ART is the acronym for accelerated resolution therapy . . . and, wow, do I wish I could find a therapist in the Cincinnati area practicing this newfound approach to healing trauma. My research thus far indicates there are currently no practicing ART practitioners in Ohio.
However, the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute is currently engaged in a study involving the comparison of accelerated resolution therapy (ART) and cognitive processing therapy (CPT).
During this process, a licensed practitioner guides the client through a series of steps in order to change the way negative images are stored in the brain, by waving a hand in front of the client in order to stimulate eye movement. Old negative images are replaced with new positive images, sometimes resulting in instantaneous results.
Similar to EMDR, which I utilized over a four year period, this methodology uses eye movements, but allows the client to replace images of traumatic events with positive images. It is being used primarily with veterans as a way to combat their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.
I am optimistic that as we learn more about the brain’s plasticity, meaning its ability to change and rewire itself, these healing modalities will continue to flourish and provide much needed relief for those who have experienced traumatic events. Particularly if those events have resulted in stressful symptoms such as panic attacks, depression, anxiety, and codependency.
The idea of replacing negative images storied in my memories with positive ones, to be able to “unsee” what haunts me, is a dream come true. EMDR certainly provided me an avenue for processing the pent up negative energy associated with my traumas. However, we became stuck at my highway and bridge phobias. After revisiting all of my traumatic events repeatedly, we still could not identify the trigger for the driving-induced panic symptoms. This ART therapy seems as if it just might be the perfect fit for replacing any negative images associated to highways and bridges with positive images instead. Amazing!
Please remember:Healing is possible and you are so very worthy of that gift!
Coming next month: What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?
Welcome to The Healing Place Podcast! I’m your host, Teri Wellbrock. You can listen in on iTunes, Blubrry or directly on my website at www.teriwellbrock.com/podcasts/
I was so very pleased to share an insightful conversation with Kristina Bechtel regarding her journey through a personal history of early childhood trauma, a discussion on her symptoms surfacing, and her eventual healing journey. Kristina started her career working with the homeless population and has now turned her attention to mental health social work and sharing the trauma-informed care message with helping professions through presentations. Please listen in to Kristina’s powerful story and her passion to spread the trauma-informed care message of hope and healing.
You can contact Kristina for more information on her presentations at:
Upcoming Speaking Engagement:2018 Wisconsin Peer Recovery Conference: Building Diverse Relationships
Holiday Inn and Convention Center, Stevens Point, Wisconsin
November 1st – 2nd, 2018
The Prevelance of Secondary Trauma in Helping Professionals: How We Keep Ourselves Safe
This is a morning meditation I utilized for quite awhile when first pursuing my podcast, book, blog, and speaking passions. Then I started using it as a way to release stored up negative energy from traumatic events in my youth. I envisioned it leaving my body with the sound. What a beautiful release it was. Honestly, at first I felt weird doing it. As I continued practicing it, however, I found comfort in releasing the sound into the universe. There were times I would walk around the rest of the day feeling a beautiful energy, a tingly sensation, radiating from my forehead. Researching the concept of chakras, I began to understand “centering” and balance within my mind and body.
I would love your feedback on this as you practice using it on a daily basis. How did you feel initially? What did you notice happening in your body? Your daily life? Your thought processes? Did you happen to have the same sensation in your third eye/forehead area as I did?
Thank you for allowing yourself the opportunity to experience something new, for giving yourself the gift of positive energy and treasured time. You are worthy of peace and joy.
Before diving into step 5, a reminder about resilience: it is defined as the ability to overcome adverse conditions; with healthy bonding relationships, guidance, support, and compassion as the catalysts. Basically, it entails having the capacity to bounce back from stressful or overwhelming experiences.
What are some steps we can take to ensure we are building resilience in our lives?
Focus on the positives.
Seek out and nurture supportive relationships.
Utilize self-care strategies.
Take action steps to create positive change.
Work on healthy habit formation.
Find a guiding hand to hold.
Learn to become our own hero.
Be gentle with ourselves.
Today we will cover Step 5: Work on healthy habit formation.
Being an avid reader, particularly of self-help and trauma-related research books, I discovered the critical importance of habit change as a catalyst along my healing journey. One of the books that I talk about in my presentations is Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New OnebyDr. Joe Dispenza. This book helped me understand that my brain was not hard-wired in a permanently damaged state due to circumstances beyond my control (i.e. traumatic events) and I had the power to change my habits, thereby creating new neuron pathways. I also practiced the book meditations regularly as a transformational tool.
Another book worth diving into is The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. One of the powerful lessons in this book, at least for me, was learning to replace “bad” habits with “good” ones. For instance, instead of merely telling myself “Teri, you need to stop eating junk food,” I instead took on a 30-day journey of whole food eating, creating a food diary, and teaching myself new recipes. I created incredibly healthy eating habits by educating myself on the benefits of healthy food choices. Transforming our habits is a powerful tool we can utilize as we continue along our healing journey.
Here are five action steps you can implement in your life in order to create positive change:
Create an action plan for replacing unwanted habits with desirable habits (or creating altogether new habits): Take that written goal and create a plan, filled with achievable steps, ideas, research information, and rewards. Instead of “lose weight” try “create a healthy menu, adding one whole food meal a day, eliminating any processed products during that particular meal; pack a bag of healthy snacks to carry with me at all times including fruits, vegetables, and nuts; limit fast food to once a week (or not at all!); move for thirty minutes every day in whatever way I choose in order to increase my heart rate, blood flow, and create a sense of well-being and achievement; watch YouTube videos on easy-to-make healthy recipes; read up on whole-food eating benefits; and reward myself for a month of healthy eating patterns with dinner at my favorite restaurant.”
Be gentle with yourself as you change old patterns: If you accomplish your goal without a single stumble, kudos to you! I applaud you and your determination. If, however, you experience a set-back or even give up all together your first (or second or third) attempt, please be easy on you. There’s an ancient saying that goes something like, “Old habits die hard.” Yeah, #truth. Give yourself a big hug, a pep talk, and then start again. You are creating a new habit where an old one has kept shop for a long time, most likely. If your new goal is, “Eliminate negative self-talk and replace it with positive affirmations,” but you find yourself beating yourself up on a bad day, praise yourself for now being aware of it and making an effort to change it. Then write yourself a thank you card, filled with positive affirmations, and maybe even mail it to yourself as a “surprise”.
Sing your own praises: Continuing with that thought from the previous step, yes, it’s okay to applaud your accomplishments and even your attempts, whether you failed or succeeded. Put a post out on social media when you’ve had a successful day with your new healthy habit formation and embrace the accolades from friends and family. You deserve the praise! Join a group and share your successes and your fall-on-your-face moments. By exposing your vulnerabilities, you will find strength in the connection with others who sing out, “Oh my gosh, me, too!” Notice your mile markers and talk about them: “Hey, it’s been a month since I quit drinking soda.” I am cheering you on from here . . . yay!
Reward yourself for goals attained: Make sure you reward yourself. Not just for the end product, but for all of the baby step accomplishments along the way. If you made it to ten exercise classes last month and “being more active” was on your healthy habit formation list, then treat yourself to some new workout clothes/shoes or a rockin’ headband or a new smoothie maker. If you volunteered twice this quarter and felt inspired to do more, then reward yourself by stepping into a leadership role within that organization. Rewards do not always have to be monetary. You deserve the reward of not only achieving your goal, but a special “thank you” to yourself for believing in YOU!
There are books, YouTube videos, mediation series, classes, websites, Facebook pages, and so much more dedicated to habit formation and the benefits of creating healthy and sustaining habits. Find what works for you. We all have that thing that jives with our soul, be it humor or depth or intellectual spirituality or wise-old-owl. Whatever it is that stirs you up, use that! If something doesn’t feel like a fit, move on. This is about YOU and YOUR journey. Do you.
Coming up next month: Step 6: Find a guiding hand to hold.
Join me on the Hope for Healing journey by signing up for my monthly newsletter (just click the “subscribe” button in the upper right corner)! Thanks in advance.
I have a poetic little story to share about this blossom.
Last winter we decided to pull our 2 hibiscus plants into the house. We read they would go dormant and they did. Come spring, after moving them back to the pool deck, they both turned a bit yellow as they re-adjusted, losing most of their leaves. The red one quickly recovered and started blooming like crazy. Sometimes 5 blossoms a day would pop up. Gorgeous!
But this one, the yellow one, not so much. It struggled and eventually dried up. Its branches snapped off in a storm and one tiny sprig remained, sticking out of a huge pot.
We revamped our walkway and added new pots filled with overflowing flowers. Everything looked amazing. But, there in the corner sat our broken yellow hibiscus, clinging to life with its last remaining stem, which had fallen to its side, laying on the soil. Every time I looked at it, I felt sad, but something kept whispering, “Don’t give up.” So I let it sit.
I continued to water it. It flooded twice during 2 crazy storms and developed a green funk on the soil at one point.
But then I noticed something. Green buds were appearing. As if it wanted oh-so-desperately to bloom again. I started to caress the little buds and send them little, “You can do it!” messages. The branch began growing, sideways, out of the pot. It looked pretty pathetic, but it was trying.
This morning I walked outside and yelled, “It bloomed!” startling my daughter as she finished her breakfast.
Here, my friends, is a symbol in perseverance, resilience, determination and healing. This is my forever sign of hope 💛❤#nevergiveup
I loved this interview with Emily Read Daniels, founder of HereThisNow! Please join us as we discuss trauma-informed trainings, workshops, speaking, blogging, and so much more. Be sure to check out their course offerings and upcoming retreats.
Emily kindly shared the following information for us.
Thank you, again, for the interview this morning! It was an honor and a pleasure and I do hope we have reason to connect again.
I was thrilled to have Teri Barila of the Community Resilience Initiative in Walla Walla, Washington, join me on The Healing Place podcast to discuss their beautiful mission of “Mobilizing the community through dialogue to radically reduce the number of adverse childhood experiences while building resilience and a more effective service delivery system.”
I found the #WhyIDidntReport hashtag a few hours ago. I’m normally not much of a Twitter user, more of a Facebook and LinkedIn fan. But, this one struck a chord. So, I sent off a tweet. This blog post is an extended version of that tweet.
I was five years old.
Let that sink in for just one moment.
Look at that photo up above. That’s me at five years old. Study my eyes. Do you see the sadness? He was a sixteen year old neighbor. He lived next door to my kindergarten best friend. I’ll spare the disgusting details. It was the first time STOP! screamed inside my soul, but could not find its way out of my mouth.
He threatened to hurt my mom if I told anyone.
I was nine years old.
Again, I will give you just a moment to ponder that.
My mom had sent me for a can of soup from our apartment neighbor. His mother was not home, yet he invited me inside. I was hesitant, but he insisted. If I wanted the can of soup, I’d have to come in. So, I did. He led me to a back room, pantry shelves lined the wall, filled with boxes and cans. He dangled the soup can over my head with strict instructions, “You’ll have to earn it.”
He told me he would kill my mom if I ever told a soul. STOP! could not find its way out of my terrified body.
Mom never did ask what took me so long to retrieve the can of soup.
I was ten years old.
Ten. Years. Old. As in fifth grade.
He was my school choir director and our church organist. He told me I had a pretty voice. But, I needed private lessons if I wanted a solo. I believed him when he told me I was special. Private lessons quickly turned to “privates” lessons. I begged my dad to let me quit choir. He didn’t insist on knowing why, but allowed it. Mom was disappointed in me. I mean, how would it look? The choir director was her church friend.
STOP! stayed frozen inside.
I was fourteen years old.
An awkward freshman in a Catholic school, working in the evenings for our parish priests in the rectory, answering phones and stuffing Sunday’s church bulletin with announcements about picnics and fundraisers.
He was the religious education director. I would giggle and blush at his suggestive comments, so unsure of how to scream STOP! even though that was, yet again, screaming in my soul. He followed me to the basement one evening, as I descended to fill the basement fridge with sodas as instructed by the pastor. This time I pushed back, but not before he made one of his suggestions come to life.
I was sixteen years old.
I would tell all the boys, “I’m as pure as the driven snow.” Code for: “I’m a virgin and proud of it.” He was my boyfriend. We were at a party on his grandparents farm. I was drinking. Heavily. He had tried before. Repeatedly. I had warded off his attempts. This night, I was less guarded thanks to beer and shots. He asked me if I wanted to see the family’s race car in the barn. I complied. Knowing in my soul I should not. He took me instead to the other barn. The one filled with cats and a loft. A loft with a rickety old bed. I repeatedly told him, “No” and “STOP!“, but . . . he didn’t.
Upon our walk back to the party, with a soft snow falling like tears from heaven, he turned to me and said, “I guess now only the snow is pure and driven.”
I was seventeen years old.
I had been jumped by a gang of youth while downtown and sexually accosted. That doesn’t belong under this hashtag because it WAS reported. I spent much of my junior year of high school testifying at trials in juvenile court. And having lunch with a detective involved in the investigation. His friends threw around the words “jail bait” quite a bit as they gave their fellow officer a congratulatory slap on the back.
He asked my parents to take me to dinner downtown to celebrate the final conviction case. They obliged. He was a police officer, right?
On the drive toward the city, a Knight Ranger song played on the radio and he turned to tell me, “This is our song.” My stomach flipped and STOP!silently screamed . . . yet again.
We never made it downtown for dinner. Instead he took me to his apartment. I resisted and eventually convinced this naked police officer to take me home. His children’s photos hanging on the wall helped me win that battle.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as: “a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.”
Medical News Today explains: “PTSD is generally related to a single event, while complex PTSD is related to a series of events, or one prolonged event.”Health Direct defines it as: “Complex PTSD describes a more severe and long-term condition that can occur after prolonged and repeated trauma, particularly in childhood. Trauma can cause problems with memory and disrupt the development of a person’s identity and their ability to control emotions and form relationships with others.”
For over twenty-five years, I battled severe panic attacks. These initially appeared when driving, brought on by a benign and unknown trigger. Flashbacks started haunting me and soon I was waking from my sleep in the throes of full-blown panic. I started to close in on myself and became agoraphobic over a period of time, afraid to leave my house for “fear of my fear”.
When I started EMDRtherapy at Cincinnati Trauma Connection in 2013, it was there I first learned of dissociation and my having compartmentalized my trauma incidents in order to survive and cope. It was also within the safe confines of my therapist’s office where I started to sift through those old storage boxes of horrors and confront the negative energy attached to them. Trauma by trauma, memory by memory, I took my power back from the ghosts who had been haunting my mind and soul. I released long-stored trauma energy and learned coping skills to regulate my symptoms when triggered.
Some of the symptoms of PTSD which I experienced were:
Hyper-arousal – I was living in a constant state of being on high-alert for imminent danger (whether real or imagined). That “tiger in the bushes” feeling was my norm. I still occasionally find myself in defense mode, however, I am now cognizant of it (my shoulders will be pulled up by my ears and my eyes will be scanning my surroundings) and can bring myself back into a centered, grounded, and calm state rather quickly.
Panic attacks – These symptoms would arise at benign triggers (a loud noise, seeing a violent movie scene, being stuck in traffic, during restless sleep, and more): sweating palms, racing heart, tunnel vision, tingles in my legs and head, inability to formulate words, overwhelming need to escape/run or hide/curl into a ball, and feeling faint. It has been years since I have experienced a full-blown panic attack. If I feel the beginnings of one start to emerge, I am able to quickly disarm it with an onslaught of coping skills, mindfulness exercises, and grounding practices. Download my FREE anxiety coping guide above for more detailed info.
Flashbacks – These first appeared soon after the second bank robbery and murder of my co-worker, when I awoke from a deep sleep to the terror of having the dark shadow of the murderer standing over me in my bedroom. While he was not really there, thankfully, my mind and body were reacting as if he was there with an intention to hurt me. The adrenaline coursed my veins as I fought my way back to reality. These flashback occurrences have diminished over the years and are now non-existent.
Nightmares – Similar to flashbacks, except the haunting happens within the dream itself, but ends upon waking. I have been known to howl in my sleep, run and kick (having even received a restless leg syndrome diagnosis at one point), and, on rare occasion, flail in my sleep. Most times I woke up in the midst of a severe panic attack and would fall immediately to the floor and curl into a ball or dart from my bed and begin to pace and shake. Again, it has been years since I have experienced this and only once have I awoken from a frightening dream state during that time and was able to calm my aroused state within seconds.
Avoidance behaviors – This entails avoiding situations and places which have caused a panic attack or anxiety in the past, or trying to avoid feeling scared, resulting in avoidance behaviors. Honestly, this one still lingers. Even after four years of EMDR therapy and utilizing other various therapy modalities and coping skills, I cannot yet drive on highways or over most bridges, sometimes experiencing heightened anxiety while a passenger in a vehicle in these spaces, as well. We have been unable to pinpoint the reason driving is a trigger. I have attempted exposure therapy and “making myself” drive over bridges and on small highway jaunts, however, the success is short-lived and avoidance behaviors quickly fall back into place. I will never give up and strive to find a solution to this lingering effect of my C-PTSD.
Trust issues – This can be directed at intimate relationships (partners, friends, family members) or the general public (open spaces, crowds, someone sitting behind you). Because of the violation of personal safety experienced during traumatic events, trauma survivors will, at times, put up walls of defense as a protective measure. Because the large majority of my transgressors were male, I had to make concerted efforts to be aware of my responses to men in general. I also found myself having to sit at the end of an aisle while attending concerts or theater events so as to not be trapped and unable to escape quickly. I now honor my needs and trauma-history and plan accordingly.
Anxiety – Here I am referring to a general state of anxious feelings. I would spend my days nervous about how I was coming across to someone, if so-and-so liked me, whether I was being a good enough mom, how I was going to travel across town for my son’s baseball game, was I going to randomly fall off of the earth (for real!), when my next panic attack was going to hit, how to keep all of the kids toys organized and not chaotic (you see a pattern here? . . . afraid to feel out of control). I now live my life in a regularly calm state, practicing mindfulness, and living in “the now” as much as possible. I am aware of my body/mind/soul state and take steps to center myself if I am feeling off-kilter.
Racing thoughts – The scariest of all of my symptoms. I wasn’t sure how to even describe what was happening in my brain when I first tried explaining this to my EMDR therapist. I felt as if I was standing on the brink of insanity, one stumble away from going over the edge into madness. My brain was trying to grab at hope. That’s the best way I can describe it. Once I learned to be comfortable in my own body, with all of its quirks and sometimes interfering symptoms, I was able to stop a racing thought dead in its tracks. I was standing in the shower a few months ago when I was quickly overwhelmed by racing thoughts, and, just as quickly, I re-directed my thought pattern through mindfulness techniques and calming strategies and ended up smiling and saying aloud to myself, “You rock, T! I am so proud of you!”
If you have experienced a single traumatic event, multiple or prolonged trauma, or exposure to toxic stress, and are experiencing these or other frightening symptoms, please reach out for guidance – talk to your doctor, a therapist, anxiety coach, or expert in the field of trauma recovery and resilience. Healing is possible and you are so very worthy of that gift!
My elderly mother has been experiencing health issues over the past few months, with various hospital and rehabilitation facility stays. My oldest son, who lives five state away from me, was involved in a serious car accident. My podcast has started to explode (in a good way!) leaving me scrambling to stay on top of the interview, editing and publishing schedule. All of this is stress-inducing. But, that’s life . . . crazy and fun and chaotic and messy at times. However, it’s how we handle the chaos and resulting stress that determines whether we feel overwhelmed or calm in the moment.
Today I hit the trails at Cincinnati Nature Center for some self-care soul work. I practiced mindfulness exercises as I hiked, listening to the sounds of nature, taking in deep breaths of the forest scents, and allowing the cool morning air to embrace me. Nature is my reminder to stay grounded. As I focused on the little bee, asleep on a flower, I allowed myself peace. Right there in that moment. No decisions about nursing homes or insurance policies, no scheduling conflicts or malfunctioning recordings. Just me, a bee and a flower.
I wish you serenity in nature. Here is a little collage of some of my favorite photos I have snapped while hiking at our local nature preserve. Enjoy!