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*Seeking Safety

Seeking Safety is a cognitive behavioral present day focused category of coping skills to help people stabilize when they are recovering from addictions either with PTSD or without. It was developed as an integrated treatment for PTSD/substance abuse that can be used in early recovery from both disorders. The treatment manual offers a guide to the therapist and handouts for the clients with core principles being; safety as priority, integration for trauma and substance abuse, focusing on ideals, four content areas (cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal, and management), and attention to clinical processes. The seven interpersonal topics are; Asking for Help, Honesty, Setting Boundaries in Relationships, Healthy Relationships, Community Resources, Healing from Anger, and Getting Others to Support Your Recovery. The program offers diversity and is inclusive in areas needing attention for trauma and addictions.
There is often trauma behind the addiction or/and during the addiction which results in dysregulation of emotions and behavior with either hyper-arousal or hypo-arousal either with PTSD or not. When hyper-arousal occurs there is frequently an expression of anger or other emotions towards others which may be inappropriate and excessive for what has transpired, or abusive behaviors, irrational explosions or other behaviors that later need an apology for. Hypo-arousal is the opposite and shows up as tiredness, falling asleep, and being bored. Both these behaviors make progression difficult because a person in either one of these states has problems taking information in to help themselves. Strategies from Seeking Safety over time help people in recovery to self- regulate so they can learn more effectively, work on their trauma with less distress or with knowing how to regulate if they become distressed, and make every day life easier when upsetting experiences occur.
In my groups in the past, they have been one and one half hours in length and the topics included learning strategies for life to be able to effectively balance life’s energies. The following topics were included in the previous group; how to develop safety with coping skills, identifying ways that thoughts effect your feelings, how to effectively manage emotional pain, how to effectively manage self-care and take action, how to become self-compassionate and give yourself the love, affection and self nurturing you deserve, understanding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and PTSD symptoms, taking your power back by learning about PTSD, what are your red and green flags and how these affect your recovery?, how to cope with triggers. and termination: coping with feelings around endings. Art Therapy is added weekly.
An art therapy exercise is introduced to express feelings and body sensations around the weekly theme. This does several things that are helpful for trauma resolution. One of the major advantages is that it helps people get into their feelings. We tend to be very cognitive in our expressions and lose the art of expression through our feelings and body sensations. Additionally, feelings and body sensations are often blocked with addictions. The art expression helps the clients explore their feelings and experience their feelings through body sensations. Both expression of feelings and body held sensations when explored from the art expression help the client to start exploring another method of experience of healing.
Irene Haire, MC, CRAT Registered Provisional Psychologist is in private practice in Edmonton at The GB Building 200-9562- 82 Avenue 780-232-1055 www.edmontonpsychologistpros.com;
*Seeking Safety: A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse by Lisa M. Najavits

Help Your Relationship!

Have you lost the spark in your relationship? What was exciting at one time seems a little ho-hum these days? Gottman’s Couples Therapy offers assessments and strategies that have been tested on many couples and shown to be effective to liven up relationships, result in better communication and increase intimacy. Willingness from both parties to put in effort is a necessity. Date nights, strategies for communication, and love maps are just a few examples of ways to light the fire.
Date nights are a great way to start. Remember how exciting that time was when you started your relationship and were dating. Get some of that excitement back. Take turns making plans for a weekly date night. Take a break from dishes, diapers and cooking; away from work, grass cutting and responsibility. Turn towards fun, carefree times, and ways to amuse yourselves. Make the dates exciting, do things you have always wanted to do. Go to another town for coffee, try something really different for dinner, spend a night in a hotel together, go on a picnic and let your ideas flow. It might take awhile before you relax and enjoy date nights together but don’t give up as they will become exciting. Date nights help couples communicate meaningfully and are a worthwhile investment.
How do you start to communicate meaningfully? Maybe you have lost the art of spontaneous communication you had when you first met and hours became minutes. Perhaps one of the ways to start is to concentrate on four strategies that Gottmans refer to as the “Four Horsemen in Your Relationship”. The four horsemen in your relationship are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Overcoming these four horsemen leads to the art of owning your feelings verses criticism, appreciation verses being defensiveness, being present and owning your feelings or walking away to cool down verses stonewalling, and avoiding contempt by owning parts of an argument as your own. Studies done by the Gottman Institute has shown a high percentage of couples who communicate using the four horsemen end up divorce by 7 years of marriage. The effort to turn this dysfunctional style of communication off is not easy, but it works with awareness and motivation. Once the conversation becomes more friendly, loving and intimate you are ready for love maps.
The love maps are an intervention that involves a series of questions to learn intimate details about your partner. This questionnaire can be utilized on a date night and/or in a therapy session or both. This is a simple strategy to learn more about each other and to be involved in a more meaningful way. This intervention helps the couple to start communicating on date nights if they are having a problem with what to say to each other.
Date nights, strategies for communication, and love maps are just a few ways to start work as a couple towards relationship repair. Working with a therapist together as a couple or with a therapist with groups of couples, helps motivate the couple(s). Awareness through assessment of the problems helps the therapist know what couples needs to do to guide them to some solutions. Solutions lead to a more functional relationship that works more effectively for the whole family.
Irene Haire, MC, CRAT Registered Provisional Psychologist is in private practice in Edmonton at The GB Building 200-9562- 82 Avenue 780-232-1055 www.edmontonpsychologistpros.com

When Words Are Not Enough!

Art Therapy
Art Therapy deals with the same issues as conventional talk therapy but the two disciplines of art and psychology are combined. All aspects of the visual arts, creativity, human development, behavior, personality and mental health are important to the scope of art therapy. Art therapy is a modality that uses the nonverbal language of art for personal growth, insight, and transformation and is a means of connecting thoughts, feelings, and perceptions with life experiences.
Art therapy explores the symbolism that is revealed through line, shape and colour. Art expression often contains the form of human, or animal body, nature elements, real or invented, and abstractions and may be parts of self and states and expressions of emotions. An example of use of line shape and color that led to exploration of emotions reminds me of a young boy I worked with several years ago and could not seem to help him because he would not talk. I had him draw a spontaneous scribble drawing with me as I demonstrated using colored paper and colored chalk. He finished rather quickly and said it’s a face and the face is angry. Wow he said, its me. Then the work began. Integration and awareness of these inner parts and states occurs in therapy.
The art expression becomes a form of communication for the client and the therapist. A short course of art therapy often results in a shift or change that may move to greater depth or a faster process. I have utilized a directive with a client such as “Draw your anxiety!” The rich information at times can be used for many sessions to explore situations from that original piece that relate to the anxiety. Again and again the drawings are explored individually and together for more insight from the client of their inner world and the experiences, thoughts and feelings that lead to anxiety. Art therapy has expanded and is a recognized therapy for treatment in health, medicine, and schools.
Who can benefit from Art Therapy?“Art Therapy is effective for people of any age. An art therapist works with individuals, couples, families, or groups in settings such as counselling agencies, schools, treatment centers, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, correctional institutes, and elder care locations.” I spent several years working with children using art therapy. Children are often quite open to exploring their art in unique ways. One example is finding an animal in a child’s drawing and playing a game of pretend to explore feelings and thoughts and how they might relate to their experiences. Asking questions like, What do you think the puppy is thinking, feeling, doing?, Have you ever felt like this puppy? What happened that made you feel that way? This can lead to a very meaningful session very quickly. Currently I use art therapy as part of a treatment program with clients who are recovering from addictions. I find the people using art learn to relax, are often surprized at their creativity and what surfaces in their art, and enjoy this part of their treatment. The media we use is varied and simple.

Canadian Art Therapy Association defines art therapy as “ Art Therapy combines the creative process and psychotherapy, facilitating self-exploration and understanding. Using imagery, colour, and shape as part of this creative therapeutic process, thoughts and feelings may be expressed that would otherwise be difficult to articulate.”

Irene Haire, MC, CRAT Registered Provisional Psychologist is in private practice in Edmonton at The GB Building 200-9562- 82 Avenue 780-232-1055 www.edmontonpsychologistpros.com