Neuroscience talk by Francine Lapides, LMFT

On November 13th, 2015 SCV-CAMFT (a group of Bay Area therapists) gathered for a wonderful lunch and an extremely thoughtful presentation by Francine Lapides, LMFT. If you are just learning of Ms. Lapides, as I did in November, I recommend you seek out a training with her.  Or perhaps therapy with her if you are in the Santa Cruz area.  She has a training group coming up in the new year focused on psychoneurology.  The group will help you deeply explore how knowing more about the brain can help you be a better therapist.  One could call Francine our local Dan Siegel. She has studied with him for years and additionally has been a part of Allan Schore's Berkeley study group. Francine Lapides has been a licensed MFT since 1974. She is a decades-long member of SCV-CAMFT and she is in private practice in San Jose and Santa Cruz, California.

In Ms. Lapides talk, “Working Implicitly in Psychotherapy: What Decades of Neuroscience Study Has Taught Me About Being a Psychotherapist” she started by reminding us that infants are primarily right brained and this right brain development continues for the first two to three years of life. Attachment templates are stored in the right brain.  The take away is; in order to heal trauma we need to address both the unconscious and conscious areas of the brain. As therapists we see first hand how these early traumas can shape a person. Some of these traumas leave us with resiliency while others leave us more rigid.  Francine took us through some basic neuroscience during the first portion of the talk. This time acted as our “infancy” in neuroscience (if we did not already have that knowledge). Even if you did have prior neuroscience knowledge her information was a great review. She shared the Winnicott quote, “There is no such thing as a baby ... if you set out to describe a baby, you will find you are describing a baby and someone.'' (Winnicott, 1947).  The relationship heals because we are relational human beings.  We can help our clients make meaning of early trauma.  This healing rooted in the physiology of neuroscience is more helpful if done with a bottom up (or body to head direction).  The limbic system and attachment theory dominate .  As stated on Mrs. Lapides slides: “Early life experiences create potent affective “knowing” in implicit, non-verbal, unconscious memory which underlie and have a profound influence on personality, dominate mood, symptoms and relationships throughout life.”  

As we transitioned to the second section of the talk Mrs. Lapides invited someone to come up to the front of the room and summarize what they had just learned about neuroscience. There were crickets.  We all behaved as though we were glued to our seats. She let the perfect amount of silence play out before she joked that she was just getting our heart rates up so we could feel our prefrontal cortex at work. As many of you likely know the prefrontal cortex is the part of our brains that helps us regulate emotion. Francine’s "experiment" was perfectly set up as a process experiential learning exercise. We have the basics of neuroscience, we are asked to come talk about it in front of the group, and then upon finding out we actually don’t have to, we can then re-regulate. 

Just like intherapy (week after week), we invite our clients to talk, or draw, or move through their way through trauma.  They might turn us down but as the relationship and trust grows we can begin to help them heal. This ability to manage activation helps us access our unconscious beliefs. There are, as Francine shared, “implicit relational schemas” or unconscious beliefs that all of us have. For example, we may unconsciously believe that, “If I try to perform and fail, people will think less of me." These are, of course, the thoughts and feelings we want to target in therapy. The question of how this can be done while integrating neuroscience will be address in the intensive study group Francine will offer.  She will address the clinical skills of: “trusting your intuition, somatic transference, intimacy and self disclosure, rupture and repair,” and much more. I wish I lived closer to Santa Cruz! This group will surely be helpful.

She stated, “While the overwhelming bias in western psychotherapy has been a top down primarily left brain model of conscious and verbal attempts at change, neuroscience is increasingly confirming that we must work in this right brain, unconscious, body-based arena as well.”  When she spoke of the “bottom up” way of working with our clients she mentioned poetry because it has more of a right brain connection. She mention prosody or “the patterns of rhythm and sound used in poetry” according to Webster’s online dictionary. Using poetry or other right brain activities with our clients can help them access and heal their trauma. I also found the interventions Francine offered at the end of her talk to be helpful. Instead of asking left brained questions we can shift statements more into a right brain experience. For example, instead of: “Your father’s anger was uncontrolled and made you feel unsafe” the right brain is more able to hear, “When you father exploded in range, you felt terrified and small.” Instead of offering, “It will be important for you to know I’m hear,” clinicians can try a more right-brained approach such as asking, “Can you look at me, can you feel me here with you”? If you were at the luncheon you heard Francine’s calm seasoned voice. It was healing in a room of almost 100 colleagues. I hope you get a sense of her way of being from this short description.

http://www.francinelapides.com/

Three Talks

I am excited to offer you these three talks via the links below.  I love speaking on positive discipline, parenting and how therapy can support this process.  I hope this will give you a sense of what I can offer.  There are many experiential exercises I lead that will support your parenting!  I can come speak at your work place, play group or church.  Please reach out and hear about the exciting new groups I will offer in the new year!  Please reach out with questions and comments at bridget@bridgetbertrand.com 

Managing BIG  emotions the power point

Managing BIG emotions handout

Discipline 101 the power point

Discipline 101 the handout

Mindful Parenting the power point

Mindful Parenting the handout

and last but not least "the mistaken goal chart" a great parenting tool!

Parenting

It’s amazing how much parenting is talked about, written about, and stressed over.  My understanding in the last eight years of parenting (since the birth of our daughter) and the twenty before (working with kids as a teacher) has undergone many shifts.  I hope some of these insights might help you come to terms with your parenting and maybe make a shift that could benefit your family.  When we take this time to understand our parenting and why we do what we do I think we get a chance to more deeply understand ourselves.  Happy exploring!

Many of us just had Monday off.  Labor Day was first celebrated on September 5th, 1882.   The Fair Labor Standards Act came much later in 1938.  This act assures that when young people work that the work is safe (dol.gov).  It was less than a century ago the main job of a parent was to keep the arms of their children from being caught in machinery (as if they could even control that, since they were not with their child at the time).  Our worries over  “helicopter parenting,” feeding our children only organic food, and making sure they are able to get into the “right” college beginning in preschool are a far cry from the worries of parents 100 years ago in the U.S.  Of course, there are still children in our world that are not safe, yet on a whole the trend is toward letting children have their childhood.

The psychologists that created the foundation of Positive Discipline (Dreikurs and Adler) worked around the turn of the century and understood the plight families faced.  If we delve into the difference between sending a kid to a factory and sending a kid to school, we see our parenting approaches have to make huge shifts.  I used to wrestle more with these shifts.  When we parent from a democratic and positive stance it’s not always pretty.  Why can’t I get my child to “behave”?  Why does she tantrum in public?  Why does he talk back at home?  Why can’t I control this kid?  I think to myself "I would have never acted like this".  Why?  In part because my parents came out of depression era families, in part because I lived in a authoritarian culture. 

This shift is a slow one and I think our generation has a real opportunity to make a change.  While there are so many ways to redirect these unwanted behaviors, more and more I think it’s positive that we let children have their emotions.  Let go of the control and let them be.  This does not mean we let the limits go.  There are rules and we must show and teach children how to be a part of society.  As our world has evolved so has our focus with how to guide children though childhood.   Of course there are different ways of parenting and your house is just that, your house, yet I see this shift toward a more positive and disciplined approach to be just that...positive! 

How does this related to what you do right now?  First, if you are already on the path toward a more democratic form of parenting and you are feeling under supported in your peer group you are not alone.  I find this all the time.  In our house we aim not punish or reward.  We deal with misbehavior and treat it as and “misguided behavior”.  We look at the belief behind the behavior.  See my linked resource of the “Mistaken Goal Chart”.  My husband had gotten increasingly good at this, which at times can frustrate me, as a most devoted advocate of positive discipline.  Sometimes, when our daughter misbehaves, I do want to hurt back because I feel hurt, yet that is not the most skillful adult choice.

So what do we do? #1 we have a weekly family meeting.  We have been doing this on and off for four years and I can say it’s made a huge difference.  See more guidelines at this link.  #2 we talk a LOT:  What happened today?  What were the highs and the lows?  Oh, you seem quite upset right now maybe we all need to have some time to relax.  #3 we try not over schedule (for the most part).  We respect that our kid needs a lot of down time “just” to do Legos.  I am very inspired by blog posts and parents who also walk this path like Rachel Macy Stafford, Dr. Laura Markhman and  Glennon Doyle Melton.  In short I reach out for help on the Internet or with my friends.  If you want to deepen your parenting goals reach out.  If you have a question for me reach out.  Or if you are so inclined to pass this blog along to a friend I would appreciate your support.  And lastly something to say to our selves from Rachel Macy Stafford: 

“Be kind to yourself.  You are doing the best you can”.

Managing BIG Emotions

Emotions: the invisible and yet powerful experiences we all have.  What is an emotion?  Merriam-Webster calls it an “...affective aspect of consciousness, a state of feeling, a conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body”.  Phew…that is kind of a workout just to read.  Even if you are a little taxed just thinking of emotions, I want to inspire you to keep reading AND keep listening to your emotions.  

We all have our emotions and our emotional blow ups.  When kids blow up you will not always understand where it came from.  Are they sick?  Tired?  Hungry?  Maybe they are just out to get us?  (I’m kidding, kind of. ) Then cue the parent doubt and anger:  Am I am being to harsh?  Too soft?  Why won’t your child listen?  Why is your child screaming / talking back again?  Or maybe you don’t question it and you just want any and all push-back to stop.  That is understandable. Yet here are our kids, ready willing and able to push our buttons because that is how development happens. 

Emotions and thoughts are so intermingled. All we want (I imagine) is a more peaceful house.  Let’s pretend you have just had one of “those” mornings.  How do we slow down and process some of what is happening in the moment?  What if we got down on the same physical level with our kids and say something like, “I wonder what is happening for you right now?” Then listen and try hard not to fix the situation or change it.  We just let the kid be where the kid is.  This process is teaching self-discipline and the self-refection process of “mindsight”.  One of my favorite websites for families, kidsinthehouse.com, has several videos by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel  who expertly guides parents in teaching children about emotional and social intuition.  You can watch this short one minute video by clicking this link .

To see into the mind is what Dr. Siegel calls mindsight.  Dr. Siegel says, “Take a moment to learn about the internal world of your self and your child."  In a similar vein, Dr. Jane Nelson and Lynn Lott, LMFT, of Positive Discipline are very often asking these same questions of parents.  They ask, “What were you thinking, feeling and deciding?” as this difficult event was happening?  In Positive Discipline classes and talks I often ask that of the parent as they role play being their child.  The more you practice this process of inquiry with yourself and your kids in the moment the more it will begin to happen almost without your thinking of it.  Mindsight can become more of an automatic way to live (with practice).  I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to groups of parents in my community lately (see the link to upcoming talks here).  What I’ve heard shared are issues of disconnection, kids not listening, and much more.  I say this to help you know you are not alone. 

Though I think half the path is getting support with the challenging parts of parenting, I always try to give folks some tools to use. There is not a “cure all” for any household struggle. Big emotions are not going to totally go away (I know, it's a harsh reality).  Here is a list of ideas that tries to connect getting to know yourself, your kid(s), and being insightful about your whole family experience. 

  • These are from positivediscipline.org with a little tweak here and there from me:
  • Involve your child in a useful task to gain useful attention
  • Say what you will do as a parent, "I love you and I need you to ___ (fill in the blank)”
  • Avoid saying "Do you want to?  or “Can you do ____(this task)?” 
  • Avoid special services (putting on shoes or dressing kids that can do it themselves)
  • Say it only once and then act.  “I will serve you dinner when the table is set.”
  • Have faith in child to deal with feelings (don't fix or rescue)
  • Say, “You feel very angry.” (The end, no more talking.)
  • Take time for yourself so you can sort out your feelings and project less onto others.
  • Plan special time (every week) or 10 minutes a day. 
  • Set up routines. Instead of nagging, point to the routine, as in, "The routine says it's time to do homework now."
  • Engage child in problem-solving.  Ask, “How do you see this going better?”
  • Use family meetings every week. Write the agenda down and follow up
  • Ignore the behavior (don’t engage with words)and instead use touch
  • Set up nonverbal signals.  “When I point at my watch it’s time to go.”
  • Lastly, send me an email with any comments or ideas you would like to see here.

Wishing you happy peaceful parenting!

Bridget

bridget@bridgetbertrand.com

Change Talk

I have been thinking a lot about change lately.  For me change happens moment to moment.  I don’t look at therapy as a means to one end.  Some moments I find life to be overwhelming.  The next moment I feel so deeply happy.  I rest in knowing that what is unfolding is what I have wanted all along.  When this is not your experience how to you keep moving?  During these ups and downs can we change?  I think we can.  I find change, growth and development  to be deeply rooted in how we relate to the moment.  In my twenties I don’t think I even heard the voice that said, “do more”, “be more”, “work harder” and most harshly “you are not enough!”.  OUCH!  I think we have all done this to ourselves at some point.  So for me personally, the change came through encouraging that voice in a different direction.  First, I had to slow down and listen, I still use this practice daily.  Recently someone posed a question to ask our clients and ourselves: "What would you say to your younger self?"  My answer, “I love you”. 

Changing the inner monologue has to do with our outer choices too.  How do I allow and encourage self care and personal development to happen?  The answer is (at least for me) it’s a process.  I know, at times, I am tired of hearing about process and I want results.  However, the nature of change is continually unfolding.  We therapists have to walk the walk and I have some insights to share.  #1 we must try harder be kind to ourselves.  When we shame, blame, and condemn ourselves for not doing enough let’s face it, that is likely not going to get us motivated.  Of course you could say, "actually it does motivate me Bridget!"  If this is you, continue on that path (and write me with examples).  I do think there are exceptions but I have not found this to be  true for me.  I have found allowing our mistakes to land in front of us, see them for what they are (simply mistakes) and walking on by is a humbling growing up experience.  Development happens in lurches and fits.  I have seen this for some number of years in children and since they are after all human beings I have come to believe that it keeps on going on that way for adults too.  Development / change / growth can happen quickly and slowly it’s the process of allowing change that is the most powerful part.  I welcome your feedback @ bridget.therapy@gmail.com

Friends and Fun

"Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in reverie".  Henry David Thoreau

When I was in high school I read Walden.  There was only one other person who connected with me around this man's deep wisdom.  Perhaps I only felt safe enough with this one person to share my passion for this open way of thinking

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Informal Practice

Sometimes (like now) I get on FIRE about a new blog post, a new article, a new class, and I need to check myself.  I find myself writing in my head while I also listen to the radio, or while meditating, or walking.  I practice mindfulness daily, often by using "informal" practice.  

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Links, Books and More!

I have so many ideas I want to share!  This post will be a wrap up videos, books and websites I am checking out so I can stay up to date on the most cutting edge parenting methods (and now you can too).  First, I'll share that I had another successful workshop sharing “Positive Discipline” methods.  I love sharing these ideas about parenting. I am happy to offer this pro-bono workshop at your business, school, agency or church.  Heck, I will speak in a park about these methods at your playgroup!  I love seeing people’s minds light up and their stance shift when they hear these ideas for the first time or when they are reminded to stay on the path toward more peaceful parenting.  Email me today if you want to discuss a speaking opportunity: bridget.therapy@gmail.com.

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Chores, they are a Chore.

I adapted this post "15 Chore Ideas for 3 - 8" from http://moneysavingmom.com/         

I think sometimes we loose sight and think that it's "supposed" to be easy to get kids to do chores.  Not likely, at least not in my house.  I stretched out the age of the original post because I think if you harness that early interest in modeling you around 2.3 - 3 years old you can get them to fall in line with these expectations.  

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Read...Write...Heal

I read several blogs.  I love zenhabits.net/ and many of the parenting blogs I reference on the resource page of my site (www.bridgetbertrand.com/resources/).  There is another new therapist blog I love, Kelly Higdon @ counselinglagunahills.com/free-e-book.  I mean she offers a free book!  Go get it!  Additionally, I am sure I click through to an article a day or more on the Huffington Post.  There is an endless array of amazing things to read so I think…should I add to the feed?  I guess you see my answer.  Here I am, adding to the feed, wondering who will read this and trying to figure out "feedburner" after it’s posted.  

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“It Won’t Hurt Forever”

Peter A. Levine – “It Won’t Hurt Forever”

I have been interested in Dr. Levine’s work with trauma for many years.  The following post includes notes I took while listening to one of his audio lectures.  I downloaded it from “Sounds True” but you can get it free with an audible trial membership on Amazon

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Moment by Moment

I think we can be our kids guides not their rulers.  We can’t always know what will stick so I choose to focus on my own self-development and my ability to stand strong in the waves that childhood can bring.  I do believe that being a positive role model is the best I can do.  I deeply hope the next generation will keep striving for a better world and I think having social emotional strength will be a big predictor of this success

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Mindfulness

I am so excited about my new website!  Despite the delay in getting licensed here in California I push on crafting what I want this new career to look like.  Sometimes (like now) I get on FIRE about a new blog post, a new article, a new class and I need to check myself a bit.  I do practice mindfulness daily, often by using "informal" practice.  Karen Kissel Wegela, Ph.D. describes "informal" practice this way:

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