Introducing Neuroptimal (R) Neurofeedback at Healing Wings!

What is Neuroptimal  ® Neurofeedback?

Neuroptimal ® Neurofeedback is an advanced brain training technology. It works with your own brain and central nervous system, enabling it to function and perform at it’s best.  Neuroptimal ® Neurofeedback is not a medical treatment, but rather a training system for your brain. No diagnosis is required, as the system dances mathematically with your own nervous system, offering it information through the auditory channel. This feedback allows the brain to make shifts, essentially allowing it to correct itself. It allows the brain to calm, relax, feel clearer, happier and allows the person to better function.  In essence it helps to create more flexibility in the brain.

Who can benefit from Neuroptimal ® Neurofeedback?

Every brain can utilize the benefits of Neuroptimal ® Neurofeedback, meeting it’s own state of optimal. Training is entirely effortless. Many find training extremely relaxing. Others like to read, or even do homework while receiving a session.

Many have described Neuroptimal ® Neurofeedback as a life changing technology. It is founded in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, neurology, non-linear dynamics, and electrical engineering. I have personally met many people who say their training with Neuroptimal ® was life changing.

Neuroptimal ® Neurofeedback Research

Research is ongoing and varied, as was presented at the recent Neuroptimal ® Neurofeedback conference in Montreal, Quebec, Canada (2018).  Some of the presentations that I heard about at the conference included the use of Neuroptimal ® as an adjunct or primary approach for improving athletic ability, skill and focus, helping children with ADD/ADHD, the use of Neuroptimal ® with an Alzheimer patient whose brain calmed during training, the use of Neuroptimal ® with combat war vets to help with symptoms of PTSD such as sleep deprivation.  In addition, Neuroptimal ® presentations included various personal stories of transformation from drug and alcohol struggles as well as other forms of mental health conditions including anxiety and depression.  One particularly fascinating study was published by Jean Alvarez, a social psychologist, which demonstrated the effectiveness of neurofeedback as a way of correcting the cognitive after-effects of cancer treatment (“Chemobrain”).

As I learned while attending the conference, many people find Neuroptimal ® Neurofeedback only after searching when other methods of intervention did not work.  Here is a link to the Neuroptimal ® Neurofeedback website that outlines some of the findings people are having using Neuroptimal  ® as a primary or adjunctive method of intervention.

https://neuroptimal.com/research/

I am excited to offer this advanced brain training technology at Healing Wings Therapeutic Services! Contact me at billie@healingwingstherapy.ca for more information!

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What is Theraplay(R)?

As a primary or adjunctive approach, Healing Wings therapeutic services may utilize Theraplay as an effective therapeutic intervention to help children and families heal.

What is Theraplay®?

The source of the following information is the Theraplay.org website.

Theraplay is a child and family therapy for building and enhancing attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and joyful engagement. It is based on the natural patterns of playful, healthy interaction between parent and child. It is personal, physical, and fun. Theraplay interactions focus on four essential qualities found in parent-child relationships: Structure, Engagement, Nurture, and Challenge. Theraplay sessions create an active, emotional connection between the child and parent or caregiver, resulting in a changed view of the self as worthy and lovable and of relationships as positive and rewarding.

In treatment, the Theraplay therapist guides the parent and child through playful, fun games, developmentally challenging activities, and tender, nurturing activities. The very act of engaging each other in this way helps the parent regulate the child’s behavior and communicate love, joy, and safety to the child. It helps the child feel secure, cared for, connected and worthy.

How Does Theraplay® Work?

Theraplay can improve your child’s behavior in unique ways. Using the therapeutic benefits of joyful play and sensitive caregiving, Theraplay focuses on strengthening your relationship with your child. It works to enhance your sense of connection and mutual understanding so that your child no longer needs to resort to problem behaviors. As the most important people in a child’s life, caregivers are actively involved in sessions. You and your child will experience delight and enjoyment in each other, and your child will become more responsive to you.

Your relationship with each other is the most powerful and most influential element for change. Although some problems can reside for the most part in your child (sensory issues, developmental issues and trauma, for example), how you respond to any problems your child is exhibiting can make a huge difference. In Theraplay sessions, we help your child experience interactions that have previously been hard or troublesome in new ways.  This helps her learn that relationships can be positive and even fun and that you understand her needs. This will help her be more cooperative with and responsive to you and others.

Who Can Benefit from Theraplay®?

At any age, children who are withdrawn, passive, or depressed, children who are overactive or aggressive, children on the autism spectrum, and those who are afraid of relating or attaching because of adoption, losses, or trauma can be helped by Theraplay. Theraplay is an especially effective treatment for young children — even for those under three years of age — because it is play-based rather than language-based. The active playfulness of Theraplay often engages children who have not responded to more traditional therapy approaches or who are oppositional. Theraplay’s appealing activities help these children “buy into” the therapeutic process and brings about change without the need for the child to talk about or express problems.

Is Theraplay® an Evidence-Based Treatment?

Theraplay has been accepted by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for inclusion on the National Registry for Evidence-based Programs and Practices.

Theraplay was developed over 50 years ago. The book used to train clinicians to do Theraplay is in its third edition and has been translated into six languages. Theraplay is used all over the world.  There is formal research documenting Theraplay’s effectiveness and Theraplay is listed on the National Registry for Evidence-Based Programs and Practices. Studies have shown that Theraplay works with shy and withdrawn children, improves relating in children on the autism spectrum, improves parent-child interaction and the emotional availability of parents to their children, and can even increase self-esteem in adults.

In addition to having research behind it, Theraplay involves qualities and types of interactions that are well-known and well-researched to be crucial in building self-esteem, a healthy body image, emotional regulation (being able to manage the ups and downs of emotions without going too “up” or too “down”), emotional connection with others, and trust in parents or caregivers. When these capacities are nurtured and developed, behavioral problems often significantly diminish and can also disappear.

What Will I Learn in Theraplay®?

  • To understand your child’s feelings and behaviors—why he is behaving the way he is.
  • To respond to troublesome behaviors in ways that will support self-esteem while, at the same time, decrease your child’s need for the behaviors.
  • How to circumvent and other times address head-on your child’s difficult behaviors in ways that further the parent-child bond and build your child’s self-control, feeling of competence, and sense of continued connection with you. We want your child to see you – and for you to see yourself – as a strong, dependable, and caring parent who can manage your child’s struggles and challenges.
  • How to reconnect with your child (repair) after the inevitable disappointments your child presents to you, and bring him quickly back to a place of well-being with you.
  • To create pleasurable moments of connection and fun with your child that will bring you shared joy and strengthen your relationship.
  • You will learn these things by doing them in the Theraplay sessions with your child with the continual support of your therapist. In Theraplay, we don’t just talk about being different with your child, we actually do things differently with your child in the session. This will give you a hands-on, totally supported experience of improving interactions with your child.

What Will My Child Learn in Theraplay®?

  • Your child will learn to see you as strong, wise, and skillful in helping her out of distressful moments and into better behaviors.
  • Your child will feel closer to you and your influence will grow.
  • In response to your new skills, your child will feel more competent and confident.
  • She will feel calmer, less anxious, angry, frightened, or timid.
  • Your child will get along better with other authority figures and with peers and siblings.
  • She will not have to resort to problematic behaviors to get his needs met
    Children who have suffered separation, loss, abuse or neglect will learn:
  • He can trust you to take care of him.
  • He can rely on you to meet his needs for nurturing and comfort
  • To accept appropriate structure, limits, rules.
  • Your child will increasingly enjoy engaging with you.
  • He will feel worthy of care, counteracting his negative experiences.

Children with developmental/communication issues will learn:

  • That interacting with others is fun and pleasurable.
  • How to read social cues and others’ feelings.
  • The rhythm and give-and-take of social relationships.

What Is a Typical Theraplay® Treatment Session? A Theraplay session usually lasts 40-50 minutes.  The room has mats, cushions and a couch. In a typical session, the therapist will invite you and your child into the Theraplay room in a fun way, such as hopping on one foot, and lead you and your child to a special seat that the therapist has prepared.  The therapist will lead the child through a series of simple, fun games and activities, while helping the child be successful and competent.  If the child resists the activities, the therapist will find responses that get the child back on track while still maintaining a positive connection with the child. In addition to playful, physical games, the therapist will also initiate quiet activities to nurture your child.   Depending on the stage of therapy (parent involvement increases as therapy progresses), the therapist will ask you to play the games in order to facilitate the connection with you and build your skills at responding to your child’s needs.  At the end of the session, the therapist may ask you to play some of the games at home.  Typically every fourth session is a parent-only session, where you and the therapist will talk about progress and how to address any behavior problems at home.

Reference:https://theraplay.org/index.php/what-is-theraplay-parents/17-faq-what-is-theraplay/166-what-is-a-typical-theraplay-treatment-session

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Neuroptimal(R) Neurofeedback is coming to Healing Wings Therapy!

In May 2018, attended the 4th Neuroptimal(R) neurofeedback conference in Montreal, Canada. I am excited to be learning about the technology of this brain training system, as well as pondering the possibilities of integrating this brain training into my current therapy practice.

What is Neuroptimal(R) neurofeedback?

Neuroptimal (R) neurofeedback is brain training system that utilizes the brain’s own capacity to self heal. As human beings, we are geared towards healing, and growth. We are adaptive systems, but sometimes get stuck in patterns of disorganization or dysfunction.

I have been learning that the Neuroptimal(R) brain training system can have incredible impacts on the central nervous system, helping to achieve homeostasis as well as optimization of the system’s capacity to develop and grow.

The neuroptimal (R) brain training system can have profound impacts on many dysfunctional maladies such as anxiety, compulsions, self deprecating thoughts, as well as many other issues that get in the way of optimization of life experiences.

Stay tuned for further updates about the roll out of Neuroptimal (R) brain training at Healing Wings therapeutic services!!

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Complex trauma and dissociation in children

What is childhood complex trauma?

Childhood Complex trauma refers to the exposure of early chronic and multiple traumatic events, very often inflicted within the adult/parent- child relationship. The child is in an inescapable situation where their pain is inflicted by the same person that is supposed to meet their needs ( Gomez,  2013). Early interpersonal trauma shapes the structure and functioning of the brain. Dissociation is often viewed as an intra psychic process developed as a defence against trauma and or pain (Putnam, 1997).

Complex trauma is not always recognized

Complex trauma, dissociation, and personality fragmentation in children is a controversial topic and is not always recognized by the various professionals that are working to support and help these children and their families. There are many reasons for this.

One main reason is that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by physicians and psychiatrists to diagnose mental health disorders in western society does not include the category of complex child trauma.  All of our systems in society including the education system, child welfare system, judicial system, and mental health system are intricately connected to what this leading authority says about childhood trauma.

My passion to learn how to help this population culminated after 20 years of working in the mental health field in various capacities including the in the child welfare field.  I worked with many children and families and realized long ago that what we were doing simply was not working. Children were simply not receiving the level of mental health support they required to heal from the trauma and adversity they had experienced.

Children and families who have come into contact with child welfare authorities often have extensive familial histories of intergenerational neglect, abuse, and overall trauma.  In my experience, the support and approaches used with this population are often band-aid approaches that do not heal the experiences of the child, leaving them with continued and ongoing symptomology.

Domains of impairment with Complex Childhood Trauma

Children with extensive histories of trauma (which includes relational attachment trauma), frequently exhibit differential diagnoses such ADHD-ADD, PTSD, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, reactive attachment disorder, mood disorders, conduct disorder, and psychotic like symptoms. They may experience amnesia for events, alternate personalities, rapid age regressions, shifts in demeanor, and auditory hallucinations.  Quite often these children deny behaviors and get labeled liars, and manipulators. All of these symptoms are adaptive responses to maladaptive environments where the child developed these above noted strategies for survival.

There are many domains of impairment as a result of complex trauma. Below is a chart adapted from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2003)

Attachment
  •  Uncertainty about the reliability of the world
  •  Problems with boundaries
  •  Distrust and suspiciousness
Biology ·       Sensorimotor developmental problems

·       Somatization

·        Increased medical problems

Affect Regulation
  • Difficulty describing internal experience
  • Difficulty communicating wants/needs
  • Difficulty with regulating emotions
Dissociation
  • Alterations in states of consciousness
  •  Amnesia
  •    Depersonalization and de realization
  • Auditory hallucinations
Behavioral Regulation
  • Impulse control problems
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Aggression/oppositional behaviors
Cognition
  • Learning difficulties
  • Problems with language development
  • Difficulties in attention
Self- Concept
  • Low self-esteem
  • Guilt and shame
  • Lack of continuous, predictable self

There is hope!

Recently, I travelled to Phoenix Arizona to train with child trauma and EMDR expert Ana Gomez.  The training was titled EMDR Child, Complex Trauma & Dissociation Specialist.  It was the second level of EMDR child specialization training.

I am honored to be one of about 30 participants from around the world who will now be able to support children and adolescents with complex trauma, dissociation and personality fragmentation using EMDR. I am proud to be one therapist in the first cohort of therapists to receive this training from Ana Gomez.  I am also sad to be one of the firsts as the issue of complex trauma and personality fragmentation in children is slowlybeginning to take hold as an issue. I believe it is a bigger societal issue than anyone recognizes and most certainly needs greater attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Helping Children With Big Feelings

Children need help with their big feelings

Children,  need help to manage their big feelings. When children have help to manage their big feelings, they grow into adults who can show and manage their big feelings. Do you remember being a child and having your feelings validated? Or, do you remember being a child and not being heard or understood, perhaps shunned or shamed for having big feelings such as anger, sadness or fear? Children need caregivers to be their co-regulators, meaning they need their caregivers to see, hear and understand them when they are experiencing feelings that are too difficult for them to manage.

Helping Kids Hearts

We can struggle to help children with big feelings

Sometimes it is really difficult to have empathy for our children when they are having big emotions. This can happen for many reasons. For example, when we are stressed, tired or overwhelmed, it can be very difficult for us to have the patience required to take a step back and evaluate what is going on for our child from a calm place. One reason for this is because of our own childhood histories. Sometimes as children feelings aren’t cared for in nurturing and empathetic ways. If we haven’t had the experience of being co-regulated by an attuned caregiver, it can be very difficult to know how to co-regulate someone else, especially a child during times of stress. As adults we can then get triggered by our children’s big needs and feelings, especially if those needs or feelings were not taken care of for us when we were children.

Benefits of co-regulation

There are many benefits for our children and for us as caregivers if we can learn to step back and co-regulate the feelings of our emotionally reactive youngsters. The most important benefit is that they will feel valued, understood, and connected to us, which translates into their emotional needs being cared for and ultimately better behavior. Co-regulation disarms the defensive response that comes with emotional dysregulation.  Remember that children who are reacting and acting with big feelings aren’t using the thinking part of their brain. As their protective caregivers, our job is to help them get back into a state of calm.

Steps for caregivers to take to help children regulate their emotions

There are several steps that a caregiver can take to help a young child become co-regulated.

 1) Calm your own self.

  • Imagine using a remote control and pressing the pause button.
  • Focus yourself and get into your own body by taking some deep breaths.
  • Remember to be bigger, stronger, wiser and kind. We are so much bigger and powerful than our children. Our sheer size shows that this is true. As well, our brains are so much more developed in terms of the ability to rationalize and understand what is going on. Children need us to be the bigger, wiser and kind part of the equation when their feelings are too big to manage.
  • Don’t’ take your children’s behavior or emotions personally. We personalize what’s happening based on our own histories. Children are emotionally reactive because their brains are not developed in terms of cognitive capacity. When we personalize their feelings or behavior, we are not accounting for our own histories or making the connections to our own past which has a huge impact on the way we view situations.
  • Send your brain strong thoughts. For example, “ I know what to do….my child needs me to be present and calm”
  • Remind yourself that this is an opportunity for growth in the relationship with your child.

 2) Create safety

  • Children who are reacting with big emotions and behaviors require a caregiver to help bring them to a feeling of safety.
  • If you are out of control, your child will be out of control.
  • If you need to calm yourself first, let them know you need to calm yourself and you will be back to help them…..
  • Once calm, you can help create safety with gentle touch, closeness, a neutral calm tone of voice, getting smaller than them so they don’t feel threatened.
  • If they wont’ tolerate any of the above, you can tell them that you are there with them. If you breathe deeply and slowly, your child will be more likely to synchronize to your breath. This calms the brain and the central nervous system.

 3) Empathize with your child

  • Reflect back to the child the child’s feelings. “You seem really angry!” Or, “I see that you are so sad”. When we feel that someone else understands our internal state, there is no need to escalate.
  • Stay with your child through the storm. Welcome the feelings. Reflect them.
  • Resist the urge to tell your child that their feelings are inappropriate.Rather, stay with the child emotionally and tell him/her “You must be so angry to be talking to me that way…I am here with you. Tell me what is happening”.
  • Acknowledge your child’s perspective. “You wish you could have that extra snack before bed” or, “this isn’t how you wanted it to go”

 4) Don’t impose your thoughts about the situation onto your child.

  • Remember that their experience is different than yours, and leave space for them to express whatever they are feeling.
  • Remember they are separate beings from you.
  • When we impose our own thoughts or feelings, our histories are impacting how we are viewing our children’s experiences.

 5) Validate their experience and feelings. 

  • Validation doesn’t mean that you agree, but that you can understand why they are feeling or behaving in a particular way.
  • Remember that all behavior has meaning.
  • Remember that all behavior meets a need.
  • Remember that unmet needs can lead to misbehaviour.

 6) Fill up their love tank with whatever it is they are searching for.

  • Set limits as needed but let them know that you are there to help them sort the problem out.
  • When feelings are validated, and children know their feelings (regardless of how big) are okay with us, and they feel valued and understood, children are more open to work together with us to problem solve the situation to make it better.
  • Sometimes children just need us to hold them and let them know it is going to be okay….that we are with them no matter what the storm. Knowing that they have a kind, caring adult to weather the emotional storms of life can be a very powerful and transforming experience for children and adults alike!

Helping Kids with Big Feelings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Language of Play Therapy

The Language of Play Therapy

Children naturally use play as a compelling form of communication. This is where Play Therapy can help!.

While providing access to a very powerful language, Play therapy provides a way of being with the child and honors their unique developmental level.  It also looks for ways of connecting to the child and helping them using the “language of play”.  Play therapists are trained to be able to recognize and understand children using play.

Billie-Jo uses play to help her young clients, most often children ages three to twelve years, to better express themselves and works with them to allow the child to resolve their difficulties.

First of all, a safe relationship must be created between the therapist and client because Play allows the client to freely and naturally express both what pleases and bothers them.

Children often don’t have the verbalization skills to articulate their worries and upsets. Children have immature defense strategies which prevents them from facing their yucky feelings and upsets directly. For a young child who experienced a traumatic event before their language skills were developed,  the event would be encoded somatically inside their body, without words to describe it. A great video called “Introducing Andrew” provides an overview of the concept.

The Power of Play!

Play is used as a primary intervention and also a supportive therapy because of its proven effectiveness.

Play Therapy

The Power of Play Therapy!

Play Therapy is helpful for children struggling with the following issues…

* Anger management
* Grief and loss
* Divorce, Separation and Abandonment
* Crisis and Trauma
* Anxiety
* Depression
* Attention Deficit Hyperactivity (ADHD)
* Academic and social developmental
* Physical and learning disabilities
* Conduct disorders
* Abuse and Neglect
* Self esteem
* Emotional dysregulation

This therapy is a research proven, effective mental health approach. Regardless of age, gender, or the nature of the problem. It works best when a parent, family member, or caretaker is actively involved in the treatment process.

 

Got questions about play therapy?  Ask Billie-Jo using our contact form.

Cocoon and the Butterfly- A Short Story

One day, a woman saw a cocoon. She loved butterflies and their beautiful, colourful wings. She knew how a butterfly would struggle to transform from an ugly caterpillar into a beautiful one.

She saw the cocoon with a tiny opening. It meant that the butterfly was trying to make its way out to enjoy the world. She decided to watch how the butterfly would come out of the cocoon. She watched the butterfly struggling to break the shell for several hours.. The butterfly had been struggling very hard to come out through the tiny opening. Unfortunately, even after continuous attempts for several hours, there was no progress. It seemed that the butterfly had tried its best and could not give any more try.

The woman had a passion and love for butterflies and decided to help the butterfly. She got a pair of scissors and cut the cocoon to make larger opening for the butterfly and removed the remaining cocoon. The butterfly emerged without any struggle!

Unfortunately, the butterfly looked no longer beautiful and had a swollen body with small and withered wings.

She continued to watch the butterfly and was quite eager to see it fly with its beautiful wings. Unfortunately, the butterfly just crawled around with withered wings and a huge body. It was never able to fly. Although the woman had good intentions, she did not know that only by going through struggles the butterfly would emerge to be beautiful, with strong wings.

The continuous effort from the butterfly to come out of its cocoon would let the fluid stored in the body be converted into wings. Thus, the body would become lighter and smaller, and the wings would be beautiful and large.

The moral of the story is that we all need to undergo struggles so we can learn to fly!

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