Archive for September 2010

Nature Therapy   Leave a comment

As human beings, we are an integral part of nature. Yet, it is becoming too easy to adopt the mindset that we are somehow separate from it. Modern life has many people spending a great deal of their time inside offices, immersed in concrete laden streets, sidewalks, and buildings. Many of us stare at computer screens for hours on end. Then, we venture back to our homes and drown ourselves in television media, followed by a sometimes restless sleep, we repeat the process again.

It is easy to forget that we exist in a wondrous physical universe with a deep and rich biological system that sustains every moment of our lives. Countless botanical and animal species thrive around us, not even too far the thickest of urban environments. Vast and various landscapes abound with great bodies of water inspire one to marvel at the creative power of the universe.

Life in the natural world moves much slower than the post-industrial world of western civilization. For many, the pace becomes too much, wears us down, we become physically and mentally fatigued. It is important to remember that we are a part of nature as well. A short walk in the park, or a weekend hike can get us off the proverbial treadmill, allow our minds to be calm, yet reflective. We can gain insights about ourselves in a serene environment that might otherwise be mitigated.

In fact, Nature Therapy, or ecotherapy, is becoming a more researched and validated method for healing. Check out Nature in Psychotherapy to get a better idea about this treatment model.


Substance Abuse & Addiction   Leave a comment

What is it that denotes substance abuse and addiction? Substance abuse occurs when any particular substance is used in a manner that impairs us and causes physical and psychological suffering. Addiction occurs when this behavior is conducted repeatedly and becomes habit forming, further impairing the persons life. Tolerance, or the bodies resiliency to a drug, then settles in and requires the person to ingest more of a particular substance to experience the same effects. So, the person who abuses substances and becomes addicted to them becomes trapped in a habitual cycle of increasing use to achieve effects that simply cannot be replicated because the persons body has been saturated by the substance.

The best way to describe what constitutes use, abuse, and addiction is to think of it as crossing boundary lines. These boundary lines vary for different substances and people. For example, is it abuse for an adult man to drink 2 alcoholic beverages in an evening following a days work? Most likely not. This is a form of use, not abuse, as the hypothetical man is not using the substance during working hours or substituting the drinks for performing personal obligations. Now, should the hypothetical man push his use of alcohol to 5-6 or even more drinks, suffer a hangover and either miss or perform poorly at work, then the man has abused the substance. If he repeats this behavior for several days a week each week then it is likely that he has become addicted.

The problem with substance abuse and addiction is that not only does the individual suffer as a consequence of his or her actions, but those around the person tend to suffer as well. This is because the people who engage in this behavior tend to manipulate and lie to those around them regarding their abuse and addiction, they may steal from family and loved ones to acquire the substances, or the person may physically or emotionally abuse others as a result of intoxication or withdrawal from the substance. Malignant substance abuse and addiction can lead to; loss of employment, destroyed or tarnished relationships, temporary to permanent physical and psychological damage, and even death.

Overcoming substance abuse and addiction can be a very difficult task, people suffering from addiction may be in denial of their problem, may feel powerless to stop, or may not want to even stop. There are various treatments for substance abuse and addiction, some are pharmacological in nature, others educational and therapeutic. From a therapeutic standpoint, a major component to recovering from addiction is empowerment. A person must believe they have the power to abstain from their addictive behavior through an understanding that even though the effects of the substance can be desirable during intoxication and lead to cravings when experiencing withdrawal, it is still the person that is taking the action of ingesting the substance, and it is the person who must take the action and stop.

For some people, the expression of ones will is more difficult than others, especially for people whose family history is composed of addictive behaviors, suggesting a hereditary influence. Still, it is the individual who takes the substance, the substance does not place itself in the individual. The expression of ones will must take place to abstain from using the substance. It is important to have small successes when changing addictive behavior; from abstaining for a day, then 3 days, then a week, and so forth. The accomplishment of expressing ones will and not using the substance, even for a short duration, can provide the experiential template for the person to achieve greater success. When one has a real world empowering experience of abstaining, it can be a catalyst for greater change. Overcoming the sense of hopelessness and powerlessness to behaviors and substances is a major task in the therapeutic process. It is dependent upon the level of motivation for change in the individual, the abilities of the therapist to act as a facilitator for the person, and the strength of the relationship between the client and the therapist.

Catastrophic Thinking   1 comment

If there is anything that can add to the stress of the situation is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Have you ever had difficulty with the first item on a test and absolutely convinced you will flunk? How about when you have a hard time with your spouse in the morning and become convinced that the whole day is blown? If so you have practiced catastrophizing thinking.

Catastrophic thinking is subjective thinking based on fantasy. For instance, remember the last time you had a toothache? Sure, it hurt, and you let everyone know it too. Yet the more you thought about it the more it hurt. This is catastrophic thinking. The pain is there, but you probably used ‘self-talk” something along these lines:

“I can’t stand this pain any more”, “My head is coming off”, “I’m going to die from this pain”.

Remember that your alarm system is already in gear. Your heart is racing, or at least beating faster than normal. Your respiration is increasing to keep up with the increased blood flow. Yet at the same time your muscles are tensing causing those fingers to move slowing on the keyboard. The adrenaline is surging at the same time making you hurry up while your muscles are tensed.

Your blood flow, though increased, is slow because of coagulation, while the blood shifts away from the skin. To top it off your blood pressure increases.

If you suffer from constant headaches this might be the reason why. Some doctors believe that at least some headaches are caused by the effects of the alarm reaction, especially when it is sustained over a long period of time without adjustment.

Its even worse if you add catastrophic thinking to the situation. Remember the mind plays a significant role in the alarm reaction. In other words by your thinking you can actually increase the impact of the stressor.

The way you do with is with incompatible thoughts to counter the catastrophic ones. Instead of thinking, “I can stand this pain”, You combat that thought with, “Yes I can.” “Its a tooth ache”, “I will survive”

Catastrophic thinking is NEGATIVE THINKING. Therefore to counteract a negative thought you have to think positive counter thoughts.

This isn’t easy, but you didn’t learn to think negatively overnight. You’ve been practicing it all your life! To change a habit it takes repetition. The alternative to this is loss of control, headaches, and burn out.