Month: September 2016

Man in dress shirt sitting on a couch in a dark room, dealing with trauma or depression

Three Common Reactions to Trauma and How Therapy Helps

Trauma is one of the most common reasons why many individuals seek professional therapeutic help. In fact, recent studies estimate that around 70% of U.S. adults have experienced trauma at some point in their lives. In some cases, severe experiences of trauma can result in the development of a condition known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. While reactions to trauma vary person to person, approximately 20% of all American adults who have experienced trauma will go on to develop PTSD. . This equals over 24 million people. While the condition itself isn’t uncommon, it still remains highly misunderstood by the majority of the population. These misconceptions have made it difficult for those with PTSD to not only understand their condition, but also to seek treatment. Myths about PTSD can lead to a misunderstanding of its symptoms, which has influenced misdiagnoses for some, while others may be too afraid to seek treatment at all.

Understanding Trauma

There are many experiences which can be classified as trauma. For some, it may be a car accident or natural disaster, for others it may be the harsh realities of combat. Unfortunately, trauma for many individuals stems from experiences of assault or abuse. Regardless of the source, however, trauma can ultimately have debilitating effects on those who suffer it, even long after the events took place. Specific reactions to trauma vary from person to person, but there are certain effects which seem to occur across the board. If you or a loved one is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it may be a good idea to seek help from a therapist, preferably one who specializes in PTSD and trauma-recovery.

Three Common Reactions to Trauma

1. Nightmares

This one often goes without saying. Trauma frequently results in the occurrence of nightmares. These nightmares disrupt otherwise healthy sleep patterns. These nightmares come from come from the shock which the nervous system has endured in response to the trauma. This means that even as we sleep our minds try to process what happened. However, this doesn’t mean that the dreams are the exact trauma replayed. Rather, more often than not they simply share similar themes, such as death, fear, or feelings of being trapped.

2. Flashbacks

Similar but not quite the same to nightmares, flashbacks are when an individual essentially re-lives their trauma in their minds. These thoughts and memories are usually triggered by some external experience. Perhaps the person returned to the location where they experienced their trauma, or they encountered someone from their past that brought back the unpleasant memory. Triggers don’t necessarily need to be overtly harmful or upsetting. Something as seemingly innocuous as a busy street or what direction someone is approached in can act as cues for unpleasant memories to surface.

3. Self-Blame

Perhaps one of the most unfortunate effects of trauma is that it can lead to the victim blaming themselves as a result of the experience. For example, they might feel as though they did something to initiate the events which traumatized them, or, they may feel that they could have done more to prevent it. Regardless of where exactly this guilt originates, it’s development is not uncommon for those who have suffered trauma. Self-blame, guilt, and believing one had more agency than what they actually had is all too common for individuals who have experienced trauma, especially if that trauma is particularly severe and, therefore, even harder to come to terms with.

Therapy Can Help People Suffering from Trauma

When dealing with trauma and its effects the best thing a person can do is seek professional help and guidance. For those who have loved ones struggling with the effects of trauma, the best thing that can be done is to offer love and support as well as to recommend the assistance of a therapist. No one should have to face their trauma alone, nor is it necessary. At present, there are a number of highly-effective treatment methods for individuals struggling with PTSD or similar conditions. One of the most successful is a combination method which includes both therapeutic and pharmaceutical treatments. Some effects resulting from trauma can subside on their own if they’re relatively minor. However, if these and other more severe symptoms persist for a long period of time, such as weeks or months it may be an indication of something that requires medical intervention.

Call 561-338-7725 or fill out this contact form to schedule an appointment and discuss trauma with one of our Boca Raton therapists.
Man in dress shirt ripping a sign in half that reads "trust"

Easing the Fear of Commitment in Relationships

Commitment is perhaps one of the most emotionally provocative words in our vocabulary. It can bring up notions of relationships or responsibilities, or even important obligations. Some of us seek commitment as it can bring feelings of grounding and stability. After all, to be committed to something is to dedicate oneself to a person or cause. This can mean relying on that person or cause as something constant. For others, this can be unsettling or even nerve-wracking. The thought of commitment can bring about feelings of anxiety or fear of being “trapped.” It’s all a matter of perception, however certain perceptions can negatively impact our mental and emotional health.

Commitment is Necessary for a Healthy Life

Commitment is a necessary aspect of life. Many tasks will require our commitment in order to follow through. For instance, a job requires commitment, in that we must commit to working a certain amount of time, on certain days, and accomplish certain tasks. Seeking an education also requires commitment, as we must commit to attending classes and completing homework. That being said, the most recognizable form of commitment is in our personal relationships. For many individuals, when the word commitment is mentioned it brings up images of marriage or similar demonstrations of monogamy. Marriage is traditionally meant to be a formal confirmation of trustworthiness and reliability between partners. Individuals choose to marry because they not only love each other, but feel as though they can depend on each other.

It’s important to remember, though, that commitment does not mean having total control over whether or not a relationship survives. This may be a misconception which contributes to many people’s fear of commitment in the first place. We are responsible for creating our own stable and healthy partnerships. When we learn how to nurture a loving connection between ourselves and our partners, we can discover that there is no longer a need to fear committing ourselves to that person.

Breaking Fear of Commitment

Dr. John Amodeo has been a licensed marriage and family therapist for 35 years. According to Dr. Amodeo, “relationships thrive based upon the depth of intimacy that two people create together. A climate for intimacy is nourished as we find the courage to contact and reveal what is happening in our inner worlds.” In other words, relationships thrive on intimacy, not just physical, but emotional and mental. When we open ourselves up completely to our partners, we are nourishing the soil which allows our relationship to grow and flourish. However, we must also remember to give each other the space we need to feel and express these emotions. Through this space we can feel more free to express our innermost thoughts and feelings to our partners.

Dr. Amodeo explains that: “trusting that it’s okay to experience and reveal our inner world bestows a tremendous sense of freedom. Partnerships are sustained as we cultivate a climate of feeling free to be ourselves with each other.” In this way, commitment can be freeing rather than a means of entrapment. By committing ourselves to being true to each other, and expressing what we truly feel, we are freeing our innermost emotions. Being in a committed relationship, then, rather than being a trap is actually a means of emotional freedom. We can feel free to express ourselves without feeling ashamed or judged. To nurture connection, Dr. Amodeo states, we must reveal “our genuine feelings rather than acting them out by blaming, shaming, or attacking.”

Intimacy can be Nurtured and Developed

A form of therapy that can help with commitment in relationships is Emotionally Focused Therapy. This technique was primarily developed by Dr. Sue Johnson, a clinical psychologist, speaker, professor, and author who specializes in the field of couples therapy. In Emotionally Focused Therapy, the primary viewpoint is that we, as human beings, are wired for connection. As such, intimacy is something that can be nurtured once we develop mindfulness towards our authentic feelings. We must then take what Dr. Amodeo calls “intelligent risks” to be able to share these wants and feelings with each other. Authenticity, then, is the key to successful partnership, as well as the key to commitment being an opportunity for freedom rather than entrapment. After all, commitment is more than just a verbal promise – it is a means of authenticity – our promise to ourselves and our partners that we will be true to how we feel and express those feelings openly and honestly.

In this way, a marriage ceremony, while meaningful, does not guarantee commitment. We can’t just go into a relationship with good intentions. We must also commit ourselves to developing the necessary awareness and skills that will help our love flourish and our intimacy thrive.

Call our office if you would like to know more about couple therapy in Boca Raton. 800-378-9354.
Silhouette of a young man walking on a tight rope with blue sky behind him.

The 8 Types of Risk-Takers

There’s really nothing quite like the thrill of taking a risk. For some, the powerfulness of this feeling is enough to be addictive. Others, however, are satisfied merely taking risks on occasion. These people usually do not need to take numerous or great risks in order to feel content. It really all depends on one’s appetite for the sensation. Those on the more extreme end of the spectrum are commonly known and referred to as “adrenaline junkies.” These individuals appear to be addicted to the extreme behaviors related to risk, like bridge-jumping. Others, though, appear to be far more cautious, unwilling to even take minor risks in life such as experimenting with new foods.

What is Risk and How Much Should You Take?

But which is more correct? Should we engage in more or less risk-taking behaviors? As it turns out, risk, in moderation, is healthy in an evolutionary sense, which makes it very beneficial to us. Problems mainly arise when people fall too closely with opposite extremes. For example, people who are overconfident in their abilities have a tendency to minimize threats posed by risk, which can lead to the dreaded “crash” and “burn.” Conversely, those who lack confidence have a tendency to exaggerate threats posed by risk, which can make obstacles seem overwhelming and near impossible to surpass. In most cases, we are forced to make calculated decisions regarding how we feel about a particular situation, and how we plan to approach it.

Thankfully, nowadays, we know quite a few important things about the emotional state as known as risk. One of the things we’ve learned through the years is that regardless of domain (financial, ethical, recreational, health), there appears to be more consistency, rather than inconsistency, when it comes to risk-taking by most individuals. In fact, those who are more inclined towards risk-taking and those who are averse to it tend to compliment each other. However, risk-taking behaviors and whether or not we are more inclined to engage in them is dependent on three factors: age, sex, and class. For example, young people tend to be more risky than those who are older. Furthermore, men tend to take more risks than women. Interestingly, however, research shows that individuals who fall into the category of the educated middle class tend to take less risks than those outside of this classification.

The 8 Different Types of Risk-Takers

Personality factors play a big role as well in determining whether or not one is more inclined towards risk. These characteristics can determine how we perceive and understand risky situations in the first place. These, combined with situational, cultural, and social factors, all contribute to the development of a “risky type.” Such types, identified by a group of British psychologists, lead by Geoff Trickey of PCL, tend to fall into 1 of 8 varieties. Below are the types of risk-taking personalities and their defining qualities, sorted by least risk-taking to most.

  • Wary: These types are cautious, vigilant, and pessimistic. There is a strong fear of failure and change. They value tradition and convention over innovation and change.
  • Prudent: These individuals favor predictability and continuity. Their approach is more careful and conservative, as is their overall outlook.
  • Intense: Characterized by being very passionate and generous, these individuals are also very involved, and oftentimes demonstrate high levels of enthusiasm. On the other hand, however, they can be very self-critical, which can make them less inclined towards risk.
  • Deliberate: This group is more even-tempered and well-prepared. There is a level of self-assuredness, which means that their approach towards risks is governed more by their heads than hearts. They are very systematic and balanced in their approach. They prefer to be systematic rather than radical but they are also not unnerved by such proposals.
  • Spontaneous: This group is described as having average risk tolerance. Their defining characteristic is their tendency to be more reactive and expressive. Unlike their more rational counterparts, these individuals are ruled by their hearts. This makes them more excitable, which also makes them more prone to the ups and downs of high hopes and disappointment.
  • Composed: Positive, resilient, and task-oriented, these individuals are usually not very reckless, but can demonstrate quite a bit of “nerve” if the situation calls for it.
  • Carefree: These are the free thinkers. Above all else they value their independence and autonomy. They have a clear sense of direction, which makes them well-suited for fast-moving situations. This group also enjoys challenging the status-quo, which means that they are frequently seen breaking new ground.
  • Adventurous: The final group on this list, these individuals are more impulsive and excitable. Thrill-seekers by nature, those in this group also tend to be more positive, upbeat, and generally act more boldly. They’re not afraid to “boldly go where no man has gone before.”

The Key is Always Moderation

These findings show that risk-taking comes in all shapes and forms, but the key to success and safety when it comes to risk taking, is moderation, regardless of what “type” we might fall under. Studying these different types of risk-takers, though, is proving to be an interesting means of learning more about risks and how we respond to them. This information is not only useful to businesses, who thrive on risk and challenge, but can also help doctors better understand why individuals may seem more inclined to engage in risky behaviors.

Happy middle-aged woman closing her eyes in happiness while her male partner embraces her.

The Common Culprit in Problem Relationships

Love can sometimes be a roller coaster of emotions, both positive and negative. Even with all the ups and downs, some relationships are worth fighting for. Others, not so much. It’s important to be able to tell the difference. When a relationship is toxic, it results in more harm than good. Occasional romantic gestures are nice, but they do not compensate for frequent demonstrations of abuse or negative behavior. Some relationships will have challenges that can be overcome. This is not always easy. In many cases, couples therapy may be needed to help mediate emotional conflict. Others, however, will find that no matter what resources they use to help their relationship, some relationship problems only seem to get worse. When there are problems than solutions, it’s likely that a relationship has met its end. An end is also a new beginning for a new chapter in both individuals’ lives.

Be a Person, Not a Stereotype

One of the biggest challenges most couples face when it comes to their relationships is issues with communication. Fundamentally, most men and women communicate very differently. Based on hormonal difference and also on how they were raised, people communicate in different ways. Stereotypes based on gender roles and expectations can be one of the most detrimental influences on a relationship. When a person expects their partner to fulfill a certain role which fits in with their expectations of masculinity or femininity, they often discount the fluidity of those terms and roles in favor of more rigid, and frankly, impossible to meet, qualifications. Men are taught to be more stoic, emotionless, and reserved. Women are expected to be more emotionally open and receptive to the feelings of others. These stereotypes and expectations can case problems in any relationship.

When we feel as though we must meet a stereotype or expectation, we are denying ourselves our true thoughts and feelings. We become characters, rather than people. If we recognize this and are willing to reevaluate ourselves and our role in our relationships, we can restore some sort of connection. Hiding our vulnerabilities from our partners, particularly for men, can create a significant problem. If not addressed, this can grow until it is too big to be repaired. The real source of the problems within that relationship then become blurred as the partners drift away, as do the real solutions to those problems.

Privacy vs. Intimacy

Privacy and independence are important in relationships. We should never feel as though we are entirely dependent on our partners. This is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. We cannot withhold ourselves completely from our partners either. Good relationships are founded on trust, honesty, and healthy communication. If any of these are lacking, it is usually a sign of trouble. If all three of these things are lacking, then the relationship has likely lost its significance to both partners. Intimacy requires partners to be close. Intimacy is just as emotional as it is physical, if not more so. When we’re not emotionally intimate, we’re not allowing ourselves to be as close to our partners as they may need us to be. This lack of connection can lead to insecurity.

Similar insecurity emerges when we feel as though we’re not “playing our part” correctly. Sometimes, these feelings are internal. Most cases of insecurity relating to roles within a relationship comes from dissatisfaction expressed by one’s partner. Relationship therapists all-too-often hear complaints from couples along the lines of “she never ____” or “he won’t _______ anymore.” When we expect our partners to fulfill a specific gendered role, we are setting them up for failure. Human beings are only capable of being themselves, with all of the unique qualities and behaviors that entails. Not all women are born nurturers, and men do not have to disguise their emotions in order to be considered masculine.

Vulnerability is Key in Healthy Relationships

We are more than a single role or set of expected qualities. Rather than setting and struggling to meet unrealistic expectations,  direct your energy on allowing yourself to be vulnerable. This will lead to more emotional intimacy with your partner. Even something as simple as “checking in” on one’s partner every now and then to make sure that they’re alright can make a big difference. Kind and caring gestures show that we really care. When we no longer care, it is time to move on. Relationships are most certainly hard. If in spite of every challenge and struggle, we do still care, then there is hope. We have to be willing to love our partners as they really are, rather than what we want them to be.

To learn more about Couples Therapy and Marriage Counseling in Boca Raton, call our office today @ 800-378-9354.
Elderly woman putting her finger on her head in dismay

Tips for Finding the Right Therapist in Boca

There is a relationship which exists between the patient and the therapist, the strength of which can determine the outcome and overall effectiveness of the treatment itself. Just as with any other relationship, however, some will work out better than others. In other words, just as one might find the right partner, one must also determine who is the right therapist.

Finding the right therapist can be challenging, even with all of the resources available. Even thorough research can lead to some pairings that simply don’t work out. Much like personal relationships, finding a good relationship between patient and therapist can be a process of trial and error. It helps to be informed of what to look for in a therapist and to know exactly what you want out of therapy.

While the fundamentals of clinical treatment are similar, how individual therapists operate can be unique to them and their practice. For example, different therapists may have different methods of administering treatment – such as whether or not they employ pharmaceuticals or holistic alternatives. Other variables can be whether or not they specialize in treating children, adolescents or families. Some therapists may even specialize in practices such as CBT, art or music-integration therapy.

Three Signs Your Current Therapist is Not a Good Match

1. Sessions are Not Something to Look Forward to

A major indicator that things just aren’t working out is that the patient simply isn’t looking forward to sessions with their therapist. Therapy should not be something that is dreaded or treated as a chore. When therapy is working well, the session can feel like the high point of the patient’s week. Sometimes sessions may be slow or dull-feeling, and other times there may be some challenging material covered which can leave one feeling emotionally exhausted. However, patients should never feel negatively about therapy. Even though it can be painful, therapy should feel empowering. Recurring boredom or frustration may be a reason to consult with one’s therapist to suggest a different form of treatment. If nothing changes, then perhaps a different therapist will help.

2. There is No Personal Growth

Another indication that the relationship between patient and therapist may be failing is that sessions of therapy aren’t resulting in any personal growth for the patient. In a good patient-therapist relationship, the therapist can guide their patient towards better choices and healthier thought processes which can benefit them greatly in their day-to-day lives. When treatment is ineffective, one might not observe any positive changes. If there is no improvement in relationships, confidence, or in the management of the problem itself – such as depression or anxiety, then the therapy is most likely not working. This lack of progress can be a major sign that something is simply not clicking, whether it be with the treatment or with the relationship between therapist and patient.

3. Therapy Isn’t Challenging

A good session of therapy can be challenging. There is more to the relationship between therapist and patient than passive listening. Sure, therapists are there to listen to their patient’s problems and needs, but in a good therapeutic relationships the therapist also challenges their patient to confront their choices and make new and better ones. Therapy should inspire positive change, and embolden the patient to believe that they are capable of such progress. Therapy that is too passive and unresponsive is almost never successful. Far from improving, therapy which doesn’t challenge the patient can be boring and can lead to the patient frequently missing sessions or to stop going altogether. For therapy to be the most effective, both therapist and patient must be engaged and actively working towards shared goals. That activity and desire to grow and develop is what motivates necessary change. Without it, there is only stagnation.

Is Therapy Disappointing? Try a Different Therapist!

In every profession there will be people whom we work better with than others, and the same can be said for therapy. If therapy doesn’t seem to be working, sometimes it means that we need to see a different therapist – one who can better accommodate our own unique needs. Hiring a therapist should be approached with the same consideration as one would hire an employee for their company. Evaluating a therapist’s offerings and technique is not unlike looking over a resume to find if an employee is qualified for a position. We must feel free to explore our options before committing ourselves to several sessions with any single therapist. In doing this, we can ensure a greater likelihood that the treatment will succeed. After all, the relationship between therapist and patient should be strong. It is this bond that is crucial to the effectiveness of the therapy itself.

To learn more about our therapists, or to schedule an appointment, call 800-378-9354.
A male and female interlocking hands in what appears to be a strong, happy relationship.

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