LEMONADE NEWS - NOVEMBER 2021
When life gives you lemons .... make lemonade -- a newsletter designed to help you cope well with our public health crisis and life in general
– By Pamela Woodroffe, MSW, LICSW, SUDP, MAC, CCTP, Seattle psychotherapist
Flaming russet, sienna, and golden hues bedeck the trees as we enter the halfway point of this beautiful autumn. I think of fallen leaves as Mother Nature’s confetti – a gift of eye candy to fill our souls before we enter the grey, wet days of our Pacific Northwest winter. I recently strolled through the Washington Arboretum, where the trees shine brilliantly bright and beautiful this season. Pictured above is an idea for plant leaf art -- a great meditative project. Getting out in Nature has been the one sure strategy that has kept me recharged. The combination of a brisk walk, broad vistas, some sunlight, and the connection with the Earth all help lift my spirits. How about you?
Calming your nervous system
Many of us are understandably weary of adapting to uncertainty and worry, now nearly two years into a pandemic. Stress and anxiety and depression are at an all-time high -- reports of binge eating, increased substance misuse, and conflicts with partners were on the rise. But as more of us get vaccinated, and kids are back in school, hopefully we are coming out of this. And maybe with deepened values of what’s truly important to us as humans. And a little grace about being less than perfect.
But for many, the pronged sense of potential danger, isolation, restrictions of the activities that used to feed our souls are all catching up with us. Our nervous systems, wired for short-term energy bursts, are wearing down. I’ve noticed many of my clients are feeling past traumas getting triggered by these stressors.
Most of us are familiar with the ‘fight, flight, freeze’ responses to stress. However, leaders in the field of trauma treatment are identifying a fourth response, sometimes called ‘fauning’. This may be harder to discern, since the responses are more internal, and may look like depression or numbness. They may present as ‘please and appease’, feeling of deep shame, or ‘collapse/submit’. Newer therapy strategies have evolved to better address these responses.
Maybe you have noticed that you have a particular kind of habitual response to current events that you sense comes from the past, but isn’t working for you anymore. Treatment approaches can include talking, sketching, writing, somatic (body) methods, and E.M.D.R. (see below). These are some ways to calm your nervous system, and reduce the ‘charge’ of a trauma experience.
Maybe you are experiencing triggers, or feeling your resilience waning. Perhaps you are re-evaluating your life’s course, your work, your relationships. Consider a series of teletherapy sessions to re-sort and reset.
As a therapist, I was challenged to adapt my practice to the changes presented by the pandemic. In order to keep myself and clients safe I accessed training to learn how to best deliver teletherapy through a confidential video platform. I upgraded my computer and software to include trauma treatment applications that include E.M.D.R.,which that uses visuals and sound to re-file disturbing memories from the ‘here and now’ into more distant memories. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.
At its most basic, teletherapy is mental health therapy services provided through technologies such as video conferencing, and can include phone calls and texts. Apparently, in most cases, it’s just as effective as in-person care (according to a study of 755 journal articles – Forbes Health Sept 22, 2021). It’s been a lifeline for many of us, as we attempted to preserve our sanity during the pandemic, political unrest, and economic uncertainty. Most clients tell me they have come to prefer it to in-person care. You can access your therapist from the comfort of your own home without taking a half-day off work to fight Seattle traffic. Plus we can meet each other’s pets online.
Tips for getting the most from your teletherapy session:
Create sacred space for your ‘me time’. The emotional nature of therapy makes is important to participate from a comfortable place. If you are videoconferencing all day working from home, then shift to a different location or chair for your therapy to create a different atmosphere. One of my friends put a comfy chair in a corner of her office with a view of a serene picture where she’d sit for her therapy sessions.
Create privacy. Ask your household members to wear headphones or take a walk outdoors during your session. Have a signal that you give your therapist if there’s a privacy breach, such as a child opening the door.
Set your intention. Prior to your sessions, jot down some notes about what you’d like to discuss. If you were in-person, you’d probably do this in the waiting room
Be sure you have good cell and internet connection. Often your therapist will state which browser works best. It’s best to turn off the other applications. If it’s your first session, explore the platform before you start.
Enjoy the advantages of the unique aspects of teletherapy. Some of the things you can do with on-line therapy that you can’t do in-person include showing your home, and introducing your furry friends. Many people feel more comfortable disclosing more personal emotional matters with online therapy – one friend remarked it was like the olden days where therapists faced away from you and talked from the couch.
Consider these additional adaptations. Since therapists usually only see clients’ face and chest, some body cues may be missed. So it’s helpful if you can name your emotions and responses more explicitly. So, rather than saying ‘I feel tired today’, you might say ‘I’m feeling mixed emotions, anxious and helpless’.
Online therapy can be a super powerful tool for your mental wellness. Don’t hesitate to try something different, speak up for what you expect and need, and enjoy working in tandem with your therapist.
I’m here for you. Feel free to reach out if you would like to book a teletherapy session.
Pamela Woodroffe, MSW, LICSW, SUDP, MAC, CCTP, Seattle Psychotherapist
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or phone me at 206.399.2622