What is Polyvagal Therapy
Polyvagal therapy developed out of the research of Dr Stephen Porges, whose research provides a picture of the Nervous System and its influence on our functioning. In traditional talk therapy attention is paid to the Neo-cortex (thinking brain) in an attempt to understand and change behaviour. In Polyvagal therapy our goal is to understand how the Nervous System influences our behaviour in its attempt to ensure our survival. This process is controlled outside of our conscious awareness. Each of us has our own unique Nervous System that has developed throughout our lifespan in response to our experiences. While this internal system is designed for survival, it may result in patterns of behaviour that on the surface are unhelpful and don't make sense to our thinking brain.
By understanding ourselves through the lens of the Nervous System we reduce judgments and shame relating to our experience, instead developing greater compassion. As the Nervous System begins to feel safer, thoughts, emotions, sensations and behaviours change automatically. The goal of therapy then is to help your nervous system to feel safe. This therapeutic approach underpins all of the other therapies in Alison’s work with clients.
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What is Internal Family Systems (Parts Therapy)
Parts Therapy views that within each of us resides an internal family of sub-personalities. These parts may include wounded child parts, impulsive parts, manager/protective parts, and that these parts may be in conflict with each other. The goal of therapy is to help these wounded parts heal ands restore balance to our internal system by changing the dynamics of the sub-personalities. This approach is integrated into the other approaches employed by Alison.
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What is EMDR
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables healing from symptoms and emotional distress resulting from difficult life experiences. When a wounding experience happens, painful emotions such as sadness, anger, and fear are evoked. The brain stores the details of the story and all the associated emotions together and we call this a consolidated memory.
Our brain is hard-wired for healing, naturally healing emotional experiences from the day during REM sleep. When we experience events that overwhelm our system, this process may not occur, leaving the experience (story, emotions and sensations) unprocessed. So trauma memories become "frozen in time" and locked in the nervous system, often becoming triggered by reminders. This happens out of conscious awareness, often triggering earlier, painful emotions and sensations that we can't seem to control. It is possible however for a memory to be re-consolidated and stored in a new way. This means that while we will still remember the details of the event we will no longer experience the painful emotions linked to it.
EMDR does this by using the brain's natural healing capacity and employing Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) to replicate the process of Rapid Eye Movement. When a memory has been fully reconsolidated unwanted symptoms and behaviours will decrease along with the painful emotions and sensations, allowing new positive beliefs to feel true.
Unlike most forms of talk therapy, EMDR focuses less on the traumatic event itself and more on the disturbing emotions and symptoms that result from the event. It has been found to produce results in a shorter period of time than other traditional therapies. EMDR Therapy has been found to be helpful in treating trauma, anxiety, panic attacks, addiction, overeating, and depression. Attachment Focussed EMDR has been developed to assist adults who have experienced childhood trauma.
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What is Brainspotting
Brainspotting has many similarities to EMDR and was developed by an EMDR Master Therapist. The main difference appears to be one of flexibility. Brainspotting follows and trusts the brain's innate ability to heal, while EMDR uses protocols in its approach.
Brainspotting accesses the deeper parts of the brain supporting its capacity for innate healing. It is a neurobiological tool that allows us to locate, focus, process and release experiences and symptoms out of reach of the conscious mind.
It works by tapping directly into the parts of the brain regulating emotions and memories. As such, Brainspotting promotes both mental and physical healing by regulating the brain's control of the body. In a Brainspotting session, we work together to identify and then access negative memories of traumatic experiences, so we can then release those memories from the brain. This is done by employing bilateral stimulation and guided the eye movements. In Brainspotting there is a saying "where you look affects how you feel".
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What is Inquiry & Breathwork
Inquiry is an open-ended exploration of your immediate and everyday experience. It does not have a predetermined goal, other than to know the truth of your experience. Breath work supports this unfolding and deepens inquiry, with the goals of therapy to develop increased awareness of our resistances and attachment to our perceived sense of self.