Opposites attract and likes repel. When a couple cannot accommodate their “attractive differences” and tries to act as one person, the second half of magnetic law is set into action. A widening gulf develops as partners start to repel each other and differences become extreme.

The first step to bridging this chasm is to become aware of the communication patterns that feed it. You can start by identifying what your partner does that bothers you. However, immediately examine how you react. For example, if your partner is sloppy, have you become the critic? If your partner is critical, do you find yourself on the defensive or withdrawing? Whenever a problem occurs, the variety of responses to it is endless. Yet, most people get stuck in “fight” or “flight” reactions. 

The most important learned communication response to use when either you or your partner is upset is to show understanding. The word “show” is emphasized because it does not help to understand unless you demonstrate your understanding by rephrasing thoughts, labeling feelings, and validating factors that contribute to emotions. Using all three active listening responses can produce powerful results.

Many people have fears that they will never be understood, resolve their feelings, or have their needs met unless they talk. When the art of listening is understood, it makes sense why the opposite is true:

  • You can reduce the intensity of your own reactions by understanding the hurt that underlies your partner’s undesirable behavior. Always assume that when your partner does not treat you well, there is an old resentment or fear behind that behavior.
  • Your partner will have less need to defend, withdraw, attack, or give long-winded speeches. It may take several statements of understanding before your partner realizes that you simply want to understand without trying to force changes.
  • The best way to obtain understanding is by giving it. As your partner’s defenses come down, they will want to understand how things have been for you. Your persistent efforts to show understanding will serve as a model that can teach your partner to rephrase, identify feelings, validate, and sympathize. You can aid the process (after you thoroughly understand your partner’s feelings) by asking, “Would you like to understand why I acted the way I did?”
  • Long-lasting solutions come from understanding. They are never reached by convincing, ordering, threatening, or nagging. Over time, deep levels of understanding will develop and conflicts will begin to resolve themselves.
  • You and your partner will begin to encourage the best in each other by appreciating the good intentions in difficult behavior. When understanding and active listening have been cultivated, it enables you both to come into conversations with the assumption that your partner is doing the best they can.

Understanding the pain that underlies troublesome behavior and noticing the little things a person does to change is simple, but it’s not easy. Our therapists are trained to help couples strengthen their active listening skills and move toward deeper understanding of each other. Give us a call today at 425-462-8558 to schedule an appointment.

 

PTSD and substance use often are closely connected, but many people may not be aware of this. Here is some information from our IOP workbook, inspired by the amazing work Seeking Safety by  Lisa M. Najavits.

  • You are not alone! For people with substance abuse, PTSD is one of the most common dual diagnoses. Among women in treatment for substance abuse, 30-59% have current PTSD. Among men in treatment for substance abuse, 11-38% have current PTSD.
  • There are many reasons why people with PTSD abuse substances. Some may do so to access feelings or memories, or to do the opposite–to escape from feelings and memories. Others may abuse substances to get through the day; to compensate for the pain of PTSD; to commit “slow suicide;” because they grew up with substance abuse in the family; or because they aren’t able to take care of their bodies.
  • People with PTSD and substance abuse tend to abuse the most dangerous substances: cocaine and opiates.
  • Two main themes of both PTSD and substance abuse disorder are secrecy and control. Secrecy means you may feel ashamed and wish to keep your problems a secret (e.g., the traumas you experienced, the amount of your substance use). Control refers to the idea that with trauma and substance abuse, you feel out of control. In PTSD, a terrible even occurred that you neither chose nor wanted. In substance abuse, you have lost control over your ability to stop using. Learning the skills of honest and regaining control and thus important for healing.
  • Each of the disorders makes the other more likely. If you have PTSD, you are at increased risk for substance abuse. If you have substance abuse, you are at increased risk for trauma. It is thus important to try to keep yourself safe to prevent further trauma and substance abuse.
  • The relationship between PTSD and substance abuse is complex. Using substances can either increase or decrease the PTSD symptoms. Yet abstinence from substances can also increase or decrease PTSD symptoms. Try to notice the patterns that occur for you. Getting to know the relationship between the two disorders in your life can help you cope better with the recovery process.

Why do PTSD and substance abuse occur together? Four patterns are common:

  1. PTSD can lead to substance abuse. To overcome the terrible symptoms of PTSD, you may use substances to “self-medicate” to try to feel better. For example, you may have begun using alcohol to get to sleep at night.
  2. Substance abuse can lead to PTSD. If you abuse substances, you may be vulnerable to dangerous traumatic situations because your guard is down or your self esteem is low. For example, getting drunk at a bar and going home with a stranger who assaults you.
  3. PTSD and substance abuse may have both occurred together. Some people grew up in a home where family members abused substances and also hurt each other.
  4. PTSD and substance abuse can be connected in a “downward spiral.” PTSD can lead you to use substances; by abusing substances you are at increased risk for more trauma; if more trauma happens, you may use more substances to cope; and so on.

The big picture priorities for treatment are to eliminate substance use, learn to manage PTSD, and become safe.

You can heal from both PTSD and substance abuse! 

See our post on EMDR and how it helps heal PTSD.

Call us at 425-462-8558 to make an appointment for an assessment and start your healing journey today.

Sometimes we experience traumas or events in our lives that leave us with unseen scars or wounds. These psychological wounds, if untreated, can fester and affect not only our lives but also those around us, in particular immediate family members. Here at Eastside Center for Family we are committed to treating and helping those affected with these traumas to heal, which is why we have trained therapists in a type of trauma therapy called EMDR.

What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a form of therapy that helps people heal from trauma or other distressing life experiences. EMDR has been extensively researched and has demonstrated effectiveness for trauma.

How do I know if I need trauma therapy or EMDR?

A good way to assess if you have need for EMDR therapy is to ask yourself if you have experienced the following symptoms:

  • Flashbacks or nightmares of traumatic events
  • Emotional numbness
  • Avoidance of places, people, and activities
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Feeling jumpy, or being easily irritated and angered.

If you answered yes to any of the above, you might be experiencing symptoms of PTSD. EMDR has been proven to help!

How does EMDR work to heal past traumas?

Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion). While many times traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, they may not be processed without help. Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create feelings of overwhelm, of being back in that moment, or of being “frozen in time.” EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved.

Sometimes people are hesitant to seek help for past traumas based on the belief that they will not be able to handle the emotions when they are brought up again, and the fear of “reliving” those past traumas. However, EMDR is different from other forms of therapy and traumas will not need to be explained in detail in order to be processed.

Is it necessary to tell my therapist all the details about my problems in order for them to be processed?

No, it is not necessary to talk about all the details of your experiences for them to be processed.

Will I get emotional?

Yes, you may. Emotions and sensations may come up during processing; although, you will be prepared and your therapist will help you safely manage them. Once they are processed, they rarely come back!

Is EMDR like hypnosis?

No. During EMDR processing, you are present and fully in control.

Is EMDR a brief treatment?

EMDR, as with all treatment approaches, will help you accomplish your treatment goals. The length of time that it takes is dependent upon the complexity of your problems. Frequently, EMDR is only one of several treatment approaches that will be used to help you reach your treatment goals.

What can EMDR be used to treat?

  • Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
  • Chronic illness and medical issues
  • Depression and bipolar disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Grief and loss
  • Pain
  • Psychosis
  • PTSD and other stress related issues
  • Sexual assault
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Violence and abuse

What will therapy look like?

You have come to treatment expressing concerns. Your therapist will help you understand the dynamics of the presenting concerns and how to adaptively manage them. An overall treatment plan will be developed that will accomplish your goals. Within that treatment plan, EMDR, along with other therapy approaches, will be used to accomplish your treatment goals.

The EMDR session:

You will be asked a set of questions to access and activate the negative experience and the desired adaptive resolution. Sets of rapid eye movement (or other forms of bilateral stimulation) will be applied. You will be encouraged to just “free associate” and allow the brain to work through the experience. Sets of eye movements will be alternated with brief reports about what you are experiencing. EMDR processing will continue until the past experience has been updated to an adaptive present perspective. With long standing issues, this process may take multiple sessions. Once the disturbing experiences have been updated, you and your therapist will work together to integrate these new insights and perspectives into your daily life.

Call us at Eastside Center for Family and start working toward a better tomorrow today. 425-462-8558

Studies showing effectiveness of EMDR:

Available Counseling Options

Assessment

IOP (intensive outpatient) Treatment

OP (outpatient) Continuing Care

Individual Counseling

Family Counseling

Referral and Inpatient Treatment Planning