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COUNSELOR'S CORNER 
Wednesday, September 13 2017

The Unseen Root of Many Disorders: Childhood Emotional Neglect

By Jonice Webb PhD

Psychology, psychiatry, genetics.  Neurology, insight, analysis.   

For years, I worked as a psychologist, diligently using each and every one of these tools to understand why my clients were depressed, anxious, personality disordered, or suicidal.

And generally, it worked quite well.

Until…

Until I had over a decade of experience, and began to realize that, for many clients, these six tools sometimes, in a very important way, fell short.

Something was being missed by me, by these folks’ medical doctors, and by their past therapists. It was also being missed by the clients themselves. It was a hidden factor that was at the very root of what went wrong for so many people.

It was the original core of the client’s reactions to later stressors or traumas. It set the stage for his brain chemicals to go awry, making him susceptible to depression or anxiety. Or it formed the origin of his reactions to the grave parental mistreatment that led to the gradual development of a personality disorder.

Yet we were all missing it. Together, those of us who were trying to help others heal were overlooking the heart of what had gone wrong:

Our clients were disconnected from their own emotions.

Period, it’s that simple.

Surprised? So was I. But recognizing the potency of this core, early, powerful childhood coping mechanism (that’s all it is)  has changed the way I practice psychology, and the way I live my life.

How does a child become separated from his own emotions, setting the stage for future disorders and diagnoses? He only needs to grow up in a family that ignores, or fails to respond enough to, his emotions. In other words, he only needs to grow up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN).

Imagine being a child, and having the intense feelings that all children have. Yet your parents don’t seem to notice. Imagine that your parents seldom ask you what’s bothering you, or why you seem sad, or upset, or angry. Imagine being told, “You’re too sensitive,” when your feelings are hurt. Imagine knowing that your emotions are more than your parents can handle. What would you do?

You would receive the powerful CEN message, “Your feelings don’t matter,” as all CEN children do.

To relieve your parents and yourself, you would push the most deeply personal, biological expression of who you are, your emotions, away. You would build an internal “wall” to keep them away, to protect your family and yourself from them. You would experience your own feelings as harmful, not helpful. They may even become your secret shame.

And so you go forward, into adolescence and adulthood, and out into the world on your own, deprived of the richest, most valuable source of connection, guidance, motivation, and meaning that exists.

The stage is set.

DEPRESSION 

Going through your life, things happen. Joys and heartaches and accomplishments and letdowns, so naturally you continue to have strong feelings. But when you grow up with CEN, your automatic act is to banish them. Off they go, to the other side of the wall you have built to block them. When you have a loss, a disappointment, a hurt or something else that makes you feel, the pile of feelings grows and grows. Since you have inadequate access to your pile of emotions, you can’t work  through them. You can’t use them to learn and grow, as you are meant to do. Eventually, that pile of feelings weighs you down, coloring your world gray.

Read more in A Surprising, Hidden Cause of Depression.

ANXIETY

Like depression, anxiety also arises from your morass of walled-off emotions.  When your naturally arising feelings of fear, concern or alarm are not addressed individually in the moment you have them, they all meld together across the wall, sending you warning signals at times that are not needed, and alarming you excessively at other times. You are anxious.

Read more in All Anxiety is Not the Same

Read more in A Secret Cause and Cure for the Socially Anxious

Read more in Understand and Manage Your Discomfort in Groups

PERSONALITY DISORDERS 

This happens when your childhood messages go beyond “your feelings don’t matter” to “your feelings are bad.” You are not only forced to push your feelings to the other side of the wall, you also learn to despise them. Since your feelings are the most deeply personal expression of who you are, you are indeed learning to hate yourself. Then, depending on the kind of parenting you are receiving, you are set up to become narcissistic, borderline, or another personality disorder.

Read more in The Five Ways Emotional Neglect Causes Borderline Personality Disorder

Read more in Does Childhood Emotional Neglect Cause Avoidant Personality Disorder?

Read more in What No One Tells You About Personality Disorders

Read more in A Surprising Cause of Narcissism

SUICIDAL FEELINGS & THOUGHTS

Growing up in your CEN home, you learned not to ask, and not to tell. Don’t ask for help, don’t tell your problems. No one is there to support or help you. This sets you up to not only have your emotions pooling behind the wall, but to also feel very alone. Without your feelings to motivate, inspire and guide you to make decisions that are true to yourself, you can easily end up feeling lost in a big, dark world. Reaching out for connection and help feels like the wrong thing to do. A lack of joy and participation in life may leave you wondering, “What’s the point of living?”

Read more in Robin Williams and Childhood Emotional Neglect

THE GOOD NEWS

Becoming aware of this root cause allowed me to discover a way to target the roots of depression, anxiety, personality disorders and suicidal thoughts. I discovered that you can break down the wall that blocks your emotions. You can begin to welcome your emotions, old and new. You can learn to identify them, listen to them and learn from them. Like lost family members now returned, you can develop a new relationship with your emotions that enriches and informs your life.

Like a healing salve on a blighted tree root, you can repair yourself from the inside out.

Childhood Emotional Neglect is often invisible when it happens. To find out if you grew up with CEN, Take the Emotional Neglect Questionnaire. It’s free.

Posted by: Dan L. Boen, Ph.D. AT 02:28 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, September 11 2017

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Therapy

Are you considering online therapy? The internet has opened up new avenues for mental health treatment, but there are some pros and cons that you should consider before you decide if e-therapy is right for you. Let’s explore some of the biggest advantages and disadvantages of online therapy.

Advantages of Online Therapy

1. A Good Option for Remote Areas

Online therapy offers access to mental health information to people in rural or remote areas.

Those who live in such areas simply might not have access to any other form of mental health treatment because there are no mental health practices in their geographic area. E-therapy gives these individuals access to treatment that they might not have otherwise.

2. Accessibility for Those With Physical Limitations

Online therapy provides accessibility to individuals who are disabled or housebound. Mobility can be a big issue when it comes to accessing mental health care. Individuals who are unable to leave their home for various reasons, such as physical or mental illness, may find online therapy a useful alternative to traditional psychotherapy settings.

3. Convenience and Affordability

Online therapy is usually fairly affordable and convenient. Since you will be attending therapy sessions online in the comfort of your own home, you can often schedule your therapy sessions for times that are the most convenient for you.

Today, many states require insurance providers to cover online therapy just as they would traditional therapy sessions. Contact your insurance company to learn more about e-therapy treatments will be covered by your policy. Online therapists often offer affordable treatment options for those who are not covered by health insurance.

4. Online Therapy Makes Information More Accessible

The Internet makes mental health information more accessible. People may feel comfortable talking to friends and family about health care issues but may not feel the same discussing mental health concerns.

5. It Can Also Be an Educational Tool

E-therapy can be an important tool to help people learn more about psychological health. Even if you feel like your mental well-being is strong, online therapy can help you become psychologically stronger. You can learn more about health behaviors and coping strategies that will lead to better psychological health.

Disadvantages of Online Therapy

1. Some Insurance Companies Will Not Cover E-Therapy

Insurance coverage for e-therapy can depend upon the state where you live and the insurance that you have. Some insurance policies do not cover online therapy. Paying for psychotherapy services out-of-pocket can add up quickly.

2. Some States Do Not Allow Out-of-State Providers

Many states do not allow out-of-state psychologists to provide services. In such cases, you provider would need to be licensed in both their home state as well as your home state.

In an article for the Monitor on Psychology, Deborah Baker, a legal expert for the American Psychological Association, explained that some states allow psychologists to provide out-of-state mental health services for a limited amount of time.

This usually consists of just 10 to 30 days per year.

However, psychologists can practice online therapy with clients in their own state, which can be a great option for those who live at a distance, are housebound, or who need access to convenient treatment options.

3. Concerns About Confidentiality, Privacy, and Unreliable Technology

Keeping your personal information private is a major concern in psychotherapy, but online treatment adds a layer of complexity. Confidentiality is just as important in online therapy as it is in more traditional forms of treatment delivery. Since information is being transmitted online, it makes privacy leaks and hacks more of a concern.

Technology problems can also make it difficult to access treatment when you really need it.

4. Online Therapists Cannot Respond to Crisis Situations

Since online therapists are distant from the client, it is difficult to respond quickly and effectively when a crisis happens. If a client is experiencing suicidal thoughts or has suffered a personal tragedy, it can be difficult or even impossible for the therapist to provide direct assistance.

5. Online Therapy is Not Appropriate for Those with Serious Psychiatric Illnesses

E-therapy can be useful for a variety of situations, but not when it comes to more serious psychiatric illnesses that require close and direct treatment. It is also not appropriate for people with complicated or detailed problems. The scope of-therapy tends to be limited, so it is rarely effective in more complex situations.

6. Online Therapy Sometimes Lacks Important Information

In many cases, online therapists cannot see facial expressions, vocal signals, or body language. These signals can often be quite telling and give the therapist a clearer picture of your feelings, thoughts, moods, and behaviors. Some delivery methods such as voice-over-Internet technology and video chats can provide a clearer picture of the situation, but they often lack the intimacy and intricacy that real-world interactions possess.

7. Ethical and Legal Concerns Pose Potential Problems

Online therapy eliminates geographic restraints, making the enforcement of legal and ethical codes difficult. Therapists can treat clients from anywhere in the world, and many states have different licensing requirements and treatment guidelines. It is important to understand your therapist's qualifications and experience before you begin the treatment process.

More About Online Therapy

References

DeAngelis, T. (2012). Practice distance therapy, legally and ethically. Monitor on Psychology, 43(3), 52. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/03/virtual.aspx.

Hoffman, J. (2011, Sept. 23). When your therapist is only a click away. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/fashion/therapists-are-seeing-patients-online.html.

Posted by: Dan L. Boen, Ph.D. AT 11:30 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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