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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often a debilitating problem requiring extensive treatment in order to bring it to resolution. This is true regardless of whether the trauma is related to a physical, emotional and/or sexual event. Rapid resolution of such a problem is seen as crucial in terms of assisting the individual in resolving the traumatic symptoms and facilitating a return to one’s normal life and routines of daily living.
Traditional verbal psychotherapy procedures, while potentially effective, can take extended periods of time in order to bring the trauma to a complete and permanent resolution. During this time period, the individual’s day-to-day living is often markedly disrupted, or even brought to a complete “stand still.”
In the interest of restoring the individual’s internal peace as quickly as possible, Dr. Zbik is now offering an innovative alternative by providing an extended session of eight (8) hours in one day, which Dr. Zbik refers to as a “Marathon Session.” While a complete resolution of the trauma cannot be guaranteed within the one day of treatment, many trauma cases have been completely resolved within that time period. If the trauma has not been completely resolved within the one day, additional days can be scheduled on an as-needed basis. Accordingly, Dr. Zbik is offering a Marathon Session for a flat fee. It should be noted that the flat fee relates to having reserved the entire day, rather than paying a fee on an hourly rate. Since such an approach cannot be charged to the benefits of any health insurance plan, the fee for such a service must be an out-of-pocket expense.
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There is a significant difference between acute versus chronic pain. Acute pain is typically characterized by a temporary decrease in activities, reliance on medication and seeking the appropriate medical intervention, with the entire acute phase lasting no more than several weeks. In persistent, or chronic pain, alterations in patterns of behavior begin to emerge, including decreased activity levels and continued reliance on medications. Patients may also attempt to continue working as a coping strategy, with an increased focus on their symptoms because they are beginning to realize that they are “not getting better.” Not uncommonly, anxiety begins to appear, as well as possible depressive symptoms, all of which can exacerbate the underlying perception and intensity of pain. Simultaneously, patients with chronic pain continue seeking medical care. While such patients hope for an ultimate cure, the treating physician(s) begin to speculate about the patient not improving to the expected degree, given the structural diagnosis. Accordingly, the medications continue, as well as other clinical interventions, i.e., physical therapies, nerve blocks, or other diagnostic procedures, etc. By this time, very little new information is forthcoming as to why the patient is not improving as expected. Simultaneously, the patient frequently continues to deteriorate physically, as well as emotionally. By this time, the treating physician and patient likely do not know why progress is not being made, leading to a situation that is essentially “out of control.” Since the treating physicians do not understand why the patient is not progressing, the natural tendency is to continue prescribing the same or similar treatments, all to no avail.
It must be understood that the presence of chronic pain is not limited to the structural or physical abnormality. Chronic pain includes the structural portion, as well as the cognitive (what you think about your pain), the emotional component (how you feel about your pain), and cellular memory (prior events that are stored in memory that may be impacting your present condition). In other words, chronic pain involves all four components. Traditional medical practice, however, is typically limited to focusing on the structural (physical) component. Traditional medical practice is the treatment of “body parts” rather than the entire individual.
The passage of time contributes to the development of chronic pain in some people due to the potentially negative influences of what we think, how we feel, and our history of prior events which may play an important role in the creation and maintenance of chronic pain. As a result, time is of the essence. It is well known in the medical field that the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome. If an acute medical problem becomes chronic when not expected or anticipated, then other factors are likely operating to create and maintain the chronic problem. When faced with such a situation, the individual would be best served by seeking out the services of a psychologist, or other mental health specialist, experienced in the evaluation and treatment of such situations.
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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other after-effects of emotional and/or physical trauma have traditionally been among the most stubborn problems that people bring to psychotherapy; at least until recently. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) “ clears” troubling emotions and negative thinking linked to trauma and other painful past experiences. Some people have said that EMDR helped them more in one session than other therapies had in years, a statement that is being heard more commonly by patients (and their therapists) with a variety of problems. How then, does EMDR help people with trauma? Researchers are investigating the process using techniques from EEG’s and CAT Scans. One suggestion is that EMDR mimics the action of dream (REM) sleep. Some preliminary research indicates that EMDR increases “communication” between right and left brain hemispheres, with the belief that emotional traumas are actually physically represented in various brain structures and are affected neurochemically, partly via neurotransmitters. As the amount of research on EMDR is increasing rapidly, new information continues to emerge. In the area of PTSD, there has been more EMDR research conducted since its discovery in 1987 than all other treatment modalities combined.
The unique part of an EMDR session is the combination of focusing on a memory and moving one’s eyes in a characteristic manner, not unlike rapid eye movement during REM sleep. As EMDR proceeds, the unpleasant feelings and negative thoughts fade and are replaced with more positive feelings and thoughts. Another unique aspect of an EMDR session is that the nature of the procedure “triggers” the brain to rapidly process information.
Traumas for which EMDR has been used quite effectively include: accidents, earthquakes, and hurricanes, rape, physical and sexual abuse, sudden death of a loved one, severe and/or chronic illness/pain and combat experiences. Regarding the issue of chronic pain, it is believed that any chronic medical condition, or pronounced pain, carries with it a significant emotional trauma to the patient, particularly when there are meaningful life changes associated with the medical condition or pain, i.e., the inability to work, limitations in activities of daily living, loss of employment and/or leisure activities, marital/family stresses and strains, etc.
These changes and their emotional impact are essentially no different from many of the other major traumas noted above. Due to the brain’s memory storage of similar past experiences, any past emotional traumas, both major and minor, will be “linked” to the emotional impact and physical symptoms associated with the presenting chronic medical condition and/or pain.
In addition to trauma, EMDR can be applied to phobias, addictions, anxiety, depression, chronic or excessive anger, psychological abuse or neglect, abandonment experiences, marital betrayals, difficult divorces and performance enhancement. New applications and refinements are constantly evolving. This exciting and effective treatment modality is but one example of remaining in the forefront of treating many emotional and/or physical problems.
Photo Credit: David Castillo Dominici
Most people have heard of the old adage “everyone has baggage.” In other words, most people, if not everyone, have emotional issues. When it comes to love relationships, be they marital or dating, emotional issues are quite common. The reader very likely knows of people who tend to have troublesome marriages, or singles who seem to have a pattern of entering into dysfunctional relationships. In our society, the divorce rate is quite high. The fact that such relationship issues exist is not a surprise and is to be expected. The question is… why would that be the case? The answer has to do with the role of the unconscious mind.
The unconscious mind has one job, which is to protect you. If there is a problem, it must continually attempt to fix the problem. It is believed by this author that the unconscious mind is a physical entity within the body in terms of cellular memory that is designed to protect us from an evolutionary “survival of the species” perspective. Accordingly, it has no choice but to bring that problem into our life to give us an opportunity to work on it. If we ignore what is going on in terms of the problem, even if we terminate that problem, the problem will return. Applying this process to marriages and other relationships, if we get a divorce but do not resolve the underlying problem, there is a strong likelihood that when we marry again, we will bring that unresolved problem back into our life. The same process occurs in terms of selecting a boyfriend or girlfriend.
If we look at the process from an historical perspective, it is very typical that the various problems we have to deal with on a daily basis have their genesis from the past, most often dating back to childhood, in the context of daily family life. In some cases, the genesis may stem from academic or social relationships with peers during elementary, middle, or high school. Regardless, if the individual ignores such a history, the identified problems will continue repeatedly into the future. In other words, those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. This is not just a “cute” concept, but rather a physiological certainty.
Most people, including 99 percent of the physicians of the world, incorrectly believe that thought creates feeling. That is not true, never was, and never will be. If conscious thought was “the boss,” the human race would likely have become extinct millions of years ago. For example, let’s assume you are a caveman. Even if you are the smartest person in the cave, you become bored and decide to take a walk. As soon as you leave the cave, you encounter a Saber Toothed Tiger. You now have three immediate problems you MUST solve as quickly as possible, or you will become that tiger’s lunch. Your first problem is that you MUST recognize that you have a problem. Your second problem is to figure out what to do about it. Your third problem is to execute your plan quickly enough to prevent becoming the tiger’s lunch. If the human race was dependent on that system, we would have never survived because the few seconds it would take to resolve your three problems would be more than enough time for the tiger to have his lunch. Rather, it is this writer’s belief that the “flight-or-flight” emergency response system reflexively responds once the “fear” is activated by the production of adrenaline. As a result, it is clearly how we feel that controls everything. This includes the concept that “feeling” creates thought. The problem is that the appearance of the Saber Toothed Tiger has changed over these millions of years. Now, the tiger looks like the guy who ran you off the road on the Turnpike; or the spouse that spends too much money; or the boss you don’t like, or an endless number of Saber Toothed Tigers.
Given the above, the role of conscious thought is believed to take a secondary role in life, with the exception of solving relatively unimportant daily activities. Any situation that has a potential adverse impact upon our safety, sense of well being, or our equilibrium, the conscious mind will not trigger a response. How we “feel” triggers a protective response which is brought forward from our stored memories. As a result, the concept of living in “the here-and-now” is believed to be an illusion. Survival of the human race is solely dependent on our stored memories in a perpetual effort to keep us safe. Accordingly, the best way to change tomorrow is to change yesterday.
All situations have two components. One is the objective fact and the other is how we feel about it. While objective facts cannot be changed, how we feel about them are very amenable to change. If our problem(s) brings us into the psychotherapy process, focusing only on the present situation often ignores the core problem or a “triggering” event. The maker of the universe, be it God or Mother Nature, created a bumper sticker which states… “those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it.” Identifying and resolving our historical problems is the most important mechanism, or tool, in changing and improving our future. This is the most important and potentially beneficial road we can travel which will lead to personal growth and development. This can be accomplished through the psychotherapy process, but also by reading, or perhaps taking a class. Regardless of the method, ignoring the past only guarantees a future without change.