Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When More is Not Better

For the past two decades, science has been uncovering some important features of traumatized patients. There is mounting evidence that traumatized individuals vary widely in their ability to adapt to trauma, in part due to underlying physical factors. For instance, some see the presence of chronic emotional trauma as having the potential to cause permanent physical damage in the hippocampus (Sapolsky, in Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers (1994). This might mean that some individuals who have gone through multiple traumas or what in the DSM V will likely come to be called Disorders of Extreme Stress NOS, because of a changed hippocampus, will have diminished abilities to perceive or recover from subsequent stressors.

Other studies have shown that certain traumatized populations (traumatized women and combat veterans) share similar characteristics of neurological dysregulation. Susan Johnson noted (Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Trauma Survivors, 2002) that one implication is that such individuals may be unable to use their emotions as an appropriate danger signal to prompt adaptive action. The chronic activation in their brain systems seems to result in overreactions to non-emergencies and freezing responses in the presence of real danger.

All the above ought to be enough to caution the use of any kind of therapy that exposes the client to more of the emotional impact of their trauma and instead turn our attention to therapies that emphasize the client's ability to build an emotionally neutral or regulated response to what has happened, as well as to foster an adaptive recognition and response to new dangers. Helping the client stay emotionally connected in the here and now, rather than being re-traumatized by the tendency to focus on the there and then, in other words, seems key.

One therapy that goes about it in precisely this way is Rapid Resolution Therapy, as developed by Jon Connelly. The therapist uses a strong interpersonal connection built from the first moments of the session and collaboratively builds a model for calm, centered, and enlightened functioning with the client. This is reinforced artfully in a variety of ways, such that when client and clinician finally deal with the trauma story, the most important thing going on in the room is the ongoing present connection between them. Clients find, to their amazement, that their stories can be told, neither in a dissociated way nor an overreactive way, but calmly and straightforwardly, as so much historical data about an episode in their lives, and in the same tone as one might read out of an outdated phone book. This produces an emotional freedom occurring from what seems like a shift in the brain's processing mechanism. Outcome studies are currently underway with regard to Rapid Resolution Therapy and more light will no doubt be shed on this interesting method which works quickly as well as painlessly for clients.

Mark A. Chidley, LMHC, Certified Rapid Resolution Therapist, CAP, a fully licensed mental health counselor and certified addictions professional, offers counseling services at his office Kelly San Carlos Executive Center in Fort Myers, Florida.He has been in private practice since 1997. He holds certifications in Rapid Trauma Resolution (2010), Imago Relationship therapy (2001), and now specializes in the treatment of couples as well as individual trauma recovery and anxiety issues. He brings rich experience from a combined 26 years of hospital work and mental health counseling.

Monday, February 27, 2012

How RRT Helped Clear, Resolve and Transform 3 of My Clients!

I enjoyed the training thoroughly. Truly, I wasn't positive I'd be able to verbalize it in a way my primary population would understand--I work with 95 percent children and 100 percent special needs). However, even though I'm new and "green" with this technique. So far, so good!

First, I was working with a legally blind 30-plus year old male who had a long history of depression, anxiety and panic attacks. He recently married and is having difficulty adjusting and does not feel confident in his new role. The end result with RRT brought him to tears when he reported feeling happy and positive. He said, "This is crazy, I haven't felt this peace in such a long time!”

Second, I worked with a Gifted and Talented/ Emotionally Disturbed, 11-year old who was diagnosed with School Phobia. He was taking state exams the following week and was worsening the closer date came. The parents waited in lobby. After our session, they said, "Wow! Have we've missed that smile!” They looked puzzled but didn't question the session.

Third, I had an 18-year-old female client who was diagnosed with Noonan Syndrome, Moderate Mental Retardation, low self-esteem and is easily offended (perseverating thought: "thinks people think she's stupid."). Her parent, whom is a Pediatrician, was present entire session. She was amazed with the process and the immediate results. She added, "Even if it wears off at the end of the's worth it! She hasn't stop talking about this topic ever."

Yeah, I'm enjoying witnessing and being a part of the transformation. I'm quite surprised with the lightheartedness and happiness the clients leave with. I'm no different than the parent curious how long the effects will last. Either way, they are better off than before session.

I do plan on attending the next training. I'll register soon!

Thanks for the follow-up, Jon!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rapid Resolution Therapy and The Brain

Researchers in the areas of neuroscience and trauma such as Bessel van der Kolk, MD, and Dan Siegel, MD, have made recent discoveries that back up the success of Rapid Resolution Therapy. In RRT, the practice of keeping clients “emotionally present” as they describe a traumatic event keeps their brains from activating the fight-or-flight response.

The specific part of the brain that normally triggers this response is the amygdala, which processes emotional reactions and stores some memories. A single, highly emotional event can be well-remembered because it triggers the amygdala. When the amygdala senses danger, the brain inhibits the hippocampus and parts of the pre-frontal cortex from tampering emotional responses and integrating memory into the conscious part of the brain. As a result, the memory stays in the deeper, unconscious part of the brain. However, triggers such as smells, sounds, or images related to the memory can cause an emotional response similar to that of the original trauma.

The process of RRT helps the client keep the hippocampus and pre-frontal cortex active. Rather than re-living the emotional trauma of an event as they describe it, the client revisits the event while emotionally responding to the present situation. An RRT therapist will guide the patient through the process. By disassociating the emotions from the memory, the process seems to help the brain realize that the trauma is over.

The client can move into the present and leave the trauma behind.

Article courtesy of Patricia Duggan who has a Masters in Psychology and has been practicing for 11 years. She maintains the site Psychology Degree. She writes about various subjects within the psychology field.

Monday, February 20, 2012

One RRT Session Completely Cleared Her 35 Years of Guilt and Shame


I got a new client today whose son-in-law was just arrested for a child molestation charge from years before he became involved with her daughter and grand-daughters. She does not think her grandchildren were molested by him because there are no behavioral indicators, and there is no present threat because he was extradited to another state.

She came to me because she was experiencing severe emotional and physiological symptoms that were affecting her work and personal life. She told me that she gave her father oral sex from childhood to the age of 25. She thought she was preventing her little sister from also being molested.

After one, 50-minute session she walked out of my office cleared of guilt and shame and feeling dirty. She said, "I am a good person." She has not thought or felt that for 35 or more years.

I am not sure why I am still amazed after three years of using RRT and RTR, because it ALWAYS works!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me help others!"


Randy M. Cisne, LMHC, CHT
Peace River Counseling

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Depression + Rapid Resolution Therapy

Rapid Resolution Therapy takes a rather unique view of Depression. Unique, I think, because it actually leads the therapist into unique and innovative ways of seeing the effect we want to have and using language to help our clients up and out of the bogs they get in.

Jon Connelly teaches that emotion is really effort. Nature has arranged it so that any negative emotion is the primitive brainʼs tool to get the animal to take an action to get something in the world to stop. Think of a mother bear defending her young or a rabbit fleeing from a wolf. Mind is using emotion to activate their whole system to take an action to affect a situation, in rabbitʼs case to run and in mother bearʼs case, to attack. This is a radically different way to see it than attributing the cause of emotion to the external thing. Mind is not pushing big negative buttons just out of boredom or to put the animal in a bad mood. Pushing the button always has a practical and survival- oriented purpose--to make the animal act to change a situation because thatʼs good for its bloodline.

But with humans, this older part of the brain has to constantly cope with a data flow about stuff that isnʼt in existence. Past things that are no longer happening and future things that we can forecast or imagine. So with us a threatening picture can come up on the screen and the older part of our brain doesnʼt take into account it really isnʼt in existence. Mind pushes negative emotion button in a rather indiscriminate and inaccurate way. Our negative emotions in these cases are all about effort to change that situation, no matter how off-target to what is actually going on.

But hereʼs where it gets interesting. When you put effort into something that doesnʼt respond to your effort, you have done what is ideal to prepare the ground for depression. Jon explains this in terms of the old isometric exercises that TV workout shows used to feature. Nobody does these anymore. Why? Because they are depressing! Imagine going to a gym five days a week and trying to heave a bar bolted to the floor. The intellectual part of our mind wouldnʼt keep this up more than a minute or two. But the older part of the brain, with itʼs eternal now orientation, keeps trying and trying. Pouring effort into something that wonʼt respond to your effort breeds the sense of powerlessness and hopelessness that is the perfect witchesʼ brew for a depression. If someone really puts their all into this, their whole heart, telling themselves it is now a need like air and food and that their lifeʼs happiness rides on producing an outcome, even though itʼs patently impossible, you have amplified the possibility of creating a real whopper of a depression at least tenfold. Think about people you know whoʼve spent a substantial part of their lives trying to get someone or something else to change, despite ample evidence to the contrary. They are not brimming over with vim and verve. Iʼll tell you itʼs not the intellectual part of the brain thatʼs at the wheel, but the older part, attempting to pour effort and then more effort into something or someone who doesnʼt respond.

Some of Connellyʼs newest thinking on this incorporates rage. Suppose someone got violated and her brain is flashing the threat signal to do something to take an action about a situation thatʼs no longer in existence. Her mind is using negative emotion to get her to stop a situation. Could be anger, could be fear. So far you have the first part of the problem. Now add to that the human propensity to react with anger when something is perceived as wrong. Then secondarily something else happens-- anger kicks in because it shouldnʼt have happened in the first place. The moment humans tell themselves something “shouldnʼt have” happened, anger flashes as if to an actual threat happening here and now. Her mind is screaming at her to get it to stop, only she canʼt do anything about it, it happened 15 years ago. She gets the feedback signal that she hasnʼt yet got it stopped so she tries harder. Both vectors are working on her. Or to say it differently, with emotion added to the scene about shouldnʼt have, we have a second vector of threat. Anger in nature means threat, so the secondary anger from “shouldnʼt have” piggybacks on and feeds the original threat. As she gets angrier she gets more threatened which gets her angrier, which begets more threat, and so on and so on. This loop has her pouring in emotional effort from deep reserves to get something to stop or turn out differently and itʼs impossibility always leads her back to the same place. This is a desperate place to be and the only word for it is rage.

What happens next is profound. All that rage is hot, like steam in a pipe. Think about a pipe with superheated steam running through it, so hot the pipe itself is glowing red. Now the participant has to be shielded from an element of her own system. Itʼs just too hot to be tolerated. She canʼt get her hands on it to do anything with it and she cannot stay in close contact with it for very long. So her mind wraps the pipe in a thick asbestos batting. That batting is depression. Thicker and deeper than usual to keep it all under wraps. From outside, the anger can now appear quite cool, disguised, hidden far below the surface. But from inside, the batting is poisoning her with the accumulating crud of threat-- a muffled protest, an abiding bitterness, hatred, jadedness, giving way to a detachment or numbness that spiders out through more and more of the personality. There can be a near total withdrawal from life and things that might bump or wake up all the rage. Weʼve all known people wrapped tight like this.

Just putting these concepts out there is part of Connellyʼs genius. His seemingly limitless fund of metaphors and perspectives gives us more and more ways to language things. We see more clearly what to clear and how to work with people to have the effect we intend for them. I am now thinking and seeing in terms of annihilating lifeʼs should or shouldnʼt haveʼs or any other distorted meaning that has her trapped. Thereʼs plenty in life we could think of as “wrong” but how much rage do we want to swallow? Iʼm thinking lifeʼs knocks are tough enough without all the distortion. I want to blow away rage by shifting mind into done and finished with that. Iʼm seeing her free from her thick casing, graceful, content, at peace, totally in touch with what is beneficial and possible for her now.

Mark A. Chidley, LMHC, Certified Rapid Resolution Therapist, CAP, a fully licensed mental health counselor and certified addictions professional, offers counseling services at his office Kelly San Carlos Executive Center in Fort Myers, Florida.He has been in private practice since 1997. He holds certifications in Rapid Trauma Resolution (2010), Imago Relationship therapy (2001), and now specializes in the treatment of couples as well as individual trauma recovery and anxiety issues. He brings rich experience from a combined 26 years of hospital work and mental health counseling.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

“Thank You Jon For All That I Have Experienced and Learned”

Dear Dr. Connelly

I am writing to thank you for all that I have experienced and learned during the Level I and Level II trainings over the past month or so. Prior to and during my training as a child clinical psychologist and pediatric neuropsychologist at the University of Minnesota, I studied human neuroscience. The metaphor you have created for the working mind is tremendously useful and extremely powerful – far more so than the prefix “neuro”, often sadly employed and exploited by others as an insidious marketing ploy. You have managed to remove the complex and complicated jargon and scientific terminology that often serves to distance students and instead provided a metaphor for brain function that is direct, specific, and readily graspable by both novice and expert.

I am also a war veteran. Perhaps more relevant, I became interested in psychology and behavioral neuroscience via a need to understand the impact of trauma and war, and have studied and worked with veterans of six wars over the past nearly 20 years. It was impossible not to be frustrated by the futility of therapies, particularly those described as “scientific” or “evidence based”, simply because people did not get better. There may have been some percentage of improvement in symptom reduction reported relative to research often questionable both in ecological validity and scientific rigor, but the people simply did not get better. Your method, your therapy is the first that I have seen that actually provides true relief for trauma survivors.

Beginning with an interest in war veterans and trauma, I became increasingly interested in victims of child maltreatment. One of the aspects of child victimization and exploitation that was most difficult was the deep-seated, hideous internal identity often carried by survivors of early trauma. None of the therapeutic methods appeared to work, including those involving abreactive methods. Whatever relief was produced seemed nearly always to be either short-lived or shallow. I must admit that, prior to your training, I never considered the elegance and beauty of simply replacing one mind-created image for another, in this case one of light and beauty for one of darkness and horror. It is as I briefly mentioned during the training, reminiscent of martial arts master Bruce Lee’s “The art of fighting without fighting.”

Although my practice is currently primarily based on evaluation and courtroom work rather than therapy, I hope to begin to provide RRT here in Gainesville together with the other practitioners with whom I work.

I have spoken with Sharon and Melinda regarding the possibility of working with them and with you on research and publication to extend the exposure of RRT. Although there are many peer-review journals that would not likely publish this work, there are others that indeed would, and they are serious and substantial in their contributions. I am excited about being able to contribute something, to try to begin to pay back my debt to you all. Also, if anything I have written seems quotable or useful, please feel free to use it in promotional material.

Warmest regards to Sharon, Melinda, and all the others who have been so helpful.

Thank you again,


Thomas N. Dikel, Ph.D., Florida Psychologist License # PY 6256

Friday, February 10, 2012

New Therapy Tool on the Horizon For Survivors of Sexual Assualt – The Therabot!

Dr. Bethel at Mississippi State is developing a robotic support tool, called the "Therabot" initially in a teddy bear form. Dr. Bethel and her team will conduct further study to determine the best form for the “Therabot.” As a survivor of sexual assault Dr. Bethel has a special interest in developing therapy support tools for therapeutic use with survivors of sexual assault and other traumatic events. The Institute for Survivors of Sexual Violence and The Institute for Rapid Resolution Therapy along with IRRT Certified Practitioners across the country have partnered with Dr. Bethel in this exciting research.

For more information about this research or to participate, contact IRRT Executive Director, Melinda Paige, Ed.S, LMHC, NCC at 800-587-2623 or

Bio for Cindy L. Bethel, Ph.D.

Cindy will be starting as an Assistant Professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Mississippi State University in August 2011. She will be the Director of the Social, Therapeutic, and Robotics Systems (STaRS) Laboratory that she will be starting at MSU. Cindy is a NSF/CRA/CCC Computing Innovation Postdoctoral Fellow and Postdoctoral Associate in the Social Robotics Laboratory at Yale University. She is currently working with Brian Scassellati as her fellowship mentor. She was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and the recipient of the 2008 IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Graduate Fellowship. She graduated in August 2009 with her Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of South Florida. Her research interests are in Human-Robot Interaction (HRI), affective computing, robotics, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and artificial intelligence. She has doctoral minors in psychology and applied statistics. She graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science Summa Cum Laude from the University of South Florida. She was awarded the King O’Neal Scholar award, the Computer Science and Engineering Outstanding Graduate Award, and the Engineering Alumni Society Outstanding Senior of the Year Award.

Additional Information:

Cindy is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and adult sexual assaults. She received counseling as an adult from different counselors, but received the most significant assistance from Melinda Paige, RRT Master Certified Practitioner, using the Rapid Trauma Resolution. She has a personal interest in trying to enhance the therapy process through the use of technology. Providing a robotic therapeutic support tool to not replace a therapist but provide support during therapy. This will also be a tool that patients can take home to assist in practicing their therapy techniques while at home. The platform will take the form of a stuffed animal but will be responsive and provide support and encouragement to patients undergoing therapy.

Mississippi State University and other Resources:

Mississippi State is a land-grant university with a focus in the Engineering and Agriculture disciplines. The university is a Carnegie Research Intensive university. It was established in 1878. Cindy will have the full support of the university in the establishment of a robotics program in the Computer Science and Engineering Department and will work closely with Bryan Jones, an Associate Professor in Robotics in the Computer Engineering Department. She will also collaborate with professors in the Cognitive Science and Psychology Departments at MSU.

Additionally, Cindy has resources in the Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering Departments at Yale University and a Psychophysiology professor at University of South Florida.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Thank You Jon, “My Life Is Much Richer, Joyful and Fun!”


I have thought over and over again how to verbalize my gratitude for all that you have done and created. And yet I have been unable to really find the words. What I know is because of you I have become closer to the wife, mother, and counselor I have always wanted to be. My life is much richer, joyful, and fun since getting a chance to see you and work with you.

The best way to express myself is this:

With all my love and gratitude I shall continue to move forward seeing the world clearly with joy in my heart!”

Tara S. Dickherber, M.Ed, LPC

Executive Director of the Institute for Survivors of Sexual Violence


1360 S 5th St., Suite 394, St. Charles, MO 63301