Currently, I am seeing clients through an online platform (doxy.me) which offers HIPAA compliant levels of encryption. Although psychotherapy sessions are technically considered an essential service, I made the decision to move to online sessions in March to best protect everyone's health and well-being.
I am considering slowly reopening the office to those who would most benefit from face to face sessions. When this takes place, I will also continue to offer telehealth services for those that would prefer.
After 14 years of life and 12 years of service as a therapy dog, Layla has passed on to the great beyond. While it is a sad time, it also is wonderful to look back on her life and see how many people she touched and helped. I know she is somewhere doing all the things she loved, maybe chasing tennis balls or laying in front of fires and snoozing. We love you Layla!
Hazel has been a little sad, but has been staying busy at work and prepping for her therapy dog test coming up soon!
Hazel is currently being trained as the eventual successor to Layla who is starting to wind down her visits as she approaches her 11th birthday (but she is still going strong!). At five months old, Hazel has already shown a real love of people and a wonderful demeanor. She will be unable to officially take the therapy dog test until she is at least a year old, but we are working towards it. Hazel's father was also a therapy dog and we think that is where she got her cute wrinkly face! She is sometimes around and sleeping in her crate in the office. Ask to say hi!
ELIOT, Maine – A black Labrador retriever named Layla sauntered through the elementary school gym like a rock star as children stretched their arms out in hopes of touching the black beauty this past Wednesday.
Students this month met four different service dogs and the people they assist as part of Eliot Elementary School’s Service Learning’s "Dogs at Work" project, which incorporates Read Across America and Beyond as well as Square1Art. Students asked questions about each dog and how they help others. Layla helps therapist Stephen Quinlan at his job as he works with kids.
The following is an article written by Juliette Foster. Enjoy!
Mindfulness as a Tool to Promote Mental Wellness
Mindfulness is not a new principle, as it is integral to Buddhism, but there is increasing interest in its value as a therapy to enhance mental well-being. There is evidence that adopting this technique can help to manage conditions such as anxiety, depression associated with pregnancy and post-traumatic stress disorder. Mindful practices can also promote better memory, so have potential as a therapy in the early stages of dementia, and can improve learning and concentration, making it a valuable tool in education. Being more mindful can additionally foster healthy relationships, which itself can boost mental wellness. However, even with this range of benefits it is important to understand what mindfulness is and the mechanisms it works through.
When we are mindful it means we pay close attention to our thoughts, the way we feel and take in our surroundings. This involves concentrating on the moment without being distracted by former experiences or what is still to come. Another principle of mindfulness is that we don’t make any judgments, so we accept things as they are. However, we need to appreciate that we are responsible for our thoughts and activities, and that it is possible to change these for the better.
Mindfulness doesn't work through just one component; there are four that explain the way in which it works. Through attention regulation, which involves focusing on a physical object, this helps us avoid distractions. By concentrating on our breathing and other internal sensations, this promotes greater awareness of our bodies. Meanwhile, by accepting our emotions, this gives us more control over them. Finally, by changing the view of ourselves, we can acknowledge that it is possible to make changes which can have a positive impact on us.
Avoiding its drawbacks
No form of therapy is perfect, so mindfulness has its limitations. For example, if we become too aware of our body, this can heighten sensations, as is sometimes the case when it comes to feelings of pain. There is also a chance that when we use mindfulness when it is not called for that this can interfere with creativity, as our mind needs to wander to inspire creative thoughts. Similarly, abilities and skills not under conscious awareness are also more difficult to acquire when mindfulness is overused. The key to avoid these problems is therefore receiving instruction on when it is suitable to use mindful practices.
Mandala photo courtesy of http://unityinmarin.org/
Feeling depressed can make it hard to do much of anything. The cycle of depression is particularly difficult to manage in that doing certain things can help you to feel better, but often those very things are the hardest to do! Being outside can have a tremendous effect on your well-being. Now that the winter is over, even just doing things such as yard work can have multiple benefits. Vitamin D from the sun in combination with exercise and a feeling of accomplishment from getting things done is a powerful anti-depressant. Vigorous exercise can have even more of a profound effect. Here are some ideas for summer fun to keep the blues away:
-Try tackling that yard project that you have been putting off.
-Sit on your deck for at least 20 minutes in the sun and listen to music or read.
-Have friends over for a cookout
-Take the dog for a walk
-Mow the lawn
-Plant a vegetable garden
-Take the kids to the playground
-Go for a hike with a friend
-Walk on the beach
So get out there and enjoy feeling better!
I am very excited to announce the opening of my brand new counseling office in beautiful downtown Dover, NH. I am also thrilled to be next door to Childlight Yoga, a pediatric yoga program. There are many wonderful possibilities to our proximity.
I look forward to having a space which will be in walking distance to the many amenities that downtown Dover has to offer, including the children's museum, Henry Law Park, and the Noggin Factory toy store. I also am excited that this will be a brand new construction in an exposed brick and beam mill. It's shaping up very nicely!
I will continue to specialize in pediatric therapy and especially with children and teens who have anxiety and/or are on the Autism spectrum. I will also continue to provide Animal Assisted Therapy and treatment for Selective Mutism.
See you in Dover!
Thousands of years ago, our ancestors had larger foreheads, less comfy living quarters and a whole different set of things to be worried about. The tingling sensation and heightened awareness that occurred when you were about to be mauled by a mammoth, could potentially be lifesaving. Having your nervous system on high alert or as it is sometimes known “fight or flight,” can provide many added benefits, if you are in a perilous situation. Your senses are heightened, adrenaline flows through your system, you become stronger, more alert, faster, all things which can help you to escape physical harm.
In modern society, we are likely better served being worried about our email inbox as opposed to being some larger animal’s lunch. However, there are still remnants of our more primitive brain which exist today. Most of these are close to the brain stem and deal with our more base emotions, such as anger and anxiety. This is not to say that being worried about something does not still serve a purpose, it does. We can channel that energy to meet deadlines, improve our performance, and perform well in times of stress. In the way that most people’s brain works, after the time of heightened stress or imminent danger has passed, the brain returns to its normal state. However, if you suffer from anxiety, this is not always the case. The brain can continue to send out the signal that you are in danger, causing you to be constantly on edge.
So, what causes this misfire in the brain? Why do some people feel as though they are constantly anxious about something, no matter how inconsequential it might seem? The culprit is a tiny almond-shaped area in the brain known as the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for sending out an “alert” to the rest of your brain (and ultimately your entire body) that you are in danger. Recent neurological research has suggested that some people inherently have an over-active amygdala, almost like a twitchy trigger finger, that fires at inappropriate times.
Another factor is what people themselves interpret as being a potentially dangerous situation, based on their personality. If you are an introverted person who prefers to spend time by themselves or with one or two close friends, the idea of a cocktail party might seem like the end of the world. Or, if you are afraid of spiders, seeing a harmless small spider might feel as though it is a threat to your well-being.
The good news for people who suffer from anxiety is that there are several options to help alleviate your symptoms. Therapy has been shown to be very effective in helping to manage anxiety. The act of processing your anxieties and becoming more conscious of them can help to override your amygdala. Medication, when warranted, can also help.
If you have any questions about anxiety, or know someone who is suffering from it, don’t hesitate to contact me. Don’t suffer needlessly! Unless you are being pursued by a wooly mammoth, in which case, feel free to be nervous. Otherwise, take the first steps towards living a more comfortable and relaxed life.
Photo courtesy of wikimedia.org
Stephen Quinlan is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker who practices in Dover, NH