Talk Therapy is Extremely Effective: Here’s Why

Talk therapy can be described as the ‘traditional’ therapeutic process that most people think of when the subject of mental health is at hand. The industry jargon for this type of treatment is referred to as psychotherapy. A strong relationship is built between therapist and patient allowing for a free exchange of information in a confidential and safe environment.

There are a couple of challenges with talk therapy. It can be time consuming, and depending on the traumas experienced by the patient, possibly emotionally painful – but the benefits of continuing to do the hard work far outweigh those difficulties.

Here are three of the ways that talk therapy helps you heal:

Discovery

Not everyone is aware of what is causing their pain, and so they’re unable to articulate what exactly is wrong. Not knowing this information makes other rational-based treatment methods like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) far less effective. We must first know why we’re hurting before we can address the problem.

Talk therapy provides a safe and nurturing space for whatever thoughts come into our minds. There may be underlying repressed memories and emotions bubbling up from our subconscious space that we were not even aware of.

It is through the discovery and exposure of these hidden feelings and memories that we can then begin to heal, integrating other therapies such as CBT to begin rationalizing and removing distortions in our thinking.

Transference

Over time, patients may begin to communicate with their therapists in ways that reflect their past traumas and parental relationships providing clues as to what the patient’s underlying conditions may be.

The therapist-patient relationship can mimic that of a parent-child, and so feelings of sadness, nervousness, rage, or insecurity that were experienced by the patient towards their parents can transfer to the therapist. It has also been observed that those parental feelings can be transferred towards spouses or children, so it’s extremely important that negative feelings are resolved in the safest way possible before they adversely affect the ones you love.

Relationships

For many people, their relationship with their therapist may be the first positive and reliable relationship that they have ever had. Parents, friends, and confidants may have let them down, and so the therapist becomes a surrogate for that parental deficiency in many ways.

Once a trusting relationship has been established between patient and therapist, it is possible to regress to earlier stages of development that went wrong and relive them – except this time with a better ending.

This new relationship then becomes a model for building new healthy relationships outside of therapy.

Have you ever tried talk therapy? How were your experiences? Click the title of this article and leave a comment to tell us about it!

The Illusion of Living a Balanced Life

Most of us struggle with maintaining a sustainable life balance – but have we really considered what that means or how that pursuit affects our lives? With stressful schedules, family obligations, and our own personal needs, it seems as if there just is not enough time or energy to do it all…

Maybe that’s the point – there ISN’T enough time or energy.

David Sedaris wrote a fascinating article in The New Yorker explaining his understanding of work-life balance with a unique allegory of using stove burners to represent four areas of life that we all struggle to maintain – and his philosophy has since become known as the Four Burners Theory.

There are four main areas of life that we try to balance:

  • Work
  • Family
  • Self-Care
  • Friends

Each of these four areas are represented by a burner on a stove – and we know this stove must have a power source. It’s this power source that is the limiting factor in making sure that all four burners can function simultaneously. Of course, we cannot plug into the power grid – our power source is the time and emotional energy we have day-to-day.

If we attempt to truly balance these four areas, each ‘burner’ can only function at 25% of its capacity. That may be enough, but no one area will be able to reach its full potential.

With good time management practices and self-care, it is possible to extend our power source, but ultimately it is still a limited resource.

To be successful, we need to be able to identify our core values and what is truly important to us. We need to reduce at least one of those burners (and likely even two) to power up the rest.

Essentially there are two choices – do we maintain a true balance across all areas of life, or are we willing to make sacrifices to excel in certain areas? While this question may be incredibly difficult to answer, it is not an answer that is constant throughout our lives.

Our priorities shift and change over time.

It is arguable that finding life satisfaction far exceeds that of life balance. By allowing ourselves to focus on what is most important during any given phase of our lives, we are far more likely to succeed in these areas.

We can always change our minds and adjust whenever life takes us in a new direction…

How Unhealed Trauma Destroys Us

There are many ways that people can experience trauma that haunts them. For some, trauma may result from a single dramatic event, while for others it may have a more subtle origin from long-term mistreatment as a child. Whatever the root cause, the result is every bit as damaging to our minds and bodies.

Trauma does not heal on its own – without help and guidance trauma will continue to worsen, fester, and amplify slowly over time.

The effects of unhealed and unresolved trauma can destroy our mental and physical health, and worse, continue to propagate throughout generations as unhealthy coping behaviors are passed down from parent to child.

According to Harvard Medical School’s editorial “Past trauma may haunt your future health”, here are just a few of the ways that unhealed trauma can negatively impact your life:

Violently Acting Out

Sometimes when we are holding onto things from our past that hurt us, we develop hypersensitivities to things that normally would not bother us. We may become easily angered and lash out at those around us for perceived slights, whether real or imagined. Most often these people are our friends and family, the very people who we should look to for support and healing.

This type of behavior can be learned by children from parents who are holding onto their own traumas which are then passed from one generation to the next. Multi-generational abuse and violence is difficult to break, but it can be done with the help of a therapist and some self-compassion.

Development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD can result from any event that the individual interprets as being excessively distressing. Unresolved trauma of this sort will manifest as a state of constant anxiety, frequent nightmares, outbursts of anger, and emotional numbness.

Sometimes reminders of the trauma can trigger these events, but all too often the person who is suffering is not even aware that they have PTSD – tragically they may be holding onto the false belief that something is wrong with them, that THEY are the cause of their own suffering.

While there is a certain uncomfortable truth to that (although it is not because of anything they have done wrong), the pain is propagated by an inability to recognize that they need help. They need to learn how to heal.

Substance Abuse

One unhealthy way to cope with the pain of persistent trauma is self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, tobacco, or illicit substances. To numb the pain felt by trauma sufferers, a dependency mindset is solidified with the use of chemicals that temporarily provide a brief respite from constant emotional agony.

Physical Health Deterioration

As we discussed in a previous article “How Long-Term Stress Will Make You Sick”, there are very real physical manifestations that will adversely affect your physical as well as your mental health. Make sure to visit the link to that article to read more.

Do you have any traumas that you are holding onto? Perhaps you would like to share your story?

Leave a comment on any of our articles and tell us!

Destructive Mindsets That Keep You Stuck

Resisting Change and Living in the Past

We all hold onto habits and ways of thinking that are most familiar to us. Most of us want to avoid drastic changes in our lives because it creates discomfort and uncertainty – but doing so can also keep us trapped in self-destructive mindsets that actually cause far more pain and discomfort.

What may have worked for us in the past may no longer be the best approach in the present, and we should always be evaluating, testing, and adjusting our beliefs and actions.

These are unprecedented times for most of us, and if we are going to emerge stronger and better than when we started, embracing change is something we should all be working towards.

Setting Unrealistic Goals

Once we’ve decided to move out of our rigid ways of thinking, we have to figure out what we’re now moving towards.  While it’s  important to dream big, it’s also important to make sure that we can reach the goals that we’ve set for ourselves – otherwise we can become discouraged too quickly and give up.

Big dreams and big changes are reached by identifying multiple smaller goals and achieving each of those one step at a time. Take your time to figure out what those smaller goals should be, ask for help when you’re stuck, and make sure that you’re giving yourself plenty of encouragement when you succeed – and forgiveness when you don’t.

Avoiding Help When Times Get Tough

Burnout is real. Avoiding help is another result of holding onto a fixed mindset and not allowing yourself to embrace change. Your goals won’t be achieved by earning extra credit points for trying to do everything on your own – find a mentor, a therapist, or a coach to help you work through rigid thoughts that are preventing you from reaching the dreams that you are working towards.

Relying Too Much on Others for Your Sense of Self-worth

Most of us are guilty of this far more that we may want to admit. We look to others for validation so that they can provide us with tokens and signals that make us believe that we’re valuable, loved, and accepted. While this is completely natural and one of the ways that we have evolved to connect with people, some people have developed an unhealthy dependency on it. 

We cannot control how others think or behave, and therefore when we rely on others to help us determine our worth we are relinquishing control over our own self-esteem. One of the most common ways people do this is through obsessive social media interactions. It’s easy to get quick likes and agreement among like-minded people in your friends group, but ultimately you are feeding into an emotionally unhealthy echo-chamber that is reinforcing insecurities more than they are building your confidence.

Self-Compassion in an Age of Uncertainty

Let’s be honest, we’re living in a strange period of history – it seems like there’s too much happening all at once, and many of us are experiencing dramatic changes in how we view ourselves and our lives.

For some people this can be an exhilarating time of change, but for others it can seem like they are being forced into completely unending their lives. The tougher things seem to get, the more we tend to fault ourselves for our lives not going perfectly – we take all the blame and dispense merciless self-criticism for circumstances that we likely have no control over!

Ask yourself this: When your best friend is struggling, do you immediately blame them for their circumstances? (Well, maybe… but that is a different conversation for another day.)

When your friends are having a bad day, you are far more likely to be supportive, caring, and offer soothing advice. When they fail at something, you probably help them refocus and start again.

So… why don’t you do that for yourself? How often do you beat yourself up when things go wrong or when times are tough?

I’m guessing you do it way too often – and it’s not alright to treat yourself that way!

Self-compassion helps protect us from distorted thoughts and catastrophic thinking that results from difficult challenges that we face. It helps to keep us grounded and continue to make good decisions rather than surrender to self-pity, depression, and defeatist thinking.

How can you learn to practice self-compassion? Glad you asked!

Learn to live in the present – practice mindfulness

Believe it or not, you rarely live in the present moment. Much of the time your mind is reliving past events or worried about what can happen in the future. If you enjoy holding on to feelings of guilt, self-doubt and anxiety then by all means keep this up. To clear your mind and focus, you must be able to anchor yourself in the present moment. Stop. Breathe deeply and focus on your environment. What do you see, feel, hear, and smell? We will cover mindfulness practices in more detail in a later article.

With a clear mind – understand that you are not alone

Don’t think for a moment that you are the only one who thinks everything has gone wrong. There’s real power in knowing that we are not isolated in our experiences. There have been many others who have survived what you are going through and thrived just like you will. Reach out to someone you trust and let them know what you’re going through.

Practice being kind to yourself

Now that you are calm, and you know that you are NOT alone – treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. Be forgiving, understanding, kind, and supportive of who you are and what you are going through.

These are simple concepts that are very tough to master, but with practice and patience it will change your life. Once you learn how to be your own biggest supporter, there is literally nothing that can hold you back.

Defining a Meaningful Life – 5 Steps to Building Your Inner Resilience

Last week we talked about how stress can have a very real and negative impact on your physical health. One way to reduce long-term stress is to build your inner resilience – learning how to restructure your way of thinking to allow yourself to handle stress in a healthy way. 

Remember that stress isn’t always a bad thing…

We’re trying to reduce distress (destructive stress) while welcoming eustress (motivators and drivers). We want to use good stress in our lives to keep getting back up after we’ve been knocked down – and that’s a skill that ANYONE is able to learn with time and practice.

I’ve compiled a few suggestions that can help you accomplish that. 

1. Determine what your TRUE values are

This is probably the most important and most difficult step. Determine what truly matters to you in your life. For example, if you value personal freedom or time with your family, are you working a job that takes away 70 hours of your life per week? If so, why? What beliefs are you adhering to that is keeping you on a path that is making you miserable? Be truthful with yourself about what is important, define it, and begin removing things from your life that go against those values.

2. Take small steps towards defining your new life

Rethinking the way you live isn’t easy and can be a source of distress in itself. Take baby-steps towards your goal of living a more honest life that is in line with your values. That may mean taking a new job, starting your own business, or going back to school. Whatever you decide, take it slowly one small step at a time – give yourself some well deserved credit for each step that gets you closer to your goal.

3. Embrace failure, don’t avoid it

Be kind to yourself if you don’t succeed the first time… or the second… or the tenth time. Use each lesson as an opportunity to learn and try something new. Experiment and see what works, be brave, and don’t allow fear to intimidate you into not doing anything at all. 

4. Be flexible

Reaching your goals will NEVER be defined via a linear path of successes. It can be messy, and sometimes life changing opportunities will be right in front of you if you allow yourself to be open to new possibilities. Just make sure that those opportunities are in-line with your values, otherwise do not pursue them – no matter how enticing they may seem in the short term.

5. Surround yourself with like minded people

Find people who share your values and use them as a sounding board and support group when you are feeling doubtful or afraid. You’ll see that there are many people who have accomplished exactly what you are doing, and they will help guide you towards success. These can be friends, mentors, coaches, or even YouTube vloggers.

Building resilience is mostly about being honest with who you are and what you want out of your life. Not what your parents want for you, not what society tells you you should be.

Happy 4th of July!!!

The day of our Great Nation’s independence is here, and we should use this July 4th to strengthen the bonds that we have with each other, our families, and our communities. 

Our day of independence is rooted in national unity, but in 2020 we find that our unity has become strained and we have become polarized and splintered. We want to continue having difficult conversations about racial inequality, opportunity, and restructuring systems to better serve our diverse citizenry, but to do so we have to be willing to treat those with whom we disagree with respect.

While we stand in solidarity with movements that strive for racial unity and equal opportunity, we also unequivocally expect that dissent and protests remain peaceful and civil. All Americans have been granted certain unalienable rights including “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” –  this includes all Americans, regardless of their worldview or opinions. Calm and civil discourse leads to real change, the alternative is a descent into societal chaos and distress.

So please, support your friends and neighbors who are fighting for justice and equality, but not those who attempt to do so through violence and intimidation.

Finally, please remember to celebrate the 4th of July responsibly by following common sense guidelines and those outlined by your local municipalities and businesses. We’ve done a great job working together to drastically reduce infection rates, but we still have a little way to go before it’s over.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July weekend!

Social Unrest and COVID-19: How Long-Term Stress Will Make You Sick

We’re finding ourselves living in interesting times – 2020 is fast becoming a year of constant change, unusual social upheaval, and economic volatility. Add that to highly polarized election year, and we have the makings of a very stressful environment.

While some people may find it easier to cope with stress than others, it’s important to note that ANYONE can learn to better understand their reaction to stress and learn how to control it.

Let’s talk a little about what stress really is – we can generalize it into two kinds:

Distress – This is bad stress. It weighs on us, makes us anxious, and threatens our health. We want to reduce this kind of stress as much as possible.

Eustress – This is good stress. This type of stress helps drive us and be more productive. This type of stress comes from the challenges that we conquer and it helps us to become better people. We want to invite more of this kind of stress into our lives.

Much of the stress that we’re experiencing now is DISTRESS from everything that we’re hearing and reading about in the news cycle. Distress leads to anxiety, a constant feeling of fear over a future that you don’t have control over.

Without proper guidance, distress and anxiety can wreak havoc on your body and mind by activating your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) for prolonged periods.

  • Your digestive system slows and is less active. This can result in loss of appetite and unhealthy weight loss due to a lack of essential nutrients.
  • Sleep problems and exhaustion can hinder your ability to work and function.
  • Muscle tension that can lead to intense physical pain including back pain and headaches.
  • Increased amounts of the stress hormone cortisol will reduce your body’s ability to fight off disease and will lead to an increased susceptibility to illness.

Self care, a healthy perspective, and proper guidance from a mental health professional are essential to controlling stress and controlling your response to stress. 

We Are Agents of Change – Building a Better Society

Our society is currently experiencing civil unrest resulting from a perception of systemic discrimination and violence – and many people are afraid to discuss issues surrounding bias or prejudice for fear of themselves being perceived as discriminatory. 

Human beings are hardwired to recognize patterns and to put things into easily recognizable groups. This ability allows us to form complex ideas, categorize them, and retrieve them quickly when needed. However, there are times when this capability can lead to the unintentional development of beliefs that are actually harmful to ourselves and those around us – leading us towards forming biased opinions that are rooted in unsubstantiated feelings rather than facts.


Most of the time we’re just not aware of when we do this, but when we do the outcome may lead to developing unrealistic beliefs about a person or a group of people that we associate with that individual. Oftentimes these beliefs will also have negative emotions attached to them like anger or distrust, resulting in the avoidance or marginalization of people who belong to these groups.

There are some things that we can do to foster better understanding among people of diverse backgrounds and opinions according to psychologist Dr. Gwendolyn Keita:

  • Understand where we come from – we all have our own points of view that have been shaped by our individual experiences. All of us have these biases which shape our opinions of others.
  • Honestly acknowledge your feelings towards different opinions and groups – it’s alright if certain things make you uncomfortable. That’s natural after all. Learn to recognize what these are so that negative emotions won’t lead to biased and discriminatory conclusions.
  • Share our challenges and fears – this can be difficult, especially if we are around people that we perceive as being judgemental. Vocalizing our personal biases can help us move past them.
  • Exposure to new ideas and groups of people – research has shown that positive media exposure to examples of people or groups that they are unfamiliar with will lead to changing attitudes and more realistic perceptions. What’s even more effective is meeting and communicating directly.

Different groups of people can each bring something of value in making society better – we can use these various points of view to better understand one another and achieve a more harmonious social balance.

Healing Arts Institute Stands in solidarity with

BLACK LIVES MATTER

Learning to Develop a Successful Business Mindset

The prevailing wisdom among new business owners and people interested in going out on their own is that a successful business is built atop a strong foundation of planning. Business plans, marketing plans, communications plans – all of which is intended to provide a very important fundamental aspect of business development: strategy.

While strategy is important, it can only provide guidance to someone who has the right mindset to be able to focus, persist, and recover from setbacks.

Mental health applies to developing your successful business mindset every bit as much as it does your personal happiness and behaviors. Here are a few mindsets that entrepreneurs and small business owners can adopt to be their best selves.

Understand Yourself and What Drives You

Learn who you are and what motivates you. Knowing what your true passions and motivations are will help in determining how you conduct business, and which opportunities you choose to pursue. People who aren’t aware of this are more likely to go after any and all opportunities which might yield short-term gain to the detriment of long-term growth and success.

Make Clearly Defined Goals

Goal setting is another tool that will help you focus on your core business, and hopefully steer you away from immediate distractions that seem like enticing quick-gains. Goals should be something that is measurable – for example: Establish a fully functional online retail component to my business by the end of 3rd quarter. Set reasonable goals and hold yourself accountable to completing them. Any opportunity that takes you away from your goals is a distraction and should be avoided.

Learn to Make Yourself Over

We’re not the same people we were when we were children. As we engage with new people and encounter new experiences, we grow and adapt – this analogy of growing up and how we change as individuals also applies to business. Successful business owners are often very different people compared to how they were when they first began. They have learned and adapted from mistakes and challenges – and like them, you should also learn to become comfortable with getting things wrong, adapting, and trying something new.

Take Personal Responsibility

Sometimes things don’t go our way which can lead to outcomes that are difficult to accept. We don’t have to like the circumstance that we find ourselves in, but we do have to accept it – and better yet, we should take responsibility for it. That doesn’t mean that we blame ourselves, it means that we empower ourselves to take the reins of whatever situation we find ourselves in and turn in into one that will work for us. Placing blame is a pointless exercise that might ‘feel good’ in the moment, but it is destructive and counter-productive. It doesn’t matter who is to blame for an outcome – take upon yourself the personal responsibility to make it better.

Gratitude

This can be a tough one. It’s easier to be grateful in good times, but when things get challenging it can feel downright impossible. Learning to maintain a strong sense of gratitude helps you to stay focused and persistent when confronted by difficult circumstances, and the loss of gratitude will eventually lead to feelings of despair and depression which then results in a self-induced cycle of failure. Instead of allowing yourself to be angry over situations that you may not have complete control over, learn to be grateful that you have these opportunities to learn from, grow, and become stronger for it.