Anxiety is worry that persists even after the stressor has gone. Most women that I work with experience some form of anxiety. Some feel anxious in response to challenging situations. Other women experience panic attacks. Some feel high-strung all the time, simply unable to relax.
Many of the women that I work with have anxiety that can be traced back to childhood trauma. Complex trauma is ongoing trauma that was endured while growing up, perpetrated by caretakers or entrusted adults. Anything that makes a child feel obligated and uncomfortable, in the service of an adult, is considered childhood trauma.
Anxiety and depression are common consequences of complex trauma. A child who grows up in a home where they were not safe or nurtured will develop coping strategies to help them survive in that home. However, these very same behaviors can become maladaptive behaviors in adulthood, and can be challenging to give up.
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Women who struggle with anxiety, dread the physical arousal of it, and do all they can to avoid these sensations. At the root of anxiety is the fear of losing control, and worry about being judged. Women who suffer with anxiety do not like surprises, so they shy away from new experiences, in order to stay within their comfort zone.
My clients benefit from learning techniques to calm anxiety. First and foremost, I encourage her to accept exactly where she currently is, without judgement, because I know that criticizing herself causes even more anxiety. I teach her Cognitive Restructuring techniques to identify triggers, and replace automatic thoughts. Further, I educate women on using Mental Rehearsal when trying out new behaviors that they would otherwise avoid, because it makes them feel anxious.
Anxiety Management, Resilience Training, and Self-Regulation
While working towards understanding and processing root causes of their anxiety, I teach my clients Anxiety Management Skills, Resilience Training, and Self-Regulation Tools. Anxiety Management Skills that I offer include guided imagery, inner child or parts work, mindfulness, and grounding techniques, among others. Women find these interventions effective both in and out of sessions.
With Resilience Training, I implement an optimistic outlook, self-efficacy, self-compassion, and the understanding that we cannot change others, only change ourselves.
Self-Regulation Tools help women manage their impulses, pausing before acting. I work with women on methods of calming themselves down before and after an upset, strategies for getting out of bad moods, staying conscious, and articulating what they really mean to say. I encourage my clients to discuss major decisions in therapy before going into action so that together, we can develop a healthy plan of action.
Anxiety is a reaction to stress. Stress is the body’s response to a challenge or change and is a normal part of life. Bodies are naturally equipped to handle small doses of stress. Women who were abused and neglected as children may have sustained stress over a long period of time. This is known as chronic stress.
Someone with chronic stress remains in a heightened state nearly all the time. This elevated state can disrupt nearly every bodily function. Chronic stress causes women to be more vulnerable to anxiety and depression. It can affect the digestive and reproductive systems, cause sleep difficulties, suppress the immune system, and even speed up the aging process.
Negative self-talk and self-criticism worsen the effects of anxiety and chronic stress, making daily living more challenging. In the past, it was believed that the way to get someone to change behavior was to criticize them. We now know that positive reinforcement and praise are more effective and ethical.
Over time clients see for themselves that they are continuing to treat themselves the way that they were treated by their abusers. I remind them that they now have choices, and I encourage them to consider giving themselves unconditional self-love instead.
For most women with chronic stress, something specific in their past caused them to stay in a continuous state of alert. When working with this type of client, I help her to see how her past caused her to be hyper-vigilant, as her surroundings were not safe. I assure her that her chronic stress is not her fault. As she makes connections between present and past, she will often feel empathy for herself and what she endured. I encourage her to comfort herself.
After some time, I propose that she become angry, in sessions, at those who mistreated her. This can be difficult for some. I use imagery and Somatic Experiencing techniques to assist her to process the trauma.
***It should be noted that it is not necessary to physically confront a perpetrator in order to heal from abuse and neglect.
In time she will more easily make herself her top priority, as she becomes better equipped to make healthier choices for her mind, body and spirit. The Integrative Psychotherapy process supports her to assert herself, believe in her own worth, and use effective communication that lets others clearly know what she needs.
What My Clients Say
I remember I was so nervous to have my first session with Heidi because I did not know what to expect but because she was so patient, kind and understanding she made me feel very comfortable to open up. One of the main things she’s helped me accomplish is to stand up for myself, communicating, and also has helped me to not overthink my decisions. I look forward to our sessions every week because it gives me a chance to talk about the strengths and weaknesses I’ve come across and her guidance has really helped me. Thank you Heidi!
Most of my life I lived with a feeling that something was off. I could never tell what it is, but the feeling was always there. I came to Heidi in hopes of "saving" my relationship, and through our work I found something better, I found myself. Before Heidi I was skeptical of therapy, I thought only "crazy" people went there. At first I was nervous and uncomfortable, but Heidi was so gentle, empathetic, and non judgmental that I soon was looking forward to our sessions. She gently guided me on the journey of discovering truth about my childhood and the suppressed feelings that I've been carrying around for decades. With Heidi I discovered psychosomatic therapy (somatic experiences), and consciously experienced parts of myself I didn't know existed. I now know where the feeling of something being off comes from and why it's there. I've become connected to my body and my emotions, I've learned how to be empathetic, non-judgmental, and loving towards myself. Heidi showed me how good it feels to be seen and heard for who I really am.
It has been difficult for me in the past to open up completely to therapists in the way that I needed to in order to benefit from the service. From day one, Heidi always made me feel comfortable through being genuine, present, warm and non-judgemental. This allowed for me to completely open up, be vulnerable and bring to sessions the topics that I deeply needed to speak about. Heidi is creative and open-minded and she helped me to have to develop a more hopeful and expansive worldview. I always looked forward to our sessions together.
I started seeing Heidi when I was having trouble at work. I really liked her practice of meeting with you so we could both decide whether we were a good fit for one another. Her warm and welcoming demeanor put me at ease almost at once. Heidi is a great listener, and very thoughtful in her responses. As a result of her guidance and support, I was able to overcome my fears of career growth. Her techniques made it possible for me to succeed in my endeavors to find a new, more suitable position. After 20 years in the workforce, thanks to Heidi, I was finally able to find the right professional environment. Heidi has also helped me grow in my personal life. She has opened my eyes to focusing on what is important to me, and not just accepting things as they are if it is not right for me. I have gone through a few heartaches, and thanks to Heidi, I have been more selective and that has led to a much more fulfilling outcome in terms of relationships, whether it be friends or romance.
Empathy is the truest mark of a psychotherapist, and Heidi's ability to truly listen and care is what makes her such a fantastic therapist. Throughout my time with Heidi I always felt supported. Her understanding and flexibility went a long way towards creating a safe space. I can honestly say much of the progress I have made, the confidence I feel now, is directly because of our time together.
I would not be where I am today without the work I've done with Heidi. This includes navigating a career as an educator, aiming for growth and still maintaining my sanity. It also includes learning about myself, my impulses and strategies to deal with those, as well as learning to set boundaries with those around me. Heidi has helped me not just find my voice, but to clarify it and use it to support my strengths and goals.