The Brain on Play-Doh

Have you ever thought, “I don’t want to go to therapy and talk about what’s ‘wrong’ with me!”? Yeah, you and the rest of the world. We could say that stigma exists because of the medical model that says you go to docs to get cured of a malady, rather than to improve existing health. By extension, most therapists get lumped in with that medical model and, why not? We want our therapists to understand what is happening to us bio-medically, so if they’re meeting our needs they will be part of that medical model.

As our medical model evolves with modern science however we learn that there is indeed, nothing wrong with us. Everything that is happening in the brain is a reaction to a set of circumstances and sometimes we need to tweak the system – get a tune-up, if you will.

A book I highly recommend by Norman Doidge, MD, The Brain that Changes Itself, will wow you with stories about how the brain continues to change and grow throughout the lifespan, making it possible for the elderly to exercise their memories (not just by playing more scrabble, folks), the compulsive to learn new brain patterns (bye-bye excessive handwashing), and stroke victims to play tennis, ride motorcycles and ski.

Doidge shares how the brain is plastic, meaning that like a blob of play-doh, it is shaped by every experience it has. Every experience. So you don’t escape your experiences (“Oh, that trauma? That didn’t affect me”), but you have endless opportunities to change them!

All intelligent therapists know this and that is why we believe in what we do. We know the brain can keep changing itself as it finds new ways to think, and makes sense of what has already happened. We help people take full advantage of those opportunities to shape your brain into a more efficient machine. Happiness is simply a pleasant side-effect.

When Teen Girls Need Counseling

Teen girls seem to struggle with emotions rising and falling constantly. It’s helpful to remember that their brains are flooded with hormones that overactivate the emotion centers in their noggins. So when she snaps at you like you just ruined her life, don’t worry. She’s just trying to keep from drowning in her own emotions.

Teen girls want to be understood, but more importantly, they want to understand themselves.

If you think the teen girl in your life may actually be struggling more than is normal – or you just want to find out if she falls into the “normal” category – she may benefit from some counseling. Teen years are often when you need to recruit more people to the parenting team.

If you’re not sure that conversation will go over too well, try dropping hints that she check out this website from the Center for Young Women’s Health at Children’s Hospital in Boston.

It’s got loads of good information and this link goes straight to the part that helps teen girls figure out if they might need counseling. She might be intrigued by the notion she could actually understand herself better.

Just remember that when she comes to you saying, “I think I want you to call someone for counseling” you choke back that “It’s OK, honey – it’s just your hormones.” So long as you like your eardrums intact.