How we Give Language to Traumatic Events Changes how we Heal

For a while now, the terminology of both “victim” and “survivor” has sat uneasily with me. Both terms center the traumatic experience as part of a person’s identity. Although (and please hear me on this) we can do real harm by minimizing someone’s trauma, one way we can support people in maintaining or building an…

Untreated Depression can Cause Permanent Changes in the Brain

  Results of a recent study confirmed what has long been suspected: “neurodegeneration underpins disease progression when major depressive disorder is left untreated,” In layman’s terms, neurobiologists have been able to demonstrate that when depression goes untreated, sections of our the brain can begin to degenerate. This research indicates that untreated depression can cause the…

No one Gets to Decide for Us What a Good Life Is

There are lots of voices shaping our idea of a “Good Life,” but freedom comes when we take ownership of that narrative and choose- with mindfulness, integrity, and the wisdom of voices that have *earned* our trust- what the life we actually want to live looks like. Listening to our deep desires can be terrifying…

Ritual

Ritual doesn’t have to be religious, weird, or woo-woo. Think of ritual as a way to give your brain sensory (sight, touch, sound, smell, etc) symbols of a shift you want to make. Maybe it’s a big ritual like a moonlight burial of the mementos from a relationship it’s time to let go of, or…

Childhood Emotional Neglect and Chronic Shame

Kids who grow up in families where emotional needs are not validated and met often develop a deep sense of internal shame for having needs at all. Over time, in order to cope, many of these kids become adults with little or no capacity to experience their emotions  (a symptom associated with alexithymia). Hilary Jacobs…

illustrated image showing two women

Intergenerational Trauma – Doodle and Questionnaire

If you aren’t naming and breaking the cycles that have entangled you, you are participating in them. It’s true in most systems we are part of, but especially in families. Researchers call it intergenerational trauma and have shown that the trauma of a parent is literally passed genetically to offspring (this Simple-Wikipedia article on epigenetics…

Listen to Your Gut

Humans have an innate ability to read people, situations, and our environment. If we pay attention, it helps keep us safe and helps us know how to care well for others. But most of us were taught long ago to ignore our body’s cues and “be nice” instead of practicing how to hear and trust…

Gottman’s 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Illustrated Handout

Dr. John Gottman spent 40 years researching marital stability and theorized these “4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” but it only took me a few hours to turn them into angry ponies. While Gottman’s research centers on couples, I think these are applicable to many types of relationships – especially in how parents and their adolescents…

Emotions Exist in the Body

When the answer to “what am I feeling?” is “I don’t know,” change the question to “what do I notice about my body right now?” Lots of us learned to numb or muffle emotion- and some of us got so good at it that knowing what we feel can be really, really hard. Although our…

Anxiety Doesn’t Have to be the Enemy

Anxiety isn’t our enemy. It’s so easy to slip into a cycle where we have anxiety, then have anxiety about having anxiety, have anxiety about that, etc, until our world gets very small. One way to interrupt this pattern is to open up conversation with your anxiety. What is it *really* saying? Whats the unmet…

8 Unique Prompts for Casual and Therapeutic Art Groups

This is a continuously updated post about therapeutic art group prompts and art/craft activities for expressive-therapies oriented groups. To my knowledge, these are new ideas not otherwise published or included in manuals. These are appropriate for art groups in all sorts of contexts- from therapeutic groups to artists’ meetups and “paint and sip” style get-togethers. Adapt…