Month: April 2017

Harry Potter Psychotherapy: Fear and Boggarts

*I do not own Harry Potter, therefore, mention of characters/concepts are solely intended for educational and therapeutic gain.*


What is a boggart and how does it relate to fear?

Boggarts first appear in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. They are described as magical creatures that take the shape of a person’s worst fear. Harry and his classmates were asked to face a boggart and practice turning their worst fear into something non-threatening and silly, thus confusing the boggart. Once the boggart becomes confused, it can be eliminated by using the incantation, “riddikulus”.

This post focuses on boggarts because everyone has some type of fear. Intensity of fear can vary from person to person, however, common fears include, death, pain, loss, animals, insects, natural disasters, blood, needles, being a victim of a crime, war, abandonment, failure, illness/injuries, judgment or ridicule, social interaction, small spaces, and heights. Some individuals have phobias, intense irrational fears that are maintained through avoidance, consequently, limiting a person’s ability to function.

How does therapy work when treating fears or phobias?

Fear is destructive when it has the power to limit your actions. While it is a necessary human response to serve as a warning detector for protecting the species, individuals often allow their fear response to take control in debilitating and unhelpful ways. Therefore, J.K. Rowling’s idea to defeat fear through mental exercises rendering the fear non-threatening and silly serves as a useful tool.

For “low to moderate intensity” fears:

  1. Visualize in your mind that you are in Professor Lupin’s Defense Against the Dark Arts Class. It is now your turn to face the boggart in the wardrobe. You are the last in line to do the exercise.
  2. What does the boggart turn into as you face it?
  3. What details do you notice about the boggart?
  4. Does it seem like a fear that is likely to occur?
  5. Professor Lupin reminds you to imagine turning your fear into something silly or non-threatening.
  6. You remember to take some deep breaths to clear your head and regain control of your body.
  7. You imagine your deepest fear transforming into something so outlandish and funny that it becomes non-threatening, possibly even cute.
  8. You continue to imagine possibilities until your mind is satisfied with one.
  9. Visualize the boggart becoming confused in it’s new form.
  10. Then verbally murmur the incantation, “riddikulus!”
  11. The boggart makes a cracking noise and disappears.
  12. Reflect on how it felt to defeat your fear.

For “moderate to severe intensity” fears:

  1. Seek out help from a licensed professional mental health provider.
  2. Systematic Desensitization is a treatment method used to break up your fear into little steps from least anxiety provoking to most anxiety provoking. Make a list from one to ten starting with a step related to the specific fear that doesn’t bother you much and moving to the worst possible step of facing your fear you can imagine.
  3. Slowly work your way through the steps by utilizing deep breathing AND going to your mental “happy place” as you confront or imagine doing each step. You can use the patronus charm memory from the previous HP therapy post, or you can find a memory of a peaceful place. Others prefer to utilize guided imagery from the therapeutic resources page to slowly desensitize yourself to each fear step.

Example of fear hierarchy steps as follows: Fear of Dragons

  1. On a piece of paper, draw a small non-detailed dragon that looks cartoon-like.
  2. Add details to the dragon. Make it colorful and give it a facial expression. Perhaps draw fire breath.
  3. Go to a store that has stuffed animal dragons or toys for children. Look at them and if it isn’t too anxiety provoking, hold or play with the toy.
  4. Write a description of a dragon with details about how it looks, smells, sounds, moves, etc. What are the mannerisms? Describe a scenario with a dragon encounter. (You can decide if you want to include yourself in the encounter).
  5. Look at pictures of realistic looking dragons online. (If your fear is something real, then look at the actual picture).
  6. Visit the zoo or pet store and look at animals that look similar to dragons (lizards). You would not actually be looking at a real dragon at this step if it was something that really exists.
  7. Watch a video of a dragon that is animated or designed to be child-friendly. (Perhaps watch Pete’s Dragon)
  8. Watch a video of a dragon that is intended to look scary and threatening. (Perhaps a dragon like Smaug in The Hobbit movies).
  9. (If dragon’s were real) Visit a dragon in person. Practice increasing time intervals around the dragon until you are comfortable.
  10. Touch the dragon safely. Work your way up to petting it and observing the feeling of the scales. Perhaps even go for a ride on the dragon.

Remember that you would be pairing each step with your desensitization tool (deep breathing AND visualizing “happy/peaceful place”, happy memory, or utilizing guided imagery videos). If you prefer to keep the Harry Potter theme, you can even imagine turning your fear in each step into something silly or non-threatening. (Such as turning your dragon drawing from step two into a fuzzy pink bird with googly eyes). You would then say “riddikulus” to yourself and imagine the dragon make a cracking sound and disappear.


Please note that these therapy exercises do not qualify as stand-alone treatments and it is recommended that you seek help from a licensed professional mental health provider.

Contact me with questions or to schedule an appointment:

E-Mail: jmorrismhc@gmail.com

Voicemail: (248) 923-1408

Harry Potter: Depression- Using a Patronus Charm

*I do not own Harry Potter, therefore, mention of characters/concepts are solely intended for educational and therapeutic gain.*


J.K. Rowling has been open about her struggle with Major Depression, describing emptiness and a lack of hope. Many have likened her description of dementors to depression, creatures who suck the life and happiness out of anyone nearby. They are employed by the ministry of magic to deliver a “dementor’s kiss” to criminals sentenced to a fate worse than death. A dementor’s kiss involves having one’s soul sucked out, leaving behind a shell of a body to wander the earth for eternity. Dementors have been described with black cloaks, scabbed skin, skeletal bodies, and rancid, rattling breath. They feed off of emotion, however, are unable to withstand happiness. Dementors cause individuals to feel as if they will never be happy again and all warmth is extinguished from the body. Chocolate is used in the Harry Potter series to help with the after-effects of a dementor encounter, described to return warmth and feeling back to the body. In the muggle world, science often debates the potential relationship between chocolate and depression (whether it helps, hurts, or is simply a marker as a comfort food).

In the DSM-V, Depression occurs in episodes containing 5 or more of the following symptoms within at least a 2 week period of time: Anhedonia/lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed, hypersomnia/insomnia, chronic fatigue, frequent thoughts about death or dying, increased or decreased appetite, social isolation, frequent tearfulness, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or helplessness, difficulty concentrating, body feels slowed down or agitated, and feeling sad/empty.

In the books, dementors have been demonstrated to affect some more than others. In particular, Harry experienced true horrors in his past, therefore, he was affected strongly by dementors, often fainting while hearing the voice of his screaming mother upon her death. Due to his heightened susceptibility, Harry works with Remus Lupin to learn how to repel dementors (actually a boggart) using the patronus charm. A patronus charm is a wisp of light created by thinking of a very strong, extraordinarily happy memory, while saying the incantation: “Expecto Patronum”. This charm has been described as very advanced and difficult to produce, however, when done properly, takes the form of an animal or creature. If you are unsure what your patronus form would be, go on pottermore.com to take the patronus quiz.

The idea of using a patronus charm for combating depression serves to remind and provide perspective in contrast to depression’s strangling grasp. While it cannot entirely alleviate a depressive episode, it encourages positive memories to balance out the negative thoughts invoked by depression. Comparing symptoms of depression to characteristics of dementors paints a relatable picture for readers of Harry Potter. If you or someone you know identifies with some of the aforementioned symptoms, the following exercise could be helpful for managing thoughts and mood:

  1. Identify your current negative thoughts.
    1. Write them down on some paper or in a journal.
    2. Imagine your negative thoughts transforming into dementors with black cloaks, scabbed hands, and rancid, rattling breath.
    3. Take a moment to reflect on the emotions that the dementors impose.
  2. Transitioning to the next stage will be difficult, just like it was for Harry when he resisted collapsing each time: Now think of a few strong, positive, happy, loving, or peaceful memories. (Don’t let yourself minimize them!)
    1. Are some memories stronger than others?
    2. Write down as many as you can.
  3. What emotions come up when you conjure those memories?
    1. Write them down
  4. Are there any details of your memory that you noticed this time around?
    1. What did you see and experience?
    2. Imagine yourself reliving your special memory.
  5. Think of animals/creatures you identify with as a representation of you.
    1. Why did you think of them?
    2. What characteristics do you share?
    3. Picture the shape and appearance of your patronus.
    4. How does it move?
    5. How do you feel next to your patronus?
  6. Now re-experience your positive memory again and say (or think), “Expecto Patronum”.
    1. Allow yourself to feel the bliss and joy that lives in your memory.
    2. Imagine your patronus trampling the dementors, banishing them far away.
    3. Visualize your negative thoughts breaking apart from the dementors as they flee. Your newly detached thoughts disintegrate along with your depression.
    4. Write down how you feel after completing this exercise.
    5. How would your life be without those negative thoughts?

Please note that these therapy exercises do not qualify as stand-alone treatments and it is recommended that you seek help from a licensed professional mental health provider.

Thank you for reading this Harry Potter psychotherapy exercise. For personalized professional support, please contact me to schedule an appointment at:

E-mail: jmorrismhc@gmail.com

Voicemail: 248-923-1408.

Anxiety or Stress?

What is the difference between stress and anxiety?

Those terms are often used interchangeably, however, they do refer to different concepts. Stress is an adrenaline response to specific situations (which can lead to various health problems, such as increased blood pressure). Anxiety is often a result of stress when fear and apprehension become long-standing, however, anxiety does not always require a root cause to be triggered. Anxiety is chronic, and persists for at least 6 months. Stress tends to dissipate on its own when the negative stimuli is resolved or removed, whereas, anxiety persists and can be difficult to treat. Anxiety is often co-occurring with depression, and I often treat them together. If you identify with the description of anxiety, it is time to reach out for help so you can experience more enjoyment from life.

Various Anxiety Disorders Include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Specific Phobias
  • Social Phobia
  • Others- please contact with questions

Contact Me

Jennifer Morris, M.A. LLPC

E-Mail: jmorrismhc@gmail.com

Voicemail: (248)923-1408

Depression

What is depression?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-V), Depression occurs in episodes containing 5 or more of the following symptoms within at least a 2 week period of time:

  • Anhedonia/lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Hypersomnia/Insomnia
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Social Isolation
  • Frequent thoughts about death or dying
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or helplessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent Tearfulness
  • Body feels slowed down or agitated
  • Feeling sad/empty

Although symptoms are variable, if you identify with multiple items on the list, you may want to consider reaching out for professional counseling. You don’t have to force yourself to suffer through every day because depression can be treated. My psychotherapy approach focuses on negative thought patterns, interpersonal functioning, perceived insecurities, and experiences that have shaped current belief systems. I recognize that it is not always comfortable opening up to a stranger, however, I work with my clients to ensure their preferred pace and comfort level.

For some introductory tips, check out my Therapeutic Resources page: http://jennifermorrismentalhealthcounseling.com/therapeutic-resources/

Also, be sure to journal about your journey in emotional processing. There is power in putting pen to paper and letting your ideas flow. If writing is not your favorite, then you can try an alternative creative art form, whether it include coloring pages, painting, drawing, design, or crafting (anything that feels personally expressive).

For information on the effectiveness of psychotherapy, please visit: http://www.apa.org/about/policy/resolution-psychotherapy.aspx

What to Expect from Counseling?

If you are reading this, you must already have some preconceived notions about the potential benefits of mental health counseling. You might be thinking that you’re interested but aren’t sure what comes next?

Read the following article on What to Know Before Starting Talk Therapy: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/two-takes-depression/201301/what-expect-in-psychotherapy

To summarize:

  • Counseling can’t be successful unless if you are personally invested in attending.
  • Counseling doesn’t fix people, it teaches/guides people to help themselves.
  • Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. “Aha moments” and mind-blowing realizations are great, however, not every session will feel that way. Counseling is hard work and it will come with peaks and valleys just like many other challenges.
  • Manage your expectations for counseling. We will work together to set realistic and attainable goals.
  • The therapist-client relationship is a unique bond but it is not like friendship. The therapeutic alliance is successful as a result of the clinical objectivity and unbiased feedback.
  • Successful counseling requires that you are comfortable with your therapist. It can sometimes feel uncomfortable at the start when first meeting and sharing your story, however, we work through that process together and maintain open dialogue in order to foster a comfortable therapeutic environment.

What comes next?

Contact me to schedule an intake appointment. We will discuss payment options and potential health insurance benefits. Once we have scheduled an appointment, you will meet with me for a 50 minute session to fill out required paperwork and answer necessary questions for coordination of care and treatment planning.


jmorrismhc@gmail.com

248-923-1408

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