Can Mindfulness Change How the Brain Processes Emotion?

We’d like to think it can, but what does the evidence show? A working definition of mindfulness is that it attentively and non-judgmentally focuses on present experiences. But does this actually affect anything in the brain? To find out, Jacqueline Lutz, from the psychiatry department at the University Hospital of Zurich, led a study investigating whether mindfulness could affect the brain during emotional arousal. Lutz and her colleagues recruited 49 subjects with no prior or existing neurological or psychiatric illnesses and randomly assigned them to either the mindfulness group or the control group, which received no mindfulness instruction. Researchers hypothesized…

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3 Ways Undiagnosed Trauma Disrupts Lives

When people have trouble paying attention, when they’re too emotional, or reactionary, or downright aggressive, what can we do to help them turn it around? Perhaps too often, these behaviors are addressed with medication for ADHD or bipolar disorder. But according to Bessel van der Kolk, MD, the problem (and the solution) may lie in knowing how to recognize the signs and symptoms of childhood trauma. Bessel walks us through the major markers of this kind of trauma in this short video – check it out, it’s just 4 minutes. Have you ever recognized any of these symptoms as potential…

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Why a Fresh Perspective Can Be As Precious As a Diamond

My good friend Judith, who is a psychologist in private practice, once told me, “If you can give me a new perspective on a patient’s problem, you’ve given me something of incredible value.” When you have a patient who’s just not making progress, it can be terribly frustrating for both practitioner and patient. But a new way of seeing a patient’s problem can unlock what once felt stagnant and stuck. In those discouraging moments, a fresh perspective can be as precious as the discovery of a rare, exquisite, glittering diamond. But how do we get those “a-ha” moments that can…

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On The Shoulders of Giants

Carl Rogers. Milton Erikson. Fritz Perls. Albert Ellis. Virginia Satir. These are some of the experts who shaped the interventions we use with patients today. And these experts stood on the shoulders of the giants who came before them. I’m thinking about people like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, Karen Horney, and Pierre Genet. The contributions made by all these pioneers have given us treatment approaches and strategies that help a large percentage of the people we see. But sadly, not all of them. So I’ve been wondering, “Where is the next generation of innovators who will help us…

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How Can We Expand the Circle of Healing?

Why does a particular treatment approach work with some patients but not with others? When I was in grad school, they used to say that in therapy, about a third of people get better, a third stay the same, and a third get worse. And from what I can tell, while we’ve improved some, we still aren’t helping as many people as we’d hope. But why is that? For just a moment, let’s imagine that this circle represents all of the people who are suffering: We help a large percentage of the people we see. Our treatments and approaches work…

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Why The Most Popular New Year’s Resolution May Be More Important than You Think

If I was a betting person I’d be willing to wager that, if you asked around at your New Year’s party last night, you found at least one person whose resolution was to hit the gym more in the coming year. And I’d bet that if you asked them why, they’d mentioned the extra pounds they’ve been putting on. I think my odds of winning would be pretty good, too. Getting more exercise is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, especially after the food-fueled holidays. But there are more benefits to exercising than just losing weight. For example,…

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