What You Should Know Before Starting EMDR: Part Three: Emotional Regulation

What You Should Know Before Starting EMDR
Part Three: Emotional Regulation

In part 1 of this series, I discussed what trauma is, how it develops, and how that translates into negative beliefs. In part 2 I explained how to identify and explore negative beliefs about oneself. Both of these topics are important to know about when starting EMDR (a treatment for trauma developed by Francine Shapiro in the 1980s). As you read the previous sections you may have gotten a sense that these can be heavy, difficult topics to discuss. That is why understanding and regulating your emotional experience is an important part of EMDR.
Everyone has a range of what they can comfortably handle in day to day life before becoming overly stressed. This is called the window of tolerance. When a situation comes up that takes someone outside of that window, they may become anxious, irritable, or have racing thoughts. This is the “fight, flight, or freeze” response talked about in part 1, also called hyperarousal. If a person stays in this highly stressed state without deescalating, they may shut down or feel numb. This is called hypoarousal.
This has several implications for EMDR. Sometimes a person is often right on the edge of their window of tolerance, so it doesn’t take much for them to go into hyperarousal (a “the straw that broke the camel’s back” situation). In that situation, it is important to learn how to take care of one’s self and destress when feeling highly distressed. Processing trauma with EMDR can be a very emotional experience, so it is important to prepare for the experience by getting to a place where you can handle a little additional stress rather than diving in when you are already at the end of your rope. This is a process your therapist can help you with.
No matter the state of your window of tolerance, it is always a good idea to know some emotional regulation skills and have some self-care habits. It is essential before processing trauma, but also important for everyone in everyday life. Develop good self-care habits, both daily or weekly routines and skills to use in the moment when feeling distressed.
Skills for in the moment of distress should include things you can do on your own, such as breathing exercises or journaling. Practice these skills when you are not distressed so they come more naturally to you when you are upset. Some people find it helpful to do things that involve their senses, like wrapping up in a soft blanket, lighting a candle, having a warm cup of tea, or putting on soothing music. It can also be helpful to have a few people in mind who tend to put you at ease or who have soothing presences that you can call.
Daily habits should include time to do things you enjoy or taking a brief moment to check-in with yourself, like taking a walk around the block. Weekly routines can take longer and work around your schedule, like exercise routines or a bubble bath. There are as many ways to do self-care as there are people. Make it unique to you. You can work on finding something that works for you with your therapist.
These emotional regulation skills will assist you as you start your EMDR journey. The information in this 3 part series is not a substitute for communicating with your own therapist, although I hope it will be helpful to help you understand trauma, negative core beliefs, and emotional regulation. It will not be everything you need to know about EMDR treatment, but it is a good jumping off point for further discussion with a mental health professional or for your own research.

 


This article was provided by RaeAnn Teichert; therapist at the Center for Couples and Families.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, contact us at 801 477 0041, or assistant@provofamilies.com.

What You Should Know Before Starting EMDR: Part Two: Negative Beliefs

What You Should Know Before Starting EMDR
Part Two: Negative Beliefs

EMDR (a treatment developed by Francine Shapiro in the 1980s) addresses trauma, both in the form of single incidents and persistent negative experiences. For a more in-depth look at how trauma develops, see part 1 of this 3 part series. As I discuss in the first part, over time the brain can associate repeated negative experiences with certain negative core beliefs. These negative beliefs can develop from intentional or unintentional messages from others, or from life experiences. Everyone has some positive beliefs and some negative beliefs about themselves. When negative beliefs become distressing enough that they prevent a person from living in the way they would like to, then those negative beliefs can be addressed with EMDR.
As part of the process of EMDR, your therapist may help you explore these negative beliefs by making what is called a target sequence plan. A target sequence plan consists of identifying one negative belief and writing down what experiences feed into that belief. If a person has multiple negative beliefs then they would make a separate target sequence plan for each negative belief. These can serve as a roadmap for you and your therapist while doing EMDR. This is not the only way to target these negative beliefs, but I find it helpful to help organize a very large and overwhelming feeling into more bite-sized pieces.
Sometimes you may feel distressed but cannot connect those feelings to a negative belief. In that case, the first step is to explore what negative beliefs you hold. There are many ways to do this, and your therapist can assist you in the process. It can be as simple as listing distressing incidents or issues and looking for common threads between them. Often negative beliefs have to do with desires for control, feelings of responsibility or worthlessness. Negative beliefs can be at the core of feelings like guilt, isolation, or vulnerability.
If you know what negative beliefs you have but you do not know where they came from, then the next step is to identify incidents that embody those beliefs. The identified incidents are used in EMDR as jumping off points to process trauma. If there is one event that is clearly the cause of a negative belief, it can be like walking in the front door. More often it is not that obvious and other incidents must be identified as a way of climbing in the window into the same place, the same feeling, and the same belief. This is an important part of the therapy process that can be explored with your therapist when you are ready to confront and explore these negative beliefs and experiences.
This process varies with everyone. Some people may have one overarching negative belief that is fed into from many experiences. Others may have many negative beliefs that take time to pick apart and distinguish. People and brains are complicated, so it only makes sense that this process and these emotions are often not as linear as it may seem on paper but making a roadmap to organize these strong emotions can help make them less overwhelming.
Despite efforts to make these strong emotions less overwhelming, beliefs about oneself can be scary to confront directly. Therefore, in part 3 I will address the importance of emotional regulation while doing EMDR.


This article was provided by RaeAnn Teichert; therapist at the Center for Couples and Families.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, contact us at 801 477 0041, or assistant@provofamilies.com.

What You Should Know Before Starting EMDR: Part One- Trauma

What You Should Know Before Starting EMDR
Part One- Trauma

EMDR (short for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) is a treatment for trauma developed by Francine Shapiro in the 1980s. This process involves the client doing eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation like tapping) as directed by a trained therapist while recalling distressing events with the goal of healing your mind. If you are reading this then it is likely that you have considered EMDR as a treatment for yourself or someone you know. In this 3-part series I will not attempt to explain how EMDR works or what your EMDR sessions will look like. Instead, I would like to touch on a few key topics in EMDR that will help you understand the process. This information can help you make decisions on if EMDR may be helpful for you and can give you some context as you discuss EMDR with your therapist.

EMDR was a treatment developed to treat trauma, so the first important question is: what is trauma? When many people hear the word trauma, it may conjure images of individual traumatic incidents. This is one way that trauma develops. One single incident can overwhelm a person and their normal coping mechanisms. In an intense situation like that, such as an assault, the brain is flooded with intense emotions that tell the body that this is a life or death situation. This leads to the “flight, flight, or freeze” response. In this escalated state, the brain is unable to process information in an adaptive, typical way.

Being in a traumatic situation does not always lead to a person feeling traumatized. The exact same situation will affect different people in different ways. Being affected differently by intense situations does not make one person better or worse than another. Sometimes, after an intense experience, a person may have lingering disturbing memories or reminders in the world around them that bring up similar feelings. When present situations or prompts activate those past memories, the brain can bring a person back to that traumatic incident. When this happens, the experience is relived as if it is happening again, including all the intense emotions and sensations. Once the brain goes to that place, the “flight, flight, or freeze” response kicks in and the brain is again unable to cope and adapt like the person may be used to.

Single incidents are not the only way that the brain can form these reactions. Distressing events are often remembered and processed in the brain with higher emotions, which make them memorable. Repeated exposure to these heightened emotions influences the way a person sees themselves and the world. This can work for or against a person. A child may have a support system that reinforces the belief that people are mostly good or that they are capable. On the other hand, a child may repeatedly receive the message, whether intentionally or unintentionally, that they are worthless or that the world is not a safe place for them. These messages lead to core beliefs about one’s self. Most people have some positive beliefs and some negative ones. When these repeated experiences or messages lead to a negative belief that prevents them from feeling okay and living the way they want to, that is trauma. In this way, a person does not have to consider themselves to be highly traumatized for a trauma response to affect their lives in undesirable ways.

Both single traumatic incidents and repeated more subtle incidents can have the same result. For example, imagine that two people are asked to meet with their intimidating supervisor. One person may have an experience where they were assaulted and felt trapped, and the other received a persistent message that they are worthless. They may each feel differently, but when the brain makes the association between the present and past trauma, both experiences can lead to the same “fight, flight, or freeze” response that may seem disproportionate from an outside perspective, but which makes perfect sense when taking into consideration what is happening inside the brain. EMDR can be used to address both single traumatic incidents and negative beliefs about oneself that are hard to tie to any specific incident.

In the next part of this 3 part series, I will discuss these negative core beliefs further and talk about what that means for the EMDR process.

 

 


This article was provided by RaeAnn Teichert; therapist at the Center for Couples and Families.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, contact us at 801 477 0041, or assistant@provofamilies.com.

Stuck on You: 4 Things That Show You Have a Healthy Relationship

Think back to when you were a child. Do you remember someone who was always there for you? Someone who was responsive to your needs and well-being? If you do, you could quite possibly have a secure attachment to that person. It turns out, this is a very important thing as we age and create new relationships with our significant other. Securely attached relationships “tend to be happier, more stable, and more satisfying.”1 

On the other hand, someone who never had that responsive caretaker or felt that their needs were not met could likely have developed an insecure attachment. This could cause trouble for your relationship. “Anxious attachment can appear as neediness and nagging in adult relationships. Avoidant attachment behavior can appear as withdrawn from emotional connection with a fear of being rejected.”2 Luckily there are ways to spot the issues and professionals that are able to help you or a loved one overcome their insecure attachment.

Here are 4 ways a healthy attachment keeps your relationship on the right track: 

  1. There is plenty of trust to go around.

If you grew up in a place where you had someone who was responsive and available. You likely have created a healthy attachment to that person. This helps us as we get older to establish these same types of trusting relationships with our significant other. Trust is an essential part of a healthy relationship.

  1. You are here to stay.

You were able to work through difficult times and situations with your figure of attachment from a young age. There was no fear of abandonment. As an adult you take that quality and express it yourself. You are there for your significant other and they are there for you, through the good times and the rough times.

  1. You are always improving.

In situations where there is an insecure attachment from a young age, professionals have found these people have a hard time taking feedback from anyone. If you find yourself grateful or eager to improve to help your relationship you likely have had a secure attachment from a young age.

  1. You may be upset but you are not yelling.

Insecure attachment in relationships often leads to short tempers and shouting contests. With secure attachments you are able to navigate your emotions and express yourself in a way that allows you to discuss disagreements, disputes or other uncomfortable topics that come up. Even if you are mad, you can keep your cool and make it out better on the other side.

So, what if things are not so good?

Even if you had a difficult relationship in your early years with your guardian, attachment styles can be worked through and improved. A person who experiences avoidant or anxious attachment styles can create a secure attachment with their spouse or partner. This can be done by developing an understanding of attachment styles, considering each person’s role in the relationship by removing blame, and creating new ways to interact with each other.2

Working through these steps to build a secure attachment with a spouse can be a process of change for both partners. It could be beneficial to work with a professional to have additional guidance throughout the process.

 

References

  1. Johnson, S. M. (2020). The practice of emotionally focused couple therapy: creating connection. New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

2. Weeks, G. R., & Fife, S. T. (2014). Couples in Treatment: Techniques and Approaches for Effective Practice. Taylor and Francis.

 


This article was provided by Shelise Williams; therapist at the Center for Couples and Families.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, contact us at 801 477 0041, or assistant@provofamilies.com.

Therapist Spotlight- Shelise Williams

 

Shelise Williams, a Utah native, in 2012 earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Behavior with an emphasis in Psychology from Utah Valley University. As an undergraduate, she spent time working with youth and families helping them learn essential family skills, improving their familial relationships in the Strengthening Family’s Program. In 2013, she spent time mentoring and educating at-risk youth. In 2015, she and her husband moved to Singapore, working with and understanding diverse populations from all over the region.

Currently, she resides in Utah County and is in the Master of Marriage and Family Therapy program at Utah Valley University. She is working on research involving pornography, moral incongruence and shame. Her education and training in family, adolescents and cultural diversity has led her to understand the uniqueness that each individual brings to a couple and a family. Her hobbies include getting outside in the Utah mountains and experiencing new places and new recreational activities with her husband.


Shelise is a therapist at the Center for Couples and Families in Orem, Utah.

Shelise works with individuals, couples, and families. To find out more or book an appointment, contact us at 801 477 0041 or assistant@provofamilies.com.

 

Parenting: It’s Not What You Think

 

Parenting: It’s Not What You Think

The ever-growing ideologies of parenthood offer two polar scenarios. The first is a beautiful imagery of always smiling children, as if they are cherubim with harps playing harmoniously in the background. Parents and children holding and hands and skipping in sync with bluebird’s sweet calls, complete with a rainbow crowning every day’s joyous experience. Alternatively, parenting children can be pictured as Jack-Jack from The Incredibles is portrayed: little devils that are on a merciless rampage, destroying everyone and everything in their path. While there is truth to both, it is no falsification that parenthood can be fulfilling and enjoyable and yet incredibly frustrating and draining. When your child hits their sibling, spills their dinner, yells incessantly, how do you react? What is in your arsenal of go-to consequences? At the end of a long day, filled with negative behavior left and right, do you find yourself defeatedly asking, “what do I do when nothing has worked?” What if you were told, “it’s not them, its you?” 

It can be terrifying to admit that you may be maintaining problematic behaviors, but shame aside, there is an intrinsic freedom in it. Recognizing detriments to progress delivers hope and increases motivation. I specialize in working with children who struggle with behavioral problems, focusing on systemic parental influences. I use the “Parenting Pyramid”, developed by the Arbinger Institute, to understand and treat underlying issues. The pyramid incorporates five different facets, often unaddressed, that unknowingly influence parenting proficiency. (Pictured below) 

At the foundation of positive parenting is each parent’s personal way of being. It is difficult to show endless compassion and love to others when you do not have it for yourself. Working the 24/7 hours of parenthood while battling one’s own debilitating depression, anxiety, physical ailment or self-deprecation is nearly unbearable. Therefore, seeking help for personal issues is the first step in improving your child’s behavior. 

If a positive relationship with one’s self is the foundation of positive parenting, the husband/wife (partnered) relationship is a close second. Children quickly pick up on emotions, behaviors and processes. Consciously or not, parents are continuously modeling to their children appropriate ways to behave in relationships with others. Partners that are close and connected are better able to model positive behavior to their children. 

Similarly, the specific parent/child relationship is of vital importance. Children will mirror what they see, behaving in relationships how they are treated themselves. If parent/child relationships are built on connection, unwavering love and trust, children will be more open to being taught, advised and if necessary, corrected. 

Most have heard the popular saying, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for one day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.” The same should be emphasized for children. If they are taught the reasoning behind not doing something (i.e., Please do not jump on the couch. Remember how badly it hurt when you tripped and scraped your knee? If you fall off the couch, you could scrape your knees even worse than that, and seeing you in pain makes me sad) they are much more likely to understand and follow through with requests. It is much easier to move forward if you know the direction that you are supposed to be moving in. 

At the very top, and let me emphasize, after all facets below have been addressed thoroughly, children can receive correction. Notice that the word is not punishment or criticism. Correction is an opportunity to express disapproval of one’s behavior, while teaching and modeling correct behavior in a loving manner. When you spank your child is out of anger? When words are harshly uttered do you regret it? Correction is behavior management that makes sense and is done purposefully. Using this approach, the parent/child relationship maintains its stability and the likelihood of the continuation of the negative behavior decreases.

 

Quick Tips for Behavior Change:

  • Don’t react out of anger. If your child does something that frustrates you, take a break, and then use correction in a purposeful manner. 
  • Go out on a date with your significant other to strengthen your relationship.
  • Take time to do something for yourself. Reflect on what you may need to do more or less of to enhance personal well-being. 
  • Positive Time-Out- If children are overstimulated and need a break from others, provide a safe place where they can experience a positive outlet. (i.e., read a book, do a puzzle, play with stuffed animals, draw/color/paint, etc.)
  • Balance every corrective statement you give your child with 5 compliments or encouragements. 
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This article was provided by Kaelie Lemmon, therapist at the Center for Couples and Families.
Kaelie 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: Kaelie Lemmon

 

Kaelie Lemmon, originally from Bluebell, Utah, received her bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in Family Studies. She is currently a master’s student at Utah Valley University. She has background in crisis situations and behavioral therapy with children and teens. She has published an article with United Families International, emphasizing the role of love and connection in the change process.

In 2014, she began working in the medical field as both a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Since 2014, Kaelie has been working in trauma and crisis situations and recognizes the huge impact that the physiological body has on relationships and mental health. In 2017, Kaelie began working with children and teens diagnosed with Autism as a Behavior Technician. Her education and training in both behavioral therapy and the medical field have led her to have a deep understanding of the cross-over of physical and mental health and the complexity of children’s experiences and thought processes, which influences her personal approach working with clients. She loves spending time outdoors, playing the piano, reading, and playing card games.

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Kaelie 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. 

 

Anxiety as Young Adults

Anxiety is a common struggle among many young adults. Between the stresses of school, work, dating, family relationships, thinking about the future, or other similar things it can seem impossible not to be anxious at times. With anxiety being highly treatable, there are many of things that you can do, even at home to help relieve the symptoms of anxiety. Understanding what is going on with your brain and body when you experience anxiety is an important first step in feeling relief.

 

When you are feeling anxious it is like your brain is setting off a fire alarm, telling the rest of your body that you are in danger. Even though you are likely not in danger your body, in this moment, reacts as if you were. While this fire alarm is going off in your brain you may experience sweaty hands, tense shoulders or neck, stomach wrenching, throat feeling closed off, chest pain, blood pumping faster, headaches, or tight muscles. It is helpful to realize and become aware of the physical symptoms you experience, as it can be difficult to realize when you are feeling anxious otherwise. Once you are able to recognize some of the symptoms, then you can try a technique to soothe your mind and body.

 

One of the quickest and easiest ways to relieve anxiety is deep breathing exercises. A great breathing exercise you can try is to simply take a deep breath in for a count of 4, then hold your breath for a count of 7, then breath out for a count of 8. (It is important to keep in mind that each person’s lung capacity is different, so adjust the counts as necessary.) Do as many sets of the breathing as necessary to start feeling calmer, but usually somewhere around 5-7 sets. If you still feel panicked and anxious, continue to do as many sets as you need to feel your body start to slow down.

 

Taking some deep breaths may seem too simple to actually help, after all anxiety can feel crippling at times. However, deep breathing has been proven over and over again to change your bodies’ physiological response to anxiety. When your body is under these moments of stress and panic, the sympathetic nervous system releases adrenaline and other chemicals which create all those symptoms mentioned earlier. Taking deep breaths activates the vagus nerve-one of the largest nerves in the body starting in the brain stem and extending down the neck all the way to the abdomen. The vagus nerve is responsible for mood regulation, heart rate, and digestion, so it is no wonder that by breathing and activating the vagus nerve it can make such a big difference in the way our bodies and minds feel.

 

The next time you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with life’s many tasks and stressors, take a moment, wherever you are, and take some deep breaths to invite your body and mind to relax and come back to the present moment. Although anxiety may feel overwhelming and like you are stuck, remember there is always a way out.

 

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This article was written by Hannah Grow, MFT Intern for the Center for Couples and Families.

Hannah is currently taking new clients at our Orem location.

To schedule an appointment, call us at 801 477 0041.

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. 

Center for Couples and Families is Moving!

Center for Couples and Families is moving!
Center for Couples and Families will relocate to a newly-remodeled building at the mouth of Provo Canyon this October.
 
The beautiful, redesigned building, located just west of Provo Canyon off of East 800 North, will provide a modern, updated facility for our clients to continue attending sessions with our highly-qualified therapist and aid in facilitating our growing clinic.  
The new facility will be located at 1426 East 820 North, Orem, Utah, 84097. 
 
Center for Couples and Families provides therapy for couples, children, teens, families, and individuals with highly qualified, expert therapists. To be a part of this exciting change, schedule an appointment with a certified marriage and family therapist by calling 801 477 0041.