When I opened my private practice in 1979, I wanted to work in the place where mind and body meet in general and specifically for the ob/gyn patient. For over 35 years, my practice has been a combination of generalist and specialist patients including men, women and couples. I have vast experience in working with issues of depression, anxiety and relationship and family issues as well as infertility, sexual dysfunction or other categories which would be referred by women’s medical health practitioners. Furthermore, anyone who seeks me out for my expertise in women’s health would find me useless unless I was first and foremost a skilled generalist.
The important thing in selecting a therapist can be determined in the first session. You would need to feel hopeful that your issues can be worked through. You should feel that your therapist is compassionate and skilled. You should like each other. Trust your intuition. If these things are not present, do not make a second appointment.
Unanswered medical questions for women and men, or a medical condition that will take more time to resolve than you feel you have the patience for, creates an emotional vacuum that can be managed very well with the kind of grounding that a trained therapist can provide. Infertility or reproductive and gynecologic issues often create a profound vulnerability because the nature of the issue is so germane to our experience of being human, and treatment is so personal that some people best serve themselves by reaching out for help.
Stress is involved no matter which way this circle goes, and often it goes in both directions. The unity of mind and body is no longer in dispute; the research is conclusive. But even prior to the time when science would render this a moot point, the placebo effect was a factor. It is only because the mind “decides” that a dummy pill will “cure” that there is relief from an ailment.
Given the unity of mind and body, we have enormous power to participate in this process and learn to break into the circularity of the stress cycle and its implication in disease. There are many techniques that you could learn which could replace the feeling of helplessness with a feeling of empowerment.
Perhaps you already know that stress induces what is called the fight-or-flight response during which our organ systems prepare to deal with danger. Blood pressure goes up, heart rate goes up, muscle tension goes up, etc. In the intensity of today’s world, real danger, and the stress response to medical problems that raise our anxiety levels, can be similar. And before we know it, our bodies are pummeled with stress responses, sometimes without relief. The emotional and physical experience can be unbearable.
It is now scientifically proven that anyone can learn how to counteract the forces of stress thereby reversing the biology of fight-or-flight, bringing down heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, etc. There are many mind/body methods you can learn to accomplish this, such as eliciting the relaxation response as pioneered by Dr. Herbert Benson, utilizing breathing exercises, yoga, choosing from an array of coping mechanisms that were not part of your repertoire, identifying and restructuring negative thinking and many more.
By taking care of yourself in this way you can reverse the vicious circle, thereby easing the physical and emotional grip of stress and clearing a space that allows your medical treatment to proceed with less physical and emotional “noise.” This is not only a great relief, but also addresses the most significant underlying aspect of this situation, that is the feeling of being out of control.
Besides inducing the fight-or-flight response, stress can sometimes induce a “freeze response” in which an experience of panic results in an inability to either fight or flee. Physiologically, the organ systems prepare to deal with danger, as with fight-or-flight, but the feeling of helplessness results in the person feeling pumped up to confront the situation but unable to go into action. Here, too, self-care methods in combination with understanding what is needed to get past the internal barrier, can reverse the biology, and the emotional relief and feeling of empowerment can be profound.
When your traditional coping mechanisms are not as effective as you would like them to be, a mind/body stress reduction group can be a real boon. Didactic material and experiential exercises help you to build a broad foundation which will enable you to stop, reflect on broader options than you were aware of, and choose a course of action that may not have been a part of your standard repertoire. It will also build a greater self-awareness and partner-awareness than you previously had.
A mind/body stress reduction group will help you to learn how to elicit the relaxation response, having the pleasure of not only bringing serenity to yourself at this difficult time, but also experiencing your own empowerment. You will learn how to experience the actuality of the mind/body connection with various breathing and other techniques. Coping skills are enhanced and broadened by learning about the neurobiology of mind/body healing. Your self-esteem will be enhanced as you come to understand your own underlying belief system and the negative automatic thoughts that flow from them so as to be better prepared to counteract mental traps. You will learn about the power of positive affirmations, how to identify and work with your emotions, build an effective style of communication and build confidence in assertiveness. You will learn about the power of humor, spirituality, and meaning-making, and how to prevent relapse. Most important, you will meet other women who are on the same quest, easing feelings of isolation and being out of the mainstream.
I have had the distinct pleasure of seeing this program embraced by participants and accepted as a program that serves well, not only through the infertility struggle, but also through any crisis later in life.
For more information about stress reduction groups, click here. You can phone Helen at 212.758.0125 to get the dates of the next classes.
People who have never been hypnotized sometimes are stuck with the myths that they’ve heard. They do not realize that hypnosis is a natural state. Everyone has been in a hypnotic trance, possibly daily, but it wasn’t experienced as hypnosis. If you drive a car, chances are you’ve been hypnotized by the highway, hopefully without endangering yourself or others.
Sometimes people mistakenly think that they will be under someone else’s power. In fact, you are in control over whether you allow a trance to happen and you are the one who elects to allow a clinical hypnotherapist to facilitate the hypnotic work. From that point of view it can be said that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis.
You do not “disappear” during a trance. Even as you turn your attention inward and allow your mind’s eye to teach you things that are usually out of your conscious awareness, your conscious mind remains alert to your surroundings. Hypnosis is a skill that you can develop, and as you begin to trust the process more and more, you can experience the benefits of becoming more tuned in to your inner workings.
Clinical hypnosis with an ethical, well-trained practitioner can be enhancing and sometimes life-altering. Utilizing hypnosis allows you to experience safety and relaxation, get past learned limitations, change perceptions and accept new suggestions.
If you allow yourself to try it, you may very well like it. Most people do.
While much of what I’ve written has to do with infertility directly, I believe that in reading any of my articles, if you pull out the word infertility and put in whatever issue does pertain to you, you will find that the concepts apply as well. The article “Embracing Change” is a case in point. Any unwanted edict is likely to mandate that something be different in order to cope effectively. Likewise, “Shattered Self-Esteem” will ring true because of the way that we can loose our balance when our sense of intactness is threatened. And any “Crisis is an Opportunity,” in marriage or otherwise. I could go down the list, but I think you get the point.