By Deborah Bostock-Kelley
Online Counseling Sessions
With the COVID-19 outbreak, anxiety is a normal reaction. For many of us, the coronavirus has made for an uncertain future. Apprehension is a normal reaction to this uncertainty – even for those who rarely feel anxious. If you already experience a lot of anxiety, you may find your’s worsening. It’s ok if you need help managing this.
Therapist Dr. Paula Nelson recommends you create a schedule for the day and week to create a sense of normalcy during this unprecedented time.
“Get out of your pj’s, take a shower, enjoy a morning cup of coffee, exercise – do the things you’d typically do to gain a sense of control. We all feel powerless because we don’t know when this is going to end. Creating a schedule gives you a sense of control over your day.”
How can you tell that you might benefit from extra help and support? Here are some signs:
- You can’t think about anything other than the coronavirus or illness
- Your worry interferes with your functioning in your daily life – such as having a hard time focusing on work – turning to alcohol to reduce your anxiety
- You isolate yourself from others when it’s not necessary
- You feel hopeless or angry about the situation
- You have a hard time eating or sleeping well
- You experience physical symptoms such as headache or stomach ache
Dr. Paula has been offering online counseling since the 1990s. Well before the current pandemic and the popularity of online counseling, Dr. Paula realized its benefits when an in-person patient was in a disabling car accident. The patient had PTSD from the accident that left her in a wheelchair. Dr. Paula was able to treat her via online sessions, where she was able to see and hear Dr. Paula as if she was in her actual office.
Since that time, Dr. Paula has trained both students of counseling and other counselors on how to do online counseling sessions. All that is required is a laptop and webcam or smartphone to have meetings with her online.
The benefits of online counseling are many:
- Safety – you can see Dr. Paula from the security and privacy of your own home or even your car
- Convenient – you can see Dr. Paula during your lunch hour – no travel time is involved
- Removes Barriers – if you are unable to travel – located in a rural area with few services available – disabled – ill – you can still come to counseling
- Supplemental services – Dr. Paula’s counseling site also offers you the ability to journal and email
- Privacy – Dr. Paula’s counseling site is HIPAA secure – your journal and email, and your session is encrypted. No one can see or break into your session. A cyber footprint doesn’t exist
Telephone Counseling Sessions
If you don’t have the technology to meet online, Dr. Nelson also offers phone sessions. Dr. Paula notes that a study conducted by the University of Cambridge found that some therapies are just as effective over the phone as meeting face-to-face.
“Some clients find that they are more willing to take risks and share a bit more over the phone than they do if they are meeting with someone face-to-face,” she said. “In cases where there is a history of childhood trauma and abuse, people often feel ashamed to share these past incidents, and the safety of the phone eases this shame and stigma. People feel freer to share their stories over the phone.”
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Do you ever feel worthless even though you know you are a worthwhile person? Do you feel like you’re not good enough even though you might have awards, promotions, and degrees that prove that you are good enough? Do you feel unsafe? Do you seem to overreact to situations? Do you feel alone and abandoned for no apparent reason? These are the types of questions and concerns Dr. Paula Nelson addresses in her private counseling practice. One of the therapies Dr. Paula utilizes to help her clients to heal old wounds that continue to interfere with their happiness today is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.
EMDR was initially developed and used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but is now also successfully used to treat anxiety, phobias, OCD, grief, addictions, and other types of traumas. Adverse life experiences are referred to as “small t’s.”
“Though you may not have been blown up in a minefield or molested, a memory of something that was said or that happened to you becomes locked in the brain. It seems to have a similar effect to that of a traumatic experience.”
Dr. Paula shares her own story of being forgotten to be picked up by her mother when she was in kindergarten. Her message to herself became “I am abandoned.” Throughout her life, when a boyfriend or a girlfriend or anyone, for that matter, seemed to be dismissive of her, this old memory was triggered and caused her to feel emotional pain.
After being treated with EMDR, this no longer had that impact on her.
“Disturbing events are stored in an isolated memory network. This prevents new learning from taking place. The old material keeps getting triggered over and over again. In another part of your brain is all of the information needed to resolve this. It’s just prevented from linking up to the old stuff. Once we start processing with EMDR, the two networks can link up. New information can come to mind and resolve old problems.”
Dr. Paula has over 25 years of experience as a psychotherapist and is certified in EMDR. She is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Master Certiﬁed Addiction Professional, Certified Gottman Marriage Counselor, and a Certiﬁed Clinical Trauma Professional. It is this combination of education and experience that enables Dr. Paula to address a variety of problems with EMDR.
Why use EMDR?
“It is super fast,” says Dr. Paula. “What would normally take a couple of years to accomplish with traditional talk therapy, I can achieve in months. I like seeing my clients make progress. My job isn’t to keep my clients in treatment with me. My job and my joy come from seeing my clients achieve their goals, experience fewer symptoms that interfere with their life, let go of the past, and create new and healthy lives and relationships.”
What does an EMDR session look like?
Dr. Paula says, “I start by taking your history. We’ll talk about the process of EMDR and what to expect. Together we’ll develop a treatment plan aimed at achieving your particular goals. We’ll identify possible targets for EMDR processing. A target is a distressing memory and includes current situations that cause you to have emotional distress. We’ll also develop stress reduction techniques that you can use during and in-between our sessions.
Dr. Paula relates, “We will start by asking you to focus on a target. Then I will ask you to follow my fingers with your eyes. After we do that for a while, we will stop and talk about anything that comes up. You won’t be able to hold the picture in focus while eye movements are going on, so there’s no need to try. When we talk, you just need to give me feedback on what is happening. Sometimes things will change, and sometimes they won’t. There are no “supposed to’s” in this process. That’s the beauty of EMDR. Your brain does the work. You can’t do this wrong! We will do repetitions of the eye movements and the checking in. Your emotional pain associated with the target will reduce, and eventually, you will no longer be triggered by current-day situations.”
Dr. Paula notes that if a client is unable to use eye movements, tones, or taps can be substituted. She has worked with clients who have seizure disorders by utilizing tones and hand buzzers. All of these techniques induce the bilateral brain stimulation necessary to link up the old and new memory networks and reduce distress.
Dr. Paula also offers EMDR online. She has software that allows you to engage in the EMDR processing by watching the dots go across your screen. All you need is your laptop and webcam and an appointment with Dr. Paula. She will provide EMDR software access and guidance.
There are less than 400 certified Gottman marriage and couple’s counselors in the world! Dr. Paula Nelson is one of those certified counselors. Drs. John and Julie Gottman have spent 40 years researching what makes a relationship work. Because all of the Gottman’s exercises and principles are based on research, they offer concrete support and help for couples who want to build stronger, happier healthier relationships.
“They have developed principles and activities that help couples to become best friends again,” notes Dr. Paula. “The Gottmans have quite a number of You Tubes available so you can learn about their philosophy on what makes a relationship work and see if it seems like a fit for you.”
Couples who come to Dr. Paula complete the Gottman Relationship Checkup. This is an online questionnaire developed by Dr. John Gottman. The report from the assessment helps Dr. Paula determine the areas where the couples need to focus.
“It is like having your lab work done before seeing your doctor. It gives us concrete, statistical results for where we need to focus our work,” says Dr. Paula.
She goes on to explain that this type of research-driven counseling is beneﬁcial in the long-run to couples.
“This helps couples to really focus on creating the relationship they wish for in a shorter amount of time.”
Dr. Paula suggests that couples in lockdown together have an escape from each other, doing something they enjoy doing on their own.
“There needs to be a balance of being together and being apart to maintain self-care. If you’re glued to the hip, even in the best of circumstances, you will get on each other’s nerves. It’s so important to maintain self-care.”
In this ambiguous situation, the pulse increases, and the oxygen levels drop in the brain, causing the fight or flight response. Many petty arguments are brought on directly by the stress of too-much togetherness of COVID-19.
“The Gottmans recommend when couples start having conflicts, they have a time-out ritual. They give each other the time-out sign. The ritual involves getting away from each other for about a half-hour because it takes 30 minutes for your pulse to come back down and your oxygen levels to increase. When you’re oxygen levels decrease is when you go into the attack or retreat mode. During that half-hour, you can’t ruminate on the argument and need to distract yourself.”
Whether reading, online shopping, exercise, taking a walk, and getting some air, gaming, coloring, etc., having alone time can help reduce disagreements. After thirty minutes, the couple comes back together, no longer in fight or flight mode.
“It’s essential for people to look for what their partner is doing right. The stress of COVID-19 makes us hypervigilant and critical. Express appreciation for what he or she is doing right. It’s really easy to be critical. It’s more challenging to acknowledge what your partner is doing right rather than wrong.”
Dr. Paula also has years of experience helping people who suffer from anxiety and depression. If you prefer talk therapy, Dr. Paula has created a safe, healing environment in which you can tell your story, develop insight into your patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving, do some reality checking, and ﬁnd workable solutions to your problems.
Dr. Paula provides a safe and non-judgmental space for you. If you’re looking for a caring professional to help you or your loved ones through a challenging time, reach out to Dr. Paula. She’ll join you on your journey to create the life that you want.
Though Dr. Paula does not take insurance, she will supply you with the necessary receipts to submit to your insurance carrier as an out-of-network counselor. Dr. Paula Nelson’s office is located at 1968 Bayshore Blvd. Suite #109 in Dunedin. For more information or to make a virtual appointment, call 813-951-8889, email email@example.com or visit www.drpaulanelson.com.