Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sheer Determination

Most of what I accomplish is initiated by inspiration.  The follow through is sheer determination propelled by digging deep (heart/spirit).  Support comes from different places - kind and brilliant people who form a line to help while we attempt to lug boulders across the bridge between research and practice.

I came across this quote pasted over the copy machine at the Center where I did my research internship.

Enjoy:
"The Power of Initiative...


Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back -


Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:  that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.


All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.


A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come this way.


Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.


Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.


Begin it now."                      -- Goethe
No one else has the same exact dream as you, so there is no competition, it is a playing field that is wide open. There is no way to lose, only to do your personal best.

Show up, be willing, that's how it starts.  The Universe of people, love and resources can't step in to help if you don't show up to your own dream/vision.

With this freedom, support, hope and possibility - what will you choose?  What will you decide to do?  Let me know.  I love those kind of stories.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Walking Families

Summertime!

For me, this means way more family time.  I hope the longer days mean that you can carve out more time with friends and family members of all stripes.

Kaiser, my health provider, sent out this message about walking:
"Walk to boost your mood

Walking feels good, and it can actually help you forget your worries and lift your mood. The effects are not purely psychological: Scientific research proves that walking creates physical changes that affect mental status.

* Natural high. Walking releases endorphinsthe brain chemicals that relieve pain and control stress.
* Internal reward. The adrenal glands secrete norepinephrine — a hormone that gives the body energy in stressful situations. It’s responsible for the “fight or flight” response. During a walk, norepinephrine sharpens the senses and induces pleasure, rewarding the brain for walking.

Your commitment to consistent walking can help chase your blues away! Fitting a walk into your schedule does not require 30 consecutive minutes. Squeeze in two or three shorter walks — around the office, to the post office, or in the neighborhood with your kids. You’ll feel better physically and mentally if you do."
Pairing walking with a friend or family members doubles the good feelings.  The oxytocin from social support and endorphins are a feel-good cocktail without the hangover.  And it's free!  In this economy, we all benefit from natural highs.  If you can swing it, walking in nature has a special effect as well.

How do you get your endorphin rush - walking, dancing, laughing with an old friend?  Whatever your endorphin-laced activity of choice,  may your summer be bright and full.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Confidence

In a world where fear and negativity are so naturally prevalent, it takes a lot of chutzpah and acts of rebellion to be confident, hopeful, visionary and optimistic.  Confidence may seem out of place and even arrogant.

Sometimes cynicism passes off for critical thinking.  Negative predictions pass off for "being realistic." I am all for optimism, as well as, questioning and skepticism, indeed I have been saved from a few scams and scammers this way.

It is much easier to tear down than to build up - and it is a faster route to a sense of accomplishment. A house is demolished in a few seconds or minutes.  A well-built house takes much longer to construct than that, obviously.

Martin Seligman said that without optimism, why on earth would we begin building cathedrals that take hundreds of years to complete?  Maybe we don't always see the end product of what we start.  Maybe it is better this way.  Otherwise, we think it is about us and that might carry a twinge of arrogance.

When everyone says it can't be done, it is subversive and takes audacity to try.

This is all more than just abstract speculation to me.  If I didn't believe, how could I, as a low-income, ethnic minority, urban girl, dare to beat the educational odds (with an over 50% high school drop out rate in my neighborhood)?  How could I, raised as a serial renter, risk buying a house as a young adult?

How do you reach the impossible when you doubt the first step?

I like being unrealistic, sometimes.  Reality is limiting.  I like taking on the impossible, sometimes.  The results can be surprising.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Therapy Videos

Thanks to technology, videos of therapy with the masters are accessible online.  I used the video series, Three Approaches to Psychotherapy, to teach social work courses and social work interns.  Hearing Carl Rogers, Fritz Perls and Albert Ellis explain their theories and approaches to psychotherapy in these videos also prepared me for the state licensing exam.  I was able to answer the multiple choice questions about client-centered counseling, gestalt therapy and rational-emotive or cognitive behavioral therapy because of watching these men in action.

Carl Rogers is the kindest of the three ("unconditional positive regard" is a hallmark of Rogers' client-centered counseling approach) and Gloria, the patient, liked him, but said she would accomplish the most with Fritz Perls.  He is confrontational and challenging.

Perls describes his approach as one that focuses on the "I and Thou" and the "Here and Now."  I think Rogers would say the same.  In this way, they are both humanistic-existentialists.  Perls provides his clients the "opportunities to understand and discover self."  He focused on the non-verbal communication because it is "less subject to self-deception."

Here is a link to the first ten minutes or so of Perls with Gloria:

Gloria the Patient with Fritz Perls and Gestalt Therapy

You can search YouTube for the other videos in the series - Gloria, the patient, with Carl Rogers and Albert Ellis.

Open Access

I love what I learn when I read.

Access to research findings that would help me as a clinician and my clients disappeared after I graduated.  I could not get access to free articles to save my life.  I spoke to the librarian of my alma mater about access.  I spoke to the director of the school of social work at a public university where I taught.  No one could get me free access to journal articles.  And yet, we were expected to keep up with the research and use it to inform our practice.

After the revolution of Napster, there is one now in process for technological access to research articles.  It is about time.  I hope that it helps to lay down a step on the bridge between research and practice.  

An excerpt from the Budapest Open Access Initative, a movement started in 2002:

"An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good.  The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge.  The new technology is the internet.  The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds.  Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge."
(www.soros.org/openaccess/read.shtml)
In UCLA Graduate Quarterly, Spring 2011

It sounds like the veil is being lifted between the sacred and profane.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Oh, Joy!

The quarter is over (!!!!!).  Two years under my belt.  I feel utter joy, gratitude and great relief.  I am smiling at the thought of it.

It's time to play, dance, shower my (neglected) friends/family with love, and engage in all forms of healing to counteract the toll taken from the last quarter (16 units and audited 4!).

From here on out, I am solemnly working on balance (and minding my cortisol levels).  May it never get so far past me again.

This journey continues to be amazing.  I am learning, growing, challenging my limits, feeling fully alive and human.

My husband reminded me that I gotta say it - "Thank You, Yesus!"

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a medical missionary.  That is still the source of my passion and drive.  Sometimes people say that I am intense or assume that I neglect my family to get things done. The truth is, I neglect TV, housework, shoppingblow drying my hair or socializing with anyone but my family, because my family is sacred to me.  Sometimes people misunderstand my motives for this educational pursuit or for working so hard and think I am an ambitious b*%ch, but they are only half-right.  I am a b*%ch on a mission.

Good-night, friends.  Yesus loves you.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Chronic Stress, Disease & Balance

"The HPA axis and Sympathetic Nervous System are triggered as a response to a physical or psychologic demand (stressor), leading to a cascade of physiologic, behavioral, and psychological effects, primarily as a result of the release of cortisol and catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine). This response leads to the mobilization of energy needed to combat the stressor through the classic 'fight or flight' syndrome.

Over time, the constant state of hypervigilence resulting from repeated firing of the HPA axis and Sympathetic Nervous System can lead to dysregulation of the system and ultimately diseases such as obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, depression, substance abuse, and cardiovascular disease."*
Chronic stress is not good for our health - regardless if our fight-flight response is triggered by chronic exposure to violence or ruminative thoughts that stress us out.

Our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) works in complementary harmony with our sympathetic nervous system (fight-flight), modulating our heart rate and vital functions.  An over-active  or frequently activated fight-flight response taxes our system. Chronic or accumulated stress can lead to early disease and death.  Balance and calm leaves us healthier.

How do you balance and calm?

Yoga, Exercise, Health and Disease

"Exercise is considered an acceptable method for improving and maintaining physical and emotional health.

A growing body of evidence supports the belief that yoga benefits physical and mental health via downregulation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).

The studies comparing the effects of yoga and exercise seem to indicate that, in both healthy and diseased populations, yoga may be as effective as or better than exercise at improving a variety of health-related outcome measures."*

The HPA axis regulates cortisol levels in our bodies, among other things.  This is important because high levels of cortisol suppress our immune system - whether we are healthy or dealing with an acute or chronic condition (such as diabetes Type 2, cardiovascular disease or cancer).

The sympathetic nervous system activates our fight-flight response, which is necessary and adaptive, but too much is not a good thing, especially if we have heart disease.

Depression and PTSD are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders (like diabetes type 2).  In almost every study of yoga, self-reported measures of anxiety and depression improved after yoga practice. So yoga can improve mental health and physical health both directly and indirectly.


Depression is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, even when we control for other lifestyle factors.  Depression has been linked to an increase in inflammatory markers (IL-6) that are implicated in heart disease.  Further, after a heart attack we are at increased risk of developing depression.

The very good news is that many studies show yoga is good for both mental health and physical health. Indeed, thousands of years of yoga practice have left us with wisdom for well-being.
*Ross, A. & Thomas, S. (2010). The Health Benefits of Yoga and Exercise: A Review of Comparison Studies.  The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(1), 3–12.

Si Se Puede

I don't know how I will ever deal with . .
     Si Se Puede

My son refuses to . . .
     Si Se Puede

I can't seem to get my daughter to . . .
     Si Se Puede

I don't know how to get my partner to help with . . .
     Si Se Puede

I don't think I will ever find love . . .
     Si Se Puede

I am scared that . . .
     Si Se Puede

It's impossible to engage parents of middle school students . . .
     Si Se Puede

It feels like I will never learn, much less master this . . .
     Si Se Puede

This is soooo hard . . .
     Si Se Puede

The problem seems so intractable, why bother trying?
     Si Se Puede

I can't imagine ever feeling better after __________ happened.
     Si Se Puede

I have this dream to . . .
     Si Se Puede
"The shaman is forever trying to articulate his personal revelatory experiences as though they were pieces of a great cosmic jigsaw puzzle."
The Way of the Shaman, Michael Harner (1990).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Therapeutic Relationship and Healing Factors

"Frank (1982) emphasizes the importance of the relationship:  The core of the patient-therapist relationship is the therapist's ability to inspire the patient's confidence in him as being competent and concerned with the patient's welfare.

Mere acceptance by the therapist for treatment, then, implies that the therapist values him and believes he can be helpful. This in itself boosts the patient's self-esteem, allays anxieties, and inspires hopes, thereby enabling the patient to become more flexible in his thinking and behaving, to face unacceptable aspects of himself, and to try out alternate ways of behaving and feeling.

In addition, hope is probably a healing emotion in itself. (pp. 171-172)"


OPPONENT-PROCESSES, STRESS, AND ATTRIBUTIONS: SOME IMPLICATIONS FOR SHAMANISM AND THE INITIATION OF HEALING RELATIONSHIPS, THOMAS E. SHIPLEY, JR. (1988), Psychotherapy, 25(4), 593-603.

Harnessing the Power of Mind-Body-Spirit

I know that God
(The Universe, Our Ancestors, Our Higher Power, The Transcendental Force, The Great Spirit/Force/God of your understanding)
is with us.

For tens of thousands of years, indigenous healing practices incorporated Mind-Body-Spirit approaches for healing and well being.  It seems that we are now beginning to integrate Mind-Body approaches as well.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), thee funders of scientific research in this country, established a National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) in 1999.  Its purposes are "the conduct and support of basic and applied research…research training, the dissemination of health information, and other programs with respect to identifying, investigating, and validating complementary and alternative treatment, diagnostic and prevention modalities, disciplines and systems."

If you check out their website, you will see a list of previously and currently funded studies, including:

Yoga as treatment for insomnia
Yoga, immune function and health
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Urban Youth
Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Adolescent Depression

Many of these "interventions" are components of whole systems of health care.  For instance, yoga is a component of ayurvedic medicine, an ancient spiritual healing system.  Acupuncture is a component of Traditional Chinese Medicine, another whole system that is ancient.  Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction comes from Buddhism.

In an effort to study the effectiveness of these approaches, sometimes components are secularized by separating them from their respective healing systems.  But is there something lost from studying components out of context?  That is, are we removing the spirit of spiritual healing?

I cannot imagine my life without relationship to spirit.  It is what juices my day, work, and life. 

Tangent Trigger:  When I was a sophomore in high school - a large, urban public school with the dubious distinction of having one of the highest dropout rates in the State of California - my English teacher told me that writers tap into the transcendental force for inspiration.  I filed it away and simultaneously blew it off as white people notions.  I attended a pentecostal church at the time and what he said sounded to me like blasphemy.  Then, in my senior year, another English teacher, Ms. Roundtree, referred to this concept in her explanation of one of Keats' poems (Ode to a Nightingale, still one of my favorites, read it when you are in love and see if you don't get it).  This time, I challenged her, "Do you really believe in this idea of a transcendental force?"  It still sounded hokey and abstract to me.  She said, in her best church-like accent, "Yes! I believe! I believe!"  I believed her.  Now I believe and experience the transcendental force as expansive, wise, powerful, juicy, generous and yummy - ready to meet you wherever you are if you are open.

Soul loss is a spiritual illness "indicating a fracture of a person’s sense of wholeness, is often characterized as not feeling in one’s body. Soul retrieval brings back those soul essences that dissociated, often during trauma, restoring the individual’s sense of wholeness or well-being."*

I think individuals, whole cultures, and our contemporary system of healing is suffering.  The spirit is willing, our ancestors are waiting, and the Universe is poised to help, heal and restore the balance of  things.


*FEASIBILITY AND SHORT-TERM OUTCOMES OF A SHAMANIC TREATMENT FOR TEMPOROMANDIBULAR JOINT DISORDERS, Nancy H. Vuckovic, PhD; Christina M. Gullion, PhD; Louise A. Williams, PhD; Michelle Ramirez, PhD; Jennifer Schneider, MPH.  ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES, NOV/DEC 2007, VOL. 13, NO. 6