June is PTSD Awareness Month

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is be a debilitating mental health condition that can surface after the experience of a significant traumatic event.

We have created this blog in honor of PTSD awareness month with the hope of dispelling some of the most common myths about PTSD, to provide information and hope about this very treatable condition.

 

Myth #1: You can only get PTSD from combat. This is absolutely untrue. People can go on to suffer from PTSD as a result of many different kinds of traumas: sexual assaults, physical assaults, intimate partner violence, witnessing death or its aftereffects, motor vehicle accidents, other serious accidents, sudden/unexpected losses, natural disasters, man-made disasters, and also combat experiences.

 

Myth #2: Experiencing a trauma means you have PTSD. Most people experience some trauma over the course of their lives. Having a traumatic event occur is only one factor in the diagnosis of PTSD. Many people go on to recover naturally following traumatic events, and others go on to suffer from other difficulties like depression, anxiety, or substance use disorders. In order for someone to suffer from PTSD, not only do they have to have experienced a traumatic event, but also to suffer from 4 different specific types of symptoms- intrusion/re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance, changes in thinking and mood, and changes in arousal and reactivity for at least one month after the trauma.

 

Myth #3: Having PTSD means you are weak. Surviving traumatic events speaks to the incredible strength of the human spirit. And struggling to make sense out of a senseless traumatic experience is not evidence of weakness, it’s actually very adaptive and one essential element in order to fully recover from traumas. This inaccurate perspective benefits no one and often keeps people from needlessly delaying important treatment.

 

Myth #4: PTSD is forever. This could not be more untrue. There are several cognitive behavioral treatments, including Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure therapy, that have been found by decades of research to effectively treat PTSD. These PTSD treatments are recommended by the American Psychological Association Treatment Practice Guidelines for PTSD and by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. These trauma treatments can effectively treat PTSD regardless of trauma experienced (assault, accidents, combat, etc), whether traumas were isolated or repeated, client age, and regardless of time since the trauma was experienced. Even if someone’s traumas occurred 50+ years prior to them coming to treatment, PTSD can still be treated effectively. Also, long-term outcome studies have found that once PTSD is treated, it’s treated. This means that it will not return once treatment is over. These effective PTSD treatments are offered at the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center of the Palm Beaches.

 

Myth #5: If I just avoid the trauma and PTSD symptoms long enough, it’ll just go away. Unfortunately, there is no data to suggest that avoiding the trauma or avoiding symptoms will make them go away. In fact, avoidance of the trauma and associated feelings is one of the factors that can keep people stuck from recovering. This is not a case of “time heals all wounds.” If PTSD symptoms persist for longer than a month, they warrant appropriate treatment.

 

If you live in Boca Raton or in the greater Palm Beach County area and area looking for an expert PTSD psychologist, PTSD therapist or trauma treatment, contact the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center of the Palm Beaches at info@cbtpalmbeach.com or (561) 299-0383.

 

 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

The goal of Sexual Assault Awareness Month is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities on prevention methods.


In the spirit of highlighting that sexual violence is a public health, human rights and social justice issue, this blog provides 10 facts about sexual assault and sexual violence.

 

1.     The perpetrator of sexual assault is typically not a stranger. In fact, 3 out of 4 sexual assaults are committed by someone who knows the victim.

2.     One out of every 6 women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape. Younger women (between 18-34) being at the highest risk for experiencing a sexual assault.  

3.     Men and boys are affected too. An unfortunate myth surrounding sexual assault, is that only women are victimized. This is simply not true. In fact, one out of every 10 rape victims are male. In effort to dispel another myth, sexual abuse of boys and men has nothing to do with an abuser’s or victim’s sexual orientation. Also, girls and women can and do perpetrate against boys and men.

4.     Rape is the traumatic event that is most likely to lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many people experience traumatic events (assault, motor vehicle accidents, natural disasters, etc) and recover from them such that they don’t continue to have symptoms that impair their lives. However, compared to every different type of trauma, rape is the even that is most likely to lead to the development of PTSD. One reason for this is that interpersonal trauma- or traumatic events that involve assault perpetrated by another person--- tend to have the most impact in how our thinking changes about ourselves and other people. Since humans are social creatures, this can have significant impact on how we function after a trauma like sexual assault.

5.     Sexual assault survivors report high rates of substance use problems. Survivors of sexual assault are more likely to use alcohol and illicit substances than those that have not been assaulted.

6.     Survivors of sexual assault suffer chronic health issues at higher rates. Sexual victimization has been found to be associated with gastrointestinal disorders, especially unexplained gastrointestinal distress, and a variety of chronic pain disorders (e.g., headaches, back pain).

7.     Sexual assault in college campuses is an epidemic. Twenty percent of women and 6% of men are sexually assaulted while in college. In addition, research has found that 27% of college women have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact. Many college campuses do not have guidelines or infrastructure to address this problem. 

8.     Sexual assault in the military often goes unreported. There are many reasons for this including that many sexual assaults are perpetrated by people in positions of leadership.

9.     Sexual violence has fallen by 50% in the last 20 years. This is excellent progress, and there is still a long way to go. Efforts by organizations like RAINN and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center are invaluable to helping these statistics continue to improve.

10.  The psychological effects of sexual assault are treatable. For survivors of sexual assault and sexual violence, there are a range of wonderful treatments available depending on the person’s needs, difficulties and symptoms. If someone goes on to suffer from PTSD as a result of sexual assault, Cognitive Behavioral Therapies like Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure Therapy can effectively treat the symptoms for good. 

 

Here at the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center of the Palm Beaches in Boca Raton, we are committed to timely and effective treatment for survivors of traumas and for those that develop trauma-related symptoms or PTSD as a result of sexual assault and other traumatic events. Please see our Trauma Recovery Program page for more information.

 

If you live in Boca Raton or in the greater Palm Beach County area and are looking for an expert Trauma Therapist or PTSD Psychologist, contact the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center of the Palm Beaches at info@cbtpalmbeach.com or (561) 299-0383.

 

 

How Can I Get The Most Out of Therapy?

Usually people come to therapy because they are in distress and want to experience some change in their lives. While the quality of a therapist or the therapeutic approach can play a large role in the benefits gained from therapy, clients also have A LOT of control over how helpful therapy can be. 

 

In this blog post, I will outline 10 ways to get the most out of therapy and how to see benefits from treatment sooner.

 

1.     Choose a therapist or psychologist wisely. Do research about types of therapy or mental health treatment available in your area. Shop around for a therapist whose treatment approach and interpersonal tone you like. The fit between your current difficulties, the therapist and type of therapy you seek is really important. Learning about your options ahead of time can help you find a great fit faster. You might narrow your search about types of treatment to seek based on what treatments are recommended by verified and esteemed organizations like the American Psychological Association or American Psychiatric Association. If you are struggling with Anxiety, Depression, PTSD (and many other difficulties), the gold-standard treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. For more information about CBT, read our recent blog post. For other difficulties, other approaches may be more appropriate.

2.     Schedule sessions at a convenient time. Having a busy schedule can make it difficult to have a “perfect” time for therapy. Instead of trying to find a "perfect" time, you might find times that are better or worse for you. Consider times during the day when you might be able to be more emotionally present and times you are able to turn your phone off (before work, mid-morning, during lunch hour, evening hours). Think of specific hours when you have the ability to step away from other responsibilities to focus solely on your wellness. Alternatively, consider times in the day with some flexibility that may allow you to create some buffer before returning to other responsibilities that are highly demanding.

3.     Be on time to sessions. Therapy sessions are typically 45-50 minutes. Time often goes by quickly during sessions so being punctual assures that you are getting the most out of each appointment. Showing up 15 minutes late might not seem like a big deal; however, it may be more than a third of a therapy session, which is quite a lot.

4.     Be consistent with sessions. The effectiveness of mental health treatment is often diluted when sessions are infrequent. Even during periods of heavy travel or busy work schedules, it is possible to keep the momentum going in treatment. In fact, some providers offer HIPPA-encrypted tele-therapy sessions to accommodate work or personal travel so that progress in treatment is not stalled. Click here to inquire about this option at the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center of the Palm Beaches in Boca Raton.

5.     Collaboratively identify clear goals for treatment. The clearer the goals you have for treatment, the more easily you and your therapist can determine a treatment plan to get you the benefit you want. In addition, identifying clear goals makes it possible to determine progress towards those goals. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, symptom measures are conducted frequently to assess progress in treatment and to fine-tune treatment techniques to most directly target your difficulties. Your therapist can also help you generate goals if you are not quite sure what you want to accomplish in therapy.

6.     Think ahead. Before each therapy session, come up with specific questions or topics you’d like to bring up during your next session. This helps clients be more intentional about how session time is spent. Questions can be about your last therapy session, about practice assignments or about some direction you and your therapist identified to focus on in the future. Being prepared for sessions, including having questions or agenda items you’d like to address, will help you and your therapist stay focused on what is most important.

7.     Ask questions. Some clients find themselves wanting to be a “good client” and go along with therapy without asking questions or correcting a therapist if they don’t agree with something said. In order to have therapy be really meaningful, ask questions! Get clarification about the techniques being used, the theory behind the techniques, ask about exactly how therapy will be helpful and why specific practice assignments are provided. Ask for support in completing practice assignments if you find you’re not sure how or where to start. Asking questions is also a great way to practice being more assertive and asking for your needs to be met.

8.     Do your practice assignments. One method that facilitates improvement in mental health symptoms more quickly is the use of practice assignments. Practice assignments are essential in helping clients translate what is discussed and practiced in therapy sessions into where clients spend most of their time- in their lives! Schedule time in your calendar to complete practice assignments for therapy the same way you would schedule other activities into your personal calendar. Also, be proactive! While you may be assigned specific practice assignments based on your current goals, you can also try to find opportunities to apply the same principles of your practice assignments in other situations in your life to increase the generalizability of the skills you are learning.

9.     Be as open as possible. Often clients experience fear or shame when considering talking about difficulties they are having or concerns they feel they shouldn’t have. This is understandable. Everyone experiences some fears regarding how they are perceived by others. At the same time, know that if your therapist or psychologist doesn’t know that you are having particular difficulties, they won’t be able to help you with them. Your provider’s reaction to what you share is also important information about the fit and that provider’s comfort or expertise with a particular difficulty. Openness also refers to being communicative about the therapy process and your relationship with your therapist. Specifically, if you disagree with something your therapist said or if your therapist angered you, or if you were frustrated by some element of a session, use therapy to discuss these concerns. The therapeutic relationship is an excellent opportunity to learn about how we tend to relate with others (avoiding conflict, withholding grievances, suppressing emotions), and to practice new ways of relating that may be more direct, open and effective.  

10.  Know that change won’t happen overnight. Even the most skilled therapist or psychologist will not be able to help a client generate all of the change a client wants instantly. The most efficient forms of therapy can take several months in order to have real, lasting benefit. Determine a timeline with your therapist of when you can expect to experience some observable changes and track your symptoms. If you collaboratively determine a timeline for therapy and are not seeing the intended gains made, do speak with your therapist about this and share your concerns.

 

If you live in Boca Raton or in the greater Palm Beach County area and area looking for an expert CBT psychologist, contact the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center of the Palm Beaches at info@cbtpalmbeach.com or (561) 299-0383.

 

 

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

People seeking therapy or counseling are faced with a lot of options. One reason is that there are many different types of psychotherapies, or “talk therapies,” offered today by therapists and psychologists.

So how is one to choose?!

My hope is that this blog post can help potential clients make informed decisions about their mental health care by providing information and education about one type of psychotherapy-  cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

Below are 10 important facts about CBT:

1.     Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective. Specifically, there is an abundance of research indicating that CBT is recommended over other types of talk therapies for a number of mental health concerns (depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, etc.). In addition, CBT clinicians use standardized assessment of symptoms throughout therapy to track your progress and ensure treatment is as effective as possible.

2.     Proficient CBT therapists undergo extensive training. This means that providers who are truly CBT experts have attended numerous trainings and workshops on CBT and are rostered as expert CBT providers by nationally recognized and accredited organizations. Look at clinician credentials to determine if someone is a proficient CBT provider.

3.     CBT focuses on the impact of thoughts and behaviors on feelings. How we think and behave has a huge impact on how we feel from day-to-day. In CBT, you will learn how certain patterns of thinking and how self-defeating behaviors may be fueling the difficulties you are having. In CBT, you will also learn ways to change these thoughts and behaviors in order to drive changes in how you feel.

4.     CBT is transparent. When you work with a trained CBT therapist, your clinician will share with you their impressions and conceptualization of what your difficulties are, what is maintaining these problems and will describe options for treatment to help you resolve those challenges.

5.     CBT is collaborative. In CBT, you will be on a team with your therapist. You will come up with session agendas together and will work collaboratively to determine goals for therapy. You will be involved in every part of the therapy decision-making process including what practice assignments to complete each week.

6.     CBT is brief and efficient. A typical course of CBT generally lasts between 6-25 sessions. Sessions are structured and may last between 45-90 minutes each.

7.     CBT is active. In CBT, there is time spent in the therapy room, but often there is also session time spent outside of the therapy room. In addition, there are exercises you will be encouraged to do between sessions to help you confront fears and create the changes you want in your life.

8.     CBT is empowering. CBT fosters independence and empowers clients by teaching them to become their own therapists! By the end of treatment, you will have the concrete tools you need to continue working on any potential challenges that you may face in life.

9.     CBT can treat more severe disorders. There is a lot of research that CBT works well for both milder mental health concerns (general stress, life transitions) as well as more impairing difficulties like Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Personality Disorders, Schizophrenia-Spectrum Disorders, Eating Disorders, OCD and PTSD.

10.  CBT treats the whole person. While CBT treats debilitating symptoms, CBT clinicians also take into account the upbringing, context, strengths, and culture of each individual in order to tailor the treatment to each person.

 

If you live or work in Boca Raton or in the greater Palm Beach County area and are looking for an expert CBT psychologist, contact the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center of the Palm Beaches at info@cbtpalmbeach.com or call us at (561) 299-0383.