How Does Sex Therapy Rescue Your Love Life? – 6 Incredible Ways

It is not a great topic to reveal that many people suffer from various sexual issues. Sex is an important aspect of people’s lives, and dealing with it may be challenging at times.

There are a variety of sexual disorders that make it difficult for people to connect with others. Certain sexual dysfunctions can disrupt relationships and negatively impact an individual’s overall happiness.

Many sexual problems are linked to mental health problems. Some of these challenges will be physical, but knowing how to approach things differently from a mental perspective can help improve the situation. If you’re concerned about your sexual life, a sex therapist may be able to help.

Understanding Sex Therapy

Sex therapy is a form of counseling in which couples or individuals can talk to a mental health professional like a sex therapist, marriage and family counselor, social worker, psychologist, or healthcare practitioner about their sexual health difficulties.

Practitioners of sex therapy aim to assist their clients in identifying and treating issues relating to their sexual health and dysfunction. Contemporary sex therapy tends to stress a few different directions:
• Being mindful (being aware of your thoughts, feelings, sensations, and emotions)
• Psychotherapy (using talk therapy, not just medication)
• Inclusiveness (adapting sex therapy to be more inclusive of different sexualities)
• Couples-oriented (looking at the role of partners, not just the individual)
• Attitude-shifting (changing an individual’s perception of sex)

How does a Sex Therapist Improve Your Life?

There are a variety of issues that counseling may assist with. Many sexual disorders are resolved with the proper use of therapy, and people will move on toward a more fulfilling sexual life.

Sex is an important aspect of people’s lives, and dealing with it may be challenging at times. There are a variety of sexual disorders that make it difficult for people to connect with others. Certain sexual dysfunctions can disrupt relationships and negatively impact an individual’s overall happiness. These include:

1- Problem With Sexual Arousal

Many people seek sex therapy because they are experiencing sexual arousal issues. For people in committed relationships, sexual arousal disorders may be quite challenging, and it might be frustrating not to perform sexually for someone you care deeply about.

A sex therapist can assist with male erectile dysfunction or female painful intercourse problems. Collaboration with a sex therapist is an effective strategy for figuring out what’s causing these issues. A person’s ability to experience arousal is frequently affected by a condition.

2- Conflicted About the Relationship

A partner who is suffering sexual dissatisfaction is a common example. In this case, it’s best to go to counseling on your own first to understand yourself and your sexual concerns better, then invite your partner in.

3- Lack of Desire

A person who is suffering sexual boredom is a frequent example. In this instance, it’s best to go to counseling on your own to understand yourself better and your sexual difficulties, then bring your partner in.

4- Lack of Motivation

An increasingly frequent condition happens when people lack interest in sexual fantasies or behavior and suffer pain or relationship troubles. Treatment entails several steps.

Therapists help clients recognize negative attitudes toward sex, investigate the causes of such attitudes, and develop new perspectives on sex. Clients may be asked to keep journals of their sexual thoughts, view romantic videos, or construct fantasies when the focus switches to conduct.
Therapists also address any relationship problems.

5- Traumatic Sexual Experiences From The Past

Patients benefit significantly from sex therapists’ ability to help them come to terms with prior sexual events that may be affecting their sexual desire or performance.

Sex therapists have expertise in working with rape and sexual assault victims. It can be a difficult journey, but various therapeutic strategies can help. It will take time to talk about the issues and re-establish your comfort level.

6- Intimacy Issues

Another prevalent sexual condition that prevents people from getting close to one another is intimacy difficulties. During sexual intercourse, some people seek an intimate sexual engagement yet have difficulties doing it. Many people are ashamed of getting intimate with another person to avoid having sexual relations altogether. It can make the individual with whom they interact feel incompetent, resulting in general discontent.

A qualified therapist may help persons with physical difficulties and other concerns interfering with intimacy between two adults in a relationship. It may include individual treatment and also couples counseling.

Maintaining a deep and emotionally intimate sexual connection with one’s partner as the relationship progresses and changes may be a big issue for certain relationships. However, with the right treatment and skilled sex therapists, some sexual issues are quickly resolved.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1- What does a sex therapist deal with?

Generally, sex therapists listen to concerns and offer therapy and instruction. They assess if the issue is psychological, physical, or both. They also collaborate with other medical and surgical experts to treat the medical causes of sexual problems.

2- What are the four critical principles of sex therapy?

The new sex therapy’s basic foundations include:
• A solid understanding of physiology, endocrinology, and metabolic function.
• Psychotherapy should be used only when organic factors have been excluded or identified
• Treatment of couples as a unit by dual-sex therapy teams,
• An intensive short-term program

3- Is sex therapy regulated?

Sex therapy requires no additional regulation since the language of the existing practices acts in marriage and family counseling and psychology cover most of the activities now constituting sex therapy and thereby limit the practice to licensed counselors.

For more information and how to locate a licensed sex therapist, use the search directory on Psychology Today.

6 Useful Tips to Keep Your Mind and Body Healthy

People these days are often so busy with work and their responsibilities that sometimes they forget to take care of their mental and physical health. 

However, if you keep this up, you risk your chances of burning out and developing certain illnesses that may be hard to treat later on. This is why it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure that your mind and body stay in top condition, especially during these troubling times when the world is currently under a global health crisis. 

Apart from avoiding the development of serious ailments and conditions, one of the benefits of keeping yourself strong and healthy includes saving yourself the trouble of paying for expensive hospital and doctors’ fees. 

With this in mind, you can do more activities while prolonging your life expectancy in the process. Read on to learn more about how you can ensure that you stay healthy. 

De-Stress

Stress can come from an abundance of factors that you face in your everyday life. If you do not find ways to remove stress from your body, it can contribute to the development of serious medical conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease. 

Luckily, there are many ways you can try to de-stress, such as listening to relaxing music, lighting a scented candle, meditating every night, or even treating yourself to a massage. 

Exercise regularly

Breaking a sweat regularly keeps your body in good shape and allows you keep your muscles from going stiff. At the same time, you can maintain a healthy weight range and boost your strength, which can affect your overall appearance as you age. 

Watch your diet 

A healthy diet is one of the best ways to ensure that your body stays healthy and gains the necessary nutrients to function properly. Eating a variety of foods that are right in minerals and vitamins can be beneficial, especially for those at a higher risk of developing genetic illnesses such as diabetes. 

Take a break

Overworking yourself will do you no good and only put your health at risk. Always remember to take a few short breaks during the day to refresh your mind and stretch out your body. By doing so, you also allow yourself to perform better and reduce the amount of time you need to recover at the end of your shift. 

Get checked 

Apart from maintaining a good diet and exercising regularly, make it a habit to regularly get yourself checked out by your doctor. While you may feel fine, this is a good way to know if your body has developed any early signs of complications that can be prevented quickly. In most cases, going for a check-up annually or bi-annually is recommended. 

Talk to a counselor

Keeping yourself mentally healthy is another way to look out for yourself and prevent problems from escalating. When certain situations seem to be too difficult for you to handle, seek out a professional counselor to talk to about your concerns and gain guidance on what you can do to reduce your stress and anxiety. 

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

The majority of people today find that regularly keeping up with an exercise routine and a balanced diet is too tedious. In most cases, people succumb to the convenience of modern-day creations such as instant-cooked foods filled with unhealthy preservatives while spending most of the day sitting down on the couch glued to the television or our phones. 

If you do not change your lifestyle into a healthier one, you risk major consequences later on in life that you may regret. Never wait until a doctor tells you that you need to exercise more and keep a good diet. Start taking care of your health today. 

Music: The Secret to Mental Health and Balance While Aging

No matter where you travel, you’ll notice one universal truth — music has a very particular and powerful hold on us all. Cultures everywhere make and love music. This has been the case throughout history. We have used music to relax, communicate and celebrate — the human brain is hard-wired to react to music. According to Kimberly Sena Moore, a neurologic music therapist, “Your brain lights up like a Christmas tree when you listen to music.”

The magic of music goes much further than entertainment — there a surprising number of health benefits for the elderly, and there is a lot of evidence to support the fact that music is a secret weapon when it comes to maintaining optimal mental health and balance in our old age.

Boost Memory by Learning to Play an Instrument

If you want to ensure your memory is strong well into your winter years, consider picking up an instrument. Regardless of what you prefer to play, the act of learning how to play will sharpen your memory recall. This is because the process of learning and playing an instrument requires a great number of complex tasks, such as reading musical notes and knowing where to place your fingers. In time, this expands your working memory capacity and your ability to multiprocess without feeling overloaded. You will also be able to remember information for longer periods.

Music Can Act as a Stress Reliever

Coping with stress can become more difficult as we get older. We have less resilience to it, and it can affect us differently, which is stressful in and of itself. On top of changes in response to stress, we can experience changes in triggers as the years go by, so it is important we all find a way to cope.

There have been many studies to show music has a notable (and positive) effect on our stress and blood pressure levels. In fact, this is the case even if we’re not conscious. One study involving surgery patients found the use of music before an operation reduced stress levels to an even greater degree than anti-anxiety medication. The act of singing sends small vibrations throughout the body, which lowers cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and releases endorphins, thereby helping to keep you calm and collected in trying times.

Music Can Reduce Falls in the Elderly

Remarkably, studies show when the elderly exercise while listening to music, it helps them maintain balance and reduce the risk of falling. Falling is a huge concern for those over the age of 65, and music might well be the answer. According to a 2011 Swiss study, where participants were trained to walk and perform certain movements in time to music, they experienced 54% fewer falls when compared to the control group. The study also found that walking speed and stride length increased as a result.

A Good Drum Beat Can Kickstart Brain Function

The brain instinctively syncs to a rhythm. Because of this, therapists use drumming to get through to patients with severe dementia who don’t normally respond to external stimulus. When dementia patients hear music, you can detect a noticeable shift. They show more of an interest in their surroundings, they clap to the beat or even sing. This is because music can stimulate many parts of the brain simultaneously. Music which was popular when the patient was between the ages of 18 and 25 generally gets the most positive response.

Music Can Soothe Physical and Emotional Pain

Swedish researchers have found your favourite music can be a great pain reliever, as it can distract us and boost positive emotions. Interestingly, by evoking nostalgia, music can help us get through the pain, both physical and emotional.

Music Can Combat Depression and Boost Happiness

A serotonin imbalance in the brain causes depression. When you listen to music, you experience a boost in serotonin, so music can be used as a tool to combat depression in the elderly. Doctors claim the simple act of singing can release oxytocin, providing a significant mood booster. So while music alone may never entirely relieve the symptoms brought about by depression, it can certainly do its bit to enhance wellbeing.

Music Provides Opportunities for Social Interaction

Music can provide an essential source for social contact, which promotes interaction and a sense of belonging. This is increasingly important as we age. By incorporating music therapy and joining a choir, the opportunities to socialise and collaborate let us make new friendships and create new bonds.

Music Can Improve Quality and Quantity of Sleep

Many seniors don’t get as much sleep as they need, which can cause serious medical issues in time. Lack of sleep has been shown to have a profound and negative impact on mental health and wellbeing. A 2009 meta-analysis found music can improve the quality and quantity of sleep. Of course, the benefits may not happen overnight. But if you persist, in as little as three weeks, you should notice a pay off from this relaxation technique. Some of these include falling asleep faster and remaining asleep for longer.

Using Deliberate Practice to Improve Social Work Practice

Every field from sports and entertainment to science and politics include individuals who excel, those who are average and those that struggle. We all dream about being the top performer but it may not be obvious how we get there. If you’re familiar with the pop-psychology book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, you’ll know that he suggested 10,000 hours as the magic number for greatness. While that book de-emphasized some of the elements identified by researchers, there is a lot of research on how to be the best Social Worker you can be.

Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice, as defined by Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson (one of the foremost researchers in the topic of expertise) involves training or learning activities that are specifically designed to improve performance. Usually, that means having a coach or trainer who is a high-performer and working through an outcome-based curriculum to develop one’s skills. The “read it, watch it, do it” model of teaching counselling skills is one example of deliberate practice in action.

Applying Deliberate Practice to Social Work

In order to apply deliberate practice to social work, we must understand the current state of the field. Scott D. Miller and his organization, the International Center for Clinical Excellence (ICCE) has conducted research showing that much of the outcome in therapy sessions among different clinicians was the result of how much time they spent developing and refining their skills. This deliberate practice added up to 7 hours per week in the most effective clinicians and just 20 minutes per week in the least effective ones.

Clinical supervision is one opportunity to engage in deliberate practice, as is video or audio-taping your sessions (with client consent) in order to identify areas for improvement. Taking classes and other courses as part of a continuing competency program is also helpful – as long as you ensure you actually change your practice as a result of taking those classes.

Evaluation and Outcomes

In addition to engaging in deliberate practice, one must also regularly evaluate themselves to ensure they are really making progress. In the same way that we may administer a Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) tool to a client as they proceed throughout therapy, it is important that we evaluate ourselves.

The ICCE provides two tools for this purpose: the Session Rating Scale (SRS) and the Outcome Rating Scale (ORS). The SRS is used to assess the degree of therapeutic alliance (your client’s perception of their relationship with you), while the ORS allows the client to rate their level of functioning in order for the therapist to get a sense of their pre-session and post-session change.

Both the ORS and the SRS have been extensively researched. Clinicians using the ORS/SRS and engaging in deliberate practice have the opportunity to move from being an average therapist to being one of the “supershrinks” – the top 10% of performers that are known for being extremely effective with clients.

The reason this kind of evaluation is effective is because they have a true understanding from real-time data of what works and what doesn’t work in therapy with each individual client, a far cry from the generic tools used to evaluate therapy after it is completed or exit-interviews emailed or mailed to clients who have stopped showing up to sessions.

Conclusion

If you want to improve your social work practice, you can begin to put deliberate practice into use immediately. Add rating scales like the ORS/SRS to your therapy sessions. Go back to the basics and review the therapeutic modalities. Practice your empathy statements, and continue your professional development.

How to Maintain Mental Health When Diagnosed with a Physical Illness

A diagnosis of a physical disease or ailment is the last thing anyone wants to encounter in their lifetime. Humans are naturally concerned with self-preservation, which prompts our hunger for advancements in comfort, technology, and healthcare. For many people, a cancer diagnosis may be the worst news they receive, but imagine having multiple diseases piling on top of each other and feeding off one another.

Here lies the intersection between mental and physical health. A study published in the Western Journal of Medicine (WJM) by psychiatrists Jane Turner and Brian Kelly found these ailments can compound one another, leading to the worsening of both illnesses.

Mental and Physical Health, Linked

It is no surprise a diagnosis with a chronic physical illness can lead to feelings of grief, sadness, hopelessness, and a general need to adjust to a new lifestyle. However, the WJM study found sometimes these feelings can turn into something more severe, like depression or other psychiatric disorders.

Separating an expected period of emotional adjustment from a legitimate disorder is difficult, as is discerning between symptoms associated with depression, or ones common in patients of physical diseases.

For example, cancer patients undergoing strenuous and tiresome treatments like radiation or chemotherapy are likely to experience fatigue, appetite changes, weight fluctuations, mood disturbances, and sleep pattern changes. These symptoms are also common in depression patients, which can make a mental diagnosis very difficult.

“Despite these difficulties,” wrote Turner and Kelly, “it is essential to diagnose and treat depression in patients with chronic conditions. Even mild depression may reduce a person’s motivation to gain access to medical care and to follow treatment plans.”

If patients begin to neglect their treatments, this may impact their physical health, leading to further feelings of hopelessness and an exacerbation of depressive states, creating a vicious cycle hurting the patient at the center of it all.

Those Who Are Hit Hardest

Certain populations are more at risk of developing serious diseases than others. Cancers often result in this sort of psychological impairment, and there are a number of risk factors for developing different forms of the disease.

Low-income populations are generally more at risk for developing cancer, as evidenced by a Korean study found the lowest income brackets are over 110% more likely to develop stomach, lung, liver, rectal and cervical cancers.

Lung cancers, in particular, have a much higher incidence among lower income tiers at around 160% more likely. Developing cancers like mesothelioma or lung cancer can be largely due to environmental factors, which can be difficult to rectify for lower-income populations.

Asbestos, the only known cause of mesothelioma, was used amply in the construction of housing complexes during the 20th century. Many low incomes and public housing complexes have been around since the asbestos era, disproportionately exposing people who live there to the dangers of asbestos.

Other environmental toxins like smoke, lead paint, mold, and chemicals are common in housing complexes and are all risk factors for cancers and other health ailments.

For social workers, it’s important to make sure residents of places with environmental toxins are aware of their available courses of action. For example, if a building built before 1980 appears to be in disrepair, residents can approach their landlords about bringing in asbestos abatement professionals. Many states have provisions concerning the habitability standard property owners must maintain, or risk having their tenants break their leases.

Treating the Mind and Body

For anyone diagnosed with a serious physical illness, mental health care should be part of a holistic treatment plan. Mary Jane Massie, a psychiatrist specializing in treatment for people with breast cancer at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, has learned oncology patients do less well when depressed.

“This is probably due in part to the fact that because they feel bad,” Massie said. “Psychologically, physically, or both —they decide it isn’t useful to take their medications. And there can be a domino effect: They stop filling their prescriptions and may even start to miss medical appointments. But there is a lot of help available.”

Many top notch cancer treatment centers like Memorial Sloan Kettering now offer emotional support services, but not everyone can afford these facilities or is geographically close to them. Of course, there are other ways to help these patients.

Many diseases, like Alzheimer’s, Breast Cancer, and ALS, have extensive support networks for patients and their families. Support groups for physical diseases can help mental health by connecting people going through similar circumstances and giving them an outlet to talk.

Other emotional support options include individual counseling, online support groups, and virtual therapists. Some patients may prefer to go the route of medication. Depending on the individual, talk therapy may feel like too much of a commitment and antidepressant medications may seem undesirable for other reasons.

Psychological concerns don’t end after the physical disease has been treated though. Post-treatment depression can be common for many patients, even those who didn’t suffer mental health concerns during diagnosis or treatment. For other patients, end of life counseling may be in order.

Healthcare professionals are generally equipped to treat the whole patient, but some people may not know when to ask for additional help beyond physical treatment. For a patient of any serious illness, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of psychological distress and familiarize themselves with what to expect along the treatment path.

Life After Addiction Treatment: How to Fill the Void During Recovery

The first year of recovery is difficult to manage. Triggers lie everywhere and applying the skills you learned in rehab is easier said than done. When a recovering addict first begins life after their addiction, they may discover a void left from their past life. Whether the void is their past experiences, low self-esteem, or avoiding bad feelings, addicts typically used drugs or alcohol to fill that void.

Now in the absence of those unhealthy “coping” mechanisms, addicts now face those voids alone. Maintaining recovery requires an addict to learn how to fill their life with positive things and not go backwards into their old ways.

The certified counselors at Cold Creek Behavioral Health have put together a list of recovery and coping skills in handling life after treatment.

Recovery Skills

Rehab isn’t the end of addiction, it’s only the beginning of recovery. Once an addict leaves treatment they soon realize that life and all the factors that brought them into their addiction are still there waiting for them.

Although you can’t change everything, you can learn how to handle things better and develop behaviors that’ll help you maintain your recovery.

Learn to Mourn

As strange as it may sound, it’s important to begin your recovery by first mourning the loss of your past addiction. Since your past addiction had been with you for a very long time, it’s important you mourn the loss of it. This can require not only giving up the addiction but saying goodbye to bad friends, places, and the unhealthy habits that led to your addiction. From where you used to hang out to who you were with regularly and on, it determined a lot of your day.

It’s important you recognize that loss but also recognize that although it was something you did—it didn’t define you. Recognize that loss and move past it. Then you can move on and maintain your recovery day to day, drug-free.

Avoid High-Risk Situations and Triggers

Some common high-risk situations are described in treatment as the acronym, HALT:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

Recognize Your Emotions

Of course, you can’t always avoid HALT situations, but you can be more aware of them. If you take better care of yourself, you’ll be able to recognize your emotions before they send you spiraling. By develop healthy habits, use support groups, and more, many of these situations will be far and few between, rather than consistent occurrences.

Steer Clear of Boredom

For an addict, feeling a sense of boredom is dangerous. This is because it allows your mind to wander and not stay focused on maintaining your recovery. This can even go as far as triggering a relapse. For that reason, it’s important that you stay busy.

Fill your day with activities you enjoy. Find new interests. Keep busy. This will keep you busy and far from the feeling of boredom. It also helps you develop healthy habits. Remember: a routine is critical to helping you stay abstinent.

Fill Your Life with People and Love

A great way to start filling that void is to re-establish old friendships that may have been lost on your path of addiction. Surround yourself with supportive people both help you and make you feel cared for and loved.

Recovery is also a good time for an addict to mend fences with family and friends. Doing this will also help make you feel better about yourself because you’ll be righting your wrongs and maintaining your recovery.

Healthy Habits and Activities Are Crucial

There are many activities you can pick up on the road to recovery, as well. Some of these healthy activities include:

  • Making a to-do list so you can feel a sense of accomplishment as you mark things off.
  • Relaxing and trying to stay stress free
  • Playing video games to relax your mind
  • Reading
  • Doing crossword puzzles
  • Start becoming more proactive by starting a blog or doing volunteer work
  • Play sports
  • Take a class
  • Learn to coo

Other Coping Skills

Some other skills that are very helpful in maintaining your recovery include:

Stress Management

Learn how to handle your stress in healthy ways. Use tools listed above to help tackle your stress one day at a time.

Honesty

Make sure that you are completely honest with yourself and others. One of the key components of drug addiction is creating a culture of deceit—combat that with complete honesty and integrity.

Therapy

Maintaining a regular schedule of therapy sessions can really improve your chances of staying clean—especially in the first year.

No matter what you do, staying busy with some type of constructive activity and surrounding yourself with healthy relationships is a key component to staying sober and not letting old triggers creep back into your life. Maintain realistic expectations and remember: getting and staying sober is a process, a marathon; it’s not a sprint.

How to Prevent an Addict from Relapsing

Preventing a relapse is typically harder than it was getting sober. The reason for this is because maintaining recovery spans a lifetime. There is always a chance that a trigger lies right around the next corner and without support in defeating that trigger, an addict can start their former patterns all over again.

Tips for Helping a Recovering Addict

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help. For example:

Finding a support group where the addict feels comfortable, can also provide a great deal of help. Being part of a group where members have gone through the same trials and tribulations helps an addict feel less alone in his or her struggle, and more like there is somewhere he or she belongs.

Family support is also of the utmost importance. The family structure is one of the key ways recovering addicts maintain their recovery, but it can also be a trigger source for some. Making sure you’re being as supportive as possible can help them immensely.

Just being around for non-judgmental listening can help tremendously. If an addict feels they can go to you for help when they are feeling triggered will help them in more ways than one and usually helps avert any crisis.

How Massage Can Relieve Workplace Pain And Stress

Massages are not only limited to luxury spas and health clubs. You have access to massage therapy in clinics, hospitals, and even airports. Some business centers like Google offer massages to their employees at work, so they remain energetic and fresh to perform efficiently and add to the progress of the company. Massage can do much more than relieving pains and soothe sore muscles. It is only a matter of understanding that massage therapy is just like a moment of relaxation and enhance the overall physical and emotional well-being. There are different types of massage therapies; such as:

  • Shiatsu massage therapy
  • Trigger point massage therapy
  • Swedish massage therapy
  • Deep massage therapy
  • Sports massage therapy

All of these therapies are based on different theories and are done using different techniques. But, all of them are effective and have long lasting effects.

When you are at work and have to sit in a cramped office chair with a bright computer screen at the front, you get tired and stressed. Employees with more workload have more chances to get stressed and have adverse effects on their health, but people with lesser work are prone to stress as much as the others. Remaining restricted to your work area makes you vulnerable to back, neck and shoulder pain. However, massage therapy can help you relieve all the pressure, aches, pain and stress. There are a lot of researches going on to examine the impact of massage therapy as an intervention for health care. Following are a few issues that are faced by people while they are at work; we will tell you how massage can be helpful in treating them.

Carpel tunnel syndrome

When you are sitting in one posture for long hours and continuously typing on keyboard along with operating the mouse, you are most likely to suffer from carpel tunnel syndrome. It is a musculoskeletal injury where your body’s movements are affected due to bad posture or excessive movement of one part of the body. More than a million American employees have to call in sick at work due to work-related injuries and stress. People are advised to have weekly massage therapy to deal with inflammatory injuries and discomfort.

Reduce anxiety

Swedish massage therapy is well known to be the most effective in dealing with anxiety and depression. Shorter deadlines and urgent presentations increase anxiety leading to depression in employees. According to medical science, when an individual is under stress, he is unable to perform the way he could have performed otherwise. Moreover, it is diagnosed that male workers suffer from higher intensities of depression as compared to female workers.

Blood pressure

Blood pressure was only common in the age group of 45 and above, but with the increased work and social pressures, people of younger age groups are also suffering from high blood pressure. Trigger point massage and chair massage, both are helpful in dealing with blood pressure problems. Some workplaces have massage chairs for their employees, and each employee is advised to have a 15-minute massage break each day so they can take care of their blood pressure.

Massages decrease the heart rate along with systolic and diastolic blood pressure. When the blood pressure is within a normal range, there are lesser chances of getting prone to heart issues and nervous breakdown. Individuals that opt for weekly massage sessions are reported to have a better mental state in comparison to the people who do not go for regular massages.

Massages are beneficial for everyone; irrespective of age and gender. However, there are a few things you must tell your massage therapist so he can guide you likewise and opt for an appropriate technique. Some of the major points you must discuss with your therapist are:

  • If you have or had any fractures
  • If you are on blood thinners
  • In case you have any bleeding disorders
  • If you have any deep vein thrombosis
  • In case there are any healing wounds
  • If you are a patient of thrombocytopenia
  • If you are suffering from osteoporosis

Just like you don’t hide anything from your medical health practitioner, you do not have to hide anything from your massage therapist as well.

Massage therapies are known to have a positive impact on the physical, mental and emotional state of an individual. Massages improve the blood circulation and relieve the stress that your body takes by being in the same posture for long hours at work. An employer’s life is very complicated; he has to be efficient at work and make time for his family and friends as well. Having a massage once in a while can improve his health condition and keep him fresh and energetic to meet the social and personal requirements.

5 Things To Tell Your Teenager With an Alcohol Addiction

parents-teens

The legal age for drinking alcohol is 21, but that doesn’t stop many teenagers from drinking. Although the number of reported instances of underage drinking is done, according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, there is still much to be done in the fight against underage drinking and all the problems that can result from it, such as vehicular accidents, sexual assault and death.

While most teens start drinking as a way to fit in with their friends and have fun at social gatherings, some find that the addictive powers of alcohol have made an immense impact on their impressionable minds. IF your teenager has an alcohol addiction, it can be a very difficult thing for the two of you to address. Here are five things you can tell your teenager with an alcohol addiction.

1.Their Addiction Does Not Define Them

The stigma of dealing with addiction can make many people feel like they’re a pariah in society. For a young person like a teenager, they might feel like they’ve ruined everything for themselves and the people around them. Take the time to remind your teenager of all their positive qualities and commend them for tackling their addiction. Remind them of how many people there must be who don’t have the courage to face their problems like they do.

2. They Are Not A Bad Person

Even if alcohol has influenced your teen to do things that they otherwise wouldn’t, you should remind them that an addiction doesn’t make them a bad person. You should tell them that their willingness to fight their addiction means they possess a strength that speaks to their character.

3. You’re Here For Them

Dealing with addiction can make people feel isolated and alone. Since it’s a largely mental battle, people recovering from substance abuse can feel as though they’re trapped in their minds with no one to turn to. Not only should you tell your teen that you are here for them, you should show it as well. Spend time with them and engage in fulfilling activities the two of you will enjoy. This will help them keep their mind off alcohol and help bring the two of you closer together. You might even look into innovative ways for your teen to help keep their mind clear. For instance, wilderness therapy is a type of behavioral therapy in which the powers of nature and outdoor exploring can help to cleanse one’s mind. These programs address matters such as substance abuse and could be the right solution for your teen on their path to recovery from alcohol addiction.

4. Addiction Can Happen to Anyone

Since your teen is young, they’re unlikely to have a sophisticated understanding of addiction and all that it entails. They might have stereotypical views of addicts and believe that they can’t be included in that group. Tell them about how substance abuse and addiction is a health matter, not a moral matter. Encourage them by telling them how addressing an addiction early on lessens its grip on them.

5. You Love Them

Addiction can put a tremendous strain on your relationship with your teen. The road to recovery can be rocky and there’s no surefire method of success. However, you’ll want your teen to know that you love and support them. You might not love or support some of the choices they’ve made, but you love them for all the joy their life has provided you. Your emotional support can make all the difference in helping them to cope with their addiction.

Depression: Youth, Counseling and Antidepressants

The advent of modern antidepressant medication has been a lifesaver to many. Recent research demonstrates that a combination of counselling and medication can provide the most effective treatment for youth suffering from depression.

However, there is evidence to suggest that in the early stages of medication treatment, there is an elevated risk of suicidal thought, which for some persons may lead to suicidal behaviour. This is causing a great many people to reconsider their use of medication, even when indicated.

This issue is determining which youth will benefit from one or the other or both treatments. To this end a good assessment will look for exogenous factors and endogenous factors.

Exogenous factors are those things outside of the individual that may contribute to depression. These include; family dysfunction, abuse or neglect, parental separation, school related problems and relationship problems. If it can be determined that one or more of these kinds of factors are at play, then counselling alone may be sufficient to treat depression.

Such counselling includes family therapy, or in the case of separated and fighting parents, mediation to help them resolve their conflict, so that the youth is no longer subject to their turmoil. If the youth is in a difficult interpersonal relationship, then counselling for the youth to address the difficulty may be in order. If the youth is abused or neglected, these issues must be addressed and the youth’s safety must be attained.

Endogenous factors generally relate to biological or neurobiochemical factors. If there is a history of depression in the family and there are no known exogenous factors, then medication alone may be the treatment of choice. Often though, with endogenous depression, the sufferer has difficulty controlling depressive thoughts and as such, in this situation a very specific form of counselling, CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, is also indicated.

There are times of course when both endogenous and exogenous factors are at play. In these circumstances a combination of counselling and medication could be in order and should seriously be considered.

Parents and youth are cautioned against making their decision solely on the basis of newspaper articles proclaiming the good or the bad about any treatment. Depression is a serious disorder, which left untreated can lead to suicidal thoughts, action, injury and death.

If you or your child is depressed, obtain a good assessment by qualified professionals that will look at both endogenous and exogenous factors and devise a treatment plan accordingly. Further, the counsellor and the prescribing physician should be working hand-in-glove following the individual to manage safety issues and communicating regularly about progress.

It is important to know that with antidepressant medication, it can take a good thirty days before the therapeutic effect is achieved. During this time, counselling may be of benefit to resolve other issues as listed above or to simply provide support until the medication reaches effectiveness.

If you or your child is depressed, get help. It is often advisable to start with your family doctor or community clinic. A physician can make the diagnosis and direct you to treatment.

When to Turn to Outside Help

Many parents are struggling with adolescents and young adults who suffer from mental health, substance abuse, and other typical issues associated with this age group. Although the usual courses of therapy and medications have been tried, for some, these therapies are just not working. In these cases, alternative therapies are being sought out.

One type of alternative therapy parents are asking questions about is outdoor therapy. This type of therapy has been around for decades, but is quite different from the first offerings parents may remember from years ago.

What is Outdoor Therapy?

Outdoor therapy is a treatment option that takes place over an 8 to 10 week period. Its purpose is to help adolescents and young adults with mental health issues and issues of addiction. It is a full immersion style therapy that can include one on one sessions with therapists and group therapy sessions with other participants.

Along with formal therapy, the participants take part in team building exercises and life skill courses. Part of the program also includes regular exercise, excellent nutrition, and incorporating healthy sleep habits.

The therapy is tailored to the individual after being assessed by a mental health professional. The patient is placed with therapists and peers with similar issues to promote optimal mental health benefits.

What are the Benefits?

Wilderness therapy is typically high structured for participants. Although there is downtime to eat and rest, most of the time spent is either in formal therapy or informal therapeutic activities. Young adults who discover they can not only survive, but thrive, in the wilderness, experience a greater sense of self and higher self esteem.

The therapy also promotes self reliance. For example, a teen who refuses to participate and learn how to build a fire will learn later on that they will have to eat their meals cold because of their reluctance to engage. The awareness that no one is going to do it for them forces the person to learn how to do it themselves or suffer the consequences of their behavior.

The simple nature of being outdoors promotes physical health. It has been shown in numerous studies that exercise bolsters mental health and can alleviate depression.

The therapy takes place outdoors, which means there is no place to isolate themselves from others and no electronics to hide behind. Participants must confront their issues head on.

The outdoor setting allows mental health professionals to conduct therapy in ways that do not feel like therapy to teens. These sessions are simply fun and and teens may not feel pressure to participate. This is important for rebellious teens and those with authority issues.

Being outside and away from environments that promote unhealthy or unsafe choices is a huge benefit Of these programs. The removal of outside forces on impressionable youth can make a big difference in jump starting therapeutic benefits.

What Does the Research Show?

The Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council, or OBH council, has conducted research on the benefits of outdoor therapy. Their research shows that the therapeutic benefits of outdoor therapy are sustained in participants at the one year mark.

The OBH council’s research also found that most participants reported a decrease in their mental health and substance abuse issues at the end of the therapy.

Who Can Benefit?

Young people who can benefit from outdoor therapy include those suffering from definable mental health issues such as Asberger’s syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, anorexia, bulimia, anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder. Outdoor therapy can also help adolescents and their families dealing with typical issues of rebellion, low self esteem, and substance abuse.

With its full immersion model of therapy and measurably good outcomes, outdoor therapy may be the right alternative to traditional therapies for many young adults and teens. For parents who are struggling with family members going down the wrong path, the benefits of this therapy can be a lifesaver.

How to Choose the “Right” Counselor: The 4 C’s of Finding the Best Fit

Making the decision to seek out professional counseling is a significant step for one’s personal growth and healing. It can be scary to share the details of your life with a stranger and it takes courage to make that initial call and schedule an appointment.

Sometimes we feel embarrassed or ashamed about needing to go to counseling and, for the most part, people are usually nervous about going to counseling, no matter what the issue may be. However, getting the help you need (before things get really bad) is worth it. It’s like getting regular physical exercise. You do so in order that your body becomes healthy and stays in shape; likewise, counseling helps you have a healthy mind, emotions and spirit.

If you’re in the process of considering counseling (or know someone who is), here are four factors to consider when it comes to finding the right fit.

Convictions

Do I agree with this counselor’s philosophy of counseling? Types of counseling include Christian counseling (often integrates Scripture and secular counseling methods), Biblical counseling (God speaks to us through the Scriptures revealing Himself and what we need to know about ourselves and the world around us), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Mindfulness (just to name a few).

Unfortunately, it’s a common error to settle for a counselor whose methods and beliefs are not actually consistent with your own values. These differences can pose a stumbling block for growth and change. If you start with a counselor whose views don’t match up with yours regarding human behavior and heart change then you should seek out a different counselor.

Competency

Does the counselor have experience in counseling someone with my particular struggle? Previous experience with your particular struggle is not a requirement. However, you may prefer working with someone who’s helped others with this issue already. Also, some needs may require specialists or counselors with more experience in a certain area.

Connection

Is this person a complementary fit with my own personality? Do I prefer a male or female counselor? Does counselor gender matter? Is this someone I think I can be vulnerable with? Do I feel understood by the counselor? Am I left feeling frustrated at the end of my sessions? It’s a shame how many people spend their time and hard-earned money on counselors or therapists who they feel don’t understand them or haven’t really helped them.

If you aren’t growing, express this concern with your counselor to see if changes can be made to better help you. If that doesn’t work you should find a new counselor. A good counselor will adjust methods for the good of the client and if unable to do so, should refer you to someone else.

Cost

Is this Counselor a fit with my finances? Is this counselor or therapist in my health insurance network and plan? Do I have out of network coverage? If not, am I able to pay out of pocket? Is there a payment plan available? Is there a slide scale option for those who are out of network? Some counselors or practices can provide services at a reduced rate especially for students and single parents.

It never hurts to ask. Most of these factors are ones that can’t be fully determined until you’ve had at least one to two sessions. During your counseling experience you may start with one counselor and then transition to working with another for various reasons. Pursue the process with a prayerful heart asking God to lead you to the one who is the best fit for you and your situation.

Good counselors also know when to refer clients to another who is a better fit for the well being of the client. Whether you are just starting the search for a professional counselor or you have been seeing a counselor for some time, the four C’s can help you make the best of your journey towards growth and healing.

Four Social Work Practice Models

To best assist clients as they work to overcome whatever challenges they are facing, a social worker must employ proven techniques. Different clients have different needs, and each of the following techniques approaches social work from a slightly different perspective. Social workers can choose the technique that best resonates with them, and their clients, to offer the most effective assistance possible.

Task-Centered Practice (TCP)

Sometimes referred to as one of social work’s original “evidence-based” practice models, TCP has been around for nearly 40 years. At its core, TCP asks social workers and their clients to come up with specific, achievable goals in order to treat target problems.

Task-Centered Practice uses a four-step process to do this.

  • Define the problem
  • Establish goals
  • Work on goals
  • Review goals

Once the problem has been defined, the process guides the social worker and client to establish goals to deal with the problem, creating a contract between them. They then engage in several sessions over some short period of time during which the clients and social workers share the outcomes of their work toward these goals, and how well those outcomes have succeeded at overcoming the initial problem.

Narrative Approach

The narrative approach to social work involves helping clients to talk about their problems as if they were a story. This has several effects. First, it helps clients view the problem as external to themselves, rather than some intrinsic part of them. Second, it helps them see how the problem affects their lives both in negative and positive ways, and it can assist them in developing compassion for themselves and their own situations. Finally, it presents the opportunity for the social worker and client to come up with alternate stories as a way for the client to envision what his or her life might be like without the problem in question.

The primary benefit of the narrative approach is in helping the client gain distance and objectivity in regards to the problem. The narrative approach can also be used to guide clients into discerning the causality that led to the problem, which in turn can help inform their future behavior.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)

SFBT assumes that clients are the experts on their problems and that they are the makers, to some extent, of their own reality. The corollary to these assumptions is that clients already have the solutions to their problems and just need help recognizing them. SFBT then focuses on helping clients come up with their own solutions.

Much of this is done through hedging language, such as “I wonder what would happen if…”, and coping questions, such as asking clients how they manage to fulfill their daily obligations, even with the problem in question in the way. The “miracle question” is also a common technique, wherein the social worker asks a question like, “Suppose some miracle happened tomorrow and you no longer had this problem. What’s the first thing you’d notice?” By asking these questions in this way, the social worker and client work together to come up with achievable solutions and goals to help overcome or deal with problems.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

The basic principle of CBT is that our thoughts and feelings shape our reality and by changing how we perceive the world, we can change how we experience it. For example, a person with anxiety might believe that everything is going to go wrong during a given day. This preconception then leads this person to pay disproportionate attention to things that go wrong, which confirms the belief and strengthens it. CBT challenges the client to confront that belief, to try to see things in a different way and be more aware of how things are, rather than perceptions.

CBT techniques often incorporate meditation, mindfulness, relaxation and out-of-session homework, in addition to traditional talk therapy. Through these techniques, CBT teaches clients to take control of their own therapy and their own world, to be more present in the moment and to be more aware of the reality around them.

Becoming a Social Worker

At Campbellsville University, the online Master of Social Work provides students with the knowledge and field practice for careers assisting people in need. Campbellsville also offers an online Bachelor of Social Work where students gain foundational skills for the profession. Learn in a dynamic and engaging online environment that allows you to advance your career on your schedule.

Did Therapy Not Work For You?

Woman crying on sofa during therapy session while therapist is taking notes

If therapy didn’t work for you, chances are, it was the wrong type. However, you and your therapist may not have realized it. Broadly speaking, therapy can be divided into four types: long-term, moderate term, short term and brief.

With regard to long-term therapy, most people will relate to psychoanalysis where the client lies back on the couch and relates his or her life story.  Accordingly, people project the facts of their lives in front of them, like stars in the night. Most people typically have drawn lines between a number of the points of light to form constellations. They then say, my life is such and so because of these or those constellations of events.

The benefit of analysis and continuing the process is that over time, many people begin to recognize different connections between the same points of light. So whereas they thought their life was the way it was because of one constellation, they come to see things differently by recognizing the connections between other series of events forming other constellations. This is the process of insight, which by theory, leads to change. This approach can take months to years.

The moderate length therapies typically run 12 to 18 sessions. The approaches to moderate length therapies have typically been developed by psychologists who view human problems as an outcome of how you think, how you feel or how you behave. Hence the therapies are cognitively, affectively or behaviourally oriented. So typically, you will hear respective questions; what are you thinking, what are you feeling or what are you doing. Theoretically, by concentrating on changing any one of these three areas, the other two will follow suit thus resolving the presenting problem.

Short term therapies tend to run 8 to 12 sessions and more typically have been developed by social workers or those interested in work with families where in theory, any one person’s problems is an outcome of matters arising from the family situation at present. Typically the therapist concentrates on patterns of social interactions, power and control issues, communications, who’s in charge or who listens to whom. By restoring either appropriate balance or hierarchy to these relationships, problems may be resolved.

Brief therapies typically run about six sessions, plus or minus two. There is an orientation towards the “problem of the day” and getting folks over that hump. Strategies may include reframing the problem so that a different view of the situation may lend itself to new solutions and/or teaching problem solving strategies that can then be applied to any situation.

The therapy people receive is directed less by the nature of their problem and more determined by the training of the therapist. Most therapists are trained primarily in one approach. Hence there is an issue of luck or chance that the therapy delivered is best suited to addressing the presenting problem. This situation is akin to a carpenter who only owns a hammer. Only owning a hammer, the carpenter must then treat all things as a nail. There is not necessarily a “goodness of fit” between the demands of the situation and the tool available.

When folks consider therapy, for whatever reason, they are advised to discuss the nature of their problem with the therapist in advance of the first session and determine if the therapist’s training is suited to addressing the problem at hand.  Certain problems are better suited to certain approaches. A “goodness of fit” between the presenting problem and the orientation of the therapist can make for better outcomes.

What is the Best Type of Therapy for Me?

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Sometimes the world of psychological therapy can seem like a complex, tangled web. Such therapies include, but are not limited to: psychodynamic (or psychoanalytic) psychotherapy, cognitive analytic therapy (CAT), cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), dialetical behaviour therapy (DBT), compassion focussed therapy (CFT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), transactional analysis (TA), family therapy (systemic, structural, problem-based, behavioural), multi-systemic therapy (MST), mentalisation based therapy (MBT), narrative therapy, rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT), humanistic psychotherapy, Gestalt psychotherapy, interpersonal therapy (IPT).. and this isn’t even touching the surface.

In the middle of all that confusion, each kind of therapy purports an ‘evidence base’ (alongside the comments of critics of this ‘evidence base’). And that ‘evidence base’ consist of different types of therapies for different types of problem.

There are, however, a comforting number of overlaps in therapies. For example, most therapies examine people’s way of looking at the world. This may be ‘cognitions’, ‘beliefs’, or stories. In types of therapies that involve more than one person, clients may be asked what they believe someone else is thinking, too, or differences and similarities in opinion may be explored.

Therapies also look at the things that we do. What we ‘do’ could mean something as simple as what we eat and when we go to bed, or as complex as how we deal with difficult interpersonal situations and ‘act out’ different feelings. Naturally, therapies also address how we feel. The aim, usually, is to try to support us to feel better. Sometimes (not as often) the focus may be how our feelings interact with others around us, and their feelings.

Most therapies try to identify patterns or ways of being that are causing distress, and support someone to change these patterns. Changing these patterns may involve adding in something different, or removing something that seems harmful. Most therapies will also place someone in the context of their personal history (that is, what things were like for you when you were growing up) in order to understand how and why you came to be where you currently are. Less often, wider social history is brought into account.

One of the biggest differences between types of therapy is the values base behind it, and how distress is understood. For example, cognitive approaches emphasise how we might change unhelpful thinking patterns, and generally assume that thoughts and interpretations lead onto feelings. Psychodynamic approaches emphasise earlier life and exploring the unconscious world through symbols, metaphor and hidden expressions . Narrative approaches look at how our self-stories can become saturated with the bad and the problematic, and seeks to enrich our stories to include more robust positives as part of the full spectrum of ourselves.

Some therapies focus more broadly on leading a life that we value, such as ACT and existential/humanistic approaches. Other approaches, such as systemic and narrative approaches, more closely examine the stories we tell and the meaning we make of life – and how we can make fuller, richer sense of ourselves and our lives.

This leads on to one of the fundamental ways that therapies differ – the way that they understand relationships, and people’s context. Most of the therapies mentioned in the first paragraph of this article are based on an individual, the idea being that an individual has the power to change themselves and their life. Indeed, once one has identified the problems and gained more ‘insight’ that should support them to change. This is largely part of western culture, and the western individualised way of looking at people.

However, as the late psychologist David Smail wrote about extensively, people are often pushed into having ‘insight’ rather than ‘outsight’. That is, people look inwards and (some argue) are therefore subtly blamed for distress that is caused by distal factors such as economic depression, war, poverty, overconsumption of idealised media lifestyles, sexism, racism, homophobia, inequality, and so on.

Smail argued, essentially, that most people do the best they can with what has been given to them – and, if anything, we should appreciate the myriad of creative ways that people find to try to make their way in life rather than labelling them ‘dysfunctional’. He saw the (limited) role of therapists primarily as ‘being with’ people who are in distress and supporting them through this, rather than trying to change people who fundamentally have little power against huge outside forces.

Systemic and community approaches tend to see people as a product of, and part of, their social context and culture. It’s not just about what is wrong with ‘you’, but how people relate to each other in light of certain problems. This is important when we consider that distress is not necessarily an individual ‘mental illness’ but actually a social and cultural phenomenon.

Take the popular example of the thing we call ‘depression’. We know that a valued social life is important for wellbeing, and to have compassionate, understanding others around us will alter whether we are likely to become ‘depressed’ or not. But, additionally, whether someone is ‘depressed’ or not depends on social understandings. In our culture we may feel ‘depression’ is sadness without immediately identifiable, rational, ‘reason’, whereas similar responses to immediate job loss, bereavement or breakup can get different and less pathologising reactions.

Even therapy is dependent on its relational context. We know that the biggest in-therapy factor that affects the outcome is one’s relationship with a therapist. Martin et al (2000) conducted a meta-analysis and found that the quality of the ‘therapeutic alliance’ is more important than the technique and orientation of the therapist. This can be seen as positive news. It implies that the most important thing is to have a therapist that one is able to work with – this may include taking part in a therapy that fits with your values.

So what might be helpful? The following paragraph offers some hints about what to consider, and you can find the acronyms at the start of this article.

Do you feel your thinking patterns are especially problematic, or do you get stuck in cycles of reacting? Maybe go with CBT. Are you more concerned with finding feelings difficult to tolerate, or are you an ‘overthinker’ already? If so, DBT, CFT and ACT might prove helpful. Are your life stories primarily negative, and do you get ‘stuck’ in one aspect of yourself or your life? Narrative and humanistic approaches could support you. Are you concerned with repeating patterns of relationships in your life? Perhaps CAT or psychodynamic will be suitable.

Your ‘problem’ will no doubt be important to the people who care about you too, so if you’d like to group together to make meaning, come up with ideas, and create change, systemic approaches may well be for you (and for those close to you). Additionally, systemic approaches (alongside compassionate therapies) may help shift the self-blame that so many of us are burdened with.

There are networks both online and offline for people who reject the notion of having an individual ‘problem’, such as Madness in America, liberation and some community psychologies, and Mad Pride. The Social Materialist Manifesto of Distress (Midlands Psychology Group, 2012) highlights how we need to go further to understand distress as a socially created being. Community approaches, community activism, and political change may play a greater part in understanding problems and distress than any kind of therapy.

Whilst therapy can be a confusing world, it may also be a hopeful world in that there will be ‘something for everybody’. If one type of therapy hasn’t ‘worked’ for you, that’s okay, and it’s certainly not something you should blame yourself for. There are plenty of ways of understanding distress, and plenty of therapies (or communities) that are available to address different kinds of problem. That is, if after reading this you still feel like you need ‘therapy’ after all.

5 Ways a PTSD Service Dog Can Help

U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Sean Stevenson takes a knee while on a security patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan, June 6, 2011. Stevenson is a corpsman with Combined Anti-Armor Team 2, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 8. The U.S. Marines conduct frequent patrols through the area to show a presence and interact with the community to find ways to help the populace. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Nathan McCord/Released)
U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Sean Stevenson takes a knee while on a security patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan, June 6, 2011. Stevenson is a corpsman with Combined Anti-Armor Team 2, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 8. The U.S. Marines conduct frequent patrols through the area to show a presence and interact with the community to find ways to help the populace. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Nathan McCord/Released)

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that results from a traumatic experience. Common symptoms are nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive memories, depression, and anxiety following a traumatic event. Living with PTSD can be very difficult. Public outings may result in flashbacks while depression can become overwhelming if the person stays at home.

The risk of depression is high as well as the risk of suicide. While there are very effective treatments available for people with PTSD, a service dog can be a very useful support. Here are a few reasons you might want to consider getting a PTSD service dog.

They Encourage Exercise

Any dog needs someone to play with them and take them for walks. This physical activity is a very beneficial way to help treat PTSD. The positive endorphins that are produced during exercise can help combat depression and anxiety as well as improving physical fitness. Even on bad days, it’s hard to say no to a dog begging for a walk.

They Prevent Social Isolation

0-4Dogs are a wonderful way to cushion social interactions. They attract friendly people who want to pet them while providing something for you to talk about. Walks or trips to the dog park will force you to get out and see other people rather than isolate yourself in your home.

They Can Make Public Outings More Feasible

A trained service dog will be able to recognize when you have an episode and either comfort you or lead you to safety. They can also be trained to lead you to the nearest entrance in anticipation of an episode. These specialized skills can make going out in public safer, easier, and more comfortable for their handler.

They Can Recognize and Act Upon Nightmares

For at-home assistance, service dogs may be trained to fetch medication or even interrupt nightmares. When you are having a nightmare, the dog may be able to wake you and halt the nightmare, making it easier to recover and go back to sleep. If you have woken up from a nightmare, the dog will be able to provide comfort in the form of pressure or affection, also helping to prevent insomnia.

They Make Therapy Sessions Easier

Attending therapy for PTSD can be very difficult. You will need to discuss your trauma, the symptoms you are experiencing, and other potentially painful subject matter. With a dog by your side to stroke and seek comfort from, talking about these topics can become easier. The dog can also become part of your treatment plan, whether that means taking it to a new destination each week or simply spending a few hours a day on training sessions.

Though a dog is certainly a financial responsibility and a well-trained service dog can be expensive, the benefits a service dog has to offer are worth it. Even an untrained dog can be a wonderful addition to your home if you are suffering from PTSD. The unconditional love, encouragement to exercise, and help in social situations might even be all you need to start recovering.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZOaR1vnBik

Telemental Health: Improving Access to Veterans’ Mental Healthcare

By Brian Neese

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Photo Credit: Dublin VA

Military members comprise less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, yet veterans represent 20 percent of suicides nationally, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Each day, about 22 veterans die from suicide.

An issue affecting mental healthcare for veterans is accessibility. In the spring of 2014, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) wait time scandal emerged when allegations surfaced of veterans dying while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA Health Care System, according to Military Times. Wait time issues and manipulated appointment scheduling highlighted a nationwide problem and resulted in several top officials resigning or retiring.

Months later, Congress passed a $15 billion bill allowing more veterans to seek care in the private sector through the VA Choice program. Meanwhile, the VA continued focusing efforts on telemental health, or the use of telecommunications technology to provide behavioral health services, to try to improve veterans’ access to mental health services, National Psychologist reports.

Accessibility

Nearly one in four active duty military members show signs of a mental health condition, based on a study in JAMA Psychiatry. With 44 percent of veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan to rural zip codes, accessibility becomes an important topic for veterans’ mental healthcare. This is a natural strength of telemental health services, which can include clinical assessment, individual and group therapy, educational intervention, cognitive testing and general psychiatric treatment.

The first telemental health program funded by the VA’s Office of Rural Health is at the Portland VA Center in Oregon. Through telemental health sessions, veterans saved 826,290 miles driven and $161,126 worth of gasoline in 2013, program director Mark Ward said. Some veterans who live far from Portland and lack high-speed internet are given electronic tablets and notebooks for videoconferencing.

Telemental health can increase veterans’ access to services and eliminate travel. Another benefit is that telemental health can help veterans overcome the perceived stigma sometimes associated with seeking mental health treatment. Veterans who might feel embarrassed or ashamed to get help in person can receive care in their home.

The VA delivered a total of more than 650,000 telemental health sessions nationally from the program’s inception in 2004 through 2014. The VA anticipated delivering 300,000 telemental health visits for 115,000 veterans in 2014, an increase from more than 200,000 telemental health visits for 80,000 veterans the previous year. Additionally, the VA has created free smartphone apps that veterans can use to help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as the PTSD Coach application developed by the VA and the Department of Defense.

Telemental health has made progress in improving accessibility for veterans’ healthcare, and it will be needed to make further ground. The Government Accountability Office found that 18 months after the wait time scandal, the VA still struggled with wait times and patients’ schedules.

Effectiveness

The first large-scale assessment of telemental health services was published in Psychiatric Services. This study assessed clinical outcomes of 98,609 mental health patients before and after enrollment in telemental health services of the VA between 2006 and 2010. During this time, psychiatric admissions of telemental health patients decreased by an average of about 24 percent, and patients’ hospitalization lengths decreased by an average of nearly 27 percent.

A survey of veterans found high levels of satisfaction and perceived safety with home-based telemental health provided by the VA pilot program in Portland, according to the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. Findings support the feasibility and safety of using technology in the home for the delivery of mental health services. Additionally, results suggest fewer no-show appointments in home-based telemental health compared to clinic-based telemental health.

Currently, telemental health is regarded as appropriate for general clinical use. Yet, the VA cautions that more needs to be known about using telemental health services for conditions such as PTSD, which Jama Psychiatry says is 15 times higher for those in the military than civilians. “While preliminary research has clearly established that a variety of telemental health modalities are feasible, reliable, and satisfactory for general clinical assessments and care, less is known about the clinical application and general effectiveness of telemental health modalities employed in the assessment or treatment of PTSD,” the VA says.

The Need for Behavioral Health Professionals

Approaches such as telemental health can support better access to behavioral healthcare and are expected to grow as a result. Yet, more professionals are needed for rising populations of veterans, children and others in need of services.

The online B.A. in Behavioral Health from Alvernia University enables students to meet this need. Some graduates enter fields such as addiction counseling, long-term care and child welfare, while others enter graduate studies. The program takes place in a convenient online format to accommodate students’ work and personal schedules.

Violence in my Rear View Mirror

By Tracy Cerff

broken-mirror

Too often we hear it said that a woman should ‘just leave’ a violent relationship. It is far easier said than done. Hindsight is a gift not afforded to all of us. The majority of assaults and deaths of women in domestic violence crimes have been committed after they have left the relationship.  The Australian Institute of Criminology put these horrendous crimes between 80-100 women each year, saying the majority of them were being killed in their own homes.  I remember clearly the day I ended my relationship with a former partner and how difficult and almost deadly it was.

As usual he took me in through the back entrance and insisted I sit down, politely pulling out a kitchen chair for me from the large dining table which seemed odd even then, as I had never seen anyone in the home to use it. I remember the warmth of the sun sneaking its way in the backdoor. To my dismay, but relief, he left it slightly open. It was the only comfort amongst the coldness I felt and the echoing of his voice inside my head.

We reached his home, the sun shining hot on the heavy, heritage bricks. He invited me into the house, in his ‘ordering voice’, to come inside for one last drink together. I wanted to run a thousand miles. I followed him in knowing I had to make it a quick stop or perhaps I wouldn’t be leaving at all.

Although we had just had a fiery argument in the car before arriving, he was eerily calm now and had begun to peel a mango with a sharp kitchen knife, which I’m sure I stared at for too long. He was remarkably back in his happy space again – he often changed his emotions without notice. Me however, I was stiff with fear as I now dreaded being in his presence, in his house – in his life.

From the other side of the room, while I silently watched him peel his mango, he tried to coax me to share it with him – how kind, I sarcastically thought. One mouthful and I would have physically puked. I so wanted to hide the fear I could sense he detected in me as he would see it as his prize, a triumph. I meekly declined his offer.

Deciding to now play a hero role, he came and lifted me from my pedestal – my place where he put me at the table. As he stood me up he mockingly snickered that I should lighten up and give him a hug. I stared at the shadow cast from us both open the half opened door. That doorway that gave me hope – with the warmth of the sun and openness to the outside world.

The shadow told a different story. Not one of a loving embrace for sure, rather a thrilling scene from a movie where we were the main actors. I could see the portrait of us both entwined, with the knife in his tight clenched hand against my skin. I was so frozen in fear that I couldn’t feel the actual knife itself. I knew I needed out or this was it.

With whatever scrap of strength I could summons, I hugged him as he wished and shakily lied, “I really have to get going or I’ll be late for my appointment and I don’t want them calling me”. Without hesitation, I pulled away from his grasp and grabbed my bag off the side of the chair praying it wouldn’t get caught. I don’t know why he allowed me to go, but I just knew to keep going – I did what I had to do to survive and it worked.

At my appointment I must have still been as white as a back-washed wall, as the Doctor was very concerned about my anxiousness, offering me the details of a counsellor near to my home. I never shared a word to him of the incident. I did however gratefully accept the details. I was one of the lucky ones, so many are not as fortunate.

My experiences have led me to a deeper understanding of the vast complications that women face when they find themselves in a similar situation. Unfortunately my story is not unique. It is far too common and made even more complex when there are children involved and when women don’t have the means or funds to safely leave the situation. My work in counselling and education opens doors for me to empower women, men and young people to plan their future, a future without violence and control at their hands of another.

Giving Feedback to Teens

Woman and daughter standing together in their home

Research has consistently shown that the therapeutic relationship is one of the most significant factors when it comes to creating real and lasting change in our clients. Helping professionals who work with teens have a unique challenge in relating to and engaging authentically with adolescents. They aren’t kids anymore, and they’re not quite adults yet either. Because we cannot fully know what it feels like to be a teenager in today’s world, communication is paramount to building a productive working relationship.

One way to foster strong communication with teens is to offer constructive feedback in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the relationship. This can be a tricky task, but when done effectively, feedback is a relationship enhancer that leads to positive outcomes.

Here are some strategies that I’ve found helpful for facilitating feedback while maintaining a focus on an authentic relationship.

Anchor your feedback around a positive personal trait or characteristic. 

This may sound counter to much of what you may have heard in the past about providing feedback about performance in a way that is objective and decidedly not personal. But consider this: When we address a trait like determination, sensitivity, or sense of humor, we express interest in and acknowledge the teen in a deeper way. This approach can reinforce something that’s working well, or focus on redirecting something that’s getting in the way of the teen achieving her goals.

It may help to describe the idea that traits and characteristics are a two-sided coin. There’s always an upside and a downside. For example, productive persistence is another version of disruptive stubbornness; and intense emotions resulting in warmth and empathy for others can also result in emotional pain. Helping teens to understand how particular characteristics drive their behavior can also help them see how such behaviors may serve them well in some situations and not so well in others. Encouraging young people to accept themselves and pointing out their qualities and how they allows them to hear the feedback without defensiveness and can offset feedback’s sting so it is more useful and likely to result in a change in behavior.

Link feedback to the goals of the young person.

As helping adults, we should always think about the purpose and function of the feedback we’re giving, rather than responding with irritation or impatience. This means both being clear within ourselves before we open our mouths, and also stating clearly to the teen what the purpose of the feedback is in relation to what matters to them.

Help teens see which of their behaviors advance them toward their goals and which ones stand in the way makes feedback useful and effective. Consider starting with a statement or question acknowledging what’s important to the teen before helping her explore whether her approach has moved her close to what is important or further away.

Remember that feedback often takes time to integrate. 

Feedback should be a collaborative process. Ideally, the process of giving and receiving feedback is a dialogue that encourages a spirit of self-exploration and personal inquiry into what’s important to the teens you work with. If possible, it should be a prompt to help her come to conclusions about how she might think about adjusting her behavior to move closer to what matters. This approach may take more time than simply telling an adolescent what needs to change, but it will be time well spent.

If at all possible, instead of telling a teen what needs to change, try instead asking questions that lead her to her own conclusions. As her what she notices about the way people respond to certain behaviors and if this is what she is seeking. Consider asking her to pay attention to the less direct natural feedback all around her. This will encourage her to take ownership of her behavior with greater understanding of her goals, her boundaries, and herself as a whole.

When it comes to potentially embarrassing or awkward subjects, be short and sweet. 

Particularly for teens, whose bodies are going through rapid changes, there are plenty of subjects that can be downright embarrassing to address. There are times when it is really none of our business, but there are also times when these issues affect our work with the teen or when we see that these issues may be affecting them negatively in other realms of their lives. In the latter case, it’s our responsibility to say something.

One way to give feedback on potentially embarrassing topics is to frame your comments in terms of the natural growth and maturation that occurs with adolescents. Don’t forget to communicate that your intentions come from a place of caring, while taking a straight-to-the-point, nonjudgmental, problem-solving approach. Normalize the potentially awkward subject (i.e. a teen’s increasingly noticeable body odor after gym class, or the revealing nature of a young person’s clothing), propose a solution, and move on. Teens appreciate when adults are open and direct, and this will go a long way in establishing and maintaining a relationship characterized by honesty and authenticity.

Put behaviors in a social context. 

Socially successful teens are aware of how their behaviors are impacting others, and feedback is a great way to help them build this awareness. Egocentrism is developmentally inherent in teens, but understanding the effects they have on those around them helps maintain perspective. It also helps build motivation for behavior change.

Frame feedback by expressing good intentions. 

One approach that teens respond to is to say, “If I didn’t know you so well, I’d be reluctant to tell you this directly; may I give you some feedback?” This allows you to frame the feedback within caring intentions, and most young people’s ears perk up at the information to follow.

It can be awkward at times to be direct and honest with the teens we work with. Even when we’re able to engage authentically, feedback can be difficult to accept for all people, regardless of age or stage of life. If we make a commitment to deliver feedback with compassion and kindness whenever possible, we can at least ensure that teens will pick up on our intentions to communicate caring and respect, which will ultimately lead to a stronger and more authentic relationship in the long run.

Should Social Workers Get on the Telemental Health Wagon?

telementalhealth
Photo Credit: La Clínica del Pueblo

There was a huge smile awaiting me at the other end of the screen. I had been anticipating this moment with some degree of anxiety. I had been to trainings, conducted several dry runs, and attended scores of meetings to prepare for what was about to unfold. “This is weird,” she said. I validated her feelings and laughed along with her. There she was, my first telemental health client.

When I first interviewed for a mental health job and I discovered the position was for a telemental health therapist who will provide therapy through video, my first thought was: therapy through this mode couldn’t possibly work. So many questions came up: “how can you build solid rapport and trust through a camera”?  Is this HIPAA compliant? How could I deal with a client in crisis?

I went home and I was surprised by my strong reactions to the interview. I thought: why was I so certain that this could not work when I have not even tested it?

After some self-reflection and checking in on my assumptions, I discovered that my skepticism and fears emerged from the “not knowing stance.” I had heard about telemental health loosely, mainly through Facebook ads that bombard my account promoting e-therapy through texting and right before that interview I had done some research on using smart phone apps as complement to therapy, where I came across a few articles about telemental health but I had not given this topic too much thought until that interview.

I turned to research and discovered that telehealth, health services provided by a form of technology, has been around for at least 40 years, some say even longer. I learned that telemental health is not just text therapy as we have seen in some ads. It was not this “new shiny thing” I thought was emerging but there has been substantial research on the use of telehealth and telemental health effectiveness with some communities, particularly in rural areas.  I also discovered the answers for many of my initial questions—there are HIPPA secure platforms to provide telemental health services and the evidence shows that it is possible to build a therapeutic alliance through video.

After a year of providing telemental health services through a pilot program supported by CareFirst and led by La Clínica del Pueblo, a federally qualified community based health clinic that has been impacting the Latino and immigrant community in the Washington, DC metro area since 1983, I can say I’m truly glad that I looked deeper than my initial fears.

Our experience providing telemental health to some clients validates other research which shows client’s functioning improve to a comparable rate as in “traditional in person therapy.” We are able to reach many clients in distress who otherwise would not be served due to a current shortage of bilingual mental health providers, which results in long waiting for access.  I have also dealt with several crisis, which initially I thought would be impossible to do via video.

Currently, the Latino community experiences high rates of mental health disorders and face significant barriers in obtaining services due to stigma, lack of bilingual and multicultural mental health providers, lack of health insurance, among other obstacles. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the lack of access to mental health services is one of the most serious health problems in the Hispanic community.

As the Latino and immigrant community grow, agencies working with this population face challenges and opportunities to meet the demand of mental health services the community needs to thrive.

At La Clínica, we saw an opportunity to better serve our population and through a partner to partner model, we are expanding our services to clients who face a significant barrier in accessing services. Barriers exist because they either can’t get to us due to transportation challenges, which for many of our clients means taking several modes of public transportation and traveling from far distances or because finding a bilingual mental health provider has been difficult due to the shortage of them. Clients conveniently continue to attend their base organization for services and in a private therapy ready room receive services while I provide therapy from a counseling room at La Clínica’s DC based office.

The need to expand services and come up with alternative solutions to meet the demand is true for many of the communities social workers serve. As the primary providers of mental health services, social workers have a unique opportunity to leverage technology to respond to our community needs. To guide social workers in this endeavor, NASW and ASWB have already created standards for technology and social work practice. In addition, ASWB recently approved the Telemental Health Institute telemental health online training program. “And Star Telehealth and the Center for Credentialing Education will launch their training program in the near future.  I am currently a beta tester for the initial modules.

Our times are changing. Our client’s needs are changing. Our NASW calls us to become culturally competent, and becoming culturally competent with the use of technology is essential in today’s times.  Our communities are more connected than ever before and are turning to technology at records numbers.

Join the dialogue. My colleagues from La Clínica del Pueblo and I will present our findings and insights from our pilot program through our presentation TeleMental Health for Latinos: Expanding Access through Technology at two social work conferences: Sí Se Puede®: Social Workers United for Latino Advancement conference organized by the Latino Social Workers Organization and the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health at the New York University of Silver School of Social Work in New York, April 25-27 and later in Washington, DC at the National Association of Social Workers national conference in June 22-25.

We will address:

  • Demystifying Telehealth: Fears, Barriers, Limitations and How We Overcame Them Planning, Building Protocols, and Training
  • Program Preparation and Implementation: The Importance of Research,
  • Technical, Clinical, and Administrative Implications
  • Cultural Considerations for Implementation with the Latino Community
  • Ethical Considerations for Social Workers Using TeleHealth
  • Program Evaluation and Outcomes
  • The Future of TeleMental Health

Having recently attended the Mid Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center Annual Summit, where I was one of very few social workers providing direct services, I am reenergized to empower more of us to learn about telemental health, get trained, certified and practice, when appropriate and while considering cultural, ethical and clinical implications. And I hope that next year, there will be a lot more social workers at the telehealth table.

Music Therapy and Its Healing Potential

muse

Music therapy has proven to be highly efficient as a therapeutic intervention in medical and personal settings, and it is a growing field of practitioners. People wear headphones and listen to music to cope, dream, escape, and/or just have a wonderful time. Think about your favorite song and the feelings it evokes. Do you want to sing along? Dance? Hold up a lighter and sway from side to side?

These are only a few of the simplest ways to describe in which music helps us heal and express a range of emotions. There have been numerous studies on the effects of music on people with cognitive impairments that show how something as simple as handing someone an MP3 player with certain music can really make a different. Vibroacoustic therapy is a form of music therapy that uses patented equipment and software that was developed by Olav Skille in 1968.

Vibroacoustic therapy relies on using sound waves applied to the body in order to produce relating physical and mental effects. In present times, vibroacoustic therapy can be administered through lying or sitting on a surface that is embedded with speakers that conducts the vibrations while listening to music of a certain frequency. This arrangement allows for the client to really feel the music while listening.

The key to this type of therapy is making it a live, interactive experience that is not only audibly stimulating but also kinesthetically stimulating. Vibroacoustic therapy has been used to treat Alzheimer ’s disease, premature babies, children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, chronic physical pain, and other visible and invisible illnesses.

Recently, music producer Timbaland did an interview with Hot 97 in order to discuss his feelings on the future of the music industry and introduce his new artists. While at the studio, he was wearing a Subpac. The Subpac is a product that can either be worn as a backpack or placed on a chair. Producers, DJs, and others affiliated with the music industry use the Subpac as a way to “feel” the music similar to how you feel the beat in a car with a serious bass system in the trunk. I was intrigued because I wondered if there was a place for the Subpac in therapeutic usage.

As of right now, I’m not personally aware of portable music therapy devices similar to the Subpac, but why not create an adaptable portable version of a Vibroacoustic therapy device for the masses? For instance, Subpac has joined forces with Muse:

The Muse Seek Project fosters inclusion and aims to open up the world of music to Deaf children across the Dominican Republic and the world. Through Participatory Action Research methods, Maria Batlle, founder of The Muse Seek Project helps children in the Deaf community experience music. Read More

I can see the potential for the Subpac exploring its adaptability for music therapy, especially since it can easily be worn like a backpack or draped on a chair like a massager. The Subpac is available to the public and can be purchased online. It was great to see Timbaland support such a project in order to bring it to light for not just music artists and DJs, but also for everyday people who could truly benefit from being able to heal and groove on the go.

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