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Brave Therapy™ is a blog site created by Andrea Szasz, a Psychotherapist and Counsellor living and practicing in Sydney, Australia.

How to hang onto yourself in the Holiday season?

Christmas and New Years are coming up, and the arena where family and friends gather can be really big. The expectations from different family members, friends, or just the cultural differences of ‘this is how we do things’, can be overwhelming. 
Often in broken families there is more then one place where we have to show up and many different relationships to manage.
I want to share with you a few tricks that help me to manage:

Before I part take in any of the gatherings, be it a Christmas Eve celebration or a Hanukka dinner, I check in with my driving value.
Why is this important to me? Often it is about future generations, and traditions and rituals, love and compassion. Of course there are many more I could write here, but for the process, it is actually important to choose only a few.
So let’s say for this example I choose future generations.

I sit for a second, just checking in with my body, taking in a few easy breaths and then see where do I notice the importance of future generations in my body. I focus on the sensations. I notice a broadness around my back, the bottom of my spine is flexible and stable at the same time. I let colors images sounds or any other information arrive to me. I sit with, in this case a big green warm blob kind of thing that makes my back feel really big and strong 🙂  for a little while and I just notice how this valuing of future generations is inside of me, it is part of me, and at the same time my whole body is relaxed and flexible.
 
Later, when I enter into the gatherings, where often there are conversations that make me uncomfortable, or I catch little grimaces people make as their feelings instead of being expressed just seep through their faces, I check in with my body.  After a little tightening up, as my nervous system responds to the discomfort, I breathe in. I notice the sensations that are representing the value of future generations in me, and I let my body and nervous system relax.
In this way I do not get to caught up in worrying about the uncomfortable things and I can manage to hang onto myself and even enjoy the gathering. 
 
This is a simple process adapted from Peter Levine and Brené Brown‘s work. If you like to learn more just get in touch via my booking page


 
I wish you a peaceful, connected and joyful holiday season!
 
Andi
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World Mental Health Day

http://1010.org.au/

As a mental health professional I am very committed to reduce stigma around mental health issues. There is still so much that we can improve systematically and in our personal life.

What will you do?

 

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What I have learnt from Honourable Justice Peter McClellan.

On the Labour Day weekend just gone, I attended the 30th anniversary conference of ANZAP, the Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychotherapy.

While there was a strong sense of celebration at our collective achievements, and we were encouraged at the continuing success of the Conversational Model of Psychotherapy, we were also keenly aware that our work to heal suffering and trauma in the community has a long way to go. It is always an honour to sit together with hundreds of creative practitioners whose life work is to heal trauma, and this gathering was no exception.

One of the presenters was the Honorable Justice Peter McClellan, Chair of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

He shared with us that the Royal Commission conducted 7,641 private sessions with survivors. The legislative change that allowed survivors to give evidence in private sessions, and the 57 public hearings conducted so far has given survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) a voice that was previously unheard. Research and suggestions for policy changes by the Commission are completed. 50 reports are completed, and the Commission is hoping that researchers will further build on this work. Justice McClellan highlighted that the Commission learned about victims of child sexual abuse who, having held their lives together for decades could fall apart when an unexpected life event brought up their trauma and they disintegrated.

Justice Peter McClellan also shared that:

An important development now available in some jurisdictions to assist the court to receive effective evidence from a child is the use of intermediaries. Intermediaries can be used to assist vulnerable witnesses at both the investigative stage, and in preparation for a trial. The intermediary is generally a professional with expertise in the communication difficulties that have been identified with respect to the witness. They conduct an assessment of the communication skills of the witness and recommend to police, and later to the court, the appropriate communication style for that witness.”

The Royal Commission also found that survivors need ongoing care for the rest of their lives. It assessed the current level of training in treatment and care of survivors of CSA as good enough, but far from perfect. Survivors reported some bad experiences with poorly educated therapists, counsellors and other support people.

Justice McClellan spoke against short term treatment of trauma, and stated that the 10 session Medicare Mental Health Care Plan system is outdated. The limitations are not necessarily supportive of CSA survivors, due to their need for long term treatment.

He also warned us that while there have been some achievements and healing as a result of this Royal Commission, we have to be vigilant and not to expect that Institutional abuse will no longer happen. It was also pointed out that most CSA occurs in families, not Institutions. You can read the whole speech, it really is worthwhile and you will get all the information here. Listening to this great man speak reminded me when I heard him few years ago at the start of the Royal Commission’s investigations and hearings. He seemed full of energy then, I had to wonder what effect it had on his life to chair this Commission…

Some practical information:

Nicola Ellis and John Ellis of Ellis Legal Lawyers and Advocates also presented their work with survivors. They are wonderful people, and their work really touched me. You can read about the model they have developed here .This wholehearted duo shared with us their finding about how more often than not, survivors are not interested in the money, but instead look for creative ways to feel heard and acknowledged. They provided a good example of this phenomenon: Lina’s project Newcastle area. Nicola and Ellis also shared that they have recently experienced a positive change in how police personnel respond to survivors of CSA when they are reporting.

While it feels like there have been some hopeful movements towards healing for some survivors, there is a long way to go. Protecting our children is a responsibility that we all share!

If you have been affected in anyway by the Royal Commission please refer to the resources above and find support.

You are not alone.

 

Warmly

Andi

 

ANDREA SZASZ

Master of Science in Medicine (Psychotherapy)

Psychotherapist. Supervisor. Group Facilitator.

SE® Practitioner, Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator

PACFA Clinical. EMDRAA, ANZAP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

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Kristin Neff Advanced Self-Compassion Workshop, what I have learnt.

Some of you know that in May I was lucky enough to be part of Kristin Neff’s advanced self-compassion workshop that was held in Texas. The event itself was very exciting and inspiring as 200+ Daring Way™ Facilitators all over the world gathered to learn from Brené Brown, Kristin Neff and from each other.
If you are not familiar with Kristin’s work please check out her website www.self-compassion.org. She is one of the most approachable and authentic presenter I have ever met. Her websites have many free downloadable meditations that I often suggest for my clients as complementing resources to our work together.
So this is what I have learnt:  
The problem with self-esteem as a measure of self-worth in our modern societies, is that it feeds from the need to feel above average and that it hooks into social comparison. When we are comparing ourselves, we are not happy, content or connected to others.
For example some research shows that bullying is largely driven by to get self esteem. The contingency of self-esteem come from: approval of peers, appearance, money/financial status. As our finances and dress sizes go up and down, our self-esteem goes up and down. It is a real struggle to feel good about ourselves while we are focusing outside of ourselves. Focusing on self-esteem will bring inevitable feelings of inadequacy. Neff’s research shows that focusing on self-compassion has greater benefits for our well-being then focusing on gaining self-esteem. 
Self-compassion
The three components of self-compassion:
*Self Kindness vs Self Judgement. Treating oneself with care and understanding and actively soothing oneself.
*Common Humanity vs Isolation. Seeing own experience as part of larger human experience not isolating or abnormal. Recognising that life is imperfect, including us.

*Mindfulness vs. Over identification. Allows us to “be” with painful feelings as they are. Avoids extremes of suppressing o running away with painful feelings. 

Self- compassion linked to wellbeing (Zessin, Dickhauser & Garbadee, 2015) Reductions in negative mindstates: Anxiety, depression, stress, rumination, thought suppression, perfectionism, shame. Increases in positive mind-states: Life satisfaction,   happiness, connectedness, self-confidence, optimism, curiosity, gratitude. Self-compassion leads to well-being by holding negative thoughts and emotions loving, connected, presence.

So what can we do? Where can we start?
The first thing that Kristin suggests is to try to catch our inner speech (the gremlins for some of us) and try to talk to ourselves as we would talk to someone who we love. So imagine, when you are beating yourself up about something, what would you say to your loved one in the same situation? I get my clients to actively ‘bring’ into their mind someone like a child or even a pet 🙂 , let them feel in their bodies how it would feel to talk to them about something that we would find in ourselves unacceptable.
Then imagine that the person you love is actually you, and speak to yourself in the same compassionate manner as you would (hopefully) to your loved ones.
When we experience compassion or self-compassion, the motor cortex gets activated in our brain. We need to do something active, actively self-soothing!!! We can use self-touch, just holding a hand over our heart as we would hold an infant. Drinking something warm and even tasty while observing how the warmth enters into our bodies. Using warm hot water bottles on our tummy or kidney area, this activates our mammalian care-giving system in our brain, so we really feel cared for. Using gentle vocalisation while using our own name (can calm the amygdala, the part of the brain that signals danger) telling ourselves that we are part of common humanity and life is perfectly imperfect as we all are. Or something that fits for you at that moment 🙂

Kristin and Brené calls mindfulness: courageous presence. You can’t have self compassion without mindfulness or courageous presence. So developing a practice around that would be very important.

There are many great and affordable resources out there and,  I also run workshops where we learn some techniques and practices in a group setting.

I collected some online resources for you:
 hearthand
Some gems from Kristin at the workshop:
-Dating advice:  taking the self-compassion test before meeting the dates for coffee,
more self-compassion = better relationships 🙂
-The care-giving system gets destroyed when there is abuse. So the process goes longer and slower but it is possible. 
-You cannot fail in teaching self-compassion :)) because you can just send compassion to the failing 🙂 
-‘You’ language helps calming your amygdala down. Using our own name can be calming too. 
-Negative emotions tighten our perspectives, to focus on dangers. Self-compassion helps to bring on positive emotions and by that opens the perspective, calms the reptilian brain and brings in more options by using the frontal cortex. 
Darwin was misinterpreted , it’s not the survival of the fittest, it is the survival of the most self-compassionate and the most co-operative. 
-The role of practice to become a compassionate mess 🙂 
-Empathetic resonance actually get us into the space of not being able to give compassion. We want to fix because of our own discomfort. Compassionate breathing can help, breathing compassion in and out. 
Warmly
Andi
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Knowing is not enough. We must apply. Being willing is not enough. We must do. - Leonardo Di Vinci

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