Ask a therapist: “Why is therapy effective?” (answered by Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT)

Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFTToday, we continue our popular series “Ask a Therapist” with one of our therapists, Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT answering one of our most commonly asked questions: “Why is therapy effective?”

Unconditional Positive Regard: The Key to Connection

I often get asked the question, “Why is therapy effective?” Those of us that are therapists think long and hard about this question. We know that it works because we see the evidence first hand; However, the concrete reason can be (or at least for me was) quite difficult to articulate. Research in “common factors” looks across different models and structures of therapy in an attempt to answer this very question: Why is therapy effective? This research over and over again indicates the “goodness of fit” between clinician and client is a critical factor. I got to thinking, what does this really mean? What can I do as a therapist to improve the chances of a good fit? Is it just some mystical connection that will either be there or not, or is there more to it?

Session after session I started to think more about why and how I am successful with my clients. One day the answer made itself abundantly clear: Unconditional positive regard, a term I had learned long ago in my training. One of the most fundamental human needs is to be truly witnessed by another. For someone to say to us literally or figuratively, “I hear you, I see you, I understand you, and I’m not going anywhere” is incredibly powerful. Imagine a world where every child got a constant message of an adult truly witnessing him or her.

Many of us did not get this message as children, or at least not consistently enough, and still do not get it today. My job as a therapist is to be this missing witness; to send the message that I care about your well-being, no matter what and with no strings attached. Is this not what a healthy partnership provides us? Is this not the ultimate goal of parenting? Is this not what we all seek out in our friendships?

Once I had this eureka moment, it became the number one goal in my therapy and in my life. Please do not misunderstand me and think I am saying that this means we should accept everyone’s choices and behaviors unconditionally. Challenging my clients unhealthy choices and behaviors is critically important to helping them grow and change. I would not be a good therapist if I just smiled and nodded and told my clients they were perfect. Unconditional positive regard comes into play here, too; I am able to challenge my clients on anything I need to because they are secure in the knowledge that it is coming from a place of love and acceptance. Since my clients know that I genuinely care about them, when I challenge them on something they are much less defensive and are able to really hear my feedback.

In a world  where space between us seems to grow wider and the true connections between us seems to be dwindling, it makes sense that many of us feel a huge lack of connection. There is good research to suggest that humans have been so successful due to our use of social connections, playing an even more critical role in our evolution than our big brains or critical thinking skills than we once believed.

Let’s do more of what we as a species do best. I challenge each of us to work to truly bear witness to one another and send the vital message of unconditional positive regard.

~ Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT

Kendra is a therapist at The Catalyst Center. Her specialties include:

Kendra Doukas, M.S. LMFT can be reached by calling the main office at 720-675-7123 or by emailing us directly atCatalystCenterLLC@gmail.com

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Everyday Mindfullness: The Art of Waiting ~by Dr. Erin Jacklin

Dr. Erin JacklinIt seems like everywhere you look, people are looking down- constantly looking at their smart phones, ipods, or tablets whenever there is a break in the action of day-to-day life (and often even in the midst of the action).

How does it affect us to be constantly entertained, to live in a world where you need never be idle, where you can always be looking at Facebook, or checking email, or reading an article?

On one hand, this ability to be constantly occupied allows us to be more efficient; to respond to email more quickly, to stay engaged in the world in a different way than before we had this capability.

On the other hand, we no longer have the ebb and flow of activity in daily life that allowed our minds to rest periodically throughout the day. We are constantly stimulated, and constantly expected to respond and engage. This can be exhausting to say the least.

More than just the exhaustion, I see this pattern of constant availability affect our ability to experience sparks of insight or “ah-ha moments” that can be powerfully transformative.  Have you ever been in the shower, thinking of nothing in particular when the answer to a nagging problem just “pops into your head?”  Often when our minds are quiet, we are able to synthesize information and come to novel solutions that we would have missed had we been actively “working” on finding a solution.

When we allow our minds to be still, rather than constantly engaging in the world around us through texting, tweeting, consuming social media, we open ourselves up to experience the world in a different manner, and to allow ideas, reflections, feelings, to just “pop into our heads.” When allow for the time and opportunity to be still and contemplative, to focus on just BEING instead of constantly DOING, amazing things can happen.

A mindfulness practice I ask many of my clients to experiment with is to “practice the art of waiting.”  Try it out for yourself and comment below to let us know how it went for you:

The next time you are waiting in line, for a friend to arrive, for the light to change, for your date to get back from the bathroom, etc… instead of pulling out your phone and engaging, allow yourself to be still and quiet your mind. Focusing on your breath can help you to find the still place within.  See what this feels like, at first it may be uncomfortable; you may want to pull that phone out, or start making a grocery list in your head, or go over your unending “to do” list, but try to resist the urge and just quiet your mind and be still.  You may be surprised what you experience when you practice the art of waiting.

Signs and Symptoms: Birth Trauma

Signs of Birth Trauma

  • Insomnia
  • Feeling “weepy” or tearful
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and Panic
  • Irritability and angry outbursts
  • Nightmares about the birth
  • A desire to avoid baby or anything relating to baby
  • Feeling detached from baby or other loved ones
  • A sense that a disaster is imminent
  • Physiological and psychological reactions to reminders of the birth
  • Flashbacks of the birth experience
  • Lack of memory of the birth experience
  • Fear of becoming pregnant again, or of giving birth again

Birth Trauma is a Post-Traumatic Stress response to a childbirth experience that did not go as planned. It can be related to medical interventions, lack of control during pregnancy and/or birth, lack of support from partner and/or birth attendants, or previous traumatic experiences.

Birth Trauma Reactions are treatable and curable, and can affect mothers, fathers, and partners.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, please contact your health care provider or reach out to the therapists at The Catalyst Center.

You are not alone. We can help.

www.CatalystCenterLLC.com

720-675-7123

300 South Jackson Street, Suite 520

Denver, CO 80209

The Catalyst Center is a group practice specializing in the prevention and treatment of postpartum depression, anxiety, and trauma reactions.

Thank you to Dr. Katie Godfrey for help compiling this information!

Signs and Symptoms: Postpartum Anxiety

Signs of Postpartum Anxiety

  • Chest pains
  • Nausea
  • Racing or pounding heart
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Irrational fears
  • Feeling agitated, restless, or irritable
  • Inability to sit still
  • Excessive concern about baby’s health or own health
  • Being on “high alert”
  • Appetite changes: often rapid weight loss
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep (other than baby waking)
  • Constant worry
  • Sensations of choking or trouble breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling, rapid heart rate, numbness, or tingling sensations
  • Excessive worry or fears
  • Racing thoughts

Postpartum Anxiety is treatable and curable. It can occur during pregnancy or anytime in the first year of parenthood. Mothers and fathers are both susceptible.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, please contact your health care provider or reach out to the therapists at The Catalyst Center.

You are not alone. We can help.

www.CatalystCenterLLC.com

720-675-7123

300 South Jackson Street, Suite 520

Denver, CO 80209

The Catalyst Center is a group practice specializing in the prevention and treatment of postpartum depression, anxiety, and trauma reactions.

Thank you to Dr. Katie Godfrey for help compiling this information!

Signs and Symptoms: Postpartum Depression

Signs someone may be experiencing Postpartum Depression

  • Sadness
  • Chronic crying
  • Unexplained physical complaints
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Appetite changes
  • Sleep disturbances (other than baby waking)
  • Rapid weight gain or loss
  • Poor concentration or focus
  • A feeling of detachment from baby
  • Feeling angry and/or irritable
  • Hopelessness and helplessness
  • Feeling totally OVERWHELMED
  • Lack of feelings towards the baby
  • Inability to take care of self, baby, or family
  • Loss of interest, joy, or pleasure
  • Isolation
  • Thinking: “This doesn’t feel like me”
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of worthlessness

Postpartum Depression is treatable and curable. It can occur during pregnancy or anytime in the first year of parenthood. Mothers and fathers are both susceptible.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, please contact your health care provider or reach out to the therapists at The Catalyst Center.

You are not alone. We can help.

www.CatalystCenterLLC.com

720-675-7123

300 South Jackson Street, Suite 520

Denver, CO 80209

Thanks to Dr. Katie Godfrey for compiling this information

The Catalyst Center is a group practice specializing in the prevention and treatment of postpartum depression, anxiety, and trauma reactions.

Why are we obsessed with social media?

Our culture’s current obsession with Facebook/Twitter/Tumbler and the like is related to our natural desire to be witnessed. And yet interacting with our community in this format leaves many of us feeling hollow and disconnected. I can’t tell you how many times my clients and friends have complained to me about how hurt they were when no one “liked” their recent post or photo. This quantifiable way of measuring how our friends and the broader community are responding to us can be pernicious.

Participating in social media can be understood as a way in which we ask our community to connect with and/or bear witness to us, and yet as fun and interesting as it can be, most people find this way of connecting leaves them lacking, still searching for that felt-sense of being truly seen and accepted.

When we become overly focused on who has “liked” our recent posts, or commented on our family photos, we lose sight of what the desire to be witnessed is really about. Being truly witnessed is powerful and transformative. It is the feeling experienced by a newborn when their parent gazes lovingly at them, witnessing and celebrating every tiny burp and giggle as a miracle.  Why is it that we can do this for a child, but not for each other in adolescence and adulthood?  We get more and more disconnected as we grow up and join the social world. Our need for deep, genuine connection changes as we age, but doesn’t disappear.

Humans developed in community, not in isolation. There is a reason that a form or torture is to isolate someone from all contact with other human beings. This literally makes us crazy.  Though we are connected through social media, there is a distinct lack of that difficult to describe, but impossible to miss feeling of deep connection that we all need. We are all clamoring to be seen and acknowledged by one another, but aren’t able to quiet our own voices long enough to hear the other person and truly bear witness. Sure we may like their post, or comment on a photo, but does that really connect us on a deep level? No. We are typically distracted or scrolling through many interesting things which are all competing for our attention.

So, should we all delete our Facebook accounts and disengage from social media?  Sometimes it sounds tempting, but I think the answer lies not in putting our heads in the sand and pretending the world hasn’t changed, but rather in realizing the power of giving someone our undivided attention.

Try this experiment: The next time you communicate with a local friend over social media, make concrete plans to meet up with them in person. Then when you are with your friend, commit to both of you keeping your phones/tablets/etc off for the duration of the time you together.  See how this changes your interaction with them, and what it feels like to focus your undivided attention on one person, and to have their undivided attention focused on you.

Feel free to post comments below letting me know how this goes for you!

~ Erin Jacklin, Psy.D., LCP

Ask a therapist: “Why does therapy heal?” (answered by Dr. Erin Jacklin)

Dr. Erin JacklinIn my work as a psychologist I often get asked the question: Why does therapy heal?  My answer is quite different that you might think.

We all desire a witness, someone who sees us in a way that feels true, and accepts us as we are (even as we struggle to accept ourselves as we are).  We recognize the feeling of being truly witnessed, and it is transformative.  In my experience as a therapist, when I am fully present and connected with a client, and truly bear witness to them, something incredible takes place.

It is hard to describe, but impossible to miss when it happens. Even in the depths of a terrible life event, being witnessed makes us feel lighter somehow and less alone. Having someone with us, feeling what we are feeling, trying to look through our eyes and be “in it” together with us is something we are all yearning for and rarely get.

Having a trusted confidant who you know cares deeply about you, doesn’t need you to be perfect or to sugar coat the truth, and is able to witness you and accept you with all your strengths and all your challenges changes you in a profound way. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to bear witness to my clients in this powerful manner. Every time I am privileged with the opportunity to truly witness someone it transforms both of us.

The spiritual side of me believes this is an example of the power of seeing the divinity within each of us. This makes me think of one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

The transformative power of being truly witnessed in therapy is actually less about having someone with you in the toughest moments, it is more about having someone who can see your light shining through, even when you cannot. Your witnessing therapist sees it all, not just how stuck you are feeling in this moment, but the beautiful, magnificent part of you that wants to shed your darkness and fly.

~ Erin Jacklin, PsyD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Welcome!

The Catalyst CenterHello!

This is the first post in our new Catalyst Center blog. Look here to find original articles posted by our clinicians, and links to articles you may find interesting (this will replace the resources tab on the current website). Check back soon to find more. If you have a topic you are interested in learning more about, please suggest it in the comments and we will post about it.

Thanks for visiting!

Erin Jacklin

Owner, The Catalyst Center, LLC