A recent article in Huffington Post offered a quick overview (with additional links) to ancient beliefs and practices now supported by scientific studies.
The beliefs and practices include: helping others (hedonistic vs. eudaimonic), acupuncture, community support, tai chi, meditation, compassion, acceptance, and love.
Benefits mentioned are increased antibody protection, pain reduction, longevity, stress reduction, improved mitochondrial energy production, positive effects on gene expression, deeper meaning, life satisfaction, love - and, of course, happiness!
Read more here:
Sonata in Joy Major by Denita Benyshek.
Reverse-collaged glass, 6'2" H x 32" W.
The challenges associated with perfectionism are complex. Many of us struggle with never ceasing critical self-judgment due to perfectionism - although we may also benefit from outstanding achievement due to our high standards. Toxic perfectionism can be self-imposed or absorbed from our parents, culture, or society. If someone was mistreated, even abused, as a child or employee for not being perfect, this trauma can continue to contaminate the present as feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, and never being "good enough."
How can we reap the benefits of high standards without suffering under the "tyranny of shoulds?" How can we know if perfectionism is a destructive force or a constructive ambition? How can we cope with perfectionism?
Ed Beckham, Ph.D., and Cecilia Beckham, a licensed clinical social worker, address these questions in a book chapter entitled "Coping with Perfectionism." That chapter is available online here:
Many individuals suffer from prolonged stress and daily anxiety. These states take a serious toll on mental, emotional, and physiological health. The part of the brain responsible for self-control degenerates, sleep is disrupted, motivation decreases, concentration is fragmented, angry outbursts increase, the immune system malfunctions, inflammation increases, fewer brain cells are made, relationships are strained, and aging accelerates.
People use many methods to cope with stress. Some methods are maladaptive, such as social withdrawal or self-medicating with alcohol. Life might be easier short term, but maladaptive coping mechanisms can cause more problems over time.
What can you do to reduce stress and lessen anxiety?
This series of articles will describe effective methods for reducing stress.
For many people, simply making the first appointment with a psychotherapist is helpful. It is a relief to know that there will be nonjudgmental, empathetic listening, and support on the road to change.
Some therapists teach stress reduction skills and coping methods. A simple technique that can be learned is diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing. Slow diaphragmatic breathing can disrupt the fight, flight, or freeze reaction. In addition, more oxygen is available to the brain, and lower amounts of stress hormones are released. Muscle tension softens, clear thinking is easier, and insight is enhanced.
Diaphragmatic breathing is much more than simply taking deep breaths. When performed correctly, your chest will not move. Instead, your stomach will move in and out with each breath. You can watch a baby or a sleeping dog naturally breathe this way. Small children use diaphragmatic breathing. Somehow, as we get older, we loose this ability.
The Breath of Fire
Early in the counseling process, I teach clients The Breath of Fire, a kind of diaphragmatic breathing. The Breath of Fire involves counting during inhaling and exhaling, and holding the breath briefly. This technique is especially useful for people who are anxious or worry about the same issues over and over. The Breath of Fire requires concentration and disrupts anxious thought processes.
Because it can be difficult to understand the importance of diaphragmatic breathing, I use biofeedback software to vividly illustrate the effects proper breathing. A small sensor is gently clipped to an ear lobe. It reads heart rate pace and heart rate variability patterns.
The data is transformed into colorful graphs and musical tones, providing immediate feedback to the client. Studies have shown 40% to 60% reduction in anger, irritability, anxiety, and depression with daily practice for four weeks.
The Importance of Practice
It is best to practice diaphragmatic breathing daily for at least two weeks, preferably four weeks, training the body and constructing new neural pathways, before using it to manage stress. It’s like you learn to flip a switch. You develop the ability to switch rapidly into a calmer state of mind where you are less reactive, more thoughtful, considerate, and deliberate in choices and actions.
The simple act of diaphragmatic breathing can be very empowering.
Instead of being controlled by your emotions, instead of reacting to fear, instead of trying to escape from anxiety, you are now choosing how to feel and act. You can now look at problems and think with more clarity, instead of feeling overwhelmed.
And you can do it anywhere!
In the midst of a crowded elevator, on your way to an important meeting, you can switch on diaphragmatic breathing. Before a medical appointment for a loved one, you can practice diaphragmatic breathing. While you are waiting for a test to begin, you can calm yourself and untangle your thoughts with diaphragmatic breathing. When your spouse or child is upset, you can stay grounded and make better decisions with the help of diaphragmatic breathing.
Personally, I practice diaphragmatic breathing as I drive to and from work. I arrive at work calm and focused. At work, diaphragmatic breathing keeps me grounded and present while working with clients. After work, thanks to diaphragmatic breathing, I go home without carrying problems with me, relaxed, and ready to engage with my family. While doing chores, diaphragmatic breathing keeps me from feeling overwhelmed and makes the tasks more enjoyable. During a massage, diaphragmatic breathing allows me to take in healing touch and release tension. During dental work, diaphragmatic breathing results in less pain and less need for pain medication.
The simple act of diaphragmatic breathing can be life changing! I highly recommend learning this method of managing stress.
In our world of smart phones, tablets, and laptops, we are accustomed to immediate access to what we want, no matter where we are. Now you can easily access mental health counseling through Skype video conferencing or website services specializing in what is known as online psychotherapy, tele mental health, skypo-therapy, cloud mental health, e-therapy, cyber counseling, and more. Methods include chat, face time, and video cameras.
Are you the kind of client who would benefit from this service?
My clients who utilize online psychotherapy fall into several categories. Some clients travel frequently for business or pleasure. Online psychotherapy allows us to maintain the optimal regular rhythm and sustained creative flow of our work together, without disruptions.
Second, some clients are mothers who are overwhelmed by complex, hectic "soccer" schedules, caring for young children who might be disabled, perhaps responsible for elderly parents, sometimes engaged in careers, perhaps working as professionals at home. Online psychotherapy is easier to attend regularly because no commute is involved, so there is less time commitment. Mothers who come into my office for regular sessions sometimes take advantage of online sessions when a young child is sick and unable to attend school.
A third category of online clients want to work with me because of my specialized training, specific therapeutic techniques, and our good client/clinician "fit." These clients might have severe chronic pain or illness that makes it difficult to commute or these clients are intellectually gifted or artistically talented individuals who live far from my practice office, even in Europe and Asia.
And the fourth category of clients is a random group with an assortment of reasons for not attending face-to-face sessions. Think of tele mental health as a modern version of a doctor making house calls!
Online Psychotherapy is Effective for Many Problems
A number of recent studies found that online psychotherapy was as effective as traditional, in-the-office sessions for a number of issues, including depression, anxiety, addiction, post traumatic stress syndrome, and more. However, in a life threatening emergency, including self harm or suicidal thoughts, you should call 911 immediately!
A type of specialized software allows me to offer EMDR sessions online. Bilateral brain stimulation is provided visually, as you look at your computer monitor, and can also be administered through alternating sounds. This technique is highly effective in healing trauma and helping clients recover from bad experiences, negative self-beliefs, and patterns rooted in dysfunctional families. After this treatment, many clients feel more energetic, become more organized, feel more content and happy and less fearful and anxious, comfortable engaging in previously avoided activities, resolve relationship problems, and more!
In general, online psychotherapy cannot promise the same degree of confidentiality provided by face-to-face sessions - because of the intervening technology - some methods promise protections that meet HIPAA confidentiality requirements for healthcare providers and clients. Although Skype is considered less secure, there are website services that meet HIPAA standards.
I work through a secure online service. Please contact me (through the contact link above) You may use this website to schedule a private, confidential session with me at a time that is convenient for you. I look forward to our work together and helping you feel better soon!
People who have not participated in mental health counseling often do not know what to expect during psychotherapy sessions. You might not be familiar with the different kinds of approaches, philosophies, and techniques used by mental health practitioners. Finding a counselor who is a “good fit” for you will make your psychotherapeutic process more effective.
Some counselors offer a free first session. This allows you to “shop around” and be selective. Become familiar with the counselor’s website and make a list of questions to ask during your initial email or telephone contact and first meeting.
You can think about mental health counseling as a personal journey with a beginning, a middle, and an end. You might not know where the journey will lead, what you might discover or encounter, or what you will learn. A good psychotherapist will accompany you during your journey, offering nonjudgmental caring, support, and guidance, and teaching new skills.
My method integrates humanistic psychology, family systems, and practical creativity.
Humanistic psychology supports your healing and personal growth by building on your strengths, focusing on meaning, potential, transformation, self-determination, resilience, motivation, talent development, competence, responsibility, and self-actualization. Client centered humanistic psychology provides a holistic (mind - body - spirit, individual - familial - social - physical - spiritual) view of the individual.
Humanistic psychology also studies creativity. Enhanced facility with creativity can contribute to successful life transitions and positive changes in everyday life. The creative process can be used to define problems, reflect on issues, incubate ideas, and implement solutions. Creativity is used by individuals who make positive changes in relationships, gain skills in parenting, succeed at school or work, contribute to innovation in business, or respond productively to crisis - such as successful adjustment to divorce.
Family systems thinking (sometimes referred to as marriage and family therapy) recognizes that each individual participates in multiple relationships. Individuals, couples, families, societies, schools, and work environments have patterns of behavior that influence individuals and are influenced by individuals. But, these patterns can be changed!
In general, with my clients, the psychotherapeutic process goes like this…
First, we will meet for a 50 minute free session during which you'll share information about issues that bring you to therapy. I'll ask questions about these issues to gain more understanding about your situation. I will explain what approaches would be the best for your issues. Then, we can decide whether to continue working together.
If we decide to go forward, I usually suggest making 4 weeks of appointments in advance so as to secure your appointment time. It's easier to remember a regular weekly time and you'll get into the rhythm of psychotherapeutic "flow" - where insights, pattern recognition, more awareness, and empowerment becomes a regular part of your life. If you are traveling or live outside of the Seattle area, we can utilize telemental health, meeting for online video conference sessions through Skype or icouch (also works with smart phones). Video conferencing can also work for many individuals in many different situations, including someone who is chronically ill, a parent who cannot leave home occasionally due to caring for a sick child, or individuals who do not want to struggle with rush hour traffic or the time required for a long commute. Video conferencing works well for folks who have busy schedules.
Some of our work together will involve looking at how your family of origin (parents, grandparents, siblings, etc.) and other significant past relationships contributed to your issues. We might explore major life events and traumas that could be having a lasting impact on you. Initially, your descriptions of family and events might be more intellectual. We would work towards gaining recognition of emotions that were involved and how your self concept was formed, integrating thinking and feeling. At the same time, you would learn skills to become more effective at coping with issues and events in your daily life.
Creativity is involved in that we will rewrite your life story so that the past does not rigidly determine and limit your present and your future. You will form a clear vision of how you want your life to be and make a plan on how to accomplish that, taking gradual steps to accomplish your goals.
Depending on what seems appropriate for you, as an individual, we might eventually use art making or sand tray, breathing exercises, visualization, or personal mythology - to gain insight and move towards your goals. These methods are usually used later, with the first few sessions devoted to me gathering information and gaining understanding of your life, accompanied by traditional "talk therapy" where I offer you nonjudgmental support, caring, and compassion. Psychotherapy can function as a container for your internal process, in that I will "hold" your experience so that you feel safe to explore, experience, understand, and take action.
Sometimes I recommend clients undertake certain kinds of "body work" that might include yoga, meditation, walking daily, massage, Chinese healing touch, or engagement in sports. The body/mind/spirit connection is powerful and body work can support, strengthen, and hasten your healing.
Again, this depends on the individual. Sometimes body work feels too similar to previous traumas and is not advisable until much later.
Sometimes I integrate care with your personal physician. I also sometimes recommend clients consult a naturopathic doctor as certain food allergies/sensitivities can strongly influence behavior, emotions, and sleep patterns.
Your care will be individualized for you because you are unique.
Depending on your situation and what you want to accomplish, we might work together weekly for 3 to 6 months to a year, and then schedule appointments every two weeks, then monthly, until you decide to conclude our work together. Of course, you can terminate psychotherapy at any time. This is your decision and a place for you to exercise power.
Generally, before clients conclude psychotherapy, we meet once to review the issues you came with and articulate what you've accomplished, how you've changed, and what your new goals are. The skills you learn in psychotherapy can be applied to challenges you encounter in the future. In a way, you will carry your own healer within you wherever you go - so that you will continue to heal and grow!
Your first free session will be 50 minutes. Usually, the 2nd appointment (the intake appointment) is 80 minutes long. Some clients prefer all appointments be 80 minutes long as longer appointments allow clients more time to bring up issues, explore issues more fully, experience and process painful emotions that might arise, find resolution, make action plans, and feel "finished." This is your decision and this decision will empower you.
I can bill insurance as an out-of-network provider. Whatever fees are not covered by insurance are then billed to you. Some clients use medical savings accounts to pay fees. Sometimes, fees count towards deductibles on insurance policies.
Billing insurance requires a diagnosis that will remain part of your permanent record. Some clients want to protect their privacy by not billing insurance. Sometimes clients do want the financial advantages of billing insurance. This will be your decision. Generally, if I do bill insurance, I give a "mild" diagnosis that is related to some transitory situation so that the client is not identified as severely or chronically mentally ill. These are important issues to consider and discuss with your psychotherapist.
The location of your psychotherapist's office can also affect confidentiality. Unfortunately, there is still social stigma attached to seeking mental health services - even though this is a sign of strength. If you want to avoid people knowing you are engaged in mental health counseling - and you do not want to meet people you might know in a psychotherapist's waiting room or parking lot, then select a counselor that has different entrances and exits for clients, no waiting room, and a parking lot that is shared with a variety of businesses. My private practice office has this kind of confidential location.
I hope all of this information is not too overwhelming. You can use the information I provided about my practice to formulate questions to ask counselors that you interview. As you select a psychotherapist and begin working together, keep asking questions about the process. If you express your needs clearly, you are more likely to get your needs met. If you understand the mental health counseling process, you can participate more fully.
If you have further questions or desire additional information, please feel free to contact me.
Take good care of yourself.
Kind regards, Dr. Benyshek
Dr. Benyshek is a devoted psychotherapist and marriage counselor, a professional artist, and an internationally renowned researcher on contemporary artists as shamans.