Mental Health Counseling
What is Counseling?
Definition: Active engagement in change.
Another way to say it: Getting help and guidance regarding life’s challenges. Counseling involves working together, helping people to regain balance in their emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical areas.
Mental Health Counseling provides services for individuals, groups, couples and families. We work with all age groups and with a multitude of different problems ranging from the chronically mentally ill, to the client experiencing situational distress, and clients with co-occurring disorders.
Individual therapy (sometimes called “psychotherapy” or “counseling”) is a process through which clients work one-on-one with a trained therapist—in a safe, caring, and confidential environment—to explore their feelings, beliefs, or behaviors, work through challenging or influential memories, identify aspects of their lives that they would like to change, better understand themselves and others, set personal goals, and work toward desired change.
People seek therapy for a wide variety of reasons, from coping with major life challenges or childhood trauma, to dealing with depression or anxiety, to simply desiring personal growth and greater self-knowledge. A client and therapist may work together for as few as five or six sessions or as long as several years, depending on the client’s unique needs and personal goals for therapy.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology Counseling Center
Couples counseling is a form of relationship counseling which is addressed specifically at people who are involved in romantic relationships. Both married and unmarried couples may seek couples counseling, and there are a number of approaches to couples counseling.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Marsha M. Linehan to help better treat borderline personality disorder. Since its development, it has also been used for the treatment of other kinds of mental health disorders.
What is DBT?
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) treatment is a type of psychotherapy — or talk therapy — that utilizes a cognitive-behavioral approach. DBT emphasizes the psychosocial aspects of treatment.
The theory behind the approach is that some people are prone to react in a more intense and out-of-the-ordinary manner toward certain emotional situations, primarily those found in romantic, family and friend relationships. DBT theory suggests that some people’s arousal levels in such situations can increase far more quickly than the average person’s, attain a higher level of emotional stimulation, and take a significant amount of time to return to baseline arousal levels.
People who are sometimes diagnosed with borderline personality disorder experience extreme swings in their emotions, see the world in black-and-white shades, and seem to always be jumping from one crisis to another. Because few people understand such reactions — most of all their own family and a childhood that emphasized invalidation — they don’t have any methods for coping with these sudden, intense surges of emotion. DBT is a method for teaching skills that will help in this task.
Components of DBT
Support-oriented: It helps a person identify their strengths and builds on them so that the person can feel better about him/herself and their life.
Cognitive-based: DBT helps identify thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that make life harder: “I have to be perfect at everything.” “If I get angry, I’m a terrible person” & helps people to learn different ways of thinking that will make life more bearable: “I don’t need to be perfect at things for people to care about me”, “Everyone gets angry, it’s a normal emotion.
Collaborative: It requires constant attention to relationships between clients and staff. In DBT people are encouraged to work out problems in their relationships with their therapist and the therapists to do the same with them. DBT asks people to complete homework assignments, to role-play new ways of interacting with others, and to practice skills such as soothing yourself when upset. These skills, a crucial part of DBT, are taught in weekly lectures, reviewed in weekly homework groups, and referred to in nearly every group. The individual therapist helps the person to learn, apply and master the DBT skills.
Generally, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) may be seen as having two main components:
1. Individual weekly psychotherapy sessions that emphasize problem-solving behavior for the past week’s issues and troubles that arose in the person’s life. Self-injurious and suicidal behaviors take first priority, followed by behaviors that may interfere with the therapy process. Quality of life issues and working toward improving life in general may also be discussed. Individual sessions in DBT also focus on decreasing and dealing with post-traumatic stress responses (from previous trauma in the person’s life) and helping enhance their own self-respect and self-image.
Both between and during sessions, the therapist actively teaches and reinforces adaptive behaviors, especially as they occur within the therapeutic relationship[…]. The emphasis is on teaching patients how to manage emotional trauma rather than reducing or taking them out of crises […]. Telephone contact with the individual therapist between sessions is part of DBT procedures. (Linehan, 2014)
During individual therapy sessions, the therapist and client work toward learning and improving many basic social skills.
2. Weekly group therapy sessions, generally 2 1/2 hours a session which is led by a trained DBT therapist. In these weekly group therapy sessions, people learn skills from one of four different modules: interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance/reality acceptance skills, emotion regulation, and mindfulness skills are taught.
The 4 Modules of Dialectical Behavior Therapy
The essential part of all skills taught in skills group are the core mindfulness skills.
Observe, Describe, and Participate are the core mindfulness “what” skills. They answer the question, “What do I do to practice core mindfulness skills?”
Non-judgmentally, One-mindfully, and Effectively are the “how” skills and answer the question, “How do I practice core mindfulness skills?”
2. Interpersonal Effectiveness
The interpersonal response patterns –how you interact with the people around you and in your personal relationships — that are taught in DBT skills training share similarities to those taught in some assertiveness and interpersonal problem-solving classes. These skills include effective strategies for asking for what one needs, how to assertively say ‘no,’ and learning to cope with inevitable interpersonal conflict.
People with borderline personality disorder frequently possess good interpersonal skills. They experience problems, however, in the application of these skills in specific contexts — especially emotionally vulnerable or volatile situations. An individual may be able to describe effective behavioral sequences when discussing another person encountering a problematic situation, but may be completely incapable of generating or carrying out a similar set of behaviors when analyzing their own personal situation.
This module focuses on situations where the objective is to change something (e.g., requesting someone to do something) or to resist changes someone else is trying to make (e.g., saying no). The skills taught are intended to maximize the chances that a person’s goals in a specific situation will be met, while at the same time not damaging either the relationship or the person’s self-respect.
3. Distress Tolerance
Most approaches to mental health treatment focus on changing distressing events and circumstances. They have paid little attention to accepting, finding meaning for, and tolerating distress. This task has generally been tackled by religious and spiritual communities and leaders. Dialectical behavior therapy emphasizes learning to bear pain skillfully.
Distress tolerance skills constitute a natural development from mindfulness skills. They have to do with the ability to accept, in a non-evaluative and nonjudgmental fashion, both oneself and the current situation. Although the stance advocated here is a nonjudgmental one, this does not mean that it is one of approval: acceptance of reality is not approval of reality.
Distress tolerance behaviors are concerned with tolerating and surviving crises and with accepting life as it is in the moment. Four sets of crisis survival strategies are taught: distracting, self-soothing, improving the moment, and thinking of pros and cons. Acceptance skills include radical acceptance, turning the mind toward acceptance, and willingness versus willfulness.
4. Emotion Regulation
People with borderline personality disorder or who may be suicidal are typically emotionally intense and labile — frequently angry, intensely frustrated, depressed, and anxious. This suggests that people grappling with these concerns might benefit from help in learning to regulate their emotions.
Dialectical behavior therapy skills for emotion regulation include:
Learning to properly identify and label emotions
Identifying obstacles to changing emotions
Reducing vulnerability to “emotion mind”
Increasing positive emotional events
Increasing mindfulness to current emotions
Taking opposite action
Applying distress tolerance techniques
Family therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves all the members of a nuclear or extended family. Family therapy is a relatively recent development in psychotherapy. Family therapy is becoming an increasingly common form of treatment as changes in American society are reflected in family structures.
Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence-based psychotherapy or counselling that aims at addressing the needs of children and adults with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other difficulties related to traumatic life events.
What Is Brainspotting Therapy?
Brainspotting has been around since 2003 and was discovered by Dr. David Grand. It is relatively new in the world of mental health.
However, it is garnering attention due to it showing rapid results among users.
Watch this video by Dr. Grand on how he defines brainspotting. His goal of easing human suffering in a rapid amount of time is being reached. Dr. Grand has treated people who have been through natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, those who survived the attacks on the World Trade Center, and also veterans who served in combat. While he makes it very clear that brainspotting is not limited to trauma victims.
Dr. Grand claims this type of psychotherapy can help people with a wide variety of mental health disorders obtain a faster recovery than they would with just traditional treatments.
How Does it Work?
The motto of brainspotting is that where you look affects how you feel, lending to the theory that the eyes have an intense relationship with the brain.
A brainspot represents the eye position that correlates with the part of the brain that is holding a negative memory. The negative memory is stuck in this part of the brain, this unconscious part that has been keeping these negative memories from affecting and interfering in our everyday lives. The brain has good intentions but the reality is that by storing these negative memories the brain is doing more harm than good.
An example may be when a child is sexually abused; they may suppress those memories of abuse in order to cope and lead a “normal” life. The problem, these negative memories are still in the brain, lingering. And just by being stored in the brain, these negative memories turn into mental health disorders that appear for what seems like no reason.
Because you cannot make the connection from your mental health disorder to these negative memories, you seek a therapist to help you. It is in therapy that you begin healing. But with brainspotting, you can reach an even deeper level of healing.
A brainspotting therapist can help you access those negative memories or traumas and help you release them from your brain, allowing your brain and your body to heal quickly. For instance, if a military veteran is undergoing brainspotting techniques, the therapist will help him or her focus on a spot that connects with the negative memory of the trauma (e.g. the actual moment when their vehicle exploded due to a bomb). Once they can recall that traumatic event, the therapist can help them process through the negative emotions and they can release it.
This technique has been showing great results with clients who are experiencing healing at a much quicker pace.
Some of the brainspotting techniques include outside and inside window, integrative model, neurophysiology, dual attunement, bilateral sound, one eye, and rolling and z axis. Because there are so many ways to use brainspotting, this makes it possible for almost anyone to be treated and for any reason.
Who Can Benefit?
Brainspotting is an advanced form of psychotherapy that reaches parts of the brain not normally accessed through traditional treatments. Therefore, anyone needing psychotherapy of any kind can benefit from this technique. There is an unbelievable list of mental health disorders that can be treated with brainspotting. Some of the illnesses are anger, phobias, anxiety, and all types of traumas, chronic pain and even impulse control problems. Even physical injuries can be treated with success.
Athletes, in particular, can benefit from brainspotting. It was while working with an Olympic ice skater that this treatment was discovered by Dr. Grand. It is now referred to in helping sports traumatic stress disorder.
Brainspotting can help athletes overcome ailments that are preventing them from performing their best, whether due to a physical injury or mental distress.
Does it Work?
The effectiveness of brainspotting is being researched and the results are positive.
One study involving participants with post-traumatic stress disorder were given brainspotting treatments as an alternative to their treatment process. What the researchers found is that brainspotting had positive effects on the participants, who reported a decrease in symptoms after just a short period of implementing this technique.
There are many positive testimonials from beneficiaries of brainspotting. Because brainspotting is seen as a visual or mental technique, it doesn’t seem scary and people are willing to give it a try. It does not involve surgery or any physical types of treatment. It is simply accessing parts of the brain that you can’t normally access on your own.
This may be another reason so many people are excited to try this method.
What is Breath work?
Breathwork describes a group of exercises that teach you to manipulate your breathing rate and depth with the goal of bringing awareness to your breath and ultimately providing the same benefits you might get from a meditative practice. Most formal practices involve 20 minutes to an hour of sustained, rhythmic breathing techniques. People who practice breathwork describe feeling tingling sensations throughout their body, feelings of clarity, alertness, increased mind-body connection and even emotional purging.
Different types of breath work.
There are many types of breathwork practices, some ranging from fairly basic and easy to do at home, to others requiring a practitioner to teach you the practice. Some breathwork practices are rooted in yogic traditions such as Pranayama or the breath and movement sequences of Kundalini yoga. Other breathwork practices are entirely secular and were developed to help people heal their minds or bodies or even to withstand extreme physical conditions.
Top health benefits of breathwork.
You’ve probably read about the benefits of deep breathing — even a few deep breaths can lower blood pressure and cortisol levels and increase parasympathetic tone, but breathwork is a little different. Formal breathwork practices exert some even more impressive positive effects on the body and work in a different and almost opposite way.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of talk therapy (psychotherapy). You work with a mental health counselor (psychotherapist or therapist) in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions. CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.
CBT can be a very helpful tool in treating mental health disorders, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or an eating disorder. But not everyone who benefits from CBT has a mental health condition. It can be an effective tool to help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations.
Why it’s done
Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat a wide range of issues. It’s often the preferred type of psychotherapy because it can quickly help you identify and cope with specific challenges. It generally requires fewer sessions than other types of therapy and is done in a structured way.
CBT is a useful tool to address emotional challenges. For example, it may help you:
Manage symptoms of mental illness
Prevent a relapse of mental illness symptoms
Treat a mental illness when medications aren’t a good option
Learn techniques for coping with stressful life situations
Identify ways to manage emotions
Resolve relationship conflicts and learn better ways to communicate
Cope with grief or loss
Overcome emotional trauma related to abuse or violence
Cope with a medical illness
Manage chronic physical symptoms
Mental health disorders that may improve with CBT include:
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Substance use disorders
In some cases, CBT is most effective when it’s combined with other treatments, such as antidepressants or other medications.
The trauma therapist works with the patient to identify the source of the trauma and examine contributing factors, such as existing mental illness and past experiences. This information is used to help the patient work through the trauma in group and solo sessions, using a variety of psychological techniques.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference.
EMDR helps to move the storage of that memory to a more functional part of the brain that can experience the event as actually being in the past. It is important to know that there is a real physical change happening with EMDR.