Saturday, December 27, 2014

Check Out "The Couch," A New Blog on Mental Health and Addiction

My partner (read: girlfriend) has started a new blog called The Couch. Jami Parrish, LPC, CSAT, CMC, is a therapist and coach whose aim is to help others live fully and authentically. She's also really smart.

She practices in Tucson, AZ.

Here is the beginning of a recent post:

Affective Neurobiology and Sex Addiction


“I hate feeling this way.”  She said,  “…it is like I am wired to feel like this.”

I have heard variations of this sentiment many, many times. (Each time I am reminded, Yes! Yes you are wired to feel like this.)  We as mammals ARE wired to feel like this, but that doesn’t mean it is never ending, that there is no hope.  I then explain the process that occurs deep in our brain and she expresses a sense of relief. “THAT makes sense!” she exclaims.   Understanding the underlying neurobiology to our processes helps us not just understand but regulate our nervous systems and those of our clients.  Dan Siegel’s Interpersonal Neurobiology uses this principal as the basis for conceptualization and treatment (Badenbock, 2008)

According to Jaak Panksepp, PhD, ALL mammals have seven primary affective (emotional) neurocircuits deep in the brain.  They are adaptive, essential to our survival, and part of our basic brain structure. (Panksepp, 2014)  While it is relatively well known now that the emotional center of the brain is in the limbic system, what Panksepp has found is that emotions are much more primitive, and hence much more powerful.  The emotional pathways extend far beyond the limbic system into the upper and middle brain stem. (Panksepp, personal communication, 2014)  These circuits reside in “ancient parts of the brain;” they are unconscious, hence the term primary. (Panksepp, 2014; Panksepp, 2012; Panksepp, 2010a)    “All aspects of mental life can be influenced by our primary-process feelings and the overall affective spectrum of the lower MindBrain is foundational for higher mental health issues” (Panksepp, 2012, p. xii). Emotions do not originate by a cognitive process. They begin in basic biological experiences deep in our brains and the subtleties (determining if we are feeling shame or guilt, anxiety or excitement) are then determined by our life experiences and our interpretations (secondary and tertiary processes, respectively, which I will explain below). The term MindBrain or BrainMind is Panksepp’s acknowledgment that we can not separate mind from brain and body. His theory is controversial in the field of affective neurobiology, but his decades of research supports his proposals.  This model will make sense to those who feel their emotions take over and to those therapists working with trauma and addiction.  It also helps to explain the power of sex addiction and other process addictions.

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