All posts by Emily S. Rosen, LCSW

Neuro-What?

What is the most common question asked when meeting someone new?

It’s generally, “What do you do?” bigstock-Brain-profile-made-by-typograp-32324291

At a party the other day, an old friend asked, “so what are you doing these days?”

I began with, “I’m still a therapist in private practice and I also do something called, neurofeedback.”

The old friend asked, “is that like biofeedback?”

A new friend, overhearing the conversation asked, “neurowhat?”

I answered them both. “Yes, neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback. It’s a way to train one’s brain to better deal with life’s stressors. You sit in a comfortable chair in my office with five non-invasive sensors, which are reading the electricity on the surface of your scalp. There is nothing going into your head. You simply sit back and listen to beautiful and relaxing music for 33 minutes. There’s nothing else you have to do. It’s a non-medical way to overcome some of life’s challenges such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, addictions, ADD/ADHD, etc. It’s also great for people who have experience with regular talk therapy and want a change. It’s complementary with talk therapy and it’s often the missing piece for those who have done a lot of therapy and other forms of working on themselves.”

neuroBeing that we were on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I assumed that many people in the room had at some point worked with a talk therapist. My friends were both very interested in learning more about how neurofeedback works and how it would specifically work for them. One mentioned having repetitive thoughts while the other discussed bouts of insomnia. They asked if neurofeedback could help with both of these issues. I told them that it could and that I currently work with clients who are being treated for those exact issues. The clients were responding very well and in a much shorter period than they expected.

What happens is this: The system I use is called, NeurOptimal®. When your brain shows turbulence, the music makes a minute pause. What happens is that the turbulence the system is flagging for the brain is what happens whenever our brain shifts from one state to another. The pause in the music is a wakeup call to the brain to come back to the present and choose whether or not the shift is a good idea. The system flags ANY state shift, not just problematic ones. Our brains prefer to use energy efficiently. Even when the pause in the music is indecipherable, the brain notices it. The decrease in the regular stress creates calmness and increases the ability to return to the present moment.

Eventually there become fewer and fewer episodes of recycling the past and you are allowed to see and respond to what is actually happening in your life rather than react to it out of habit. Also, as the brain gets calmer, the part of the brain that controls relaxation responses becomes more dominant than the part of the brain the guides the “fight or flight response.” Your body then is able to repair itself and become healthier.”

It was exciting for me to share what I know and exciting for my friends to learn about neuro-what? I mean neurofeedback.

If you’re interested in trying neurofeedback, call me at (917) 746-0197 or email me.

Is Neurofeedback Becoming Mainstream?

The Wall Street Journal just published an article entitled,  Brain Training for Anxiety, Depression and Other Mental Conditions-Neurofeedback uses real-time scans to teach patients to try to change how they think.

The article, written by Andrea Petersen, is about the many ways that neurofeedback (NF) can help people cope with a variety of issues, such as depression and anxiety.

The type of NF mentioned in the article is different from the one neurofeedbackI use but it is effective nonetheless. “While fMRI neurofeedback is only a few years old, its principles have been around for decades. Doctors and researchers have long used electroencephalograms (EEG), tests that record electrical activity, to perform a version of neurofeedback. The approach is particularly popular as a treatment for ADHD in children.”

bigstock-Brain-profile-made-by-typograp-32324291The type of NF that I do is auditory based and in a much more inviting setting than the one discussed in the article. When a client meets me for a NF session, they sit in a comfortable chair, listen to beautiful music for 33 minutes and they relax. The computer does all of the work.

To learn more about the type of system I use, click on this link and see how neurofeedback and help you.

Can you will yourself to be less depressed?

Nope. You can’t will yourself to lower your cholesterol either. Both are medical conditions that require assistance in order to get better.

How do you know if you’re depressed? How does it manifest? What causes it?  What can you to feel better?  Take a look at a wonderful cartoon called, What is depression? by Helen M. Farrell. The video answers these questions and more.

If you think you’re depressed or struggling with feelings of sadness, I’d like to help you.  Feel free to contact me here.

Why Does It Matter That Celebrities Adopt From Foster Care?

The access, Sandra Bullock recently adopted a daughter from the foster care system. People Magazine found the this fact so interesting that they put the story and a photo of the actress with her two children, both of whom are adopted, on the front cover. It matters when a celebrity adopts from foster care because it challenges the public’s preconceived ideas about foster care.

I’ve worked in the field of adoption since 1999. Since then I’ve been interested in learning as much as I can about the subject. I know about private adoptions, domestic adoptions and international adoptions but my knowledge of foster care adoption is limited by comparison.

When I was asked by a producer from Good Morning America to be taped for a segment on Ms. Bullock’s adoption, I was a little nervous. I expected myself to be an expert in foster care but I wasn’t- I’m not. So I did as much research as I could to prepare. I looked up statistics, I researched the history of foster care to adoption, I poured through articles about the subject and when Kenny the camera man, showed up at my office, most of what I learned didn’t matter anymore. I wasn’t being asked to be an expert, I was being asked to share my thoughts about (Ms. Bullock’s) adoption and I can always do that. Here’s the segment:


ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

What I do know about foster care is that there are many children waiting for permanent homes. I also know that the average age of a child adopted from foster care system is eight. There is a great deal of information on AdoptiveFamilies.com, which is an invaluable resource for all things adoption related.

What stuck out most when I was researching on their site is that “….many more adults consider this route (foster care to adoption) without taking action, due to skepticism about the process. With a little education, (the writer of the article said that) I’ve seen many of them become, yes, perfect parents to children in need of ‘forever families.'”

If you would like more information about adopting from foster care, here are helpful links: AdoptUsKids and The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS).

A Wonderful Documentary About Eleven Year Olds

Brandon Webber writes in Unworthy.com about a documentary entitled, I Am Eleven. The link is above.

elevenDo you remember what it was like to be eleven years old? I remember that at eleven, I was finally allowed to walk to school by myself. I was still a kid but I was given an exciting and new opportunity to be a big kid. I felt so proud and a little nervous. Would the cars stop for me? Would I be able to get to school on time? Would I get lost?

Even the type of school a child attends is different when s/he turns eleven. It’s no longer elementary school, it’s junior high school. There may be the word, “junior” in front of it, but high school is what type of school I was finally attending when I was able to walk to school by myself. Therefore, I was now mature.

elevenSomething special happens when a kid turns eleven. S/he is given more responsibilities. Some kids have more homework, others may be allowed to stay home alone, without a babysitter. Some prepare dinner for their families, others pick their younger siblings up after school.

One kid I spoke to said that when he turned eleven, he was excited to walk to school by himself but he still wanted his dad to wake him up in the morning and his mom to help him choose an outfit for school. He wasn’t ready to be that grown up.

Another kid said that she liked and didn’t like to be privy to adult conversations. She said that she wanted to know and didn’t want to know, for example, that so and so was getting a divorce or that her friend’s mother acted strangely because she drank too much.

elevenFor some, turning eleven offers a cautious glimpse into the grown up world. Sometimes it feels good to be be a part of adult conversations and other times kids prefer to remain unaware. There are many milestones in a child’s life and there’s something particularly transformative about turning eleven.

What Helps You Heal?

New York City is a strange, wild, exciting, beautiful, dirty, vast, crowded and wonderful place. To live and to work here can be challenging. What makes New York City so special is the people. There are so many of them and each person has his/her own story. When I look at their faces, I see sadness, happiness, joy, anger, rage, excitement, jealousy- every emotion. I often wonder, what helps each person heal. What helps you heal?

How do you heal?Is it listening to or playing music, connecting with a friend, going to a 12 step meeting, hugging, going for a walk, working out, doing yoga, being in nature, getting a massage, creating or seeing art? Is it reading? Is it going to the movies?

 

It’s ok to feel sad or angry or jealous or joyous or content. But sometimes the emotions are too great, too powerful or too intense. Here’s a link to an article that I wrote about the power of music. Music can take away from the intensity of emotions and sometimes even replace it with another.

I received an email this morning from Upworthy.com. How do you heal?Unworthy describes themselves like this: “Upworthy draws massive amounts of attention to things that matter. Every day, our curators scour the web to find compelling, meaningful media — stories, information, videos, graphics, and ideas that reward you deeply for the time you spend with them.

We share the best stuff with the Upworthy community, and they share it on to their friends and families, engaging a total of about 50 million people each month on some of society’s most important topics.”

What inspired me to write a post today is seeing this link in Upworthy. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will tell you that it has to do with New York and the many people who inhabit this great city. Someone chose to listen to music and that act changed her life- saved her life.  Someone helped herself heal.

How have you helped yourself heal? How do you help yourself heal?

Too Busy…. For What?

Too BusyWe live in a world that reveres those who are too busy. We work overtime and accrue vacation days but only use some of them. We have meetings, paperwork, appointments, errands, etc. When do we rest? When can we just be? We are too busy. But for what?

The other day I came down with an inner ear infection. I have no idea how it started but I suddenly became so dizzy that I was unable to keep appointments, run errands or even go into work. I was being forced to be still and even when I was still, the room was spinning. I often wonder when my body makes me slow down, if it does this because I am not consciously taking the time to do it for myself. It’s as if my body (or in this case my inner ear) says, “You don’t want to rest? Ok, I’ll make you!”

too busy for what?Five days in and I’m feeling much better but still not myself. I’m frustrated about not being able to do what I think that I must. At the same time, I’m trying to learn the lesson that I must be still in order to heal and to stay healthy.

Omid Safi is a columnist for On Being. He wrote a fabulous article about busyness called, The Disease of Being Busy.  Here is the link. Mr. Safi is the “Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center. He is the past Chair for the Study of Islam, and the current Chair for Islamic Mysticism Group at the American Academy of Religion. In 2009, he was recognized by the University of North Carolina for mentoring minority students in 2009, and won the Sitterson Teaching Award for Professor of the Year in April of 2010.

After reading Mr. Safi’s article and mine, do you think of yourself as too busy? I’d like to know. Contact me here. If you are too busy, I’d like to know, for what?

What Would You Say?

If you had the chance to tell someone how you feel about them, what would you say?

The people at Soulpancake.com did it again. What would you say?On a city street, they set up a microphone, in what look like a telephone booth and across from it, a listening device that look like huge earphones. Two people at a time participated. One person stood in the booth and the other stood by the earphones. The person in the booth told the person by the earphones how he/she felt about that person. Several couples participated. After one person shared his/her feelings, the two switched places.

The couples that participated were: a mother and daughter, a father and daughter, friends, partners and colleagues. The piece is entitled, “Street Compliments” but I think it should be called, What Would You Say? If you want to watch the 3.5 minute piece, click here. I was very moved and I wonder what it brings up for you.

What would you say?After watching the video, do you feel inspired to share your feelings with someone special?  If you had the opportunity, what would you say?

I’d love to know. Write to me here and tell me.

Is A Walk In The Park Really Going To Help Your Mood?

Yes. Most likely it is going to help. Walking in the park, really can help change your mood for the better.

Whatever you struggle with, parkgoing for a walk in an area that’s filled with trees and foliage, will generally make you feel better. This is particularly true for those of us who live in urban environments. There are studies that compare how the brain responds to a walk in the park and a walk in an industrial area.

One of these studies is featured in a New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds, entitled, “How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain.”Reynolds writes, “Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.”

“Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University, who has been studying the psychological effects of urban living”, conducted the study.

walk“As might have been expected, walking along the highway had not soothed people’s minds. Blood flow to their subgenual prefrontal cortex was still high and their broodiness scores were unchanged.

But the volunteers who had strolled along the quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health, according to their scores on the questionnaire. They were not dwelling on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they had been before the walk.”

“These results ‘strongly suggest that getting out into natural environments” could be an easy and almost immediate way to improve moods for city dwellers, Mr. Bratman said.'”

Why not conduct your own experiment? bigstock-wood-textured-backgrounds-in-a-37191499Notice how you feel when you go for a walk in your city. What do you hear, smell and see? How do the people you pass seem? Do they look harried and anxious or content and focused?

Now, go to a park. Do you smell and feel that the air is a bit cleaner and clearer? How does the grass feel beneath your feet? What is the light like? What sounds do you hear?

I’d like to know. Tell me, how does a walk in the park change your mood?

First Families

Photo by Stefan Ruiz for The New York Times
Photo by Stefan Ruiz for The New York Times

First families are significant. So are current families. I was reminded of this when I read the cover story of a recent New York Times Magazine section. “The Mixed Up Brothers of Bogota,” by Susan Dominus is excellent. Have you read it? If you want to, click on this link. The article was fascinating and made me think about my work in the field of adoption.

Imagine that you have been trying to get pregnant for years. You try everything. You even see a medical specialist to try and determine why you can’t get pregnant. You try in-vitro fertilization. You inject yourself with hormones and spend thousands of dollars to try and get pregnant. But you can’t. You don’t. All that you ever wanted was to be a mom or a dad. You slowly give up on the idea of having a child biologically and you begin to explore adoption.

I have the privilege  of working with people who want to become parents and are trying to decide whether or not adoption works for them. Most people who choose to adopt do not think of it as a first option when starting their families. They usually explore adoption when they are unable to have a child biologically.

Again, imagine trying for years to become pregnant and not being first family
able. Imagine then deciding to adopt because you have so much love to give. You have the resources, the interest, the drive and the determination. You know that you could love a child to whom you did not give birth. You’ve come so far.

Then imagine being told that if you choose to adopt, you will have to at least be open to having a relationship with your child’s first family. Would you feel threatened, angry, resentful, fearful and guilty? Yes, probably. However, your child will feel more complete having the opportunity to at least meet his first family.

It’s so hard to explain why open adoption is important to someone who is unfamiliar with adoption. Over time prospective adoptive parents get it. They may still feel insecure about their child’s first family but sometimes after meeting them, those feelings change and become more positive. Sometimes they don’t. However, a child’s first family is a part of who they are. They have a right to know from where they came.

When I read the Dominus article, the word adoption isn’t mentioned but it was in the back of my mind throughout. Her (true) story isn’t about adoption. Adoption (ideally) is a conscious decision made by a first family. However this is the true story of what it’s like to be raised in a families in which two of four children weren’t born and are raised as fraternal twins.

The piece is about two sets of identical twins were born on the same day, in the same hospital in Colombia, South America. Somehow, the twins were separated in the hospital and eventually raised as fraternal twins. They grew up living very different lives. One set was raised in Bogotá (the largest city in the country of Colombia and the capital), while the other was raised in La Paz (a small, very rural town).

Eventually the brothers meet when they’re adults. familyThen they decide to meet their biological parents but one mother has died. One of the twins will never be able to meet her. He meets other relatives but he feels the loss of never  knowing the woman who gave birth to him and to the life he could have had if he stayed with her. The loss is what connects this piece to the complexity of adoption the loss of one family and the gaining of another.

After reading the article, do you have a different view? I’d love to hear from you. Contact me here and tell me what you think.What are your thoughts about first families?