Birth Trauma (Postpartum PTSD) ~Dr. Katie Godfrey

Birth Trauma: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after Childbirth*

At The Catalyst Center we work to support women and their families during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum.  One of the areas in which we work is Birth Trauma.  It is reported that between 25% and 35% of mothers report experiencing a traumatic childbirth experience.  The causes of birth trauma include:

  • Medical Interventions, especially ones the mother feels were unnecessary
  • Lack of control during pregnancy and/or birth
  • Lack of support from partner and/or staff
  • Injuries experienced by mother or baby during childbirth

 Signs and Symptoms

Some women recover more quickly than others, physically and psychologically, while some find themselves struggling to move forward.  Typically the mothers who are struggling have symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Signs of Birth Trauma and PTSD include:

  • Weepiness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability and angry outbursts
  • Panic attacks
  • Nightmares about the birth
  • A desire to avoid the baby or anything relating to the birth
  • Feelings of detachment from loved ones
  • A sense that some other disaster is imminent
  • Physiological and psychological reactions to reminders of the birth
  • Flashbacks of birth experience
  • Lack of memory of birth experience
  • Fear of having subsequent children

Healing

 Try to not judge yourself.  Your feelings and reactions are normal for someone who as encountered trauma.  People may tell you, “As long as the baby is ok, you should feel fine about your birth experience”.  While they are trying to be helpful, please keep in mind that this just is not true.  Your birth experience matters!  As Barbara Katz Rothman said, “Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers–strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.”  Here are some suggestions to start the healing process:

  • Do not judge yourself.  Remember: your feelings and reactions are a normal reaction to trauma
  • Get support from family and friends
  • Join a moms group
  • Find support online
  • Get help caring for baby
  • Give yourself time to heal
  • Create art
  • Write in a journal
  • Write letters to the hospital staff (you do not have to mail them)
  • Exercise
  • Therapy, including EMDR
  • Find places to talk about your birth story
  • Body work (massage, mani/pedi)
  • Write your birth story
  • Re-write your birth story as you wish it had happened
  • Skin-to-skin contact with baby
  • Talking to baby about what the two of you experienced
  • Obtain medical records so you know exactly what happened
  • Consider talking to your doctor about medication

You do not have to go through this alone.  If you or a loved one are struggling with Birth Trauma and PTSD, please contact The Catalyst Center.  Change Begins Today!

*Adapted from: Griebenow, Jennifer J (Winter 2006). Healing the Trauma: Entering Motherhood with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Midwifery Today Issue 80.

The Catalyst Center is here to help.  We offer individual, couple, and family therapy, as well as a Birth Circle where mothers can share birth stories.  Please contact us for more information by calling 720-675-7123 or emailing us at catalystcenterllc@gmail.com.

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Dr. Katie Godfrey is a therapist at The Catalyst Center. Her specialties include:

Ready to learn more or book your free initial consultation with Katie? Give The Catalyst Center a call at 720-675-7123.

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Suggestions for Family and Friends of Postpartum Moms ~Dr. Katie Godfrey

Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsion, and Trauma:

Suggestions for Family and Friends

 Postpartum depression threatens the mother’s and partner’s health, relationship, friendships and careers, as well as the baby’s welfare.  Dealing with issues of day-to-day living becomes a special challenge.  With patience and understanding, you can give invaluable support and assist a depressed mother’s recovery.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Encourage her to seek the help of a physician and/or psychiatrist.  An evaluation is important, and medication may be very helpful.  There are some medications that are considered safe during breastfeeding.  Consult your physician.
  • Encourage her to seek therapy.
  • Let the mother express her feelings of anxiety and fear freely.
  • Encourage her to exercise and take time for herself.
  • Encourage the mother to join a PPD support group.
  • Help her develop a schedule with one or two simple tasks.  Notice when she makes an effort.
  • Don’t take her criticism personally.
  • You are justified in being frustrated with her attitude and actions, but be sure to direct your anger at the situation and her illness, not at her.  She is doing the best she can in her current condition.
  • Be aware that you can get depressed yourself, and may need help as well.  Talk to a friend, physician, or therapist.

**Adapted from Postpartum Education for Parents

The Catalyst Center is here to help.  We offer individual, couple, and family therapy, as well as a Birth Circle where mothers can share birth stories.  Please contact us for more information.  Change Begins Today.

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Dr. Katie Godfrey is a therapist at The Catalyst Center. Her specialties include:

Ready to learn more or book your free initial consultation with Katie? Give The Catalyst Center a call at 720-675-7123.

Ask a therapist: “Do you constantly analyze your friends and family members?” (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: “As a therapist, are you constantly analyzing your friends and family?”

This is one of my favorite frequently asked questions. Most people assume therapists are continuous judges on others’ behavior. It seems to be generally assumed that therapists are going to feel the need to jump in and analyze or give you their feedback on everything. My friends and family will make jokes such as, “Oh, what she must be thinking” or “Watch out, she’s a mandated reporter!”

The ironic thing is that therapists are some of the most non-judgmental people around. Most of us become therapists because of some internal belief that all humans are good and are trying their best. Therefore, we actually give you the benefit of the doubt far more than most others will. The other thing to consider is that as therapists, we see a wide array of human behavior and you kind of can’t shock us. Facts that may be appalling to some folks seem almost standard to us.

There is an inherent second part to this question that is critical: the incorrect assumption that therapists can analyze their own relationships. Having a true and accurate analysis of a relationship requires a neutral perspective. Therefore, we cannot establish a fair or accurate assessment of our own relationships because we are half of the equation! So, the next time you wonder if your therapist friend of family member is secretly judging all of your choices, remember that this is most likely the furthest thing from the truth. In fact, you might turn to this person during times when you most need a forgiving opinion.

~ Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT

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

Interested in learning more about Kendra’s work or booking a free consultation with her? Kendra Doukas, M.S. LMFT can be reached by calling the Catalyst Center main office at 720-675-7123 or by emailing us directly at CatalystCenterLLC@gmail.com

Ask a Therapist: “What is EMDR?” (answered by Dr. Rohini Gupta)

Today Dr. Rohini Gupta continues our popular series, “Ask a Therapist” by telling us about EMDR, a research-validated treatment for trauma and anxiety.

Francine Shapiro, a psychologist and educator, founded EMDR. During a walk in the park she noticed that moving her eyes back and forth was a calming experience and reduced negative thoughts and feelings. She eventually developed a standard procedure known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). It is an effective treatment for those who have experienced a disturbing event or trauma.

When a disturbing event or trauma occurs in one’s life, the event can become locked in the nervous system with all the original sensations-the image, sounds, thoughts, and feelings associated with the event. Because this experienced is locked, it can be triggered when a reminder of the event is present, leading to much discomfort and negative emotions. You may even feel out of control.

With EMDR, bilateral stimulation (eye movement or tapping back and forth for example) can unlock the nervous system. This can allow the mind and body to process the experience that is being triggered from the past. This bilateral stimulation can also process unconscious material, information not known to you.

In a safe and supportive environment, EMDR can be an effective treatment and many studies have shown its efficacy. It has received world wide attention and not only can help people heal from traumatic events such as rape, sexual abuse, auto accidents and combat but also events that have been distressing in one’s life such as grief, loss, and divorce.

~ Dr. Rohini Gupta

 

Dr. Gupta is a therapist at The Catalyst Center, her clinical specialties include:

The Catalyst Center has several therapists who are trained in EMDR. For more information, or to book a free consultation contact us 720-675-7123.

 

 

Ask a therapist: “How can I cope with anxiety about the government shut down?” (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 a question on many of our minds: “How can I cope with anxiety about the government shutdown?”

The government shut down is all over the news, but what does not seem to get talked about is the effect is has on the psyche of the American people. We talk about the economic effects. We talk about the people that are out of work as result. We don’t talk about the anxiety it provokes in many Americans.

I have had many clients over the past few weeks bring this up in session. Many of them feel crazy for bringing it up and express concern that they might be turning into “conspiracy theorists.” Historically when a shutdown has happened, we eventually pull through and the shutdown ends. However, it is incredibly anxiety-provoking because no one has any certainty about this fact. We don’t have research and evidence regarding the systemic effects of the shutdown. Rather, we see these issues as they arise and hope enough people are still at work to tackle them. For many of us it can feel like, what’s next?

The reason that something like this is so anxiety provoking (not to mention infuriating and depressing) is that it hits deep against our sense of control. For most of us, the shutdown is completely out of our control and most people don’t feel comfortable with that. We all label some people as “control freaks” but in my experience as a clinician, most of us get very anxious when we are trapped in a situation over which we have little to no control. My suggestion is to break down the feeling of lack of control so that it is not so black and white. There are many things we can do for ourselves to cope with this difficult time.

Yes, there is little we can do as individuals to end the shutdown; however, this does not leave us powerless to how we can cope with it. First of all, we can control what we choose to listen to. For many people, this might need to allow themselves to find one or two sources and intentionally partake in media coverage so that they have some information. For others yet, this may be a great time to go on a media hiatus because listening is too anxiety-provoking altogether. Secondly, we need to take steps to help ourselves feel safe. We must first recognize this perceived threat of safety as incredibly reasonable and warranted. It is understandable that people are currently questioning whether or not we are safe from scares such as food borne illnesses and terrorists. These folks might feel better buying a fire safe box and getting documents in order, having an “emergency bag” prepared, or even taking a “wilderness” class.

The most essential thing is for people to know that they are not crazy for feeling scared, anxious, or hopeless and ready to flee to the hills. This is a big deal. We each need to be gentle with ourselves and brainstorm small ways to increase our feeling of safety and control.

~ Kendra Doukas, MS, LMFT

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

Interested in learning more about Kendra or booking a free consultation with her? Kendra Doukas, M.S. LMFT can be reached by calling the Catalyst Center main office at 720-675-7123 or by emailing us directly at CatalystCenterLLC@gmail.com

Ask a Therapist: “How can I help my child deal with cross-cultural conflicts?” (answered by Dr. Rohini Gupta)

Rohini Gupta, PsyDToday Dr. Rohini Gupta continues our popular series, “Ask a Therapist” with her answer to parent’s questions about how to support their children’s development of a healthy cultural identity when living cross-culturalls or dealing with acculturation conflicts.

If you are a child of an immigrant parent or an immigrant parent yourself, you may find that you and your family are struggling. Coming to this country, there can be mixed feelings. For example, there can be excitement for the opportunities and advantages that America provides, along with distress related to figuring out how to maintain and honor cultural values from your home country. This is not an easy process and can especially take a toll on your family who find it difficult to balance these two worlds. For example, at home your child may be expected to abide by the cultural values held by you but at school they may be expected to fit into the ways of American culture. This conflict can be difficult for children and can even lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

There are many ways to support children who are struggling with how to navigate two culturally different worlds. For example, working with a psychotherapist can help the child and the family to understand this struggle and figure out the most helpful way to navigate these culture clashes. It can be important to first understand that a change in a child’s behavior in which they seem out of control or even disrespectful may actually be a symptom of distress related to navigating these two worlds. Being curious about your child’s behavior and their experience is a good first step. Children can begin to feel that they are flawed and not good enough because they cannot seem to be accepted in either culture. Helping your child see that they are not flawed, but rather that it is difficult to juggle two worlds is important.

Another way to support children is by connecting them with others who may be able to understand their experience. It can be helpful to connect the child with cultural resources. Finding ways to seek out and discuss these issues with others from similar cultural groups can be valuable in decreasing isolation and identifying approaches that have worked for others.

There are many paths to resolving this conflict, depending on what the child and family values are and what the ultimate goal may be. For some, maintaining their cultural identity from their homeland is the priority. Thus, connecting them with cultural resources in the United States becomes incredibly important. For some, adopting American values may be what is most important, and connecting those families with American-like experiences and activities takes center stage. For others, adopting a bicultural identity, where an individual can pick and choose what works for them in each world, can create freedom from the pressures they face. Regardless of the path chosen, what is important to know about this process is that it is fluid and can change as the child grows older. Getting support can be incredibly helpful to navigate the confusing and sometimes complex task of juggling these two worlds, which do not have to be in such conflict with one another.

Dr. Gupta is a therapist at The Catalyst Center, Her specialties include:

To learn more or to book a free consultation session call The Catalyst Center at 720-675-7123

Ask a Therapist: How can I get a Good Night’s Sleep? (answered by Dr. Erin Jacklin)

The Catalyst Center TherapistsGetting a good night’s sleep is incredibly important for physical and mental well-being. If you are struggling to get enough sleep consider trying some of these tips.  If you are still not getting good sleep, consider getting your physical health checked out by your physician and talking to one of the therapists at The Catalyst Center. Sometimes sleep problems that aren’t helped by maintaining proper sleep hygiene can be caused by an underlying medical or mental health condition.

Look this list over and count up how many of these things you have done in the last week and consider making changes to your routine.

Things that are known to make sleep worse:

  • Napping during the day
  • Watching television,  working, or using electronic devices in bed (your bed should be for sleep and sex only!)
  • Using an electronic device with a bright screen within the hour before bedtime (e.g. a smartphone, a laptop)
  • Consuming caffeine, especially after 6pm (tea, coffee, most sodas, energy drinks, hot chocolate, eating chocolate)
  • Consuming alcohol (alcohol typically leads to interrupted poor sleep)
  • Eating a heavy meal less than 3 hours before bedtime
  • Staying in bed when you can’t fall asleep (if you have been trying to sleep unsuccessfully for 20 minutes of more, just get up and do something relaxing, then try again later)

Things that you can do that are known to improve sleep:

  • Regular exercise- at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes, but it is best not to exercise in the 3-4 hours before bedtime
  • Setting aside some ‘worry time’ each day (lat least one hour before bedtime) to write down any issues that are bothering or concerning you, then deciding to leave those worries behind until tomorrow
  • Relaxation exercises (e.g. square breathing, deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation)
  • Having a soothing night time routine (e.g. taking a bath or a shower, reading a calming book)

Where you sleep is important, set the right conditions for great sleep:

  • Make sure the bedroom is completely dark (blackout curtains are helpful)
  • Make sure the pillows and mattress are comfortable and your bed is somewhere you really want to sleep
  • Make sure the bedroom is the right temperature- we sleep best when the room is a bit cool and we have warm blankets to snuggle up in
Wishing you Sweet Dreams!

Ask a Therapist: “How Does Therapy Work?” (answered by Dr. Rohini Gupta)

Rohini Gupta, PsyD

Today Dr. Rohini Gupta continues our popular “Ask A Therapist” series by explaining her perspective about how and why therapy works.

I strongly believe that a combination of factors lead to profound change in therapy. In my experience, the factors that help people change include a strong relationship with the therapist, self-awareness, and willingness to make changes in your life.

A strong relationship between you and your therapist is one in which you feel safe to be who you are and trust that your therapist genuinely cares about you and believes in you. This relationship creates a context where difficult conversations can happen. Therapy works best when the relationship is collaborative and respects the expertise of each person, the therapist’s clinical expertise and your expertise about yourself. Although the focus of therapy often begins with looking at what is not working, it can be just as helpful to talk about what is working and what has worked in the past. This can help you and your therapist to draw on the resources you already have, maybe even surprising yourself with the strength and resiliency already within you.

Therapy allows you to reveal things that have remained hidden. Bringing into awareness beliefs and feelings about yourself, others, and views of the world can help you give voice to what may have been operating under the surface. You can make known what has long been unknown.

Insight and awareness can help you have empathy for yourself and others. This kindness towards yourself and others can be a powerful agent of change. Having awareness helps you figure out ways you can take tangible steps toward the changes you desire.

There is no such thing as a “cookie cutter” approach to therapy. What may work for one person may not work as well for another. There are certainly factors that help us understand why therapy might work. If you have been in therapy before, I ask you to consider what has worked for you and what has not been so helpful. Communicating this to your therapist can be a good place to start therapy and help you understand what your unique needs might be.

~ Rohini Gupta, Psy.D.

Dr. Rohini Gupta is a therapist at The Catalyst Center in Denver, CO. Her specialties include:

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

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