May 9, 2021

Archives for 2013

New Year’s Resolutions versus The Stages of Change

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The Christmas holiday is over.  Surrounded by the carnage of torn wrapping paper and mangled boxes, we look to the future.  Soon, it will be New Year’s eve.  Maybe because it’s a “natural” transition…or maybe because it’s tradition, we tend to start thinking about the past and looking to the future.  From this has arisen the idea of the New Year’s resolution…the promise of change that we make to ourselves to hopefully make the next year a little better than the one that just passed us by.

Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of the resolution.  Well, that’s not true…I’m all about making resolutions and change for the better.  I just don’t see why we should only do it once a year.  I figure if you need to change…then change.  Don’t wait for an arbitrary date to do so.  However, that’s not the point of this article.  No…I want to speak to you about HOW to change…not when or why.

I.                   Ever struggled with making changes?

If you answered “no” to that question, you are either the luckiest, most enlightened person in the universe…or a total liar.  Everyone struggles with change.  Change is difficult.  It’s stressful.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve decided to make a change in my life.  Committed to the process…only to fall on my butt.  Sometimes it’s because life got in the way.  Other times I wasn’t really ready.  Still other times I changed, but it just didn’t “stick”

I tell you this now because I often reflect on how ironic it is that I as a mental health professional whose job it is to facilitate change in others struggle personally with making changes myself.  In fact, all my colleagues seem to have the same dilemma.  However, in my studies I have learned a thing or two about change…things that have helped me personally and certainly helped my clients to change.  So, in the spirit of making changes for the new year, I offer you this look into the theory of “stages of change.”

II.                 Prochaska and DiClemente — Stages of change

I came across this change model while I was finishing up my degree.  I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful in my own efforts at change as well as those of many of my clients.  Here it is in a nutshell:

  1. “I don’t have a problem…YOU have a problem”– (Precontemplation) – Not considering change.  Doesn’t recognize there’s a problem.  “Ignorance is bliss.”  You probably won’t recognize if you are in this stage…but you will know if a loved one is here.  If your child, spouse, friend, etc is here, then your goal is to raise awareness.  Make connections between the person’s behaviors and the problem at hand.  I often find myself saying “How’s that working for you?” to clients stuck at this stage.
  2. “I know I have a problem, but what can I do about it?”—(Contemplation) – Recognizes there may be a problem or a need to change, but doesn’t know what to do about it.  Most of us become aware at this stage.  We often try to force a change here but this is a mistake.  Because we don’t know everything about the problem any solution we come up with is liable to be inadequate. It’s like trying to bake cookies without reading or understanding the recipe.  The goal here is to be patient and really understand the problem thoroughly.  Once you understand it, then you can change it.
  3. 3.       “I know what’s wrong, just need to figure out what to do about it.” – (Preparation) – Recognizes a need for change and is starting to explore the problem and come up with a plan to address it.  Here we start putting together a plan for change.  We draw on all our resources to get ready to change. 
  4. 4.       “I’m working my plan!” – (Action) –  Recognizes a need for change.  Understands what needs to be done, has a plan and is “working” that plan.  Pretty straight forward.  This is where most of want to be but try to get here too soon.
  5. 5.       Maintenance – Has achieved the desired change and is now actively maintaining that change for the long haul.
  6. 6.       Relapse – Due to unforeseen circumstances, has reverted to old patterns of behaviors and regressed.

It is important to note, while most people go through the stages in order, one does not have to go through ALL the stages.  One might go from precontemplation to action in a short period of time if a plan comes together.  One might also move backwards through the stages if bad things happen.  Also, one can be in different stages of change with different problems all at the same time.  The bottom line is, change can be complicated and messy (no surprise there, right?).

III.              Match the intervention to the stage

What does this have to do with you and your New Year’s resolution?  Everything!  If what you are trying to change does not match up with your readiness to change (the stage you are in) then you are most likely doomed to fail from the get go.  So, take a good long look at what you are planning to do.  Examine where you are at…be honest with yourself.  What stage are you at?  Once you figure out that, then the next steps become easier to figure out.  Match what you are going to do with the stage you are in and work towards the next stage your chances for success are increased.

So, let’s say you are in the contemplative stage.  You know that you need to change but are not sure what to do.  Your task then is to understand the whats, whys and wherefores of your desired change.  How did the problem come about?  What are the resources you bring to bear?  Once you gain enough understanding, then you can move towards preparation and make a plan.

Let’s say you are at the action stage.  Great!  Work your plan…but how are you going to maintain the change?  What are you going to do if things go off the rails?  Figuring that stuff out ahead f time can increase your chances of success.

What if you are in maintenance?  You’ve made that change and are successful?  What happens if you relapse?  How are you going to view yourself?  Do you have a plan to get back on track? If you do, then your chances of overcoming a setback are much greater.

I hope you’ve found this information helpful.  If you want help in navigating a life change, then please contact me for a free consultation. erikyounglpc@verizon.net  or 484-693-0582

 

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ADHD: Disorder or Super Power? Part Four

       I.            Succeed from your strengths!

Partially because I didn’t receive formal therapy, but also because I needed to grow up, I did not get a handle on my ADHD until I was in my 20’s.  What happened is that I became a father.  All of a sudden I was motivated.  I looked at my son and thought “he deserves better than a slacker parent.”  I enrolled in college and started to apply all the study and organizational strategies I’d been taught but stubbornly refused to use in high school.  A funny thing happened, I started getting straight A’s.  In fact, I maintained a 4. GPA for 6 straight semesters in my undergraduate program.  It was hard work at first and I had to be very disciplined, but I didn’t want to let my baby son down.  Over time though, it got easier as I got habituated to doing these things.  Pretty soon I could tap into my super focus whenever I wanted.

Today, I’m still hyperactive (I cannot sit still).  I can be impulsive.  I talk too fast.  I procrastinate.  BUT I can control that when the circumstances call for it.  I run a successful private practice.  I pay the bills.  I have a good life.  As long as I have goals that motivate then my ADHD brain works FOR me rather than against me.

Here’s the bottom line.  If you have ADHD or think you might have ADHD, then here is what you need to do to be successful:

  1. Stop internalizing the bad messages from the world around you.  Stop internalizing the daily little failures as a measure of your self-worth.  It’s not necessary and it just drags you down. You may be forgetful at timesbut so what?  Focus on the positives.  Celebrate your strengths.
  2. Find your passion! Figure what things engage your focus and then work them into as much of your day-to-day life as possible.  This will help make boring activities more engaging.
  3. Always have a goal with firm deadlines.  This will help stave off procrastination.  Don’t just say “I’ll do _____ someday.” Or “I will get to it later.”  Set a day and time and then get it done.  You might do it last-minutethat’s ok as long as you meet your goal.  When you meet your goalset a new goal.  Never be without a goal.
  4. Look for new passions so you can change things up.  Remember, boredom is the enemy!  Keep it fresh.  It’s ok to rotate through interests.  Going through two or three things then returning to the first thing as you feel like it.
  5. Learn how to organize and engage your focus even in low-stim situations.  It’s difficult.  It takes time.  But, sometimes we just have to gut through the boredom.

If you want to schedule a free consultation please call 484-693-0582 or press the “schedule appointment” button to the right.

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ADHD: Disorder or Super Power? Part Three

       I.            Hidden gifts

Having ADHD confers some distinct advantages.  First, lets do away with the myth of the attention-deficit.  The name of this condition is a misnomer.  It’s not that we can’t pay attention, quite the contrary.  We have super, laser-like focus and attention.  The problem is that the cost of entry is very high to engage that focus.

I explain it to my private practice clients like this.  Everyone has a “goldilocks” zone of stimulation.  When the environment stimulation is in this zone then we feel comfortable.  For neurotypical people, the world generally puts us in this comfort zone.  However, for those of us wired for ADHD, our need for stimulation is very highmuch higher than the norm.  Most of the time the world is not giving us what we need.  We are under-stimulated.  So, our brains seek out stimulation to make us feel normal. So, we seem distracted because we are constantly going “whats that!  What’s that!  What’s that!”  seeking normalcy.  Our existence is one long battle with extreme boredom.  However, when our need for stimulation is met, then our focus kicks inand it is much stronger than that of mere mortals.  When I’m doing something that stimulates me and I get in the zone….I lose track of time.  I can get more done in a couple of hours than most people do all day!  The problem is that it can be difficult to access that focus when others expect that of us.

Other good things that come with ADHD:

  • Creativity
  • Energy
  • Sociability
  • Independence
  • Fun
  • Quick thinker
  • Decisiveness
  • Passionate

So, ADHD shouldn’t be considered a disorder.  It’s a rough descriptor of neurology.  We don’t pathologize shorter than average people.  We don’t say they’re broken.  We give them access to stools to reach the top shelf.  Whether or not you need meds.  No matter what behavioral/organizational strategies you need to get through the daythese are simply “stools”tools to help us adapt.

Go to Part Four.

If you would like to schedule a free consultation, please call 484-693-0582 or press the “schedule appointment” button to the right.

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ADHD: DISORDER OR SUPER POWER? Part two

       II.            The problems with the diagnosis

The DSM-V is the official manual of mental disorders.  If you have a formal diagnosis of ADHD (or any other mental health disorder), then it should flow from the criteria laid out in that book.  Here is what the DSM-V says about ADHD.

DSM-5 Criteria for ADHD

People with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development:

  1. Inattention: Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level:
  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
  • Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
  • Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
  • Is often easily distracted
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities.
  1. Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:
  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
  • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
  • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
  • Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
  • Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
  • Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

In addition, the following conditions must be met:

  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before age 12 years.
  • Several symptoms are present in two or more setting, (e.g., at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).
  • There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.
  • The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder. The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).

Just take a look at that.  Pretty dismal huh?  Can’t sit still.  Can’t pay attention.  Can’t control oneself.  Totally out of control.  What a mess!  This is the only picture the mental health community uses to diagnosebut it is a very incomplete picture.  The diagnostic criteria focus on the “negative” aspects of ADHDwhich really revolve around the struggles with school and “typical” work environments (where sitting still and doing seat work are prized).  The definition neglects to look at the positives of being wired for ADHD.  It totally misses the amazing strengths we have.  Thus, we are pathologized and often made to feel inferior when we are simply different.  Allow us to capitalize on our strengths and we can do amazing things and be very successful.

Go to Part Three.

If you would like to schedule a free consultation, please call 484-693-0582 or press the “schedule appointment” button to the right.

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ADHD: DISORDER OR SUPER POWER? Part one

       I.            A confession

My name is Erik and I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  Like many people my age (the “wrong” side of forty) I wasn’t ever diagnosed as a child and never received treatment.  As a child I was always on the go.  I learned to run before I could walk… I even have a small calcium deposit bump on my forehead from falling on my face so much during that time.  I had a terrible anger from being hypersensitive.  The most mild name calling would send me into full-out temper tantrums.  By the time I was in middle school, my straight A grades started to suffer due to poor organization, an overwhelming sense of boredom and my insistence that I read my favorite books rather than what my teachers wanted me to read.  I was the poster boy for “he can do the work…”

It wasn’t until I was well into my adulthood and was struggling to make sense of life, the universe, and everything that I finally figured out what was “wrong” with me.  Soon after, I realized that NOTHING was wrong with meI was simply wired a certain way and as long as I was aware of that and made the appropriate adjustmentslife could be amazing.  As a result, I am well-educated, successful and reasonably happy.  In fact, I attribute much of my success to my ADHD.  For me, today, life IS amazing.  I am so blessed.  Let me tell you why…

Go to Part Two

To schedule a free session, call 484-693-0582 or press the “schedule appointment” button to the right.

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Trauma, brain structure and the power of nurturing touch – Video

I’ve spent the past three days assisting with the Theraplay training.  It’s been a wonderful experience.  We had some time and my good friend and mentor, Dr. Rand Coleman gave a talk about trauma and it’s effects on the brain.  I share this talk with you because the information is critical to parents and mental health professionals alike.

 

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Trauma, recovery and addiction — Interviewed by Michele Paiva at the Mind Body Institute

I had the great honor and pleasure to join Michele Paiva on her radio show today.  The topic was addiction, trauma and recovery.  Check it out!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bodymindradio/2013/10/30/emotional-detox-radical-recovery-rethinking-addiction

 

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Site updates and a special offer!

Friends,
I have been crazy busy lately…and this means lots of updates. However, it also means some special opportunities to you.

The Book is out!

First, my book, The Special Needs Parenting Survival Guide, is officially available! You can buy it here. Or you can get it at Amazon.com. If you purchase the paperback version, you can get the kindle version for free.

As a special thank you for your support, I am offering five signed copies for $12 (that’s a 30% discount) to the first five people who send me an email. (erikyounglpc@verizon.net)

Check out the store!

My website now features a store where you can purchase my new line of stress reduction and relaxation audio files.   Learn about diaphragmatic breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

Also, check back later for video new video relaxation demonstrations.

New Curriculum Certification

I am excited to announce that I will soon be releasing a new on-line certification curriculum based on the principles of The Special Needs Parenting Survival Guide.

The Special Needs Parent Support Specialist (SNPSS) certification will teach parents, teachers, and other professionals the principles behind the social support network system and prepare participants to assist other special needs parents.

I am really excited about this as I hope it will help teach professionals and lay people alike how to recognize the unique needs of special needs parents and create a network of people that can ease the challenges these parents face on a daily basis.

Until next time, remember…Breathe, you got this.

Peace,
Erik

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How to Have am Autism-Friendly Halloween

halloween

 

HOW TO HAVE A HAPPY HALLOWEEN WITH YOUR AUTISTIC CHILD

If your child has autism, then you know how challenging holiday events can be.  With these events, you combine changes in routine with increased sensory stimulation and mix all that up with used-once-a-year social conventions that fly in the face of the day to day rules.  This perfect storm of “wrong” can set the stage for tantrum inducing disasters for many individuals on the spectrum. Despite this, I believe there is no reason that you and your child have to avoid special holiday events, such as Halloween.  It just takes a little planning and preparation for both of you to have a wonderful, candy-filled, spooktacular Halloween.

My Foster Child’s First Halloween

My oldest foster child has autism.  In the run-up to his first Halloween with us (when he was twelve), it quickly became apparent to us that he had never been trick or treating.  We really wanted him to go, but were concerned about how he would handle the event.  Like many autistic children, he is very ridged and does not take to change well.  At that time, he was prone to get upset and bite people when things did not go as planned or if anybody had to tell him “no.”  However, despite our concerns, Lorrie (my wife) and I felt it was important for him to have a shot at experiencing a “traditional” Halloween.

First, we had him look the through the costume store circular.  He chose a cow costume (complete with udders).   Cows are his favorite animal on the planet (why this is the case is a story for another post).  Then, Lorrie went out and found the very costume he picked out.  We then tried to explain to him over the days leading up to trick or treat night what he was going to get to do.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but he simply did not get what we were telling him.

“OK, you are going to put on your cow costume.  Then you are going to go up to houses, say trick or treat and then you will get candy!”

“Candy Candy Candy!”  was his typical reply, followed by confusion as to why the candy was not forthcoming right that second.  ( I tell you, I’m a brilliant therapist at times…)

At long last, the night came.  We put our son into his costume and gave him a pillow case to collect his loot.  He immediately became really uncomfortable.  He did not understand what was happening. We went out into the night and started at some neighbor’s houses that knew us and our children.  The first challenge was to get him to say “trick or treat” after ringing the doorbell (but waiting for someone to answer the door)this came out more like “tickatweesh.”  (Our boy has some language…two to three word phrases but his diction is poor and he is hard to understand.)  The next challenge came after he got his candy.  He immediately tried to run home so he could eat his one piece of candy.  My attempt to stop him and go to the next house almost resulted in a tantrum, but we were able to persevere.

After about three houses, my boy gave me a look that, to this day, I will cherish.  Without saying a word, he looked me in the eye.  The look he gave me basically said “So, I go to houses in a costume.  I say tickatweesh.  They give me free candy.  GENIUS!!”  He was into it after this.  I could barely hold him back.  We avoided a couple of houses where they were doing haunted house/scary things.  I checked in every couple of houses and asked him “do you want to keep going or do you want to go home?”  As soon as he said go home, we headed back.  I didn’t push things.  Once home, my boy got to eat himself into a classic Halloween sugar coma.  It was fantastic.

The best part of the tale came the next day.  Our boy came downstairs after school and handed us his cow costume and said “tickatweesh.”  He wanted to go out again.  We tried to explain that Halloween was overhe asked us every night for the rest of the week before giving up efforts to get more free candy.  It was pretty funny.   We ended up saving and re-using that cow costume for 5 years before we had to replace it.

All in all, a successful outing for all concerned.

Tips for an Autism-Friendly Halloween Night

—   Let your child choose his costume.  Avoid costumes with full face masks, lots of makeup or glue-on accessories.  These can be uncomfortable and take the fun out of the night for your child.

 

— Remember the night is supposed to be fun.  This is not the time to push limits with your child.  All the changes in routine and possible overstimulation will be more than enough for him/her to process.

 

 

—   Start small, just go to a few trusted houses and see how things go.  Then, check in with your child frequently.  Gauge how they are holding up.  You want to be at home BEFORE they are over-stimulated.

 

— It might be a good idea to start your trick or treat route at the furthest point from your house and work your way home (as opposed to the more traditional stat at home and work your way out).  This has the benefit of having you closer to home when your child runs out of patience (as opposed to being at the furthest point from home when he was done…as happened to me one yearnot a fun walk back).

 

 

—  If you are unsure as to whether your child can handle the whole trick or treat experience, explore alternatives such as trick or treating at the mall (a more structured, better lit environment), or attending or hosting a small party where you can get treats and dress up for a little bit.

 

— Spend time before trick or treating explaining the expectations and laying out the “rules.”  Even non-verbal children have pretty good receptive language and will get the gist of what you want.  This helps by giving them some idea of what to do that will reduce the “newness” factor of the event.

 

 

—  Don’t be afraid to abort the event if your child shows signs of not being able to handle it.  There have been years where we brought a child back after a few houses because he was getting too upset and needed to calm down.  One year, one of our kids didn’t go out at all because he was just having a bad day.  It is more important to keep everyone safe and happy than to be slaves to “tradition.”  If the candy is an issue, it ALWAYS goes on sale November 1stdeals are there to be had.

 

— Avoid going to houses that do scary things like haunted houses and such.  Keep things on the low-key fun side unless you are DEAD certain your child will enjoy being scared (my kids simply don’t like that stuff).

 

 

—  Praise your child frequently throughout the event for following rules, being brave, etc.  Cheer him/her onthis stuff is new and hard to do at first.

 

—  If your child LOVES his/her costume… demote it to pajamas or weekend-wear until they get tired of it.

 

 

—  If your child is a very picky eater, buy some treats you know he/she will like and slip them into the Halloween bag.

 

I hope this information helps make your Halloween more fun. If you have other stories or tips for making Halloween more Autism-friendly, please leave a comment. Please feel free to email me aterikyounglpc@verizon.net with any questions or suggestions.

 

Remember, BREATH and DON’T PANIC!  You got this…

 

Visit me at www.erikyoungcounseling.com to find out more about myself and to schedule an appointment.

For more parenting tips, check out the SPECIAL NEEDS PARENTING SURVIVAL GUIDE  available at Amazon and all fine book retailers.

Copyright 2013 Erik Young, M.Ed. LPC

 

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HEADACHE? WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ HEADACHE! A Stress busters that works!

photo_funny_headache

 

Friends, I don’t normally put out articles within a week of each other.  I like to give my articles time to breathe (and I don’t want to overload your inboxes with my email blasts). However, based on the events of the last few weeks, I feel moved to share the positive experiences that have occurred to me and my family.  This article is a direct follow up (a coda if you will) to the article I recently published (you can read that one here).

I.                   A headache THIS big

My daughter has given me permission to share with you, kind reader, some of what has been going on with her.  She has a complicated medical history going back her whole life. She is diagnosed with Eosiphilic Esophigitus (EE) which is an allergic condition that causes inflammation in the gut (rather than in the lungs and sinuses like typical allergies).  This leads to chronic vomiting.  We have had this under control, but my daughter came down with a stomach virus that went around our area.  Where most people got over this in about 24 hours, my daughter never really got over it.  Her stomach started spasming and she couldn’t keep food, medication or water down.  This is what ultimately led to her being admitted to the hospital.

In addition to the EE, my daughter suffers from migraine.  Yes, that is not a typo… I said migraine.  Three years ago in October, she got a migraine headache and it NEVER WENT AWAY.  On a pain scale from 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst pain you can imagine) she spends most days at a 5 or 6… with 4 being a good day.  She spikes several times a week to an 8 or 9.  Can you imagine that? Despite all the stomach and head issues, she’s been able to maintain good grades and make the honor roll consistently for years.  She is a remarkably resilient and strong young lady.

Finally, last year, she developed symptoms related to the migraine where she would “zone out” sometimes falling out of her chair or losing track of time.  She might sit in class and remember nothing that happened.  Her teachers would literally have to shake her to bring her back to present.

No amount of medical treatment seemed to help.  We tried every treatment the neurologists at the headache clinic had to offer (they eventually just said she was depressed and said we needed to give her Prozac).  We didn’t accept that diagnosis as it was weak and did not really address the issue (her depressive symptoms were a result of the pain not the other way round… NOT depression). We tried alternative treatments including chiropractic, acupuncture, and cold laser therapy.  We watched her diet… nothing worked.  Finally, we got referred to a rheumatologist who said she had Reflexive neuromuscular dystrophy and got a treatment consisting of physical therapy and neurofeedback.  This got us some relief… but the headache still didn’t go away.

II.                 Putting the pieces together in the hospital

So, in the hospital, we had to put my daughter on a feeding tube.  This was an uncomfortable and painful process for her.  She spaced out four times after the procedure.  For the first time, medical professionals were present to see what we were reporting.  Neurology was back in the picture and wanted to keep her another few weeks to do sleep/wake EEG’s to try to capture absence seizures.  We decided to hold off on that treatment and give our daughter a break from the hospital.  We took her home to heal the  feeding tube/gi issues with the intent to follow up schedule the EEG soon.

I got some interesting data from the hospital though. All four of her zone outs were preceded by great stress and a spike in her migraine (8 or above).  Her blood pressure also spiked for the entire length of the episode.  She had no memory of what occurred just prior to and during the episode.

I started questioning how we were conceptualizing this case.  This was due in large part to my recent training in a trauma treatment called EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). RND (the pain condition we figured was behind the migraines) is a disorder that arises from trauma. My daughter is sensitive (wouldn’t have EE otherwise).  What if her zone out episodes weren’t so much medical as they were psychological.  What if she was dissociating?  In trauma work we see this quite often, where a person “goes away” in some fashion to protect themselves from pain and hurt arising from a very stressful situation.  What could be more stressful than having a headache that never goes away? I know I would want to get away from that in any way possible.

The more I thought about this, the more convinced I became that maybe some of my daughter’s symptoms were best explained from a trauma perspective.  I put this to the test the next day after she got home  She was in a lot of pain and hurting.  I decided to try some Alternating Bilateral Stimulation..hereafter called ABS (a core treatment in EMDR) along with some resource installation work.

III.              … Then a MIRACLE happened.

Honestly, I figured my daughter’s headache might go down a couple of points.  If that was all that happened I would have been ecstatic!  However, that’s not what happened.  After a few minutes of ABS, her headache was at a 7.  Pretty soon it was a 6.  Here we were, sitting on the couch watching Halloween Wars on Food Network and her headache was going away.  Another round and we were at a five.  I then had my daughter do some acupressure tapping and we did another rounddown two more points to a 3.  I then had her create a mental container to store her worries and headaches in until such time as she could deal with them and had her put the rest of her headache in there. That did it… another round of ABS and her headache was gone.

Let me repeat that…a headache that she had for three years…that resisted all sorts of expensive and complicated medical treatments was gone.  She healed it herself.  My daughter started crying… my wife was crying… hell I was balling like a baby myself.  It was amazing!

Her headache stayed gone the rest of the night.  When she woke up, it was back, but at a 4… eventually I got her to sit down with me for another ABS session and within a minute her headache was gone again.  It has yet to return as of this writing.

IV.             Lessons learned

What’s the take away from all of this?

  • The body/brain has a remarkable healing capacity.  The trick is stimulating it to do this.
  • It’s important to never give up on looking for solutions, even when the experts have done so.
  • Good therapy often means the therapist simply needs to get out of the way.
  • There is no better feeling than  the sense of relief you get as a parent when your child stops suffering.
  • It is hard to put pieces together (I was thinking about my daughter’s condition as medical and that was separate from my knowledge of traumait was not until I put these to disparate things together that the way to a solution became clear).

V.                You can do this too!

Would you like to try out Alternating Bilateral Stimulation?  It’s easy.  Try this exercise.

  1. Give yourself a gentle hug and hold it.
  2. While taking nice deep belly breaths, gently tap your arms or shoulders (right, left, right, left…)
  3. While tapping and breathing… scan your body from head to toe.  Take note of any pain or discomfort.
  4. Maintain the breathing and tapping and just note the discomfort. Let it melt away. You can even tell yourself you don’t need the pain anymore.
  5. Repeat as necessary until you feel better.

Why does this work?  There is a logical explanation that goes beyond the scope of this article but I will address it in a future trauma report.  Just try this out and see if it doesn’t help you settle your mind and maybe mitigate some aches an pains.

If you want to learn more about EMDR or maybe work through some trauma, please feel free to contact me to set up a free consultation.  erikyounglpc@vrion.net or 484-693-0582

©Erik Young, M. Ed., LPC

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