PTSD and Trauma

 

I specialize in treating individuals and couples affected by trauma and PTSD. For trauma survivors, I utilize the systemic approaches of internal family systems and emotion-focused therapy, which focus on strengthening attachment that exists both outside and inside of the self. I also use play therapy when treating children and young adolescents who have experienced trauma. 

Trauma often feels like such a broad term because of the wide array of situations that it can include. Traumatic events may be physical, sexual, emotional, or life-threatening in nature. They also include experiences that are both direct and indirect, such as witnessing loss, injury, or more in the lives of others. Whatever your experience may be, my focus for treatment in therapy will always be to create an environment of safety, trust, and compassion in order to empower your ability to be vulnerable and find refuge from the challenges that prevent happiness and security in your everyday life.

Research shows that play therapy increases the level of comfort and safety in the therapeutic environment and teaches children effective ways to manage their emotions and direct the energy behind those emotions in appropriate, safe ways. Additionally, play therapy empowers children and families to engage with one another through fun and compassion.

I believe that within every person exists multiple parts and pieces that make up the concept of the “self”. These parts are created and developed based upon the personal experience and context of your life. Some parts may appear to be more attractive or “better”, while others may inspire shame and hurt. However, the beauty of the therapeutic process comes through the knowledge that no part is “good” or “bad”. Instead, I view each part as being necessary to your growth and survival through the trauma that affects you. In this process, I will work with you to find peace and closure with your parts that contribute to the cycle of shame, pain, or sadness. 

Whatever your story may be, my hope for you is that you will know that there is always hope for a brighter, happier tomorrow, filled with support and love. I am ready to hear your story and provide the professional treatment to help you manage your burdens through tools and skills of resiliency and attachment.

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This article was provided by Hayden Gillies, therapist at the Center for Couples and Families.
Hayden works with individuals, couples, and families, and is currently taking new clients in our Orem office. 
To learn more and schedule an appointment, contact us at 801 477 0041, or via email at assistant@provofamilies.com. 

Therapist Spotlight- Hannah Grow

Hannah earned her bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science from Utah Valley University. She is currently working on a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Utah Valley University. She is a certified Family Wellness Instructor and has taught education courses to teens and families to help improve relationships and life skills. She is currently working as an adjunct faculty in the Family Science department at Utah Valley University and loves it.
 
She is particularly passionate about working with couples experiencing infertility and communication problems, adolescents struggling with depression and anxiety, and young adults facing transitional issues.
Hannah enjoys yoga, snowboarding, hiking, camping, caring for her plants, organizing, and weightlifting.
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Hannah works with individuals, couples, and families, and is currently taking new clients in our Orem office. 
To learn more and schedule an appointment, contact us at 801 477 0041, or via email at assistant@provofamilies.com. 

Myth: Marriage needs to be 50/50

One of the great myths of marriage is that it needs to be a 50/50 split. Everything done and contributed needs to be equal. This simply is false. What marriage needs is 100% from each partner. In some instances, that means that one spouse will do more than the other because of their strengths. For example, if one spouse has a background in finance and interest in doing the personal finances at home, then they are more likely to do 80% of the work there. That’s ok. It doesn’t need to be 50/50 In that same marriage the other spouse might have an interest in doing yard work and pick up 90% of it. That’s ok too. There is no need to keep score about who is doing how much and in what category.

 

Keep in mind that everyone brings strengths and weaknesses to a marriage – hopefully there are some that are complimentary to each other. The key here, I help couples in counseling in our Orem office, is to communicate with each other well. If you can communicate effectively about these differences and how both of you are contributing, you will more likely avoid resentment and arguments. You will build a relationship of trust and reliance on each other highlighting the strengths you both have and being aware and considerate of your weaknesses as well.

 

One thing I counsel pre-marital couples is that ‘what you see is what you get – just a lot more of it’ – meaning, if you see weaknesses in your spouse before you get married, they will have those weaknesses after you get married and they will be amplified. The same goes for their strengths. They will also have those same strengths amplified after you get married. Celebrate each others strengths and be understanding about their weaknesses.

Couples Therapy – Pornography Problems

Pornography use is on the rise and the age of first exposure is starting earlier and earlier. Research (Davis, Perry in 2017) has also found that breakups in romantic relationships are twice as more likely to happen 6 years down the road for those who use pornography compared to those who don’t. Others have found that sexual satisfaction levels are negatively impacted in couples when pornography is used (Willoughby, Brown, Busby, Carroll, Larson, Yorgason in 2017).

 

There is no question that pornography use negatively impacts individuals and relationships. But, what do you do about it? For many, counseling is seen as taboo or something they do not want to do. Some struggle with it because they do not want to face the issues in their marriage. Some come to therapy because they have been given an ultimatum. Others come because they think that a therapist can ‘fix’ them. It is difficult to get in for therapy, let alone getting in for an issue with pornography. Pornography issues are seen as a dirty, disgusting thing that you don’t talk about and don’t get help with – something that you can overcome on your own. The problem is that it is not something that people overcome on their own. They need help.

 

Couples therapy for those struggling with pornography use is different than you might imagine. It is not shamming or blaming. It takes into consideration everyone’s experiences and emotions. Counseling includes everyone rather than excludes someone. It doesn’t excuse behavior, but rather holds them accountable in an appropriate manner.

 

We recently moved to Orem. We offer professional, high quality counseling for couples in Orem, Utah and Utah Valley.

More Communication Problems

One of the most common issues couples complain of when they call for counseling is ‘communication problems’. This means a variety of things. It’s difficult to tell as a therapist at first glance what it might exactly be, but here are a few possibilities:

  • Communication problems – yes, it might just be that a couple is healthy in all other areas of their relationship, but they just don’t know how to communicate. This usually isn’t the case, but it is possible.
  • He/She did something to hurt me – Infidelity, pornography problems, choosing friends over a spouse are some things that could be done to hurt each other.
  • Sexual issues – it might be that a couple is having difficulty being intimate and they don’t want to talk about it. This can be a sensitive issue, especially in an area like Utah County where sex seems to be taboo. It’s something that you don’t talk about before you are married or something you talk about after you are married. It’s based in shame and seen as dirty, or something so sacred that you should just be good at it and enjoy it after you are married.
  • We don’t’ know what is going on! And it’s getting worse! – Sometimes couples know it’s not good, but aren’t sure why it isn’t working between the two of them. The confusion they feel is frustrating as they try to understand what to fix.
  • And others…

 

The good thing about coming to therapy with any of these issues is that there are therapists that can help. A good therapist will be able to identify what is going on with a couple so that they know what to work on.

 

We offer couples counseling in Orem, Spanish Fork and American Fork. We are a group of competent couples counselors that can help you and your partner.

 

“I’m Sorry, What’s Wrong?”- Part One

“I’m sorry”… We hear it almost as often as we hear hello. We ask for those words, and yet when we hear them they are so overused it often doesn’t feel like enough. This leaves both parties confused as to what is actually needed to repair their relationship. There are currently two ways we use “I’m Sorry.” The first is to apologize for wronging someone, the second is to share distress with someone else. Both are over used and no longer hold the meaning they once did.

When I’m sorry is used to apologize to often it begins to feel like a get out of jail free card people often come into therapy feeling hopeless. Often there is no understanding as to why an apology is needed and they are simply trying to move past the anxiety in the relationship. However, every time they use “I’m sorry”, it loses meaning. The person needing an apology continues interpreting others behavior as intent to inflict pain, because they felt like there was an understanding and the behavior continues.

Naturally the question becomes what should we do instead. Most important is understanding. We simply can’t be responsible for knowing instinctively everything people find insulting. What some people find inexcusable in a relationship others may encourage in a relationship as funny due to the meaning they have attached to past experiences and personal tolerance levels. It is each person’s responsibility to let others know when someone has crossed their personal boundaries. You need to clearly and calmly let people know when they have crossed your boundary every time they do so, that way they don’t think your just overwhelmed elsewhere and you’re being irrational. When really you’re just trying to be patient until you no longer can.

Knowing that your being understood is extremely important in this process. If the other person can’t tell you what they understood in their own words you need to keep reframing the story your telling yourself, until they understand how your interpreting their intent. Once they understand they have a few options that tend toward healthier communication. They can explain their intent was not meant to cause pain, and explain what their intent was.

They can also express an “I wish” statement, considering this is often a new concept allow me to explain. I wish statements are used to create a blueprint for what should have gone differently on your end. This is not to say that you wish you were all perfect and no problems arose. It is however used to say within the problems that existed that were not in your control how you wish you responded to all of that.

This blueprint needs to be a genuine alternative or its meaningless. This blueprint makes it more likely that you will do something different when your emotionally overwhelmed. We are all flawed and it takes time to truly change our behavior, but when we make an I wish statement we are first of all stating that we can see how we damaged the relationship and that you see an alternative that could meet both of your needs next time. If you do the same behavior own up to it and either let the person know that you were being reactive and you continue to wish for the alternative healthier response, or that the response you had thought of is not as realistic during an emotional exchange as you had thought.

 

Written By Madison Zundel, MA, LAMFT, Therapist at Holladay Center for Couples and Families

Welcome Tekulvē to CCF!

Tekulvē is joining the CCF team in Utah County. He brings with him 10 years of experience as a licensed marriage and family therapist. Check him out here.

Relationship Land Mines – How to Handle Them

All people have topics or behavior that are emotional landmines. I think of watching M.A.S.H seeing a big sign saying, “DANGER-MINE FIELD.” I love to picture this sign in my relationships. If these emotional landmines are going to be there I think it is essential for survival to create a boundary around the mine fields. I have found it courteous to set boundaries around mine, so that people have more freedom within a relationship with me. If people don’t set boundaries around their own boundaries I have to create boundaries to keep myself safe from their emotional landmines, unfortunately I don’t know exactly where the landmines

are, so I have to create a boundary with large radius for extra safety. This is unfortunate because If boundaries are bigger than they need to be for the emotional safety this is limiting the potential for emotional intimacy in the relationship.

This is not only unfortunate for the person who “steps” on the emotional landmines, but also the person with the emotional landmines without appropriate boundaries. People thrive on relationships and connections. People who don’t create boundaries are absolutely terrified of being alone. Without knowing about emotional landmines, if you had the choice between land without blocked off areas and land that had nothing on it, the land without any blocked off areas seems more attractive, at least until you start walking over it! A person without boundaries want to attract people, and boundaries are not attractive. Their need for connection is not inherently bad, they are meeting this need in the only way they know how, because they haven’t experienced a long term intimate relationship as an example. Therefore, they have people around them who are avoiding a close relationship, or freeze to avoid any emotional landmines.

When you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t create boundaries, you will often find yourself apologizing without knowing how you’re at fault. If apologizing becomes your default to suppress emotional explosions, you will attract people who have a need to blame.  People who blame are only considering their own needs, people who apologize as a default only consider the needs of others. A healthy relationship will balance your emotional needs with the needs of others with consideration of the context. If this isn’t happening your efforts to get closer to people will result in resentments. If you’re thinking “if they only knew what I was really thinking, they wouldn’t love me.” You will feel lonely in a room of people who love you.

When you share your truth, unfortunately you do risk losing people in your life.  However, knowing that even the one person who stays loves every part of you, and respects you enough to respect your boundaries will be worth anyone you lose. This is the most difficult part of setting boundaries, you have to reach a point where you can accept losing a relationship all together in order to do what it takes to be a healthier person. Accepting that you could lose a relationship means that if they are uncomfortable with boundaries they may cutoff communication with you. When you respect yourself and you respect other people enough to show them where your boundaries are to keep you and them emotionally safe, you will begin attracting healthier relationships.

Written by Madison Price, MS, LAMFT – Therapist at the Holladay Center for Couples and Families

 

Divorce – Counseling

Once the decision to divorce becomes imminent, components of the family system must prepare for change.  As a marriage and family therapist, its always my initial response to determine if the marriage can be repaired.  However, when people choose to end the relationship, the best course of action is to remain engaged in a therapeutic process throughout the transition.

The couple will need to work with one another to at least determine how to make decisions required for the legal aspects of dissolving the relationship.  If a couple can manage this on their own, and collaboratively and respectfully complete and submit the required documentation directly to the appropriate State department, and implement resulting legal stipulations, then this is typically the least intrusive and cost-effective method for divorce.  However, most couples have a level of financial, family, possession, and interactional patterns and history to require a divorce mediator to become involved. Typically, within a few sessions, the mediator can direct a process which results in immediate and long-term legal conditions to best assist the couple in divorce.  

All too often, individuals facing divorce immediately discontinue therapy because the marriage is over.  This can be biggest mistake they make in the process, especially considering how many different aspects of their life will require adjustment and change.  While I do not request that the couple meet together in session once they decide to divore, I strongly encourage them to remain engaged in individual therapy, and if children are involved, to make arrangements for each parent to attend therapy with their child(ren) in order to work through the questions, fears, concerns, and aspects of change they will all face, and most importantly, how to establish a new relationship with each parent individually.

Finally, without each partner exploring how they contributed to the dissolution of their marriage, they will most likely repeat harmful interactional and communicative patterns in future relationships.  Even if individuals post-divorce do not have the current intention of entering into another relationship, they should engage in the work which would otherwise place them in a position where they can, in the most healthy way, be available to engage in a future relationship.

Written by Anthony T. Alonzo, DMFT, LMFT, CFLE, Director at the Holladay Center for Couples & Families

The Impact of Borderline Personality Disorder on Relationships

All too often, family members, friends, fellow employees, and even therapists become reactive, judgmental, and walk on eggshells when they interact with someone who displays characteristics of borderline personality disorder.  Let me start off by summarizing some of the core characteristics of the disorder, specifically focusing on those traits which play out in the interactions with others.

  1. Affective Instability – This is where those with BPD struggle to regulate their emotions in predictable ways.  Often, their mood does not match with expected life or social situations, thus making it difficult for those around them to understand or relate to the distress they are experiencing.
  2. Fear of real or imagined abandonment – Those struggling with BPD are often afraid of being rejected, abandoned, or left alone emotionally. These feelings are triggered when the potential abandonment is indicated, as well as times where it isn’t.
  3. Identity disturbance – It can be difficult for those with BPD to maintain a consistent sense of self. There is typically a variance of self-doubt, instability in self-image, and self-acceptance.
  4. Impulsivity – Due to the emotional and personal instability, impulsivity is often a regular occurrence for those with BPD. While this may not feel disruptive for the individual, it can be highly disruptive for those around them.
  5. Paranoid ideation and dissociative symptoms – In certain situations, those with BPD may struggle with feeling paranoid, especially in relation to how they perceive other’s intentions or motives. Also, they may experience dissociative symptoms, which is a disconnect from themselves, their reality, or their sense of self.

What we need to understand about personality disorders is that they are just that, disorders which occur within the core personality of the individual.  This is important to consider, because it is extremely threatening to the individual when a personality disorder is suggested, or when a diagnosis is made, especially since it is difficult to be “objective” about your own personality.  Because of this, it can be very threatening for someone experiencing symptoms of BPD to identify and accept that the symptoms are present in their life.

It is my professional belief that the symptoms of BPD are treatable, and that through treatment, people can reduce the identified symptoms to the degree that they no longer qualify for the diagnosis.  This perspective can bring hope to those struggling with BPD, as well as those who are involved in their life.  However, the process of therapy can be challenging, and typically requires long-term treatment.

Selecting a therapist who can treat BPD effectively is an important step in the process.  The therapist must be able to accurately diagnose the disorder, as well as position themselves in the therapeutic relationship as to control for and manage the identified symptoms.  A careful balance between soliciting BPD symptoms and maintaining safety and security within the therapeutic relationship is critical.  Failure to challenge the BPD symptoms results in no change, while doing so without carefully creating a safe therapeutic relationship will typically result in early or even immediate rejection on the part of the client.

Once someone with BPD can effectively accept the diagnosis, identify how the symptoms play out in their life, and learn new ways of managing and responding to the symptoms, then they can focus on the primary relationships in their life, and work on how they relate to others in new ways.

Written by Dr. Tony Alonzo, DMFT, LMFT, CFLE therapist at the Holladay Center for Couples and Families