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Neuropsychology: Does Fixing My Brain Mean Fixing My Mind?

What if the way you behaved, your memory and your ability to learn new things could be enhanced by changing the way your brain works? The answer is not so simple.

Neuropsychology is a multidisciplinary and diverse field of science that explores new horizons in the diagnosis and treatment of certain problems concerning the mind-brain connection.

Clinical neuropsychology has influenced various other therapeutic traditions and it is hoped that advances in this field will provide even more solutions for the ever-present mind-brain riddle.

Neuropsychology: What is it?

As a specialty field in clinical psychology, neuropsychology is dedicated to the understanding of how the functioning of the brain is closely related to human behavior. This specialty mainly focuses on the diagnosis of brain disorders, the assessment of behavioral and cognitive functioning and the design of valuable treatment models.

The main challenge of neuropsychology is to understand the ways in which abnormal behavior is affected by the faulty processing of information in the central nervous system.

Neuropsychologists not only look at the effects of psychological conditions on the nervous system; but they also study the ways in which brain injury, hormonal imbalances, and environmental factors affect mental health.

Even though neuropsychology is a relatively young science, it has always been an interesting topic. Traditionally, the associations between psychological defects and focal brain lesions were the main focus; but modern neuropsychology uses refined methods and theories for understanding how the mind and the brain are interconnected.

Neuropsychology is a diverse science and it includes:

  • Experimental neuropsychology

The study of how the brain functions and behavior are connected in non-humans.

  • Cognitive neuropsychology

This is the study of cognitive behavior in humans.

  • Behavioral neuropsychology

This is a blend of behavioral theories and neuropsychological principles.

  • Clinical neuropsychology

Which is the study of the relationships between brain functioning and behavior in humans.

Neuropsychology Theory

For thousands of years, it has been known that our brains affect our psychological state. In early times (around 3500 B.C.E.); the Egyptians started studying the effects of the brain on people’s behavior. Even Hippocrates himself argued that our behavior was directly affected by our brains. Philosophers used to fascinate about the mind’s origin and they attempted to understand how the brain and the body worked.

Late during the 19th century, the science of neuropsychology started to emerge and it continued to advance in the years thereafter. Through extensive research, scientists began understanding how certain brain parts control certain functions of the body.

It was discovered that chemicals like neurotransmitters and certain hormones affect the way in which signal transduction takes place within the brain; and between the brain and other body parts.

Knowing all of this, neurologists have an arsenal of powerful knowledge to use in practice. It is also interesting to note that from the awareness of these connections came the birth of neuropsychology in the modern world.

How Does Neuropsychology Suggest the Mind Works?

Cognitive functioning includes intellectual activities like attention span, learning abilities, memory, the processing of information, executive functions, verbal fluency and working memory. In other words, your cognitive functioning is what gives you the capabilities of acknowledging things happening around you or with you, forming associations, remembering things that happen, using information to reach certain goals and expressing overt behavior.

In clinical neuropsychology, it is thought that your overt behaviors provide information that can be used to assess whether your central nervous system is functioning as it should.

It has been suggested that cognitive function can be influenced by either localized areas of the brain or connections between multiple areas of the brain or both.

Neuropsychology is a science that studies the effect that changing brain chemistry has on mental health. Moreover, it also considers the effects that certain psychological conditions and other non-neurologic conditions have on the central nervous system.

Due to scientific advances and the development of technology in recent years, a lot of new knowledge has come to light. Scientists now have a better understanding of the relationship between chronic diseases and cognitive abilities.

It is now thought that diseases like thyroid disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis may affect the way in which the central nervous system functions. To boot, some treatment methods for controlling these diseases may amplify neuropsychological symptoms or cause new symptoms.

How Do Neuropsychology Interventions Cause Change?

The field of Neuropsychology is quite the “game-changer” and it has influenced different therapeutic traditions. For instance, mindfulness-based psychological approaches to stress management are partially based on the idea that mindfulness can affect mental health by changing brain activity.

One pattern that has been observed through the ages is that our brains tend to fixate on negative feelings and negative events. It goes on to reveal that we focus on things that threaten our well-being instead of paying attention to positive experiences. These patterns may stem from genetics or evolution or they may be based on personal life experiences.

The theory of neuropsychology suggests that we may be able to change these patterns.

Our brains keep changing throughout our lives and this is known as “neuroplasticity”; a term that has gained a lot of attention recently in the mental health profession.

What Happens in a Neuropsychology Session?

Clinical neuropsychologists perform psychometric assessments that they use to measure neurological health.

During a neuropsychological evaluation, the practitioner needs to gather relevant information about the patient. This can be done by taking a detailed patient history and by performing a neuropsychological examination.

History can be obtained through medical records and interviewing. Family members may be asked to disclose more relevant information that may help the cause, with the permission of the patient.

Typically, the examination involves testing using:

  • Verbal questions
  • Paper and pencil questionnaires
  • Computer testing
  • The manipulation of puzzles or blocks or other materials

The practitioner may focus on evaluating cognitive functions like memory, attention, visuospatial functioning, language, reasoning, problem-solving, academic skills and sensory-motor skills.

Furthermore, the neuropsychologist will provide questionnaires and tests to evaluate the psychological aspects of personality, mood, behavior and emotional style.

A neuropsychology technician may administer parts of the testing under the direct supervision of a clinical neuropsychologist. Such an evaluation may be a brief screening or it may be an extended comprehensive screening that may take as long as several appointments.

Techniques Used in Neuropsychology

The techniques used in neuropsychology are used by skilled neuropsychologists to assess and treat brain disorders.

Some of the most important skills of a neuropsychologist include:

  • Neuropsychological assessment techniques
  • Intervention techniques
  • Research design and analysis
  • Being ethical and other professional issues
  • Understanding the implications of certain conditions

Brain Scans: MRI, EEG, and PET Scans

Test results are effective for helping your neuropsychologist to understand the causes of problems you may have with thinking and understanding.

Your neuropsychologist may want to use your neurological examination results along with other test results like those of brain scans, blood tests and EEG’s to reach a diagnosis from where treatment can commence.

Functional brain imaging techniques can also be used to pinpoint the areas of the brain from which certain functions originate when used along with neuropsychological findings.

Neuropsych Testing

Most of the tests that are used for assessment in neuropsychology are standardized. This means that everybody takes the same tests in the same way. The patient’s performance on the tests is compared to that of other people of the same age or educational background.

Test results may be used to clarify the causes of issues you may have with mental performance. The causes may range from normal aging to neurological illness to depression.

Neuropsychology

Do Neuropsychology Interventions Work?

Clinical neuropsychologists use their specialized knowledge to assess, diagnose and treat people who suffer from neurological, neurodevelopmental and other related medical disorders during their lives.

Many neuropsychologists make use of a trial-and-error approach by making relatively small changes to a treatment regimen over certain time periods to test their effectiveness. Sometimes, a therapist may recommend certain medications before considering any other changes. Moving forward, lifestyle changes may be added to enhance the results.

One treatment approach, known as “neurofeedback,” is used to observe brain activity as it happens. The therapist can then provide the patient with feedback on how they can change or even improve brain activity for improved mental health.

What Kinds of Concerns are Neuropsychology Interventions Best For?

Neuropsychological interventions may be helpful for conditions like:

  • Dementia
  • Neurodegenerative disorders
  • Seizure disorders
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Learning disabilities
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Neuropsychiatric disorders
  • Infectious disease that affects the central nervous system
  • Metabolic disease affecting the central nervous system
  • The neurological effects caused by medical disorders

How Are Neuropsychologists Trained?

Different routes can be taken to become a neuropsychologist. These professionals usually have doctoral degrees in neurology or psychology.

Neuropsychologists also need to have completed specialized training in the field of neuropsychology.

Concerns/Limitations of Neuropsychology

For many years mental health experts had to work with an organ, the brain, which they could never see. Even though the brain still holds many mysteries today still, neuropsychology has provided therapists with a better understanding of how the brain works.

Some neuropsychological methods may be quite new and, in some cases, they have not been tested. It is, therefore, recommended that people should learn as much as possible about the specific type of treatment that is recommended by their therapist.

Important Practitioners in Neuropsychology

Neuropsychology truly began to emerge during the last years of the 19th century and it made great advances throughout the 20th century. Scientists came to learn how certain brain parts were responsible for controlling certain bodily functions. Some influential names in the field of neuropsychology include:

  • Franz Joseph Gall
  • Paul Broca
  • Karl Spencer Lashley
  • Ward Halstead
  • Alexander Luria

How to Find a Therapist

Neuropsychologists practice in various settings like hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers and governmental agencies. You may be referred by other physicians or health care providers to see a neuropsychologist. Alternatively, you can also discuss your options for referral with your doctor.

The AACN website has a member directory containing a list of certified Clinical Neuropsychologists.

What Should I be Looking for in an LMHP?

Clinical neuropsychologists are skilled professionals who assess and treat brain disorders. They may also be involved in research concerning the connections that exist between the brain and the psychological state of a person.

A neuropsychologist may be involved in the research conducted during the development of new medications. Furthermore, they may also work in clinical settings like psychiatric hospitals.

A competent practitioner will have proper interviewing and counseling skills, appreciate social as well as cultural practices and have the knowledge of a clinical psychologist. They should also have statistical knowledge and be familiar with neuropsychological testing.

Neuropsychologists generally meet all of these requirements on top of an all-encompassing understanding of the nervous system and the pathologies that affect it.

Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist

If you are interested in knowing more about neuropsychology, speak to a professional in the field. They will be able to assist you in taking the steps needed to benefit from this type of approach to psychological well-being.

Contact a neuropsychology specialist to start following the steps to renewed psychological health!

Brain Health Equals Mind Health

The science of neuropsychology has enhanced our understanding of the brain‐mind relationship. This has provided us with novel ideas about the diagnosis and treatment of various disorders involving this connection.

Research has also opened our eyes to the ways in which changing brain chemistry can affect mental health.

It looks like it may be true, a healthy mind could house a healthy body and vice versa.

References

  1. http://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/neuro.aspx
  2. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/neuropsychology
  3. https://theaacn.org/adult-neuropsychology/
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/neuropsychology
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/cognitive-functions
  6. https://theaacn.org/

Inside Hypnotherapy and What It Can Do For You

Hypnotherapy is one of the most controversial and fascinating therapeutic approaches. Being under constant and intense criticism from experts who denied its claims, this field has been in a continuous process of growth.

Although sometimes wrongfully compared to circus hypnosis, hypnotherapy is an effective intervention that can restore our mental health and help us achieve well-being.

Nowadays, hypnotherapy is used to successfully treat various emotional and behavioral problems such as depression, stress, and anxiety.

Current research indicates this therapeutic approach may be a promising solution for people dealing with chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, addiction recovery, and many other health-related problems.

But before we look at how hypnotherapy cultivates positive change and improves our physical and mental health, we need to get a better understanding of hypnosis as a transformational process.

Hypnotherapy: What is it?

When we hear the word ‚hypnosis’ most of us probably think of a mystical technique that can completely subjugate the will of another person. At least that’s how movies and sitcoms usually portray it.

In reality, things are entirely different. Used as a therapeutic tool, hypnosis can be one of the most effective ways to develop specific abilities such as focus, overcome traumatic events, and find the resources to cope with emotional problems.

Is Hypnosis Real?

For someone who’s never experienced it, hypnosis may seem strange and kind of spooky. In fact, when we hear the word ‘hypnosis,’ many of us probably imagine a man dangling a pocket watch in front of our eyes. But that’s far from being the truth.

Hypnosis is merely a step-by-step process through which we enter a profound state of relaxation that gives us access to altered states of consciousness. There’s absolutely nothing mystical or supernatural about this technique.

What is a Hypnotic State?

In a nutshell, a hypnotic state is an altered state of consciousness. Being hypnotized is kind of like being entirely absorbed by a movie or an exciting book. Nothing else matters but the object that draws your attention.

People under hypnosis choose to gradually and willingly lose sight of outside stimuli and focus on internal processes. It almost feels like you’re somewhere between awake and asleep.

A person who’s in a hypnotic state can be instructed to describe a particular event from childhood, visualize the result of certain decisions, or explore potential solutions to a current problem.

Hypnotherapy Theory

Most psychological theories state that mental health problems originate in the subconscious, a place where childhood memories, desires, preferences, and other relevant information are kept.

For example, family and cultural norms can be assimilated so strongly by the subconscious that they give rise to behaviors that influence the decisions we make, without us being aware of it.

How Does Hypnotherapy Suggest the Mind Works?

Experts in hypnosis and hypnotherapy believe the mind operates both consciously and subconsciously.

The conscious mind uses a structured approach to process information and gives rise to decisions that later become actions. Any thought, emotion, sensation, or behavior that you’re aware of takes shape at a conscious level.

But the true origin of our thoughts, decisions, and actions lies in the subconscious mind. Being an immense reservoir of information, our subconscious contains all the resources we need to construct our perception of reality.

Through hypnosis, we can access this great source of knowledge and find solutions to our problems.

In short, consciousness is merely an expression of the complex processes that take place underneath the surface of our mind.

How Does Hypnosis Work?

The hypnotherapist invites the client’s subconscious mind to give up harmful ideas and dysfunctional thoughts and replace them with others that better fit their values.

Between sessions, clients are encouraged to make a personal effort towards overcoming their problem or achieving certain goals. Using audio scripts, they can practice hypnosis at home thus learning to access their subconscious mind without the help of an expert.

During a hypnosis session, the therapist can ‘plant’ suggestions that clients can activate when necessary. For instance, if you want to quit smoking, a hypnotherapist can program your mind to associate the word “Stop” with a sensation of calmness. This means that every time you crave cigarettes, you can simply say “Stop” and your mind will automatically enter a state of calm.

How Does Hypnotherapy Cause Change?

Through metaphors and hypnotic suggestions, the therapist can cultivate change and help clients find resources to cope with their problems.

But for this approach to work, the client must be willing to trust the hypnotherapist. Furthermore, any suggestion that does not conform to the client’s values would be immediately denied, and the person would come out of the hypnotic trance.

During hypnosis, the subconscious takes on the leading role, leaving behind the structured and easily accessible processes of our consciousness.

Thanks to hypnotherapy techniques, we can tap into unexplored resources and discover new ways to deal with our everyday problems.

What Happens in a Hypnotherapy Session?

Before inducing a hypnotic trance, the therapist will assess your suggestibility. This is the first and one of the most crucial steps in hypnotherapy.

While under hypnosis, the client’s body and mind are in a state of idleness and passivity thus allowing easier access to deeper levels of communication with the subconscious mind.

By cultivating a trust-based, communication-based relationship, the therapist gives clients complete freedom to explore the depths of their subconscious mind and discover the resources and answers they need to overcome emotional and behavioral problems.

Modern hypnosis relies heavily on a tight collaboration between the therapist and the client. Furthermore, clients are never asked to do anything that contradicts their principles or desires.

Does Hypnotherapy Work?

As we mentioned in the beginning, current evidence suggests hypnotherapy can be successfully used to treat various health-related problems.

By uncovering the subconscious origins of your problems, you gain a clear understanding of the mind-body interaction and discover valuable answers to your day-to-day hassles.

Hypnotherapy can help you get rid of headaches, quit smoking, overcome fears, regain self-confidence, achieve better focus, regulate your blood pressure, and keep problems such as depression, and anxiety in check.

What Kinds of Concerns is Hypnotherapy Best For?

Aside from severe mental disorders like major depressive episodes, acute psychotic episodes, schizophrenia, or neurodegenerative diseases, hypnotherapy shows promising results in treating mood and behavioral issues.

But this approach is not reserved exclusively for people who wish to overcome mental illness. Many of those who choose to see a hypnotherapist do it because they want to develop particular skills and abilities that will help them achieve personal and professional growth.

Hypnotherapy

How Are Hypnotherapy Specialists Trained?

Many of the mental health professionals who seek hypnotherapy training are interested in learning practical ways to deal with ‘tough’ clients who are resistant to other treatment methods.

Before you can even think about entering a training program, you need to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology, education, social services, or any other related field.

Aside from a solid academic background, you also need clinical experience which you can obtain by doing an internship program at a mental health clinic.

Lastly, to obtain your license or certification in hypnotherapy, you need to join an extensive training program that usually covers both theoretical and practical aspects of this approach.

Concerns/Limitations of Hypnotherapy

Just like any other therapeutic approach, hypnotherapy has certain limitations that both mental health professional and clients need to be mindful of.

First, hypnotherapy cannot treat brain disorders, fix genetic problems or repair congenital damage. It’s also ineffective in preventing the aging process or helping you achieve something which surpasses your physical and mental abilities.

Second, due to its potential side effects (nausea, dizziness), some experts opt for different approaches. Furthermore, uncovering traumatic events through hypnotic trance may result in flashbacks, panic attacks, and anxiety, which is another reason why some mental health professional avoid using hypnotherapy.

Lastly, the far-fetched claims some experts in hypnosis have made over the years may have affected the reputation of this approach. However, the promising results published by experts from across the globe place hypnotherapy among some of the most effective therapeutic strategies.

Important Practitioners in Hypnotherapy

James Braid

James Braid was a Scottish surgeon and a pioneer of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. In fact, many consider him to be the first hypnotherapist to use this approach in treating functional nervous disorders.

For Braid, hypnosis was neither a miracle cure nor a universal solution that would eventually replace other forms of treatment. His sole purpose was to harness the potential of hypnosis and use it as a treatment option for various types of mental illness.

Jean-Martin Charcot

Known for his work on hysteria and hypnosis, Jean-Martin Charcot was a French neurologist and professor of anatomical pathology who recognized the immense potential of hypnotherapy.

Although his primary specialty was neurology – a field in which he excelled – Charcot was among the most vocal advocates of hypnosis as a potential treatment for mental disorders.

Milton Erickson

Milton Erickson is considered by many as one of the emblematic figures of modern psychotherapy. The American psychologist and psychiatrist created an entire therapeutic approach around hypnosis.

In fact, we could argue that he was the father of modern hypnotherapy, using this approach to treat difficult cases and gain new insight into the human unconscious.

How to Find a Therapist

Despite hypnotherapy’s solid scientific background and rigorous ethical standards, there’s always the chance of stumbling into self-proclaimed experts with sketchy academic backgrounds who seek to attract clients by making extraordinary claims.

If you’re planning to see a hypnotherapist, don’t just go to the first one you find on Google. Considering your mental health is at stake here, be patient and take the time to do some thorough digging.

What Should I be Looking for in an LMHP?

Just like any other mental health professional, a good hypnotherapist should have a legit and verifiable academic background. In addition to that, his/her certifications should be recognized by reputable organizations such as The American Psychological Association.

Aside from academic background and certification, another crucial aspect you should be mindful of is interpersonal skills. Sharp hypnotherapists are excellent communicators who inspire trust and are empathetic towards your needs and concerns.

Furthermore, they set realistic goals and avoid making extraordinary claims.

Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist

Here are a few questions that will help you determine if a therapist is right for you:

  • How did you become a hypnotherapist? What’s your academic background?
  • How long have you been working in this field?
  • What are some of the problems that hypnotherapy is best for?
  • What are the ethical standards that guide your practice?
  • What can hypnotherapy do for me?

The more you know about a hypnotherapists’ background and experience the better you can determine if he/she is a good fit for you.

Final Thoughts on Hypnotherapy

Though still under scrutiny by experts who doubt its results, hypnotherapy has managed to win its place among the most effective interventions for mental disorders.

By helping us explore the depths of our unconscious mind, hypnosis represents a valuable tool that allows us to discover the origins of our emotional pain and access valuable resources that facilitate healing and growth.

References

Ebesutani, C. K., Helmi, K., Fierstein, M., Taghizadeh, M. E., & Chorpita, B. F. (2016). A Pilot Study of Modular Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive-Behavioral Hypnotherapy for Treating Anxiety in Iranian Girls. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, 13-37.

Ford, A. C., Quigley, E. M., Lacy, B. E., Lembo, A. J., Saito, Y. A., Schiller, L. R., . . . Moayyedi, P. (2014). Effect of Antidepressants and Psychological Therapies, Including Hypnotherapy, in Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 1350–1365.

Gill, M. (2018). Anatomy and Pathophysiology of Chronic Pain and the Impact of Hypnotherapy. Sleep and Hypnosis, 85-90.

Haghighi, S., Movahedzadeh, B., & Malekzadeh, M. (2016). The Effectiveness of Group Cognitive Hypnotherapy on Major Depression Referred to Residential and Semi-residential Addiction Recovery Centers. Armaghane Danesh Bimonthly Journal, 914-923.

Harris, T. (n.a.). How Hypnosis Works. Retrieved from HowStuffWorks: science.howstuffworks.com

Hypnotherapy. (2015). Retrieved from GoodTherapy: www.goodtherapy.org

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Dating Someone With Depression: 7 Ways to Support Their Struggle

Dating someone with depression is undoubtedly challenging. From tears and social withdrawal to stormy moods, changes in appetite, sleepless nights and a lowered sex drive – depression can have a devastating effect on your partner, but also on you and the relationship between you. In this article, we describe the symptoms and treatment options for depression before taking you through 7 ways that you can support your partner through their illness.

What is Depression?

Depression is a psychiatric condition that usually comes with intense feelings of sorrow, hopelessness, worthlessness and/or guilt; and these may come on gradually or suddenly – not only following a traumatic or stressful event. Importantly, depression is more than just about of everyday sadness – an emotion which we all experience from time to time. Beyond what you feel emotionally, depression also affects your thoughts, behaviors, and self-esteem, making it incredibly difficult to live a normal life.

Common Symptoms

  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Altered sleep patterns: you may find yourself sleeping more than usual or struggling to sleep
  • Changes in the way you eat: you may eat less or have more food cravings, leading to weight changes
  • Feeling hopeless and/or worthless
  • Thoughts of suicide which may be accompanied by suicide attempts
  • Difficulties with concentration, which may make it difficult for you to perform your job, or even smaller daily tasks
  • You may lose interest in activities that you previously enjoyed
  • You may experience physical sensations, such as aches and pains

Common Treatments

Research shows that both medication and therapy affect the brain in similar ways and are equally effective in reducing depressive symptoms. While there are many medications and therapy modalities out there, these are some of the more popular options for treating depression:

  • Medications: your GP or psychiatrist may prescribe antidepressants such as Prozac, Lexapro or Zoloft. Medication is often combined with talk therapy because the antidepressants put you in a space where you’re able to take full advantage of the benefits of counseling.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy: this common form of talk therapy explores how your life’s history may be affecting your current difficulties. The psychodynamic approach also focuses on how your unconscious – aspects of your mind that you’re not always aware of – might be causing or worsening your symptoms. This is a good option for people who want to heal by understanding themselves on a deeper level.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): this is another popular form of talk therapy that focuses on changing negative thoughts patterns which underlie your symptoms. During this process, you will learn specific skills and techniques that will help you to cope; and CBT is a good option for people who are looking for straightforward and practical solutions.

Does My Partner Have Depression?

While some people tick all the boxes and qualify for a diagnosis of clinical depression (also known as major depressive disorder), others may have just a few symptoms, falling short of the full diagnosis. If your partner is showing signs of depression but isn’t ready to be assessed by a professional, you may be unsure as to whether they have clinical depression, symptoms of depression or another condition altogether. Regardless of the diagnostic label that we use, there are certain things that you can do to help your partner cope with these upsetting symptoms.

How To Support a Partner With Depression

There are several things that you can do to show your partner that you’re there for them as they walk this difficult path. Here are some pointers:

  • Depression is Complicated

If you’re dating someone with depression, it helps to understand the complexity of what they’re going through. This involves acknowledging that ordinary sadness and depression look similar but are actually very different experiences. While sadness is a transient and normal (even healthy) part of life, depression is a psychiatric disorder that may not pass without proper treatment. This also means accepting that the things which you might use to get over a bad mood – taking a jog, catching up with friends, watching a movie or just thinking positively – are probably not going to work for your partner. Furthermore, unlike sadness, depression is not something that you can simply talk your partner out of: it’s only by listening and showing that you care that you can indirectly help in your partner’s struggle against this disorder.

  • It’s Not About You

A person with depression may put on a brave face when they bump into a friend at the supermarket or when their cousin pops over for coffee, but this does not mean that everything is okay. The closer you are to a person with depression, the more likely you are to witness their real and raw emotions, from melancholia and hopelessness to irritation and angry outbursts.

If you’re dating someone with depression, it’s easy to take things personally and assume that, for example, you’re not able to cheer up your partner the way their friend or cousin can. You may also take stock of the fact that the unpleasant feelings are only expressed around you and assume that this is because you’re causing the depression. The fact that your partner is expressing their darkest thoughts and feelings to you and not other people means that they feel safe enough in your presence to do so – not that you’re eliciting these feelings in them! To support your partner, you need to acknowledge that this is not about you.

  • Not Everything is Because of Depression

Separating your partner from their depression can be therapeutic: this is the difference between saying ‘you’re a depressed person’ versus ‘you have depression’. Speaking of depression as a separate entity can help your partner feel better about what they’re going through. For example: “it’s the depression that’s sapping all of your energy” or “you feel hopeless right now because your depression is affecting your thoughts”.

However, if you’re dating someone with depression and find that you’re using this line of reasoning to invalidate genuine concerns that they might be having, this can be incredibly hurtful to them and to your relationship. A person with depression is still in touch with reality and they may feel appropriately upset or angry about what’s going on in their lives.

Your partner may, for example, want to discuss an issue about your relationship, pointing out what you could be doing differently. If you defensively invalidate this sort of statement by saying that it’s the depression talking, you are disempowering them by implying that having depression means they can’t have a valid opinion on anything.

  • Understand You Can’t “Fix” Them

If you’re dating someone with depression, it’s natural to feel an urge to “fix” them. But to truly support them, you need let go of this idea. Why? First, there is no quick fix for depression: the process of recovery takes time and works in ways that brain scientists have not yet fully understood.

Second, depression is a medical condition. You wouldn’t try to “fix” diabetes or cancer and the same rules apply for depression: support your partner, but let the professionals take responsibility for effecting therapeutic change.

Third, by trying to fix them, you’re setting both of you up for failure, which might lead your partner to feel guilty and this could further fuel the depression. Fourth, by simply being supportive without trying to “fix” them, you’re sending out the message that you love them unconditionally and that you’ll be with them whatever they’re going through. On the other hand, by trying to fix them you’re communicating that you’re not okay with the situation and that you need them to change.

Dating Someone With Depression

  • Keep Open Communication

Connecting with someone who is depressed can be challenging because during those moments you’re opening yourself up to the possibility of feeling their pain. You may also feel unsure of what to say or you may worry about saying the wrong thing and making things worse. But if you’re dating someone with depression, communication really is key.

Focus on listening and being fully present while they speak. Maintain eye contact and ask questions when you don’t completely understand the situation; and try not to give practical advice or judge what they say. If it feels appropriate, encourage your loved one to describe what they’re feeling emotionally – but be open to the possibility that they may not want to be ‘counseled’ and might prefer to chat more generally or perhaps simply watch TV or spend time alone.

At the end of the day, however, what you say doesn’t matter all that much. This is because effective communication amounts to far more than just saying the right thing. Good communication is about sending the message – verbally and non-verbally – that you’re present and that you care.

  • Depression Can Affect Your Sex Life

If you see a psychologist for the first time, there’s a good chance that you’ll be asked about your sex life. Why? Sexual functioning is like a health barometer: it’s difficult to keep functioning normally in the bedroom if something is not quite right when it comes to your health. Depression is no exception and people with this condition are more likely to experience sexual dysfunction and a lack of sex drive. This is not just because it’s hard to become aroused when you’re not in a good mood, but because depression affects our hormones, brain chemicals, and bodily functions.

Furthermore, many antidepressant medications list lowered sex drive as a side-effect, so it really may feel as if you’re stuck between a rock and hard place in this situation. Naturally, this can put extra strain on your relationship. To support your partner, however, you need to recognize that changes in sexual functioning are par for the course and that they do not imply that your partner has lost interest in you. Address this by finding other ways to be intimate. You can do this by, for example, having an open conversation, sharing dinner and a movie, giving a non-sexual massage or even initiating a good cuddle session.

  • Don’t Forget Self-Care

Dating someone with depression can be challenging: your lifestyle changes, as does your relationship and sex life. You’re suddenly spending much more time listening to and experiencing a range of difficult thoughts and emotions. You’re probably also feeling that you’re unable to speak about your own experience through all of this or any other issues that you might be grappling with, in case this makes your partner feel like a burden.

Ultimately, however, you need to be practicing self-care, which means taking deliberate action to support yourself emotionally and/or physically. You can do this by, for example, actively taking time to do something that you enjoy. Make sure that you’re eating healthily, getting enough exercise and sleeping properly; and if you’re carrying a lot of stress, find a friend, family member, counselor or support group that you can debrief with when needed. It’s important to recognize that you’re only going to be able to support your partner effectively if you’re looking after yourself at the same time – a car won’t go far if the fuel tank is running on empty.

Final Thoughts

We’ve all heard the adage that nothing good comes easy. This is true when it comes to dating someone with a depression – a potentially confusing, challenging, exhausting and even scary experience. But the depression also gives you an opportunity to connect on a deeper level; and by showing that you will be there for them through even the toughest of times, your relationship is likely to grow and strengthen considerably.

Remember: it’s not your role to treat their depression. By simply being there for your partner, you’ve got the best chance of quickening their recovery while strengthening your bond at the same time.

7 Tips on How to Break Up With Someone Compassionately

Why do we usually end up staying in unhappy relationships? Why do we give so much to people who don’t understand that they should give back? Why do we feel the need to justify bad behavior?

If you have asked any of these questions to yourself, you may also be wondering about how to break up with someone.

Heartache is not nearly as destructive as being stuck in a damaging relationship. Heartache can heal while staying in an unhealthy relationship, for whatever reason, can be traumatizing.

Is it Time to Move On?

No one enters a romantic relationship thinking that someday it will end. But, despite our best efforts, we have to face the fact that many relationships will end.

No matter how hard we sometimes want for a relationship to last forever, we may not always get what we need out of it. Moreover, some relationships can be downright damaging, especially if we are faced with problems that can’t be solved.

Even when we try our best to work at a relationship and to meet our partner’s needs, it is sometimes best to part ways.

Preparing Yourself

While being broken up with remains a terrible experience, people sometimes forget that it is also terrible to be the one who initiates the break-up, and to figure out how to do it. Think about it: you did love this person at some point in time and you may still care about them. Seeing someone you hold dear getting hurt can be daunting and now you have to be the one who does the hurting.

Getting Clear On What You Want

The decision of breaking up with someone should not be brought on by something your partner did recently that made you upset. It should be decided after a long-term assessment of the relationship, with compatibility being a key factor to consider.

If you are not completely sure if you want to break up, don’t obsess about the current state of the relationship; give it a little more time and perhaps something will happen to give you the push you needed. You can also think about the reasons why you may want to stay or even talk to your partner about the relationship.

You need to be sure about whether you want to end the relationship before you think about how to break up with someone. Don’t start second-guessing yourself once you have made a decision or you may end up reconsidering the relationship each time something good happens.

Remember, there will always be a reason to stay. Therefore, if you have already considered every possible scenario and still ended up deciding to leave there is no use getting caught up in the cycle.

Once you have made up your mind, move forward with the breakup before irrational thoughts get in your way.

Getting Perspective on Your Relationship

A breakup should not be an “out of the blue” appearance and instead, it needs special consideration.

A good way to gain some perspective into the relationship is to share your concerns with your partner and then to try and work through them together. You may be the one who needs to make a decision and you need to communicate your feelings to your partner even if you think that this may disappoint or hurt them.

Your partner should be included as much as possible if you don’t want them to be surprised by the idea of you wanting to leave them. This can be very confusing and, to be honest, traumatic.

At least consider giving your partner and maybe even yourself a chance to fix things.

Talking It Over With Friends and Family

Breaking up may seem like a very personal issue. But remember that sharing your feelings about a dysfunctional relationship with people whose advice and support you value can help you to get more clarity.

Think about informing a couple of your close friends or family members about the upcoming break up ahead of time so that you will have enough support during your difficult transition.

A support system of people who care about you can be extremely helpful especially in times when you feel alone or lost.

Breaking Up

Even though it may be hard to decide that a relationship has reached its end, research has shown that certain ways of breaking it off with someone are more effective than others.

Moreover, you can learn certain techniques that should help the breakup process proceed smoothly. Here are seven tips on how to break up with someone compassionately.

  1. Say the words, “I Want to Break Up”

Being dumped really hurts and it kind of feels like an insult. Therefore, it would be a good idea to say words like “I think it’s time for us to break up” or “I am breaking up with you” when you begin the conversation.

Also, saying the actual words makes the situation more real and there is no risk for any misunderstandings.

Making a straightforward, direct statement is much like ripping off a Band-Aid; it may sting at first but in the end it is a far more considerate approach.

  1. Be Honest and Open

The most successful break-up conversations convey open and honest reasons why the relationship is no longer fixable.

Don’t point fingers and rather try to communicate your feelings openly. Tell your partner about how you may have been feeling unappreciated, disconnected or unloved or talk about things that may have caused you to drift apart like different core values or the fact that you may want different things out of life.

You also need to be honest about it if you are leaving your partner for someone else, because if they see you with someone else, the shock will be much worse if they didn’t know about it ahead of time.

Express your desire to break up openly and discuss your honest wishes with your partner.

  1. Use “I” Statements

When you have the breakup talk, try to avoid “You” statements as they tend to cast blame and they may cause your partner to become defensive. The danger here is that, by using “You” statements, you begin a cascade of reactionary responses and the conversation ends up becoming a “war of words”.

A much better approach to the problem of how to break up with someone would be to use “I” statements as they make it clear that you are the source of the message. You are, in other words, the owner of the statement and therefore; you are fully responsible for it.

By owning your thoughts and your verbal contributions to the conversation, you may not only take the blame away from the other person, but you may also empower yourself.

How to Break Up With Someone

  1. Avoid Blame

Avoid blaming your partner or hurting their feelings. Blame just sets the conversation back a few steps seeing as it is more about punishment than about moving forward.

Be cautious of casting all of the blame onto someone else when it is your decision to break-up. Don’t talk about what they did wrong and especially don’t comment negatively on their personality.

Stay focused on the breakup instead of talking about “who’s to blame” because you don’t want the conversation to get side-tracked.

  1. Explain Your Thinking

In a breakup, try to put your feelings into words. Describe your feelings clearly to ensure that the other person accurately understands them.

Your partner may not see certain things in the same light as you do and, therefore, it is extremely important to be clear about how you feel.

Try convincing your partner that the breakup is better for both of you.

Moreover, you could think about emphasizing the fact that you also gained good things from the relationship or you could even consider telling the person that you don’t regret the time spent in your relationship.

  1. Give Them Space For Their Emotions

You may be entirely concerned with how to break up with someone all the while forgetting that they also have emotions and that they will very likely react to your proposal for a breakup.

You need to give your partner some space to work through their emotions and seeing as each person deals differently with different situations you may need to be prepared for the worse.

Accept the fact that they may say things that will hurt you. People tend to react badly when they are on the receiving end of a break-up. Your partner may beg you to stay, get angry, get sad and he/she may even try to bargain with you.

The best thing to do in this situation is to acknowledge that you hear what they are trying to say, even if you do not agree with it. And, most importantly, don’t let their reaction throw you off course; stick to the plan.

  1. Stick With Your Decision

There is always a reason to stay with someone and there is almost never a perfect time to end a relationship. If you keep focusing on all the reasons “not to break up” you will end up in a spiral of uncertainty.

If, after careful consideration, you have decided to break it off with someone, don’t stall. Get it done so that both of you can move on.

This being said, try not to leave on a sour note and try leaving without any hard feelings.

After the Breakup

The period after a break-up is a difficult time. To help you deal with the pain of ending a relationship you need to get support and look after yourself. There is no need to suffer alone.

Lean on Your Support Group

After the break-up, tell your friends and family as soon as you get a chance. It is highly advisable to share the news with your inner circle of trust immediately to prevent yourself from feeling lonely or even from isolating yourself from other people.

Meeting up with your friends and going out rather than sitting at home alone is a must for people who struggle to move on.

If you don’t have time to see your friends or family members face to face, stay connected over the phone or on social media.

Self-Care

It is essential for you to remember to prioritize your health after a break-up. Some of the most important skills for coping with relationship withdrawal are proper sleep, exercise, healthy dieting, and social interaction.

Stay away from alcohol, drugs and other harmful things that may cause you physical damage or even emotional damage. This will all pile up and you may end up in an even worse condition.

Rather focus on keeping your physical health in order so that you can be better equipped to handle your emotional issues.

Plan Your Social Media Approach

Breaking up is hard and, to boot, we are all interconnected through social media. For that reason, you need to have a game plan for your social media.

The best approach would be to allow some time before changing your relationship status so that it doesn’t become too public too soon.

From there most decisions will be entirely up to you. You may want to unfriend your ex-partner to make things easier. You may also think about saving images that remind you of the ended relationship to a flash drive and deleting them from your social media.

Whatever you decide to do, be adult about it and don’t act rationally; you may just regret it.

Move On

There are several reasons why it is hard to break up with someone, but this does not mean that you have to stay in a dysfunctional or damaging relationship.

If you get to the point where your relationship just doesn’t make sense anymore, it is time to let go; it doesn’t matter how much you hate being the one who has to break up with your partner.

By using the strategies for how to break up with someone compassionately, a breakup can be dealt with effectively and without bitter emotions; the healthy way.

References

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-attraction-doctor/201509/4-ways-break-someone-compassionately
  2. https://www.thecut.com/article/how-to-break-up-with-someone.html
  3. https://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelwmiller/how-to-break-up-with-someone-like-an-actual-adult?utm_term=.doQQgxgBJ#.madxL0LRV
  4. https://www.bustle.com/p/how-long-should-you-wait-to-break-up-how-to-figure-out-the-timing-thats-best-for-you-according-to-experts-3017759
  5. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-image-professor/201003/the-classy-break-conversational-templates-saying-good-bye

Fast Guide to Logotherapy

Are you looking for a sense of purpose in your life? Logotherapy may be the answer that you’ve been searching for. Discovering your life’s purpose can help you to develop resilience so that you can face life’s challenges more easily. Logotherapy can help to improve the quality of your life as well as to restore your emotional wellbeing.

Logotherapy: What is it?

Logotherapy was created by Viktor Frankl who believed that people are motivated by a desire to derive meaning from the experiences that make up their lives. Frankl was a psychiatrist and neurologist who drew on his personal experiences in Nazi concentration camps to develop a new type of therapy.

Logotherapy facilitates a process where people can discover their purpose in life. In this application, the search for meaning is used to overcome psychological conditions and illnesses with the aim of restoring mental health.

Logotherapy Theory

Logotherapy is based on the belief that each individual has a healthy core. While each individual has their own experiences, logotherapy attributes psychological distress to a lack of meaning in an individual’s life.

Logotherapists work under the assumption that people have a body and mind as well as a spirit.  Every person is unique according to logotherapy. The therapy aims to provide people with the tools that they need to access their internal resources so that they can restore their own mental well-being. The assumption that life provides you with purpose and meaning also informed the development of logotherapy.  Life has meaning even when people are experiencing unavoidable suffering is an important belief that underlies this therapy.

According to logotherapy, people can discover their life’s purpose through completing tasks as well as through experiences and relationships. Meaning can also be derived from the attitude that an individual adopts when they are faced with suffering that they cannot avoid. People can derive meaning from the unique roles that they carry out.

Frankl developed the term noogenic neurosis to refer to the anxiety that some individuals develop following the working week due to a feeling of meaninglessness. This feeling is associated with emptiness and discontent as well as boredom and apathy. According to Frankl this sense of meaninglessness can result in aggression and depression. He also attributes addiction to this meaningless state.

How Does Logotherapy Suggest the Mind Works?

Logotherapy suggests that the mind is driven by an inner desire to discover meaning in life. This desire to make meaning from experiences is what motivates people to live. Logotherapy suggests that our minds are free to create meaning from our experiences. This means that while suffering is viewed as inevitable, the individual is free to adjust their attitude towards their painful experiences.

How Does Logotherapy Cause Change?

Logotherapy can cause change by motivating people to alter their attitudes toward painful experiences in their lives. While people may not be able to control their experiences of anxiety and depression, they can choose how to respond to them. When people choose to respond differently to challenging situations, it is a step forward towards reclaiming their lives.

Therapists help people to find meaning in their lives and to reconnect them with their values, which can help to disrupt the context that mental health conditions exist in. Logotherapy helps people to understand that they can respond differently and that they are able to live their life in alignment with their values. The therapist facilitates a process of self-reflection where people can explore their responses and the effects of these responses.

What Happens in a Logotherapy Session?

Techniques Used in Logotherapy

Three crucial logotherapy techniques include dereflection, paradoxical intention, and Socratic dialogue.

If a person is fixated on a problem, dereflection is a technique that is used to divert their attention away from the self and towards something that is important to them. By taking a break and focusing on something else people experience relief from the pressure that they have put themselves under.

Paradoxical intention is a technique that is used to disrupt the cycle of anticipatory anxiety which refers to the experience of being worried about becoming anxious. During this process, people address the source of their anxiety and confront what they fear the most. Some of logotherapy’s techniques involve exposing clients to their fears with the aim of desensitizing them which means that this therapy can be used in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy.

The third technique that is instrumental in logotherapy is Socratic dialogue. This process involves the therapists paying close attention to their client’s words to help the person to derive meaning from their experiences. This is an empowering technique which enables clients to discover the resources that they have within themselves which can be used to overcome their problems.

Does Logotherapy Work?

While psychological healing is a personal journey and the same techniques don’t work for everyone, there is an abundance of cases that show how logotherapy can help you to restore mental health.

Logotherapy

What Kinds of Concerns is Logotherapy Best For?

Logotherapy is used to treat an extensive range of mental health issues. This type of therapy is particularly beneficial for people who are struggling with posttraumatic stress and anxiety. Logotherapy is helpful for people who are suffering from depression and it can also be used to treat substance abuse.

The techniques can be used to prevent burnout as well, a condition which is connected to depression as well as a type of post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms of burnout include fatigue as well as feelings of isolation and disengagement. Burnout usually follows stressful periods of working under pressure. In these instances, logotherapists can help to decrease an individual’s risk of burnout by asking them questions that help them change their attitude to their work. Not only are these techniques instrumental in the prevention of burnout, they can be used in its treatment too.

How Are Logotherapy Specialists Trained?

Logotherapists complete extensive training in the techniques and methodologies that Viktor Frankl developed. Training includes the history of Franklian Psychology as well as training in how people find meaning when faced with unavoidable suffering. The training deals with the uniqueness of each person as well as the theory of attitudinal change. The steps of logotherapy are also covered. Certifications are available through the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy.

Concerns/Limitations of Logotherapy

Logotherapy has been criticised for being too authoritarian. Critics claim that logotherapy can prevent the client from taking responsibility for their own experiences as the therapist provides the client with meaning if they can’t make meaning from their experiences themselves. Another concern that has been raised is that it is founded on the belief that there are identifiable solutions to every problem.

Important Practitioners in Logotherapy

Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl developed logotherapy in response to his experiences in Nazi concentration camps. The Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist developed techniques which have made a valuable contribution to the field of existential analysis.

Frankl is the acclaimed author of the book, Man’s Search for Meaning. The book provides insight into Frankl’s experiences as a prisoner in the Nazi’s concentration camps, which led him to find meaning amongst unavoidable suffering. Frankl was interested in Psychology from an early age and he completed a medical qualification at the University of Vienna. He continued to study neurology and psychiatry with a focus on depression as well as suicide. His early work drew from Sigmund Freud as well as Alfred Adler but he diverted from their teachings later on in his life.

While Frankl was a medical student he set up a program to offer university student’s free counseling. The students offered additional support to students when they received their university results. The success of his initiative was evident in that no students committed suicide during 1931 when his program was running at the university. From 1933 to 1937, Frankl continued his work to prevent suicide at the Steinhof Psychiatric Hospital in Vienna.

In 1942, Frankl was sent to the Nazi Theresienstadt Ghetto where he worked in a psychiatric ward and developed a program to assist people who were new to the camp to deal with their shock and grief. He continued his suicide prevention work by setting up a program to offer support to individuals who were at risk for suicide. Frankl was moved to Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944 and then to Kaufering concentration camp where he worked as a slave laborer. Frankl’s entire family except for his sister, Stella, were murdered in the concentration camps that they were sent to.

Frankl survived and was set free in 1945 when he went to Vienna to lecture the new approach that he developed to psychological healing. His experiences led him to believe that it is possible to obtain meaning even in the most dire circumstances. It was this belief that formed the foundation for logotherapy as well as for his existential analysis work. Frankl continued his career by running the Vienna Polyclinic of Neurology as well as completing a Ph.D. in philosophy. He gave lectures to students across the globe and was the recipient of 29 honorary doctoral degrees. He is the author of 39 books.

How to Find a Therapist

What Should I be Looking for in an LMHP?

While finding the right therapist is ultimately a personal decision, there are general guidelines that you can follow to help you make the right choice.

You should feel comfortable talking to your therapist so it’s important to choose someone that you can relate to.

Compassion is another important quality to look for in a therapist. Make sure that you know what your therapist’s approach is to their sessions so that you can determine if you are comfortable with their methods.

You can also check if your therapist has an area of specialization. It can be helpful to seek out a therapist who has expertise in the specific mental health challenges that you are facing. The more experience that your therapist has with the issue that you’re struggling with, the more benefit you are likely to gain from your sessions with them.

It’s advisable to select a counselor who has a good reputation for their ethical principles. Therapists are prohibited from engaging in dual relationships which means that they should not treat anyone who is their friend, employee or family member. Therapists are required to maintain confidentiality and they need to maintain healthy boundaries. One way to assess the therapist’s adherence to these ethical principles is to check if any complaints have been laid against them.

Check that the therapist is licensed as this helps to ensure that you will be provided with a quality service. Licensing requires the therapist to have the right qualifications and experience to do their job effectively. Ask about the therapist’s qualifications to ensure that they have the right training to offer you the best possible service.

Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist

  • What is your approach to therapy?
  • What is your area of specialization?
  • What qualifications do you have?
  • Are you a licensed therapist?
  • What is your availability?

Find a therapist today and start your journey towards emotional wellbeing. Logotherapy provides you with useful tools that can help you to reclaim your life from mental illness. Sessions with a logotherapist aim to facilitate psychological healing through helping you to find meaning and purpose in your life.

Everything You Need To Know About Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback refers to a non-invasive therapy technique that helps patients learn to control their own brainwaves to treat mental health conditions. It does this by providing real-time readings of brainwaves, giving the patient the opportunity to monitor how certain techniques cause change.

Neurofeedback: What is it?

To understand the foundations of neurofeedback, we need to briefly discuss its parent field, biofeedback.

Biofeedback is a technique that purports to train people to improve their physical health by consciously controlling physical functions that usually occur unconsciously. For example, practitioners learn to regulate their own heart rates, blood pressure, body temperature, and gastrointestinal activity.

Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback that trains people to control their brainwaves to treat a range of mental health conditions. It is also used to help people who have suffered brain injuries or cognitive deficiencies.

Neurofeedback Theory

Neurofeedback is grounded in basic biofeedback theory, that physical functions cause certain illnesses and disorders. It operates on the assumption that people are able to learn to regulate these functions.

How Does Neurofeedback Suggest the Mind Works?

Neurofeedback suggests that brainwaves at varying frequencies are associated with different mind states. Four basic types of brainwave are associated with these varying states:

  • Fast, low amplitude beta waves cause alertness and arousal, leading to engaged cognitive activity.
  • Slower alpha waves, with a higher altitude than beta waves, lead to non-arousal, mental coordination, and encourage learning and mind-body integration.
  • Theta waves, even slower and with a higher amplitude than alpha waves, create a heightened awareness of internal signals and encourage memory, learning, and creativity.
  • Finally, delta waves are the slowest brainwaves with the highest amplitude and cause dreamless sleep, which helps with regeneration and healing.

Neurofeedback suggests that these waves work in a cyclical fashion. For example, alpha waves lead to non-arousal but are also generated by calming, meditative activity. In other words, they can be activated by an individual’s active determination.

How Does Neurofeedback Cause Change?

Neurofeedback attempts to cause change by allowing the individual to monitor their own brainwaves. They do this using EEG (electroencephalogram) devices which process brain signals and interpret their frequencies. Using a computer program that provides graphics, music, and other stimuli, to direct one’s brainwaves towards desirable states. Feedback from the EEG machine shows whether one’s brainwave patterns are improving, and subsequent activity can be better directed to regulate these patterns more effectively.

What Happens in a Neurofeedback Session?

When one enters a neurofeedback session, the therapist directs them to sit down and attaches sensors to their scalp. The computer EEG program then starts processing brain signals and providing live interpretation. Some practitioners use qEEG (quantitative EEG) or brain mapping to track brain function and map out problem areas. However, this is not necessary for neurofeedback therapy, and its cost can be restrictive.

Techniques Used in Neurofeedback

The main technique used in neurofeedback has the computer program playing music and videos. When the brainwaves are going in a desirable direction, the music and video continue playing. As soon as the brainwaves start going in the other direction, towards anxiety, for example, the music and video stop, and the individual has to try getting the brainwaves back to the desired state. The more often the individual does so, at higher and higher levels of difficulty, the better he or she becomes at it.

Some neurofeedback therapy, especially when used for children with attention disorders, functions like a video game, with children having to direct their brainwaves to make characters move in certain directions, or to achieve certain results on the screen.

Does Neurofeedback Work?

The question of whether neurofeedback works has no simple answer. Practitioners of neurofeedback claim they have helped many people overcome a range of disorders. There are also many people who report that they have been helped by neurofeedback. However, most of this evidence is anecdotal. Research reports conducted on the efficacy of neurofeedback therapy are mixed. Many of the studies finding positive results were led by proponents of the therapy.

Even those studies that found positive results do not claim to be conclusive. But whereas on that side of the spectrum studies prove inconclusive, on the other side of the spectrum are studies which show no effect at all.

For example, a 2012 study found that most of the results of neurofeedback can be accounted for by the placebo factor. A 2016 study concluded that “evidence from well-controlled trials… fails to support neurofeedback as an effective treatment for ADHD.” A 2017 study that gave one group neurofeedback and a control group “sham” neurofeedback found that the neurofeedback group did not benefit any more than the sham neurofeedback group. Finally, in a 2017 paper in American Psychologist, researchers concluded that placebo factors likely accounted for positive findings and that neurofeedback “entails a degree of deception.”

Proponents of neurofeedback contest the findings in these papers, questioning methodology as well as the difficulty to measure the effects of neurofeedback. They claim that the anecdotal evidence they have encountered speaks for itself, and point to the studies which did show positive results. Many practitioners tout its effectiveness when used in tandem with a holistic therapeutic program. Studies published in 2014 found strong evidence for its effectiveness in treating ADHD.

Neurofeedback

What Kinds of Concerns is Neurofeedback Best For?

While the validity of neurofeedback will continue to be questioned, proponents of the therapy recommend it for a range of conditions. It is used to treat children, adolescents and adults who suffer from seizures, people with attention disorders including ADD and ADHD, autism, sufferers of brain injuries, mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, along with insomnia and memory loss.

Many practitioners recommend it not as a cure, but as part of a therapy regimen that includes other types of mental and physical wellness therapies.

How Are Neurofeedback Specialists Trained?

Neurofeedback specialists are taught to use software and hardware that uses EEG data to maps the brain. They are taught to identify those areas of the brain that are deficient or in need of therapy. This is called ZScore training and has been in use since the 1990s.

Practitioners are taught to use the software to teach patients to learn to direct their brainwaves appropriately. There is no specific license required to perform neurofeedback. However, the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA) provides certification to practitioners, and individuals are recommended to seek out BCIA certified therapists.

Concerns/Limitations of Neurofeedback

The main concern regarding neurofeedback is the lack of evidence supporting its efficacy. The studies that show negative results will deter many from using it as a primary form of treatment.

There is also no clear evidence that the four types of brainwaves actually cause the associated mental states. Correlation is no proof of causation, so while the brainwaves are associated with these states, this fact might be incidental.

Another limitation of neurofeedback is that most of the conditions it is used to treat can be treated by other methods, that have more evidence behind them. For this reason, it may be advisable to only turn to neurofeedback if other treatments have not worked. Many parents of children with attention deficit disorders turn to neurofeedback because treatments such as medication either do not work or have unbearable side effects.

Finally, a major deterrent to seeking neurofeedback therapy is the lack of accessibility. There are not all that many neurofeedback therapists, and the cost is particularly high. Those who might prefer neurofeedback to other forms of treatment might find the cost restrictive, especially since there is no guarantee that the treatment will help. Health insurance providers are also reluctant to pay for neurofeedback treatment.

Important Practitioners in Neurofeedback

German psychiatrist Hans Berger is credited as the forerunner of neurofeedback. He studied EEGs back in the ‘20s and ‘30s. It was only in the ‘60s that Joe Kamiya popularized neurofeedback with an article in Psychology Today.

In 1969, the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback was formed by proponents of biofeedback and neurofeedback. Presidents of the organization included Joe Kamiya, as well as Barbara Brown who had helped popularize the treatment.

Currently serving as president of the organization is Patrick R. Steffen, a Ph.D. Associate Professor at Brigham Young University.

Another important practitioner is Dr. Diane Roberts Stoler, who leads seminars training therapists in neurofeedback.

How to Find a Therapist

Biofeedback and neurofeedback services are not regulated by state or national oversight. Anyone can, therefore, provide neurofeedback therapy, regardless of their training or lack thereof. It is therefore important to be particularly thorough in your search for a neurofeedback specialist. Ideally, they should be a licensed mental health practitioner (LMHP) who also has BCIA certification.

What Should I be Looking for in an LMHP?

You should look for an LMHP with a background in psychology, psychiatry, or both. They will have to have completed at least a Masters degree in order to obtain licensing. An LMHP does not have to have years of experience to be trustworthy. However, if they do not have experience, make sure to check any testimonials from the clients they have seen or from their mentors and teachers.

It is always ideal that an LMHP is transparent about the process and helps you understand what s/he is doing to treat you.

The website for the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback has a directory of practitioners available. However, their presence in the directory is at their own discretion – it is still necessary to do research on any name that comes up.

Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist

Always ask a potential therapist to detail their training and experience. Ask for evidence of their licensing as an LMHP and their BCIA certification. Ask what conditions they regularly treat, and if they have experience with your particular condition.

Furthermore, ask them if they provide neurofeedback therapy alone or offer it as part of a more holistic treatment program. There is no problem with seeking only neurofeedback therapy, but it is important to know their opinion on how to achieve the best treatment outcomes.

Finally, try to gauge whether you feel you can relate to the therapist. In all kinds of therapy, a positive relationship with the therapist is an important factor in success. If you feel you cannot trust or simply dislike the therapist, chances are that treatment outcomes will be less than perfect.

Final Thoughts on Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback as a science and therapy has been developing since the 1920s. There are many proponents of it as an effective treatment for a range of ailments, including mental illness, brain injuries, and attention disorders.

However, the lack of conclusive evidence in spite of its long history is discouraging. Studies that show its efficacy are lacking either in sound methodology or in proving at all definitive. On the other hand, studies comparing neurofeedback to “sham” neurofeedback have indicated no difference in results.

Because neurofeedback can be very costly, it is perhaps more prudent to seek out treatment that has more conclusive evidence in its efficacy. For most of the conditions that neurofeedback aims to treat, there are more accepted alternatives. If you have had no luck with the alternatives, or find side effects of medication are not worth the cure, neurofeedback provides at the least a non-invasive treatment that has no known risks.

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Do You Have Postpartum Depression?

This quiz is based in part on the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Score (EPDS). This quiz evaluates your risk of having postpartum depression symptoms. 

Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). Adapted from Cox, J.L., Holden, J.M. and Sagovsky, R. (1987). “Detection of postnatal depression: Development of the 10-item Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.” British Journal of Psychiatry, 150, 782-786.

Beginner’s Guide to Psychodynamic Therapy

When you imagine therapy, you probably picture someone sitting on a couch and pouring out their heart to a therapist, who’s nodding along sympathetically and writing on a notepad. This mirrors what psychodynamic therapy is: A form of talk therapy that helps you understand yourself better, reflect on how past experiences have shaped you and find relief from mental or emotional stress.

Psychodynamic Therapy: What Is It?

Our lives consist of the sum of all the experiences that we’ve ever had. Each experience leaves a mark, either positively or negatively. Over time, these experiences build up and create habits or patterns of behavior. As human beings, we usually tend to carry on living without pausing to understand how our experiences have shaped us. Some of the habits and patterns of behavior that are formed can become very hard to break out of.

Psychodynamic therapy examines the process behind certain behaviors and the reason(s) for those behaviors. It digs deep in a bid to answer the question: “Why are you who you are? What experiences shaped you into the person who you currently are?”.

The brain tends to bury painful or traumatic memories and events. When this happens, we often subconsciously develop coping mechanisms, so we don’t have to confront these painful emotions. This is commonly referred to as ‘denial’ or ‘projection’. People usually aren’t aware of doing it.

Psychodynamic therapy, sometimes referred to as psychodynamic counseling or insight-oriented therapy, is centered on self-awareness and understanding how past events or trauma currently affect a person. Psychodynamic therapists help people gain insight by helping them recognize certain patterns that have developed over time.

Psychodynamic Theory

Psychodynamic therapy developed from the theories of Sigmund Freud, who believed that our childhood experiences are significant, and they continue to have an impact on us during adulthood. He posited that the human mind has three parts:

  • The id, made up of natural instinct and forms the unconscious mind
  • The superego, which is the moral part of the brain that contains our beliefs of right and wrong
  • The ego, which is the bridge between the animal instinct of the id and the refined moral thoughts of the superego (Haggerty, 2016)

This hypothesis led to the logical conclusion that his theory is based on: Our personalities are formed through our childhood experiences.

Freud’s hypothesis was that these components developed in certain stages of childhood. He believed that we are born with the id, the ego is developed when we are toddlers and the superego comes around the age of five. Freud also believed that the development of each component is significantly influenced by relationships, such as family relationships and the environments. These factors could aid the development of a healthy sense of self or lead an individual to exhibit dysfunctional behavior. Basically, Freud believed that human behavior is driven by that which is buried deep within the mind. He called this the unconscious mind.

Based on this, Freud believed that to truly solve human problems, we must find the roots of the problems in the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind houses our innermost beliefs, thoughts, and patterns of behavior developed in childhood. It is upon this foundation that Psychodynamic Theory is established. Many of the themes in the psychodynamic approach mirror Freud’s theories:

  • The unconscious mind controls human behavior and emotion
  • Every behavior is influenced by something
  • Childhood experiences shape who we become as adults

These theories have formed the basis of psychodynamic therapy and greatly influenced the methods and techniques that are used.

How Does Psychodynamic Therapy Suggest The Mind Works?

Proponents of psychodynamic therapy believe that the way we behave is influenced by both conscious and unconscious motives and that by talking about their problems and experiences, people find ways of understanding how their past influences their present behavior.

How does Psychodynamic Therapy Cause Change?

The fundamental goal of psychodynamic therapy is to bring painful memories and events that have been buried in the subconscious mind to the conscious mind by helping individuals to unravel and experience these feelings so they can be resolved. In essence, Psychodynamic therapy helps individuals:

  • Develop self-awareness.
  • Understand the past.
  • Realize how the past has influenced and shaped the present.
  • Understand the reasons they act the way they do.
  • Feel better equipped to handle life, and be the best person they can be.

What Happens In A Psychodynamic Therapy Session?

As explained above, Psychodynamic therapy is a process which aims to understand how the subconscious such as traumatic experiences and events that have been suppressed, affect a person’s behavior. To do this, psychodynamic therapy uses the relationship that exists between the therapist and the client. This relationship is built on trust and openness and unconditional acceptance. The therapist creates an enabling environment that encourages the patient to open up and share freely.  The direction that the therapy session takes is usually governed by how the patient is feeling at that moment. The patient is encouraged to talk about their feelings, emotions, fears, and desires with minimal interruption from the therapist. As the patient does this, patterns of behavior that are rooted in past experiences, emerge. The therapist guides the patient in seeing how past experiences are currently affecting them and helps the patient develop the ability to deal with these issues in a healthy manner.

Techniques Used In Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy sessions can last for months or years. Although it’s typically less intense than psychoanalysis, it uses similar techniques to psychoanalytic therapy. These techniques are used by therapists to help patients understand how their mind works, and they include the following:

Free Association: This technique is very simple, yet very effective. It involves letting the patient lead the discussion in a psychodynamic therapy session. The patient is encouraged to talk freely to the therapist by saying the first thing that they think of. It’s spontaneous and allows true thoughts and feelings to emerge without restraint. It allows the patient to share how they truly feel without any form of censorship.

Therapeutic Transference-  This kind of therapy is heavily focused on deep-rooted and intense emotions, so it’s likely that those feelings will manifest in the relationship between the therapist and the patient. Depending on the types of feelings, the patient may begin to feel a range of emotions such as love, hate, distrust, or anger towards the therapist. These feelings usually mirror the feelings that the patient has towards the cause of their problems. By being able to recognize and explore this relationship, the patient will begin to understand how and why they feel the way they do.

Interpretation- The therapist generally lets the patient lead the direction of the conversation, and usually listens quietly. Though, occasionally the therapist may interject with thoughts about the topics the patient chooses to discuss.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Does Psychodynamic Therapy Work?

Studies show that psychodynamic therapy helps patients boost their self-esteem, improve their capacity to create and maintain healthy relationships and become more self-aware.

What Kind Of Concerns Is Psychodynamic Therapy Best For?

Psychodynamic therapy can help with a wide range of mental health problems, but it’s primarily used to treat depression and anxiety. It’s focused on helping those who feel like life has no meaning, and have difficulty forming new relationships or maintaining existing ones. Some other conditions psychodynamic therapy is used to treat include:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Panic Disorders
  • Personality disorders, e.g Borderline Personality disorder
  • Prolonged sadness
  • Continual feelings of sadness and isolation
  • Addiction
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Eating disorders

How Are Psychodynamic Therapy Specialists Trained?

Psychodynamic therapists are trained to help patients explore and get to the root of difficult and often painful emotions and experiences, or reflect on patterns of behavior and habits that may not serve them positively. They listen to the patient and guide the patient towards making connections between experiences and events and recognizing patterns. Psychodynamic therapy specialists are usually trained to be non-judgemental. This is essential because the patient needs to be able to trust them in order to share freely. They’re also trained to interpret behaviors and share these interpretations with the patient. The therapy sessions are usually relaxed in nature. The therapist may guide the patient by asking questions like: ‘How does that make you feel’ or ‘What does that remind you of’? Their training helps them to be patient and go at the patient’s pace. Psychodynamic therapists believe that how the client relates to them usually reflects how they act in other relationships. They observe how the client interacts with the therapeutic relationship and use that as a way to understand the client’s relationship habits.

Limitations Of Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy has great advantages for patients. However, it has some limitations. The key features of psychodynamic therapy such as the lack of a definite structure or agenda, the focus on past experiences, the time span and the role the therapist plays can translate into some negatives. Some of the limitations of psychodynamic therapy include:

  • It could be expensive because of the long-term commitment that’s requirement.
  • People with busy schedules may not be able to set out time for this sort of therapy because it requires at least one session that spans an hour in one week, and it can last for several months or even years.
  • It requires deep digging, probing and sharing personal history which some people may not be comfortable with.
  • It requires dedication because it takes a long time before the patient starts to see visible changes.
  • It relies on theoretical constructs that may be difficult to prove such as the concept of the unconscious mind.
  • It requires interpretation by the therapist which means that it lacks objectivity.
  • The lack of structure can sometimes mean that not much progress is being made.
  • It’s difficult to test in an empirical manner.

It’s important to remember that every form of therapy has its pros and cons, and what’s essential is to for you to find what suits your needs and addresses the specific issues that you have.

How To Find A Therapist

Your therapist plays a very important role in your life, and it’s important that you find one that you can trust. It’s also very important that you find the right one for you. The first thing you should do is figure out the type of professional you need based on the issue you have. If you have no clue what’s wrong with you, you might need to get diagnosed first. After this, the next step should be to search online and ask friends for recommendations. To narrow this down, you need to know the qualities to look for in a therapist.

What Should I Be Looking For In A Licensed Medical Health Practitioner?

When choosing a mental health provider, here are some of the factors you should consider:

  • Their background, education, and training.
  • Their license and years in practice.
  • Their area of specialty.
  • Their treatment approaches and philosophy.
  • The insurance providers that they work with.
  • Their fees, office hours and the typical length of sessions.

This information is typically available on their official website. After this background check, the next step is to schedule a phone call with the potential therapist.

Questions To Ask A Potential Therapist

Your consultation phone call is a great opportunity to know your therapist before committing to an appointment. During the call, you should tell them about your background, what you’re struggling with and your therapy goals. This is also a great time to ask them any questions that you might have about the way they work, their experience and how they suggest treating the problem you have. Don’t hesitate to ask a lot of questions. The answers to these questions help you know if the therapist will be the right fit for you. Here are some sample questions to ask a potential therapist:

  • My problem is ______, how would you treat that?
  • What experience do you have working with the type of problem that I have?
  • What is your approach to situations like mine?
  • Do you tend to lead the session, or do you allow your clients to determine the direction of the sessions?
  • What are your strengths as a therapist?

Always remember that the best therapist is someone you feel comfortable with discussing your personal issues with. This is especially important for psychodynamic therapy because it’s heavily dependent on the relationship between the patient and the therapist.

As an alternative to traditional therapy, ThriveTalk provides online therapy services. We provide therapists trained in many different styles, including psychodynamic therapy, who have great experience working with clients just like you and are committed to creating the best environment for you to flourish. If you’re looking for a psychodynamic therapist, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Psychodynamic therapy is one of the types of therapies that works best for people with specific needs who are willing to be patient and commit to the process. Individuals who are genuinely interested in exploring their mind and knowing who they really are, in order to solve their present issues usually benefit the most. Psychodynamic therapy goes to the roots of the issue and provides the patient with self-awareness and knowledge that can be applied throughout their life.

 

How Does Dream Analysis Work?

Humans have been fascinated by their dreams since the days of the Egyptians and the Babylonians, where it was believed that dreams represented messages from the Gods. Still today, dreams are often thought to carry mystical and metaphysical qualities, supposedly enabling us to predict the future or connect with alternate realms, for example. Their content can range from the mundane to the mysterious, magical, moving or just plain terrifying; and dreams often stir up powerful emotions and associations which may linger with us for a long time after we’ve woken up. In this article, we explore the science and art of dream analysis, giving you an understanding of how a psychologist might guide you in learning the secrets of your unconscious mind.

Dream Analysis: What is it?

Dream analysis, also known as dream interpretation, is the act of assigning meaning to and making sense of a dream. There is no set way of analyzing a dream and the broad range of people who claim to interpret dreams – from alternative healers and fortunetellers to mystics and religious figures – may practice in widely differing ways. But dream analysis is a technique that’s also practiced by trained psychologists, especially those from the psychoanalytic or psychodynamic school; and also at times by Gestalt therapists, art therapists, and cognitive-behavioral therapists. In this article, we’re going to be focusing on the forms of dream analysis typically used by mental health professionals.

Dream Analysis Theory

Dream analysis typically forms a part of psychoanalytic theory and practice. What exactly is psychoanalysis? Very broadly, this theory tells us that our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and personalities are affected by the unconscious – that part of the mind which we’re not consciously aware of. The contents of the unconscious are thought to be abstract, illogical and difficult to understand: fantasies, symbols, memories, emotions, instincts, desires and of course, dreams.

How Does Dream Analysis Suggest the Mind Works?

From the perspective of psychoanalysis, dreams represent the link between our conscious and unconscious minds. For this reason, Freud famously referred to dreams as ‘the royal road to the unconscious’. In other words, when we’re dreaming, this is a spilling-over of content from the unconscious into our conscious awareness. The way that a psychologist understands this unconscious content depends on their theoretical school and different practitioners have suggested different ways of interpreting dreams.

Important Practitioners in Dream Analysis

Within psychoanalysis, there are two broad approaches to dream analysis, each of which was forwarded by two of psychology’s most famous figures, who we discuss below.

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud lived from 1856 to 1939. He was a Viennese neurologist and the developer of psychoanalysis. He spent most of his life in Vienna, but in 1938 he moved to the United Kingdom to escape the Nazis. In 1899 he published The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud’s ideas continue to influence psychology today.

The Freudian school believes that the unconscious is filled with experiences that we ‘repress’ (i.e. unknowingly push out of our awareness) because of their distressing or shameful content – usually socially unacceptable impulses related to sex or aggression. What does this mean for dream analysis? Freud believed that the symbols and emotions in our dreams can help us to understand the cause of our problems in life, including relationship difficulties and symptoms of mental illness.

Carl Jung

Carl Jung was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst from Switzerland. Born in 1875, he worked extensively with Freud. Jung’s dream analysis theory was initially influenced by Freud’s, but Jung went on to publish his own theory, the Psychology of the Unconscious, in 1912, which created a massive rift between the two analysts.

The Jungian school differs from the Freudian school in terms of how the unconscious is viewed and how dream analysis is conducted. For example, Jung believed that our dreams contain symbols from the collective unconscious – ideas and symbols (called archetypes) that are shared by all people across cultures. For Jungians, therefore, dream analysis is about recognizing these symbols and linking them to one’s personalities in order to discover how to fulfill one’s creative potential as a human.

How Does Dream Analysis Cause Change?

Dream analysis helps us to develop a better understanding of ourselves and the unconscious dynamics that may be affecting us. For people who experience recurrent dreams, it can provide a sense of relief to understand their significance; and dream analysis more generally can help us to identify aspects of our emotional lives that may need further support or development.

What Happens in a Dream Analysis Session?

Most forms of dream analysis begin in the same way: after describing your dream to your therapist, the two of you will work together to identify the salient themes in your dream. Your therapist may also ask questions to elicit other themes that are potentially relevant, and in describing your dream to your therapist often you will be able to recall other aspects of the dream that you hadn’t initially remembered.

Dreams are said to have two layers of meaning: manifest and latent content. Manifest content refers to the above-mentioned themes that are clear and obvious, while latent content refers to more subtle meanings and associations. For example, if you dream of yourself flying, the manifest content is flight, while the latent content is the meanings that you attach to flight: liberation, lightness and childhood memories of flying your kite, for example. By using their knowledge of you as a person, as well as other psychological techniques which we describe below, your therapist will help you to determine the latent content in your dream and to understand what this might mean for your life.

Techniques Used in Dream Analysis

  • Free association is a psychoanalytic technique whereby the client speaks (or writes) freely about whatever comes to mind without censoring the content. This is a powerful way of understanding the latent content of a dream, by revealing any associated meaning that we might have been unaware of.
  • Amplification is a technique that’s rooted in Jungian dream analysis. This technique uses universally accepted or historical meanings of the symbols in the dream to make sense of the symbols. The individual’s interpretations are explored within the context of widely accepted beliefs about the symbol. In this way, the meaning of seemingly obscure symbols is clarified.
  • Take the Part of” refers to a technique used in Gestalt dream analysis. The client is asked to record everything they can remember about the dream. The therapist then asks the client to act out parts of the dream, playing different roles and developing a dialogue.

 

Dream Analysis

Does Dream Analysis Work?

Dream analysis doesn’t work for everyone. But for some, it is a powerful tool for exploring the unconscious mind. However, dream analysis works best when it’s used in the context of an established therapeutic relationship with a psychologist. This way, you’re able to collaborate with an experienced therapist – one who already knows your history, struggles, and personality – to derive meaning from the symbols in your dreams. In doing so, you’re able to grow as a person by becoming aware of your mind’s deepest fantasies and desires.

What Kinds of Concerns is Dream Analysis Best For?

Dream analysis may be used in the context of broader treatments for psychological disorders which affect dreaming, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and recurrent nightmares. However, dream analysis is more broadly appropriate for anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of who they are and what makes them tick, regardless of whether or not they have any mental health concerns.

Furthermore, some people experience recurrent dreams and they may have a sense that a part of their psyche is desperately trying to send them a message that they’re simply not getting. For these people, developing an understanding of the dream’s significance can provide a sense of relief and fulfillment.

How Are Dream Analysis Specialists Trained?

For psychologists, dream analysis usually forms a part of the broader training that psychodynamic or psychoanalytic practitioners receive. Traditionally, to become a psychoanalyst one must undergo extensive training over several years which includes being psychoanalyzed oneself. However, clinical psychologists who are not formally recognized as being psychoanalysts may learn the theory and principles of the unconscious during their general training – and dream analysis training is often incorporated therein.

Concerns/Limitations of Dream Analysis

Members of the scientific community tend to be skeptical about dream interpretation, given that it has been practiced by soothsayers, charlatans, and pseudoscientists for years. Some researchers have even suggested that dreams can’t be analyzed at all because they hold no meaning whatsoever; and that dreams are just arbitrary thoughts and electrical signals that happen while we’re asleep. Furthermore, dream analysis is not a scientifically backed practice, because there is no way to reliably assess whether a dream interpretation is accurate or not. Despite this, many licensed clinicians continue to perform dream analysis and maintain that this is a useful technique in therapy.

How to Find a Therapist

Ask your local GP to recommend a psychologist near you. Alternatively, an online search should bring up names and websites of psychologists, allowing you to ascertain whether they conduct dream analyses.

What Should I be Looking for in an LMHP?

You’ll want to find someone who is licensed as a psychotherapist whilst also having received training in dream analysis. Therapists who use a psychodynamic framework usually know how to practice dream analysis, although not all therapists choose to do so in their practice, so it’s recommended that you ask beforehand. Once you meet your therapist, make sure that you feel safe and comfortable with them, as this is crucial for a good therapeutic relationship.

Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist

Do you have an interest in dream analysis?

Have you done any training in dream analysis?

What techniques do you use for dream interpretation?

Should I be interested in my dreams?

What form of therapy would be most appropriate for me?

Do you have a specific theoretical orientation?

How much do sessions cost and will this be covered by my insurance?

When will we meet for sessions and how often will they take place?

What is your cancelation policy?

Find a Therapist Now

If you walk into a bookstore, you’re likely to find the shelves lined with pop-psychology dream guides which list the meanings that any dream symbol implies, in the style of an encyclopedia. But this method of analysis leaves many a dreamer unsatisfied. While some psychologists feel that there are certain symbols which have a shared universal meaning, how can someone suggest what a certain symbol means to you without having a real sense of the person that you are?

If a person wants to truly understand the significance of their dreams, they need to delve deep into themselves – and this is best done with the assistance of a trained and licensed mental health practitioner. Thrive Talk is an online platform that connects people with the right therapist for their needs. Many of the therapists on this platform are familiar with dream analysis. With a straightforward sign-up process and a broad range of fully qualified practitioners on offer, this online platform might be just what you need to start making sense of your dreams from the comfort of your own home.

Final Thoughts on Dream Analysis

For centuries, humans have been excited and enthralled by the images that come to them during sleep. A dream can create a powerful sense that something significant is stirring within you; and that the deepest parts of the mind are seeking to be heard. A dreamer yearns to understand the mysterious truths that lurk below the surface of conscious awareness and analyzing your dreams allows you to deepen your relationship with yourself.

In this article, we have covered dream analysis as practiced by clinical psychologists. Although dream analysis is not seen as a scientifically reliable treatment approach, it is still used by many licensed professionals as a way of improving the lives of their clients. In time, with further research and advancements in brain imaging technology, science may be able to shed more light on this technique. Until then, however, dream analysis will continue to be practiced as an art, rather than a science.

References

  1. https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-analyze-your-dreams-and-why-its-important/
  2. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/dream-analysis
  3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dream-catcher/201307/the-folly-dream-interpretation
  4. https://www.skepticink.com/gps/2013/10/17/a-brief-history-scientific-look-at-dream-analysis-interpretation/
  5. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dream-analysis-psychology_us_59b6e640e4b0a50fd051fd03
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3330585/
  7. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/21674086.1955.11925980

Existential Therapy: Take Charge of Your Own Life

Existential therapy is a ground-breaking style of psychological therapy that emphasizes the human condition and its paradoxical nature as a whole. In existential psychotherapy, a positive approach is used that acknowledges the capacities and aspirations of people while acknowledging human limitations.

The human experience does not have a prescribed manual and therefore existential therapy can be looked at as more of an attitude concerned with human suffering. It questions the nature of a person and how it is connected to the nature of life.

What is Existential Therapy?

Existential therapy is a revolutionary form of psychotherapy. This existential-humanistic approach to psychology and therapy is focused on a person’s free will, their self-determination and their search for meaning.

The human condition is regarded as a whole and as existential therapy holds human capacities in high regard, individuals are encouraged to take full responsibility for their own success.

Through this approach, a person’s own ability to make rational choices is emphasized and this helps to develop their maximum potential.

The following points form important pillars of the existential approach:

  • All people are capable of self-awareness
  • Every person’s unique identity can be discovered only through their relationship with other people
  • Seeing as the “meaning of life” constantly changes, people need to constantly re-create themselves
  • Anxiety is an undeniable component of the human condition

The existential approach is concerned with the here and now which is highly contrasting with approaches that are used to delve into the past. It is also interesting to note that with existential therapy, emotional or psychological difficulties are regarded as part of an inner battle which is sparked by the individual’s confrontation with the ultimate concerns of existence.

The Existential Therapy Theory

Existential therapy is based on the assumption that we, as human beings, are free and that we are therefore responsible for our own choices and actions. We write our own stories and we are the designers of the pathways we choose to follow.

While psycho-analysis focuses on the results of unconscious forces, past events and irrational drives and behaviorists argue that individuality is a product of socio-cultural conditioning; the existential approach rejects these deterministic views.

Existential therapy rather focuses on assisting people in the journey of exploring the existential givens of life. The four main existential givens are:

  • Our freedom and the responsibility that comes along with it
  • Our inevitable death
  • Isolation
  • Meaninglessness

In existential psychotherapy, it is believed that all people experience internal conflict that results from their interaction with the conditions that form an integral part of human existence.

How Does Existential Therapy Suggest the Mind Works?

The theory of existential therapy argues that the ultimate concerns of living are often ignored or plainly denied and that by addressing these concerns people can experience greater meaning in life.

Existential therapy considers themes like mortality, freedom, responsibility, meaning, isolation and anxiety seeing as they relate to the person’s immediate or current struggle.

The existential assumption that we can only be what we choose to be, gives light to the idea that we cannot fall victim to circumstance. Therefore, the principles of existential therapy suggest that once we can start the process of recognizing how we often passively accept surrender control to circumstances; we can start taking steps toward shaping our own lives.

How Does Existential Therapy Cause Change?

The main goal of existential therapy is to invite people to reflect on life and to recognize the fact that, in life, there are alternatives among which we can choose. Even though we can’t control life events that are forced upon us, existential therapy teaches us that we have the freedom to choose our own responses to such events nonetheless.

The practice of existential psychotherapy invites an individual to confront the ultimate concerns of life fairly and honestly.

By confronting the uncertain conditions connected to human existence an individual is filled with a kind of dread that we can refer to as existential anxiety. This anxiety can be regarded as a force that reduces a person’s awareness albeit physical, psychological, social or spiritual and this may lead to devastating long-term consequences.

What Happens in an Existential Therapy Session?

According to Irvin Yalom (a contemporary existential psychotherapist), the universal concerns of death, freedom, isolation, and emptiness form part of the human experience even though each person experiences their own distinctive concerns.

Existential therapy is mainly concerned with the anxiety that results from confronting these internal conflicts and the therapist plays a central role in fostering the idea that each person needs to realize that they are responsible for making their own decisions.

Basically, a therapist can be seen as a traveling companion on the journey through life who uses support and empathy to guide the traveler toward gaining insight into their state of existence.

The essence of existential psychotherapy is to address the core question of how one exists in the face of the ever-changing state of life and uncertainties like conflict or death.

Existential therapy practitioners work with individuals in therapy in a way that helps them to discover and explore life choices that lie before them instead of focussing on the past. The past may, however, be used as a tool for promoting newfound assertiveness and a sense of freedom.

Through existential therapy, the person becomes enabled to let go of the things that have been in the way of their true freedom.

Techniques Used in Existential Therapy

The existential approach is not technique oriented and even though other techniques of psychotherapy may be incorporated, the main focus stays within the context of gaining insight into a person’s subjective world. The interventions employed by existential practitioners are essentially based on philosophical views involving the nature of human existence.

  • Increasing self-awareness

One of the core concepts in existential therapy is to increase self-awareness and this includes being aware of alternatives, influencing factors, motivations and personal goals.

The therapist aims to assist the client in learning that there is a price to pay for increased awareness. Ignorance may have caused a feeling of contentment, but by facing reality, more turmoil can be expected; however, this may also create the potential for greater fulfillment.

  • Realizing Freedom and Responsibility

Another central theme that is characteristic of existential therapy is that people have the freedom to choose among alternatives and by doing so; they play a major role in shaping their own destiny.

The role of the therapist in this regard is to help a person discover the ways in which he or she may be avoiding freedom and to encourage the risk of using it. It is also the task of the therapist to teach people to accept the fact that they always have choices and that they need to take responsibility for these choices.

  • Personal Identity and Relationships with Other People

Part of the existential therapy journey is for people to realize how they have lost touch with their true identity especially by allowing other people to design their lives. The therapeutic process can be a frightening experience because people may realize that they have surrendered their personal freedom to others and that they need to assume their freedom again.

An existential therapist will ask the individual to intensify the idea that they are nothing but the sum of other people’s expectations. The person will then be asked various questions that may give them the courage to recognize this fear, to add words to the picture and to realize that the whole concept is not as overwhelming as they may have thought.

The person is also confronted with the reality that he or she alone can find the answers to their own questions.

  • The Search for Meaning

It is human nature to have a certain interest in finding meaning and satisfaction in life. Therefore, people strive to commit themselves to creating, working, building and loving. Meaning is created from a person’s idea of what is valued and by committing to the search for true meaning they may find a purpose which makes living life worthwhile.

Existential Therapy

The therapist may ask different questions on the subject in order to provide a conceptual framework in which people can explore meaning in their lives.

  • Anxiety as an Unavoidable Condition of Living

Anxiety may arise from an individual’s personal efforts to survive and to assert their existence and the feelings generated by anxiety are an unavoidable aspect that forms part and parcel of being human.

An existential therapist aims to help people recognize that learning to deal with uncertainties is a necessary part of moving away from dependence and toward autonomy.

Anxiety should diminish as the individual becomes increasingly satisfied with new ways of being; and along with gained self-confidence, the anxiety coupled with expectations of catastrophic outcomes will likely lessen.

  • Awareness of Death

The existential theory does not have a negative view on death. It rather sees how the awareness of death as an inevitable human condition can add to the significance of living.

Existential therapists recommend that the reality of death should be discussed directly as the fear of death is an ever-present haunting thought in life. Some believe that avoiding the topic creates a message that death may be much too overwhelming to explore.

By acknowledging death we can turn our fear of the death of other people and even our own inevitable death into a positive force.

Does Existential Therapy Work?

Existential therapy works for people who struggle with making healthy life choices and with accepting the consequences of the choices they make.

Because existential psychotherapy is mostly concerned with the underlying factors of mental health and behavioral concerns this approach might not address the core issues that some people are struggling with. Therefore, other approaches may be used along with the existential approach and by combining approaches, therapy can be more effective and this could lead to greater success in the recovery process.

People who are open to engaging in honest self-evaluation will benefit the most from existential therapy.

What Kinds of Concerns is Existential Therapy Best For?

Interventions based on existential therapy are aimed at increasing self-understanding and self-awareness.

Seeing as various psychological conditions may result from a person’s inability to make meaningful self-directed choices; existential psychotherapy can help with concerns like excessive anxiety, anger, alienation, apathy, addiction, avoidance, depression, resentment, psychosis, violence, and feelings of shame, despair, guilt or purposelessness.

The existential approach may also help to make life-enhancing experiences more meaningful and these may include: love, acceptance, caring, committing, being present, spirituality, self-actualization, and authenticity.

How Are Existential Therapy Specialists Trained?

There are several additional training programs in existential therapy. Different universities and institutes provide learning opportunities in existential therapy. Such opportunities may range from presentations, symposiums, and workshops to professional degrees.

Concerns/Limitations of Existential Therapy

Existential psychotherapy can be misunderstood by people who don’t grasp the fundamental principles thoroughly or by people who do not understand the scope of the theories associated with existential therapy.

In order to make this approach more comprehensible, a great solution would be to create awareness about the principles and theories concerned with existential therapy before and during treatment.

Important Practitioners in Existential Therapy

The existential therapy theory was not founded by one particular person. In fact, the collaboration of various streams of thought brought it to life. Some popular names of existential therapy practitioners include:

  • Rollo May
  • James F. T. Bugental
  • Irvin Yalom

How to Find a Therapist

Various online resources provide search options to make sure that you find the ideal therapist for your needs.

What Should I be Looking for in an LMHP?

Existential therapists usually have a background in philosophy in addition to being trained as mental health practitioners. Most existential psychotherapists have graduate degrees in counseling or psychology and they should also have completed supervised fieldwork concerned with existential therapy.

Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist

If you are curious about the existential approach, speak to a professional in the area of existential therapy. They should have the answers that you need to make an informed decision about the therapy.

Don’t waste another day of your life; find an existential therapist today!

ThriveTalk features a number of therapists with a wide range of knowledge, ready to meet with you and discuss your needs. Talk to someone today by clicking here.

Take charge with existential therapy!

Existential therapy can help you to face the anxieties of life and to embrace the freedom you have to make your own choices and to take responsibility for these choices. You deserve to find a way to live a meaningful life in our ever-changing world.

References

  1. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/existential-psychotherapy
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/existential-therapy
  3. https://existential-therapy.com/
  4. Corey G. Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy. Nelson Education; 2015 Nov 24.
  5. https://existential-therapy.com/training-in-existential-psychology/