Trouble Shooting Our Emotions

Can you see trouble shooting our use of emotion regulation skills as a scientific experiment?

  1. Ask- am I biologically vulnerable? Do I have a physical illness or distress? am I out of balance in sleep, use of drugs or exercise?
  2. Review what you have tried. Have you used skills? Did you follow the instructions?
  3. What is the purpose of your emotion? Is it communicating an important message or influencing others? Is it motivating you to act? Does it validate your beliefs?
  4. Are you putting the time and effort into the skills?
  5. Are you too upset to use complicated skills? Do you need to focus on mindfulness or other distress tolerance skills?
  6. Check your thoughts. Are you judging your emotions- “I shouldn’t feel this way” “There is a right way to feel.” Is a belief keeping you stuck? “I am my emotion.” “I am an angry (sad, anxious etc.) person.”

Try viewing your skill use and experience of emotion as a scientific experiment. Notice how different use of skill impacts your experience of emotion- what makes emotions less intense? What shortens the duration of painful emotions? What brings happiness, joy and other positive emotions?

Mindfulness as a New Treatment for Substance Dependency

According to Government figures around 23 million Americans suffer from
substance dependency.

Resultado de imagen para rehab

Addictions to alcohol, drugs and other habit-forming substances are difficult to overcome due to the reward-based learning center in our brain. While this developed to aid survival, tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs all target the mesolimbic pathway, triggering the release of feel-good dopamine, which reinforces these habits. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one strategy used to change behaviors, but it works through our prefrontal cortex, which fatigues under stress, so has limited success in managing addictions. Thankfully, mindfulness works through another mechanism and shows potential as a treatment.

*Evidence for mindfulness-based addiction therapies*

Mindfulness is a Buddhist principle that encourages us to become more aware of our thoughts, feelings and body sensations. This is helpful in addiction therapy, as it enables addicts to appreciate cravings and notice how they alter with time, and the Abbeycare Foundation offers free alcohol addiction assessments over the phone or at any of their local alcohol rehab centers throughout the UK.. Rather than acting on a craving, individuals are able to ride out cravings, adopting a more positive behavior. Paying close attention also allows those dependent on substances to better appreciate their behaviors and the downsides of their habits, so they no longer appeal. This isn’t just based on theory though, as there is good evidence that being mindful helps during smoking cessation and recovery from alcoholism and drug abuse.

Indeed, a randomized controlled trial found mindfulness twice as effective for giving up tobacco as the best available treatment. By targeting the addictive loop, mindfulness disrupts it, breaking down the association between craving and behavior, and the desire to act on these.

*Accessing mindfulness therapy*

Although further research is necessary, a clear mechanistic link makes mindfulness a promising treatment for relapse prevention. Therapists are now trained in its use for addiction recovery, and the value of internet and app-based mindfulness is also under  exploration, with clinical trials underway.

Heroes of Hope: Building Resilience for America’s Children

Reposted from an earlier date

What do Jamie Lee Curtis, Cyndi Lauper, Goldie Hawn, Hershel Walker and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius have in common?  They have all been involved in shining a light on the importance of every child’s mental health.

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gary M. Blau, Ph.D., who is involved in wide variety of programs designed to improve the lives of children and families and who has been working to raise awareness about children’s mental health.

Tomorrow is National Children’s Awareness Day’s “Heroes of Hope Tribute” in Washington D.C. and I spoke with Gary about who is a “hero of hope” and why they are so important to our children.

I asked Dr. Blau to explain  the “Heroes of Hope” Tribute. In a fast and furious conversation brimming with information, I learned that bringing awareness to children’s mental health has been evolving for years.  This year SAMSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has enlisted scores of individuals, agencies, organizations and supporters to help raise awareness about children’s mental health.   Cyndi Lauper, for example, will be recognized this year for work on behalf of homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth through her foundation, the True Colors Fund.

It’s people like Cyndi who, along with others, such as celebrities, dignitaries, teachers, therapists, parents and neighbors, have helped children faced with trauma build resilience.  These caring people, “heroes of hope” have made a difference in a child’s life.

Dr. Blau related an example of a teen in Tennessee who’d struggled with trauma and subsequent mental health challenges.  With the support of a teacher and a caring counselor, her “heroes of hope,” this youngster is confronting the challenges she’s faced with resilience and will tell her story at a National Children’s Awareness Day Event.

What are the biggest mental health challenges children are facing today?

According to Dr. Blau, 1 in 5 (20%) of children face some kind of mental health challenge.  These challenges include a wide range of difficulties.  Children might face relatively straight- forward adjustment disorders to disorders with more complicated features, such as anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or attachment disorder.

“One in 10 children face more serious challenges,” said Dr. Blau.  These serious mental health conditions impact a child’s ability to function at home, school or in the community.  Many are involved in mental health services.

Dr. Blau emphasized that there is hope.  With the right kind of support and intervention children can and do recover.

This year, SAMSA will highlight issues that arise when children experience trauma.  Trauma can occur through abuse, life threatening injuries, violence in families or communities.  In the ACE study (a study on adverse childhood experiences), cited by Dr.Blau, the relationship between the number of childhood traumatic experiences and problems in adulthood, such as heart disease, physical illness and mental health problems, was clear.

Dr. Blau went on to say that the prevalence of childhood exposure to trauma is more pronounced than you would think, with 26% percent of children witnessing a traumatic event before the age of four.

How To Get Involved

Dr. Blau shared numerous links, including a link to SAMSA’s website, which has opportunities to engage in a community conversation and instructions on how to become a hero of hope. Through the website, you can learn how to work in your community, talk about children’s mental health, locate resources and become involved with educating others.

If you are concerned about the status of a particular child, whether your own, a neighbor’s or one you know in some other way, your pediatrician or school guidance are excellent resources to help you determine if there is an issue and how to help this child.

Contact a suicide Hotline for times when you are worried about a child being depressed, suicidal or self-injurious: 1-800-273-8255.

You can find strategies to cope with the anxiety and pressures that come with parenting or being a caregiver for a child who has mental health challenges in my new book, The Stress Response and by clicking here to sign up for more of my tips and and here for podcasts using DBT strategies to improve how you feel.

For more of my interview with Dr. Blau, click here.

Helpful Links

Awareness Day Web page: http://www.samhsa.gov/children/index.asp

List of Awareness Day Collaborating Organizations: http://www.samhsa.gov/children/participants.asp

2011 SAMHSA Short Report: http://www.samhsa.gov/children/SAMHSA_Short_Report_2011.pdf

Community Conversation: http://www.samhsa.gov/children/cc_home.asp

How to be a Hero of Hope: http://www.samhsa.gov/children/cc_howto_hero.asp

Blog post about the Twitter chat with the Surgeon General of the United States that Dr. Blau mentioned with links to the Storify archives of the chat: http://blog.samhsa.gov/2012/05/02/awareness-day-2012-twitter-chat-highlights-cmhchat/

Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

About  Gary M. Blau, Ph.D.

Dr. Gary M. Blau is a Clinical Psychologist and is currently the Chief of the Child, Adolescent and Family Branch of the Center for Mental Health Services.  In this role he provides national leadership for children’s mental health and is responsible for implementing the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Program, the Circles of Care Program, the National Children’s Mental Health Social Marketing Campaign, the National Technical Assistance Programs, and a wide variety of other programs designed to improve the lives of children and families.

Through the Director of the Center for Mental Health Services and the SAMHSA Administrator, he is also responsible for translating the President’s New Freedom Commission Report for children and families, and for implementing the children’s portion of the CMHS Action Plan.