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I’ve Tried Therapy and it Doesn’t Work

So you’ve been to therapy and it feels like it is not helpful! Finding the right therapist can take time. Just like going to a doctor, therapist all have specialties. When searching for a doctor, you look for those that will meet your needs. They may have a specialty or a background that aligns with things you value. The same is true when finding a therapist. Therapists have specific modalities or styles based on their experience or training. It is important to find a therapist that aligns with your values and specializes in areas of interest; such as, addiction, marital, depression, trauma, or parenting. 

When looking for a therapist it is important to do your research. A therapist may put on their profile “Couples Therapist”, “EMDR Certified”, or “Children Specialist” when they may not have in depth training or experience in those. It is not inappropriate or unprofessional to see if the therapist offers a face-to-face or over the phone consult so you can gain some insight to their experience and specialty. 

Even more important than finding a therapist that specializes in your area of interest and need is finding a therapist with a good fit for you and your personality. This is known as the “therapeutic relationship” or “client-therapist fit”. Short version of the fancy term is that you need to be able to relate or connect with your therapist. This relationship is one of the primary factors that promotes change in therapy alongside with the therapist specialty. If you feel understood by your therapist then it is easier to build a relationship of trust which helps promote change. 

The search for the right therapist can take some time, but it is well worth the effort! Sometimes asking friends or family for referrals can help you narrow your search. When you find a therapist give it three to five sessions prior to determining whether the fit is right. If you feel like you cannot relate by then see if they can help you find a better fit as they may have some other referrals that can meet your needs.

Lastly, you can wait too long to go to therapy! Just as you would not put off going to the doctor for a medical emergency you should not put off prioritizing your relationship or mental health. 

If you wait too long, especially in a marriage, therapy change can take quite some time. Marriage therapists are not miracle workers and cannot fix things immediately. Therapy is not a quick fix for patterns that have taken months or years to develop.  Therapy is a wonderful way to improve your relationships, understand yourself, or improve your mental well-being, especially when you find a therapist who is a good fit. If you have tried therapy in the past and felt like it has not worked, reconsider trying therapy again. Keeping in mind that it can sometimes take time to find the right therapist for you. Wasatch Family Therapy has a dedicated and experienced team to help find the right fit for you.

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Notice That

Bessel A. van der Kolk, a leading trauma expert, said, “As I often tell my students, the two most important phrases in therapy, as in yoga, are “Notice that” and “What happens next?” Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than with fear, everything shifts.”

Through my clinical work over the past 10 years, I have found the body to be one of the greatest teachers in helping clients to connect with, and heal from, trauma that is stored in the body. Stored trauma often manifests itself physically, such as with anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, fear, and other “uncomfortable” emotions. Consequently, our bodies are often feared, rather than embraced as the wise teacher it is.

I have found one of the most powerful tools in helping myself, and my clients, stay in a state of curiosity, rather than fear, of these bodily sensations is the breath. When triggered by these bodily sensations mentioned above the body typically moves into the sympathetic, or fight or flight nervous system. Often, clients with trauma have learned to operate in this nervous system more often than is useful. The breath is a powerful bridge between the sympathetic and parasympathetic, or “rest and digest,” nervous systems.

Next time you find yourself filled with anxiety, I challenge you to take four deep “box” breaths, where you breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out of four counts, and hold for four counts. After which, maintain the deep breathing pattern and notice what is happening in your body physically, and breathe into any tension you find. Then, remain curious and ask yourself what is needed to help you feel safe and secure in the present moment. At that point you may ask, “what happens next?” Take note of what inner child wounds or beliefs may be surfacing, and allow yourself to sit with that wound to find truth. Learning to become curious about thoughts that once seemed overwhelming, scary, or insurmountable can be an empowering exercise when you start unwinding unhelpful past conditioning.

Sometimes with trauma, clients may find themselves feeling stuck at certain points of traditional talk therapy. If that has been the case, it is helpful to explore other modalities to help release trauma on a cellular level, such as EMDR. Other movement based interventions such as yoga, tai chi, qigong, and dancing have also been found to be helpful in healing trauma. If you have found yourself stuck in processing past trauma, please feel free to reach out to see if we can explore some additional healing modalities. You can schedule by calling 801.944.4555.

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What in the world is EMDR?

We all experience forms of trauma at some point in our life. Some trauma is obvious and very serious. While other trauma can stem from minor events which we may not always classify as traumatic; such as, feelings of embarrassment during a presentation or public event. Both large and small traumatic experiences can resurface and manifest themselves in our lives as increased stress or anxiety. Sometimes individuals do not realize that the stress or anxiety actually stems from some form of trauma. So, how do we rewrite the traumatic events of our life? EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization Therapy, is one form of therapy that has been proven to be extremely effective in helping individuals overcome the negative effects of stress, anxiety, and trauma.

Eye Movement Desensitization Therapy may sound like a strange and scary form of therapy. You may have questions, like “What do eye movements have to do with therapy?” or, “I like my senses, what exactly does it mean to be desensitized?” While, I do have experience and expertise in facilitating EMDR therapy, I am not a scientist, or a doctor so I’ll leave it up to an expert to answer some of the more detailed questions. The following article provides an excellent overview of what EMDR is, and some of the more intricate details about how it works. This is a great starting place for individuals interested in EMDR or learning a little more about this form of therapy.

Click here to read more about EMDR

A while back, my garage was burglarized and my new mountain bike was stolen. I left that morning disgruntled, frustrated and very upset having had my garage broken into. It was fortuitous that I was going to EMDR training the day my bike was stolen. My colleague was able to use EMDR for my experience with my bike. Upon coming to training that day I was livid, so livid I had a difficult time being present. That afternoon during my brief EMDR treatment I started out resentful and angry. Funny enough, I left the session frustrated that I was not frustrated that my bike being stolen. EMDR had worked and I had been able to process through the event and overcome the negative emotions I likely would have felt.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in beginning EMDR therapy please contact me at 801-944-4555 to schedule an appointment to learn more.

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Ask A Therapist: Why Is My Therapist Is Abandoning Me?

My therapist has told me in 4 sessions I will be passed to someone else. I trusted him and we are in the middle of EMDR. I feel so abandoned and let down. I feel stupid for trusting him. Since I got this information I have hit self-destruct. How can he do this? I don’t feel like I could even try to trust anyone again! I don’t know what to do. I can’t get any answers off anyone including him, I thought they were meant to help not do this? I just don’t know anymore. Any ideas?

A: Thank you for writing in. I can tell that this is a very painful situation for you to have to switch therapists after opening up and trusting your current therapist. It’s uncommon for a therapist not to give any explanation for transferring a client. Watch the rest of my answer in the video below…

Take good care of yourself!
Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Ask A Therapist: Is It OK To See More Than One Therapist At A Time?

Q: Is it okay/appropriate to see more than one psychotherapist at the same time?  After all, we sometimes have more than one massage therapist!  Just wondering about your take on this.

A: In general, I recommend having a primary individual psychotherapist who is “in charge” of treatment. That being said, there are situations where it may be appropriate and helpful to work with additional therapists simultaneously.  If you and your therapist desire additional interventions that are outside of your primary therapist’s specialties then your therapist may refer you to another therapist for specific interventions, like EMDR or neurofeedback, for example.

It’s also appropriate and often recommended to have additional therapists for different treatment modalities, like group, marriage, or family therapy. In marriage counseling or family therapy the client is actually the “marriage” or the “family” instead of the individuals. I hope this helps answer your question. Feel free to write again with more specific details about your situation.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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