted advice on everything from physical to emotional to social development into young adulthood. You may have heard that we now know the human brain continues developing throughout childhood, reaching full maturity somewhere between the age of 21 to 25. So when we expect seventeen year olds to exercise impulse control, plan ahead, consider consequences of their behavior and think logically about their decisions, we're asking them to use parts of their brains which aren't fully developed yet. 

Well adjusted children

How can we learn about child brain development? Visit the website I mentioned above from the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Read a book about it. Dr. Dan Siegel, a brilliant child psychiatrist who has studied this for years, has written a number of books. A list of his books can be found by visiting his website here. The Whole Brain Child, Brainstorm: the Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, No Drama Discipline and Parenting From the Inside Out are all highly recommended reading for parents. 

2. Be attuned to your own emotional experience.

What does this mean? It means knowing how you feel inside. Understanding your emotions as they are occurring. Maybe not understanding exactly why you're feeling what you're feeling, but at least being able to know something is going on. Throughout a given day you'll have emotions coming up. Contentment, happiness, longing, sadness, grief, fear, anxiety, irritation, impatience, excitement, frustration, worry, foreboding, anticipation and so many other emotions course through us all day and all night long. 

Being attuned to your own emotional experience means you feel these feelings as they're occurring. You notice them. With mindfulness, you may observe them without getting caught up in them. With a lack of present moment awareness (the opposite of mindfulness) you may not notice them until they bubble up and out, catching you by surprise. If you have a habit of shutting off your awareness of your emotions (something I learned to do when I was about 7 years old), you may feel a very limited range of emotions, such as only worry or sadness. Those were my go-to emotions for a long time. But that habit, which can be very helpful when you have overwhelming emotions you don't know how to deal with in childhood, can lead to a lot of numbing and avoiding when you reach adulthood. 

Be attuned to your emotional experience

Examples of numbing and avoiding behaviors include getting sucked into the internet, gambling, compulsive shopping, comfort eating or depriving yourself of food, overworking, focusing on everyone else instead of yourself...you get the picture. 

How can you get more attuned to your own emotional experience? Try this simple technique which is free and can be done any time, any place. Pause and ask yourself, what am I feeling right now? What do I notice in my body? How do I feel? See what happens. The key is to slow down and tune in to your body. It will tell you what you need to know. If you're really good at blocking out emotions, it might take some practice before you really hear what it has to say. Another way to become attuned to your emotional experience is through mindfulness meditation. Try downloading my free Mindfulness Body Scan guided meditation from my website. Click here to download for free.   If a lack of understanding of your own emotional experience is getting in your way, find a therapist who can help you work on this. If you're in Maryland, I'd love to help! Information on how to contact me is at the end of this article. 

3. Be attuned to your child's emotional experience.

As you might guess, this is like being attuned to your own experience, but it's noticing what your child is feeling instead of yourself. Using your awareness of developmental explanations for your child's behavior (see #1, above), you can understand what the behavior is telling you about your child's emotional experience. For example, a 10 month old baby who cries when you put him or her down is not "spoiled," but rather seeking the comfort and safety of connection with you. It's developmentally normal for children to have separation anxiety at this age (but not only at this age! See this article for more). Becoming angry or impatient with your child for fussing and crying when you leave ignores the child's emotional experience and doesn't help the situation. And, if you're not attuned to your own emotional experience you may become flooded with emotions when your child becomes fussy. Instead of reacting in a way which is congruent with your values related to parenting, you may lash out in some way, leaving you feeling ashamed and helpless. Your child may also feel ashamed and helpless.

Mother and Baby

Attending to your child's emotional experience appropriately helps your child feel safe and secure in the world. That sense of safety and security - known as secure attachment - is important to growing up to be a well-adjusted adult. You can get more information on attachment by reading this article. It's also covered in the book Parenting from the Inside Out by Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell which I mentioned above.  Sometimes your own attachment or childhood experience of trauma gets in the way of developing a close connection with your child. 

If you're in Maryland and you'd like some support in healing trauma and attachment click here to see if working together would be a good fit. You can also e-mail me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com or call me at (443) 510-1048. If you're outside of Maryland, find a therapist who can help you work on trauma and attachment. It is never too late. 

Want to hear more of what I have to say? You can sign up for my newsletter. I'm not one to bombard you with newsletters and clog up your inbox. I send them every so often when I have something to say that I think you might find useful. You can also follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterest Instagram & Google+

And to listen to The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast you can click here!  Please consider leaving a review on iTunes if you like it!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Sources:

Arain, M., Haque, M., Johal, L., Mathur, P., Nel, W., Rais, A., Sandhu, R. & Sharma, S. (April, 2013). Maturation of the adolescent brain. Neuropsychiatric Disease Treatment. Retrieved on February 29, 2016 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3621648/

Laslockey, M. (2014, February 13). How to stop attachment insecurity from ruining your love life. Retrieved on February 29, 2016 from: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_stop_attachment_insecurity_from_ruining_your_love_life

Schlossberg, S. (n.d.). Separation Anxiety Age by Age. Retrieved on February 29, 2016 from: http://www.parenting.com/article/separation-anxiety-age-by-age

 

 

 

Is Shame Stopping You From Apologizing?

Say You're Sorry: Don't Let Shame Stop You!

A guest post from Ruth Spalding, LMSW

Recently I've talked about the pain we can experience when an important relationship falls apart (read and listen here) and considered whether or not forgiveness is necessary (read and listen here). Today I invited my colleague, Ruth Spalding, LMSW, who practices in Traverse City, Michigan to explain the role of shame in our reluctance to apologize when we do something that is out of alignment with our values. 

I've been wanting to write this post ever since reading Amy Poehler's Yes Please memoir. In it, she talks about how she really screwed up and waited a very long time to apologize. She goes into detail about what makes a good apology and for the most part I agree with her. So here are the steps to apologizing like you mean it.  

Mean It

Shame paralyzes motivates defensiveness

A lot of times when we screw up we're mad at ourselves but don't want to be. So we direct that anger at other things, maybe what we see as our excuse for our mistake. Maybe we squash it down. Either way, we usually have to really look at ourselves and what we've done. And we have to accept it so that we can get in touch with our healthy regret instead of toxic shame. Healthy regret motivates us to apologize. Shame paralyzes us and motivates us to act defensively. 

Say You're Sorry

Sounds simple, right? “I'm sorry.” That's a complete sentence. You should have a sentence like that when you apologize. If you're more of a formal person you can say “I apologize” or “I deeply regret...” If you have neglected step 1 then step 2 will be pointless because it will sound insincere. You actually don't have to say much. As long as you mean what you say it will have a powerful impact. 

Identify the Problem

Name what you did that you regret. Do not say you're sorry about someone's feelings. Their feelings are valid and do not require an apology. The hurtful actions are what require the apology. If you “don't know” what you did wrong you need to go back to step one. It's actually okay to be confused about this, we often make mistakes in a haze of strong emotions and then have difficulty rationally sorting through it. We can be really good at denial and hiding our shame and this might be preventing you from getting in touch with feeling regret for what you've done. The good news is that with some introspection you can figure out what you did wrong, but it might take some time and painful honesty.  

Do not justify, excuse, rationalize or minimize what you did. No explanation is going to reduce the other person's pain as much as a genuine apology. Shame makes us not want to exist. Regret makes us want to stop doing bad things.

Shame vs regret

Make Amends

If it's applicable, try to make up for what you've done. Did you destroy someone's furniture while partying too hard? Offer to pay to have it fixed. Of course, there are situation in which it's hard to “make it up” since the damage done isn't easily repaired. You can always say you'll make it up anyway you can but please refer to step one before you do. If you've followed all the previous steps, when you're called to make amends, you'll do so genuinely.  

Don't Ask For Forgiveness

I've seen other folks recommend this when apologizing. I don't because the apology is not about you. It's really about repairing the rupture you caused. Focusing on how you feel, what you need, is not a healthy frame for an apology. If they want to forgive you, they can, but don't ask them for that or pressure them in anyway. If they decide to forgive you, they will have given you a great gift that will probably help you feel better about the situation, but such a gift must be freely given.

Never Do It Again

For some offenses, this is easier said than done. But you should really try to stop the problematic behavior that caused issues in the first place. This might require a better understanding of your own patterns of behavior and internal dynamics that led to the problem, or it might be very straightforward. 

If you're struggling with repeating hurtful behavior, a therapist can help you move away from toxic shame toward a healthier mindset. Apologizing when you've screwed up is the biggest credibility boost you can ever get. Owning your mistakes is so highly respected because most people understand how difficult it is to do. Grappling with your defenses so you can apologize and really mean it is tough. That kind of self-awareness shows through to all that you do. Saying you're sorry is a big opportunity to show commitment to integrity, love, honesty and compassion.

I'm Ruth Spalding, a therapist, trauma guru, and LGBTQ advocate. I love to help burnt out healers find their healthy spark again and guide black sheep to their own awesome herd so they're no longer left out. My private practice, Live Well Counseling LLC, is based in Traverse City, Michigan. If you want to read more blog entries by me or learn more about what I do visit my website. 

Thanks, Ruth, for your guest post! Readers, do you agree with Ruth's suggestions for a good apology? Please share your comments and ideas below!

And as always, for more of what I'm doing, you can sign up for my newsletter. I'm not one to bombard you with newsletters and clog up your inbox. I send them every so often when I have something to say that I think you might find useful. You can also follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterest & Google+

And to listen to The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast you can click here!  You can also listen on iTunes, Stitcher and Google Play. Please download, subscribe and consider leaving a review on iTunes if you like it! 


The Parent Coach Who Doesn't Have It All Figured Out

My Podcast Interview with Washington Post Parenting Expert Meghan Leahy

Meghan Leahy is a parenting expert who writes a weekly column for the Washington Post. She's a parent coach helping parents who are overwhelmed with their children's behavior. Yet she is the first to admit that she gets overwhelmed with her children's behavior too. Does this seem counterintuitive? Not if you talk to Meghan. 

Meghan states that her job is not to tell parents what to do. Her job is to teach parents what their children need She teaches that the problematic behavior is the child's developmentally appropriate way of telling the parent what he or she needs.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE 20 OF THE BALTIMORE ANNAPOLIS PSYCHOTHERAPY PODCAST!

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE 20 OF THE BALTIMORE ANNAPOLIS PSYCHOTHERAPY PODCAST!

Listen in to this fascinating interview in which Meghan shares why she doesn't tell parents what to do, why self care is important - hint: it's NOT so we can take better care of our kids! - and tells us about the theory informing her work. 

Find out more about working with Meghan by visiting her website

And if you like the podcast, please visit iTunes and download episodes, subscribe and leave a rating and review.

You can also find the podcast on Stitcher, Google Play and on my website at www.laurareaganlcswc.com/podcast.

I'd love to hear your comments on this episode! Comment below!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 


The Epidemic of Childhood Trauma

The Epidemic of Childhood Trauma - A Public Health Issue Which Is Preventable

On Episode 19 of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast I talked about a subject which is extremely important to me. It is an issue I talk about every day in my psychotherapy practice, as I specialize in helping people who have experienced childhood trauma. Many of us have experienced traumatic events in childhood and think "that was a long time ago, I should be over it by now," or "it happened before I was old enough to remember so it can't be affecting me so many years later." But whether or not we consciously remember traumatic events, they can still affect us. 

 

 

Click here to listen to this discussion in podcast form on Therapy Chat (formerly known as the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast)!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO EPISODE 19 OF THERAPY CHAT!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO EPISODE 19 OF THERAPY CHAT!

And these effects are not only emotional - although the truth is that childhood trauma can have long-lasting emotional effects, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yes, you read that correctly - PTSD, which we usually associate with veterans who have experienced combat, can be caused by experiencing childhood trauma too. 

In additional to the emotional effects of childhood trauma, a large study has found a connection between childhood trauma and physical ailments as well. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (also known as ACES), which was conducted beginning in 1987, found that people who had experienced childhood trauma had higher rates of suicide, mental health problems, addiction, autoimmune disorders, heart disease, lung disease, obesity and other chronic illnesses contributing to shortened lifespan than people who had not experienced childhood trauma.

The study also illuminated the fact that childhood trauma is much more common than most people realize. Sixty-four percent of adults have at least one traumatic event in their childhood history, according to the study. 

I'm passionate about intervening as early as possible to help people who have experienced traumatic events in childhood, which is why I decided early on to work with children as well as adults. It is never too late to work on healing childhood trauma, but the earlier the better. 

If you're in Maryland and you'd like some support in healing trauma click here to see if working together would be a good fit. You can also e-mail me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com or call me at (443) 510-1048.

Want to hear more of what I have to say? You can sign up for my newsletter. I'm not one to bombard you with newsletters and clog up your inbox. I send them every so often when I have something to say that I think you might find useful. You can also follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterest & Google+

To listen to Therapy Chat, where I discuss trauma as well as mindfulness, psychotherapy, worthiness, perfectionism, self compassion and many related subjects, click here! Please consider subscribing on iTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or Google Play if you like it!

Sources:

National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (n.d.). Effects of complex trauma. Retrieved from: http://www.nctsn.org/trauma-types/complex-trauma/effects-of-complex-trauma

Stevens, J.E. (n.d.). ACES 101. Retrieved from: http://acestoohigh.com/aces-101/

Stevens, J.E. (n.d.). Got your ACE score? Retrieved from: http://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/

United States Centers for Disease Control. (2014, May 13). Injury prevention and control: Division of violence prevention. Retrieved from:http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/

 

Can Therapists Really Change The World?

Can therapists really change the world? Dr. Steven Brownlow says yes, if we get out of our own way. 

On Episode 18 of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast I was privileged to have the opportunity to speak with someone who is sharp, self deprecating, and so dedicated to the field of psychology. My guest, Steven Brownlow, PhD, developed ADEPT Psychology and he graciously agreed to explain to me what it is, how he came up with it, and how it helps psychotherapists and clients. Listen in for a fascinating conversation about how Dr. Brownlow developed his theory and how he coaches therapists in use of self in their work with clients.

In our interview, you’ll hear a discussion of how emotions are built on the stress system of the body and why traumatic or deeply painful experiences in which we’re unable to regulate our emotions make us feel stuck. Dr. Brownlow describes the process by which micro-ruptures in relationship with caregivers can lead to a child’s belief that he or she is unworthy of love and how that affects our relationships over the lifespan.

He talks about why, as a therapist, you can’t take people where you haven’t been yourself. He explains how therapists can change the world and explains research findings on what makes a great therapist.  You’ll learn about emotional processing in a way you never did in school.

Dr. Brownlow discusses how he teaches therapists to use ADEPT Psychology to get out of their own way, and to get out of their clients’ way to deliver services effectively addressing the reason clients really show up in our offices.

Therapists who want to know more can visit Steven Brownlow, PhD’s website: www.adeptpsychology.com and find out how you can start showing up differently in your work with clients.

I hope you enjoy listening to my interview with Dr. Steven Brownlow about ADEPT Psychology. Please visit iTunes to download episodes, subscribe, and leave an honest rating and review! 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST EPISODE!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO MY PODCAST INTERVIEW WITH DR. STEVEN BROWNLOW!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO MY PODCAST INTERVIEW WITH DR. STEVEN BROWNLOW!

Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast
Laura Reagan, LCSW-C