By: Laura Bishop, Clinician
I recently confessed on social media that I watch my fair share of Hallmark movies. The station has gotten very savvy with their movie promos and basically you can follow them through all four seasons. Granted, the plot lines and actors are often recycled. These movies are more wholesome in nature and you don’t really have to think that much, which is why I like them. After all, working as a Mental Health Therapist can be stressful. I hold sacred the real life struggles people share with me daily and can run the risk of experiencing second-hand trauma of hearing these stories. I also don’t like to watch movies that contain gore or zombies, or other graphic images that are going to keep me up all night. So yes, Hallmark movies seem to be a good alternative.
However, there was part of my social media confession that got me in a little heart. I posited that long term exposure to these movies could actually be harmful to one’s mental health. Over the years, I have worked with many survivors of trauma. They face abundant triggers as they navigate through each day and learn to cope with what has been as they hope for what will be. Many have struggled for years with debilitating depression, anxiety, and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In addition, I have seen those who have broken relationships and lost jobs or mourn the loss of loved ones and can’t seem to come out from under their blanket of grief. For them, their lives cannot be magically transformed in 2 hours time. They may not lose a job and find another in the same day, or be whisked off to a palace in a magical (albeit unheard of country) and marry a prince or princess in time for Christmas, or get a ring by Spring (when it is already January and they have not met their person yet), or… you get it, right?
The most heat I received was from my own sister. She posted back to me in big letters that these movies are an ESCAPE after all. Yes, she effectively yelled it to me in type speak. While I agree with her on a surface level, I do carry reservations of using this logic over time. I believe that prolonged exposure could decrease one’s self-esteem by leading to questions like “Why isn’t my life like that?”, “Where is my prince/princess?”, “Where is my dream job?” or even “Why can’t I look this beautiful/handsome when just getting out of bed?” For many, the real world is full of more complex questions like “Why can’t I get out of bed at all?”
So, if you plan on binge watching your way through the year with these Hallmark movies for simple entertainment and escape, go for it. Just be mindful of these fictional fairy tales and be good to your own and other’s mental health in the process.
By: Lujuana Milton, Owner and Clinician
Winter is coming…winter is coming…
More like winter is here and with the advent of the winter season come all sorts of wonderful things. The beauty of newly fallen snow, sipping hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day; or even witnessing the smiles of children as they play in the snow on a long awaited snow day. For others, the winter season brings on a host of not so “Norman Rockwell painting” feelings that are much more than the disdain for travelling in a nasty, slushy, wintery mix. I’m talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder, most commonly referred to as SAD. It is highlighted by the increase in depressive symptoms usually starting in the fall and continuing throughout the winter. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, SAD is not a separate disorder from depression, but is a type of depression that has a recurring seasonal pattern.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), identified characteristics that put you at more risk for SAD including being female, living far from equator, family history of depression, having been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder, and being of a younger age. More recently, I’ve become more aware of my own emotional difficulties during the fall and winter months and realized I have checked off many of the above risk factors. Given this information, I decided to do some research about ways to manage or improve one’s mood throughout the fall and winter season. While I am not completely adverse to medication as intervention because I recognize and have witnessed the transformation of others through the use of medication, I have committed myself to also finding alternative non medication ways to manage and improve mood.
Most identified treatments for SAD include psychiatric medication, light therapy (a light box that mimics natural light), and psychotherapy. Additionally, I have found that meditation, guided imagery, and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or an activity like yoga have been found to be successful in managing mood. Being the therapist that I am, I try not to provide an alternative recommendation that has been found to be successful if I have not tried myself. This has led me to interesting places with more than enough funny stories, however, I believe it has made me a better therapist to say: “This is proven to work most times with most people and it has worked for me.” I can unequivocally say that meditation, guided imagery and relaxation techniques do work.
Along with the above recommendations, exercise or any sort of physical movement can help to regulate neurotransmitters impacting and regulating mood. I know what you’re thinking, when its -1000 degrees outside, how the heck am I supposed to get up at the crack of dawn to go to the gym and exercise. Even more so, when you are feeling down and depressed. I never understood those people that go to the gym because they absolutely love going. In fact, I have never had the pleasure of meeting these people because for most people its work to get up and do something when you really don’t want to do it. But, I have a trick. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home to exercise or move. There are countless paid or free resources to use to get moving and regulate your emotions. All it takes is a Google or YouTube search and you are connected to a world of movement.
So if you are struggling with symptoms of SAD and need some help improving your mood, take heed to all resources at your fingertips. Even if one proves unhelpful to you, there may be others out there that can help, you have to keep trying.
Seasonal Affective Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health, Mar. 2016, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml.
By: Lujuana Milton, Owner and Clinician
So you’ve decided to come therapy. Maybe it’s for the first time, you’ve taken a hiatus, or you need to find a new therapist. You’ve had your first or a few sessions and for whatever reason you are not feeling it. You are just not vibing with your therapist. Maybe it’s his tone of voice, what she wore, or his approach was not what you were looking for. Well all those feelings or observations are pretty natural. We are humans that have feelings about who and what we encounter daily and based on those feelings we are either going to go all in or not. The bad news is that when it comes to therapy, not going all in pretty much defeats the purpose. Rapport and relationship are such an important aspect of therapy. There is even research that suggest that success in therapy is related to the relationship one has with their therapist.
So we’ve established that the relationship with your therapist is important to your success and achievement of your goals in therapy, but what happens when you feel like the relationship with your current therapist is not helping you. If this is the case, then I would suggest you speaking to your therapist. Be honest and don’t ghost us; I promise it won’t hurt our feelings. We recognize that our personalities or approaches may not be for everyone. We also trained to tailor our approaches to each individual and when we receive feedback from others we are better able to tailor our approaches to meet yours other people’s needs.
Now what happens when that conversation doesn’t work? Or maybe you just really don’t want to work with that particular therapist. That’s okay too! Again, it won’t offend us so don’t up and leave with no phone call. We want you to achieve your goals, even it isn’t with us specifically. Tell us what you are looking for with regards to a therapist, your goals, and why it isn’t working. We can help you find another therapist that would be a good fit for you. You see, as therapists we know other therapists. We know all kinds of therapists with different backgrounds and expertises and we can help you find the right therapist for you. It can be daunting just scrolling through a sea of professional profiles to find a therapist that you think might be a good fit. And I don’t know about you, but when I was looking for my own therapists I read through profiles pretty quickly and make my judgement based on whether the therapist has a warm presence or a nice smile in their photo. While I have happened upon some really great therapists this way, it is not the most reliable of methods. I would have much rather gotten a personal recommendation from another therapist who knows and/or has worked with that therapist.
I can’t stress enough that as therapists we won’t be offended and most definitely shouldn’t get upset that it is not working for you. Our goals is to assist you in anyway we can so if you are feeling that you are not really vibing with your therapist work with them to find the best solution for you. All it takes is a conversation about it.