Catch the Upward Spiral and Strengthen your Resilience-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

The Power of Positive Change

Catch the upward spiral Build resilience Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Do you ever notice how one small positive change can shift your perspective? Recently, I had one of those rough days and was feeling irritable and down. I decided to get out for a walk anyway. After ten minutes, I began to notice the subtle colors of the clouds as the sun lowered in the sky. The feeling of the wind on my skin helped to lift my spirits as I reclaimed a sense that “everything was going to be okay.” Before long I had a familiar spring in my step…I had caught what Alex Korb calls The Upward Spiral (New Harbinger, 2015).

Whether you are recovering from trauma or facing lifelong depression, the upward spiral can help you focus on the cumulative effect of the small changes you can make to improve your mood each and every day. Korb offers a recipe for a balanced life with a cup of positive thinking, a heaping tablespoon of good habits, and a sprinkle of mindfulness.

“There are many ways to overcome obstacles and create positive change; you might choose exercise, therapy, relaxation, meditation, art, music, or keeping a gratitude journal. Most importantly, only you know what brings you joy. Once you find a recipe that works in your life, I invite you to commit to a regular practice devoted to bringing balance and resilience to your life. The combined power of your chosen practices can help you catch the upward spiral. Not only do you benefit, but research indicates that resilience is contagious—that we benefit vicariously by witnessing each other overcome challenge.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Mind-Body Therapies for Vagus Nerve Disorders-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Restore Health for Vagus Nerve Disorders

Vagus Nerve Disorder Dr. Arielle Schwartz

A healthy vagus nerve supports your digestive system, helps to regulates your sleep patterns, and calms down your nerves. Learning to regulate vagal tone is associated with a reduction in inflammation and better prognosis in people suffering from chronic illness, migraines, auto-immune disorders, anxiety, and depression. If you suffer from any of these vagus nerve disorders, then this post is for you.

“Healthy vagal tone involves engaging your social nervous system. You can learn to manage the symptoms of vagus nerve disorders by skillfully working with your mind and body to tone your vagus nerve. Mind-body therapies effectively increase your resilience by helping you develop your capacity to feel safe, calm, and connected—even during times of stress.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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The EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology Book-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Enhance Embodiment in Trauma Treatment

EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology Book Dr. Arielle Schwartz

(Through the end of December 2018, you can order the EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology book directly from W. W. Norton at a 20% discount with free shipping. The coupon code is EMDRSP18 Click here to order.)

As therapists, our clients ask us to guide them through the process of healing trauma. Some feel shocked, numb, and cut off from their emotions. Others feel overwhelmed by fear and panic. Most importantly, trauma also leaves an imprint on the body. Often, we sit with our clients as they wrestle with intolerable sensations. Effective trauma treatment requires a holistic approach in which therapists have the skills to effectively help clients cope with the cognitive, emotional, and somatic symptoms of PTSD. It is imperative that therapists learn how to help our clients and ourselves stay embodied in the midst of the powerful relational moments that form the basis of effective therapy. Such is the purpose of the EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology book.

This new book that is co-authored by myself and my colleague, Barb Maiberger, M.A., serves as a guide to help EMDR practitioners integrate somatic therapy into their sessions. We wrote this book to meet the growing interest in a synthesis of Somatic Psychology with EMDR Therapy as a comprehensive trauma treatment model. We offer interventions as scripted protocols to enhance embodiment within the 8-phases of EMDR Therapy.

“This integrative treatment model will teach you how to invite the client to sense and feel the body as a foundation for working through traumatic memories in a safe and regulated manner in order to facilitate lasting integration. Grounded in the science of interpersonal neurobiology, we guide you, the therapist, to increase your own embodied awareness which provides a basis for an attuned therapeutic rapport. In all, we hope you will come away with advanced ways to help your clients reclaim their lives from the costs of PTSD.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Distress Tolerance in EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Reclaim the Life You Want to Live

Distress Tolerance Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Art by Mark Lloyd

A common goal in therapy is to learn how to handle painful emotions skillfully. We refer to this as building distress tolerance. It is important to learn how to be with difficult feelings because no matter how hard we try, the challenges that accompany this human life cannot be entirely avoided. Practicing distress tolerance reminds us that feeling discomfort does not always necessitate reacting…sometimes simply slowing down can help us be aware of impulsive urges and we can then be mindful about responding in a skillful manner.

If you have a history of trauma, you might have developed a coping mechanism of compartmentalizing your feelings. But, remaining cut off or disconnected from your emotions has consequences. You lose the joy that comes from intimately connecting with yourself or others.

It takes effort to remain compartmentalized and you might begin to feel like you have to keep working, eating, drinking, or distracting yourself to avoid feeling. You might fear that you if you slow down you will be overwhelmed by your emotions. Unfortunately, this can lead to a vicious cycle in which you begin to push away or avoid situations that might bring up anything painful or uncomfortable. But inevitably, something triggers the feelings and they rush to the surface and to escape the discomfort you might be quick to react by yelling, withdrawing, blaming another, or blaming yourself.

“Healing requires patience. I encourage you to reconnect to your emotions and sensations gently and at a pace that isn’t overwhelming for you. You can broaden your capacity to be with discomfort…but it doesn’t stop there. This increased capacity for distress tolerance becomes the foundation for many positive changes such as increased self-compassion and improvements in your relationships with others.”
Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Death, Rebirth, and Self-Discovery-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Reflections in the Natural World

Death, Rebirth, and Self-Discovery-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Light in the Desert Arielle Schwartz

The season of Spring represents many opportunities for new growth snd self-discovery. This process requires that we release outgrown parts of ourselves. Such a cycle of death and rebirth is powerful. I am learning to lean into this cycle in a conscious matter.

One of the reasons that I love the wilderness is to see the ways that water and wind have shaped the canyons, rocks, and trees. I come here to discover that these wild places shape me as well. I return again and again because I know that I will come out transformed. All of life changes us, we inevitably are shaped by our events and circumstances. And we become who we are as we adapt and respond.

Stepping into nature provides ample metaphors for the terrain of our inner wilderness. Walking upon a trail through an old forest burn area, the blackened trunks of the trees stood bare while a fresh carpet of green beamed beneath; a stark reminder of the cycles of death and rebirth. Looking upon the scene I was reminded of the ways in which we all must allow parts of us to die and that as we release that which no longer serves us, we too can rise out of the ashes reborn again.

“This process of self-discovery invites us to remember who we really are and were always meant to be. For most of us, this involves the integration of the wounds that may have once been a source of shame or confusion. Healing asks us to integrate these parts into a cohesive sense of self so that we can reclaim a sense of dignity and the knowledge that we are so much more than our trauma or our pain. Healing allows us to walk in the world with a deep sense of belonging.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Healing Preverbal Trauma-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Finding Freedom through Trauma Recovery

Healing Preverbal Trauma Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Painting by Eugene Ivanov

This post discusses the therapeutic treatment of preverbal trauma. Sometimes the most persistent PTSD symptoms are connected to events for which you have no clear memory. This might be the case if you were told that your life is the result of an unwanted pregnancy, if you endured medical complications around your birth, if you grew up neglected, or if you suffered from child abuse.

In addition to these early memories, some people are unable to remember traumatic events that occurred later in life. This is because traumatic stress can impair brain structures involved with memory. I refer to these as nonverbal trauma memories.

Preverbal trauma and nonverbal trauma memories typically do not have associated words or a clear and coherent story. In contrast, they might come in the form of flashes of images, disconnected fragments, or uncomfortable physical sensations with no known cause.

Most importantly, you might ask whether healing is possible if you are unable to remember these traumatic events?

“In my experience, memory retrieval is not always possible. Moreover, many therapists do clients a disservice when they make memory retrieval the focus of therapy. However, there is hope—you can heal whether or not you remember your preverbal trauma.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz
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Vulnerability is Strength-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Reflections on Being Human

Vulnerability is Strength - Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Winnicott once said, “It is a joy to be hidden but a disaster not to be found.” As a sensitive young girl, my outer world felt like too much for me to handle. I learned to hide. I instinctively retreated to my inner world and I closed the door. It took many years for me to learn that my sensitivity is a gift and that vulnerability is strength—a key to resilience.

“I’ve spent much of my adult life coming out of hiding. Initially, only allowing myself to be fully seen in the presence of a chosen few; those with eyes that see with acceptance and compassion. Over time, I opened more and more of myself to the world. This journey of stepping out is not only worthwhile, it is profoundly liberating.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Parts Work Therapy-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Understanding Inner Conflict

Parts Work Therapy Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Image by Rajasegar

One of the biggest reasons that we do not achieve our goals in life (or in therapy) is because we have unresolved conflicts between different parts of ourselves. This isn’t meant to minimize legitimate barriers—such as poverty, illness, lack of social support, or currently living in an unsafe environment—all of which can interfere with healing. However, if you feel stuck or unable to reach your potential despite your hard work, then parts work therapy might provide valuable insight.

Parts work therapy attends to the conflicts between parts that when left unresolved can sabotage your efforts toward healing. For example, within therapy there are times when you might be attempting to work through a difficult or traumatic memory. Even though you are ready to heal, there might be a part of you that interferes with the process in an attempt to protect you from vulnerable feelings that feel threatening to your sense of self.

“Successful treatment of childhood trauma or Complex PTSD requires the ability to work with parts and ego states. Within parts work therapy, you achieve trauma resolution by recognizing disowned parts and giving these parts a voice. The goal is to help you develop an embodied sense of self that can compassionately hold your emotions, vulnerable sensations, and young parts of self.”
Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Vagus Nerve Yoga-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

A Mind-Body Approach to Wellness

Vagus Nerve Yoga Dr. Arielle Schwartz

The vagus nerve plays a central role in your emotional and physical health. The vagus nerve extends from the brainstem down into your stomach and intestines, enervating your heart and lungs, and connecting your throat and facial muscles. Therefore, any yoga practices that stimulate these areas of the body can have a profound influence on the tone of the vagus nerve. Vagus nerve yoga helps you reclaim balance of body and mind using tools of mindfulness, conscious breathing, and physical postures.

“Healthy vagal tone can be thought of as an optimal balance of parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system actions that allows you to respond with resilience to the ups and downs of life. Read on to learn 7 Vagus Nerve Yoga practices that will help you better manage stress and reclaim emotional balance.”
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Grounding-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Connecting to the Earth

Grounding Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Within somatic (body-centered) psychology, grounding refers to our ability to experience ourselves as embodied. Grounding refers to your ability to sense your body, feel your feet on the earth, and as a result calm your nervous system.

Grounding is a key resource for trauma recovery and can help with emotional overwhelm. A simple way to ground is to literally stand outside with bare feet and tune into how you feel. You can imagine the earth is like a sponge and allow any tension to release in a downward direction out of your body. Clint Ober refers to this process as Earthing and his research suggests that grounding reduces inflammation, pain, and stress.

“Grounding invites you to sense your body, notice your tension patterns, and surrender the weight of your physical body into gravity to feel the support of the earth. As a resource for trauma recovery, grounding can help you reclaim a sense of safety, feel rooted in the present moment, and strengthen your resilience.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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