My Therapy Skills
Internal Family System (IFS)
"Parts work" is a form of therapy that focuses on your inner world and the different parts of yourself that make up the whole. IFS helps to heal the wounded parts within. The idea is that you have a true-self that is compassionate, curious, creative, calm, confident, and much more. This centered place is alway there, but gets hidden in the background by other parts of you who try to manage your life and protect your old wounds. IFS uses tools like mindfulness, self-compassion, imagery, and an awareness of thought, emotions, and body. It guides you in building a relationship with your inner world and releasing old burdens. You are in charge of this therapy. It goes as slow or fast as you need. I use IFS in a neurodivergent affirming and trauma-informed lens.
My main approach to therapy is through IFS, with supplemental EMDR. The other approaches listed below are incorporated as needed.
Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a trauma treatment. It's a form of treatment that targets unprocessed memories and emotions. It uses something called alternating bilateral stimulation (abs) to process and desensitize internal traumatic wounds. EMDR can feel intense while in the heat of processing a memory, however it is more gentle than other approaches, as it goes at your pace and does not require you to "tell it all." ABS is using stimulation on one side of the body and then the other to engage your senses and both sides of your brain. This is thought to facilitate rapid processing. ABS can look like holding a device in your hand that buzzes in one hand then the next, moving eyes back and forth, tapping one knee or shoulder, then the next, walking, music/sounds played in one ear then the other, and many others.
Known trauma survivors can particularly benefit from this treatment, however many of us may not think we have been through trauma and still have unresolved and hurtful memories from the past. Neurodivergent people often experience strong emotions and may have strong memories fueling them. EMDR can be helpful to neutralize this distress.
Polyvagal Theory looks at the body and explains why we go into or stay in different emotional states. According to this theory, there are three states our nervous system (body) experiences: Ventral Vagal, Sympathetic, and Dorsal Vagal. In simple turns, this is feeling safe and connected, wanting to fight or run, and shutting down or collapsing
Neurodivergent people and trauma survivors have sensitive nervous systems that send them into a fight or fight or shut down mode. The goal is to build up safety in the body and experience the connected state more often and more fully.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
DBT is a cognitive-behavioral based therapy. In it's true form it consists of weekly individual therapy, weekly skills group, and as needed phone/skills coaching. In this full version of DBT, it is most helpful for people who have self-harming behaviors, struggle with suicide urges and attempts, have intense relationship problems, experience overwhelming and out of control emotions, and have other risky behaviors, like substance use. DBT is a more structured therapy, with clear boundaries and expectations, and a focused intention on reducing life-threatening behaviors and creating a life worth living. You can expect to be in DBT for at least one year.
In a more "informed" approach, you will see the concepts and skills of DBT being brought into your individual therapy. The same structure, expectations, and intensity/duration of treatment will not be present.
For more severe problems, "full" DBT can be a great fit for the neurodivergent or trauma survivor, as intense emotions can cause harmful behaviors. Most often neurodiverse and trauma survivor clients will benefit from the DBT skills alone.
Mindfulness is a technique, or even way of living, that helps with present moment awareness. Mindfulness is intentionally paying attention to the present moment without judging it. This practice brings more awareness, often more peace, and a sense of settling in your mind and body. Anyone can use mindfulness and find benefits. Neurodivergents and trauma survivors can learn to live in the moment, let go of expectations and judgments, and get to know and even release emotions. For all these reasons and more, mindfulness is a great tool for these groups of people.
Self-compassion is like mindfulness, it's for everyone. Many of us live our lives with harsh self-talk and and unrealistic expectations. We're taught to be tough and beat ourselves up whenever we make a mistake or don't do what we've deemed as "best." Self-compassion combats this. It teaches us to talk to and treat ourselves as we would a loved-one or close friend. There's an abundance of research that supports this approach and shows that this kinder interaction with ourselves moves us closer to our goals and the harsh inner critic keeps us stuck. This is an essential skill for neurodivergent people and trauma survivors.