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What She Said Radio – Interview

Carmen Littlejohn and Tara Rose from Helix Healthcare Group tell us how the body never lies and why connecting the left brain to the right brain through Somatic Therapies helps create lasting change for those with mental health, addiction and substance abuse issues. The cutting-edge technique and wellness therapy enters the Canadian landscape for the first time.

And welcome back to the studio I’m Christine Bentley, in studio with Sharon Caddy, and the two wonderful women who are behind the Helix Healthcare Group, Carmen Littlejohn and Tara Rose, welcome to “What She Said!” Thank you so much for having us.

Well you know Kate Wheeler and Lynn who’s apart of our team, both of them went to see you and there are rave reviews, we’re gonna talk to Kate in a moment but first tell listeners about Helix Healthcare Group, tell us what’s involved. Helix Healthcare Group is an innovative new treatment facility for substance abuse, addiction, and mental health issues. With our two-core programs Spectrum Recovery, and Catalyst Wellness, we actually created an innovative treatment model that connects the mind and body and creates lasting change.

Is it common for people to immediately think that when it comes to therapy like this that it is all in the mind and there is no physical aspect to it. That’s exactly what happens. We are kind of trying to change that right now, I think a lot of the old Freudian type therapies will sit on a couch for thirty years. And now a lot of the cognitive, behavioral therapies are very just mind focused. And what we know is that we can work with the body and kind of the underlying beliefs, change can happen so fast. Well not to be to simplistic but it’s on a very simple level, the difference we feel emotionally by just exercising. And there you have physical activity having an actual mental payoff. Absolutely, and they’ve actually done studies now where they will have people take on a posture of being slumped and then see their mood actually go down and take a posture of standing up and having the chest lifted and their mood gets better just by how their posture is.

“They are able to hide it for the longest time.”

So Kate and Lynn experienced what’s called a Somatic Psychotherapy session the other day, now before we talk to them can you explain exactly what Somatic or Body Centered Psychotherapy is? Sure, and the reason I wanted them to come experience it is because it is an experiential therapy that’s easier to talk about once you’ve done it. So I’ll do my best, but Somatic Psychotherapy is about understanding that the nervous system, when we are in a fight or flight response that often all the organs of our system and our mind react to even a danger that is not actually there. So when we work Somatically we are actually working with tracking how the nervous system responds to the story we are telling and then we can follow that often to the underlying beliefs that are keeping the nervous system responding all the time even if there’s no threat.

Ok well let’s bring in Kate, who’s on the line, and whoever’s wearing the headphones here is the person who will hear her so we will alternate. Kate, Are you there? I’m here. I’m here. Hi Kate. Who’s that? It’s Sarah. Hi. Ok, so I experienced as you said that Somatic Therapy and after that I actually picked up Alice Miller’s book, which talks a little bit about how the body reacts. She says the body never lies and ultimately the body will rebel which I think is what happened to me and what I learned through the experience with Carmen was that the grinding of my teeth, my jaw, it goes back to that I used smoking to calm my stress to relax me and now that I switched one addiction for another, it being food, and now that I’m trying to get that under control it’s all being held in my jaw. What I do is just relax and stretch my jaw out so it was basically bringing awareness. I mean obviously we’re not going to cure all my woes in a little while but I mean it was interesting to me to be able to connect the dots and then be more aware of what I’m doing and why I’m eating. It’s replacing and then to find something else to replace that with, that’s a more healthful activity. Am I on the right track?

Absolutely Kate, you’re exactly right when you said that the body never lies. I think you’re exactly on the right track. Gabor Mate says if we can’t say no, the body will eventually say no for us. If we don’t slow down, the body will slow us down eventually. If we can’t set boundaries in our life the body will eventually shut down in some ways. So if we’re holding anxiety even if it’s from so long ago that we don’t remember the event there’s usually a place in the body that we’re still holding that and then there will be behaviors to try to relieve that anxiety and Kate I think that’s what you found.

Well I found, and you know I’m a skeptic and I sit there and go yeah yeah yeah okay what is this? And I thought everything’s going to go back to me blaming my mother or my parents for getting a divorce, right? You know it’s all gonna go there, but Carmen said it’s not about blame, it’s about accepting the experience. We’re not about blame, so yes, maybe that I felt lonely and abandoned and deserted and all kind of stuff still comes up, but it’s not all because I always think it’s always the mother’s fault, but that’s not where she went with that. I think you’re right and you know we talked a lot about addiction coming from underlying beliefs and if we use the divorce as an example this is a perfect place to see that maybe an underlying belief for the child in that experience was you know I’m lonely so I’m not lovable and then we see how this underlying belief keeps manifesting for our life to try to soothe the pain of that belief or maybe if someone wasn’t around at that time Kate had to become a very independent child and then got praise for being independent and then became more independent to where she didn’t need anybody and then she stressed out.

But there’s a little girl in everybody, I mean no matter how old you are, there is still that little girl so my question not having experience to this, with enough treatment would you be the change that little girl who felt abandoned, that started the chain reaction for her life basically, are you able to do that? Absolutely, absolutely, and that’s the point of this therapy. Actually, the reason it’s so painful because a child doesn’t have a lot of capacity to understand things so when something happens they’re very vulnerable, they don’t know how to explain things, they often don’t have it explained for them and that’s kind of why it sets us up and in the Somatic therapy we can often take the adult part of us who can explain things back to the child part and they can dialog and it can be very powerful.

Well we’re sending her back then. Hey. Because. It’s ok, I know I need help. No, no, no, not because she’s charming and it doesn’t impact anyone in her life except her. It’s just; if you can cure that, you know for many people they do take out their issues on other people. Kate doesn’t, she internalizes them, and she suffers through them – nobody else does. But many people do. You haven’t talked to my children lately. No no no, the point being that we often as parents see people passing on things to another generation, patterns of a behavior. We hear all the time children who’ve been abused, children whose self-esteem has been ruined, they pass on those negative patterns to their children so if people can be cured in a sense or come to terms with it then at least it doesn’t get passed on which is a wonderful thing. Well that and actually for the child just to see the parent addressing whatever issues they’re facing and dealing with it and actually seeing some success in resolution. This is a very valuable lesson to teach our children, that you don’t have to hold onto things just because they’ve always been there. And regardless of whether it’s a behavior or an addiction destructive behavior. Looking at just the behavior without looking at the underlying cause, the root cause is very similar to building a house on sand. And really we’re trying to help people re-create their life and to do that we need to look at the underlying reasons behind that behavior and that’s where you create change and you create a strong sense of empowerment. Very good. We’re gonna be back with much more with you two ladies, we’re not letting you go anywhere because we have Lynn who also it was raving about it, we’re gonna talk about her experience which was slightly different but still positive results so Carmen and Tara will be back with us on What She Said on Canada Talks 167 Serious XM. Stay with us this is fascinating call and ask them something if you want.

“That was pretty powerful because like I say, having to relive it doesn’t help and it wasn’t making any space in my mind or my body to put the pain, and I wasn’t dealing with it in a very productive way.”

We’re back in studio, boy I just feel so relaxed from that music. I’m Sharon Caddy with Christine Bentley and I’m joined in studio now by Carmen Littlejohn and Tara Rose from Helix Healthcare Group. Now we were speaking with Kate Wheeler just before the break and joining us in studio now we have Lynn and Lynn also participated in the same somatic psychotherapy. Ok, so what kind of what kind of therapy was going on with Lynn? Well, my issue was different than Kate’s, I don’t have any addictions that I’m aware of, so my… Not even chocolate? No Oh my goodness girl. Potato chips. Potato chips. So what I went to talk to Carmen about was a traumatic event that happened in my life a few years ago. And I’m still dealing with. And I had done some therapy before but nothing is really working, the pain was still there. And no matter how educated or intelligent, one thinks you are it’s you can’t make logical sense of some events in your life. And no matter how much I tried to reason or put things in perspective, it just doesn’t numb the pain. So I went to Carmen and what was nice about that session was that I didn’t have to recount every minute detail of the traumatic event. Which generally leaves me feeling worse and drained.

Well it’s like reliving it isn’t it? So Carmen really after 5-10 minutes of telling her a general overview she cut right to the point immediately. And that was pretty powerful because like I say, having to relive it doesn’t help and it wasn’t making any space in my mind or my body to put the pain, and I wasn’t dealing with it in a very productive way, so that I could see the power of what they’re doing.

I’m just wondering, do you feel now that you’re on a path that you can maybe put this aside and deal? Not aside, but put it over here, deal with it, but carry on productively with your life? We’ve all been in situations where for a time you can’t turn left or right or move forward or back because you’re paralyzed by some event. I’ve been there and this maybe is something similar for you. I’m not sure, but do you feel now that you’re able to see the light that you’re going to be able to get through this. I think I can see a light in the sense that following this path will get me where I want to be. I want to be happy with myself, I don’t want to take this pain and stick it somewhere the sun’s not going to shine on it. I want to actually deal with it because I want to get to me being a fulfilled person, I want to do it for me and I want to do it for my kids.

So Carmen, Tara, what Lynn is going through, through these therapies we’re not looking to erase or forget but we’re looking to find our way to a positive through all of this? And yes, I think that’s exactly what happens, it’s kind of what Lynn’s saying, I think you know I don’t need to know her whole past, I don’t need to know everything that’s transpired with the event. What we find is that there’s what I feel as someone is talking is there’s this pocket of energy and when we go into that we can often find that this isn’t the first time we felt abandoned or the first time we felt angry at someone doing something to us. And usually when we follow that back, it leads to another event that we were abandoned or someone did something to us. And that is the place that the core belief usually starts at.

So that’s the learned response? That’s the initial pain that then later, when we have something, it triggers all of that believe in us. So when we work with that initial place and we can bring some understanding and relative solution to that place, now when we come to the future we have a different relationship to the event. We didn’t change the event but we changed the place in us that is relating to it.

It sounds like even like it is obvious that there’s a process to go through but it even sound like in the first visit you start to feel a little bit different. Is that the case Lynn? I think it just gives you hope and the one example Carmen worked through with me, can I say what it was, to think back to a time that you felt good about yourself and that gave me very good strong mental image and then she asked me to look into that person’s eyes and describe them, their qualities. And although I cry a lot, I hadn’t cried through the session until that point you know I felt like I was a kind, strong, intelligent person. Smart, I forgot smart. I’d like to acknowledge that one.

But isn’t it amazing, that when a bad thing happens. It can overshadow how wonderfully positive and powerful that the happier person is. And that’s what I want this horrible experience to do, to turn it into very positive. Yes, I think you know I do a lot of work on trauma also whether it’s early trauma or dramatic car accidents or something like that but sometimes before we can actually work with a difficult event we have to work with what I call resourcing the person, so for Lynn we really wanted to start building more of her inner strength to remember what she used to be like and that she has all these qualities. And when we really build that up in her then we can take some of those stronger qualities to deal with the trauma. So sometimes we have to do it in stages. You know if Lynn was going to come back and continue working we would continue to kind of grow this part of her that believes in herself, this part of her that she connected to in her early 20’s, after University and remember that and embody that and then we kinda have that light we go into the darker places, but we have that light to hold in the dark now.

But isn’t that interesting though, because when you meet someone who’s going through something or if you know someone that you would characterize as being in a down place in their life, and how often do you hear someone say, “they weren’t always like that.” And that’s a fact, they weren’t always like that. This is a situation now that it’s so smart to deal with it. I’m finding it fascinating that you know I’m hearing you talk about it, i’ts so common sense yet I’m going wow, wow really, that’s really cool. And that’s really the power of Neuroscience, which shows that we can actually rewire the brain, change old destructive patterns and recreate our life.

I have a question. And that is, how is your therapy different from what is offered? Because everybody talks about therapy? Lynn’s tried therapy, I think I’ve tried therapy, everyone I know has tried therapy and it hasn’t been terribly effective. But you obviously have a method or a protocol that really seems to work, because you’ve touched two people I know who would be somewhat cynical. And so, how are you different? The traditional approach treating mental health issues or addiction issues focuses primarily on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which you’ve probably heard of CBT and that addresses the left-hemisphere of the brain which is the side of the brain that addresses logic analysis. Whereas the right side of the brain focuses on emotion and intuition, bodily sensations. Somatic Psychotherapy is one of the therapies that we incorporate to address both the left and the right hemisphere of the brain.

But in layman’s terms, if I’m just Jane coming in and I don’t understand anything about left and right brain, how is your session different? How is my session with you different than if I were to go to somebody else? Well I think what makes this type of therapy different is that it’s kind of like Lynn said, we can talk about the event, we can keep talking about it and we can keep talking about it, and then in some ways it just leaves us feeling like crap and sad and depressed, re-traumatized. So what I think makes this approach different is that I always take people into the experience so I’m asking them what is in their body, does that tightness, where is it, is in my stomach, what does that feel like, is there an emotion with that, is that emotion familiar, is there an earlier time we felt the same place in our stomach and that emotion, but I have to take them into an experience of their own body or it’s just hypothetical talk. That’s what makes it different is that I’m always gonna ask them questions about the spirit guide them in.

So Lynn for you as Christine says, I think we’ve all been through various therapies over the years and sometimes going to traditional therapy and then you’re like I don’t want to go back next time. This obviously feels different. I’m not knocking the other therapy I had because that came at the time it was so raw, and I had no one to talk to, so it was also very helpful. And I had taken Cognitive Behavioral Therapy workshops, which I think I’m very left brained, so it appealed to me. And it helped me in a lot of ways kind of come up with ways to come up with strategies to help me not descend down this horrible spiral to depression, probably. So, I forgot the question.

It’s just about whether, when you leave that session how you’re feeling and how you feel about going back. Yes, it’s like I say, it offers a different, Gentler? A different approach and gentler. And a lot of times, it’s painful going back to find the initial wound, but honestly I can’t image it’s more painful than living with the kind of wound I have at the moment.

Well it sounds like you’re making some wonderful progress, thanks for sitting with us, and actually, Carmen and Tara, can we keep you around a little bit longer? Your therapy also is used to deal with addictions and things that. I like to talk a little bit about that so we’ll do that right after this break. You’re listening to what she said with Sharon Caddy. That’s me, Christine Bentley, Kate Wheeler, listening off in the distance, I know she is. We will be right back in just a moment.

Welcome back to What She Said Canada talks on Sirius XM in studio with Sharon Caddy and Carmen and Tara and this has been the most amazing group of segments and I’m so glad that Lynn and Kate went in. So let’s talk a little bit more about, we’ve talked about trauma, but let’s talk about addictions because people think about addictions as tangible so it would be substance abuse, alcoholism, prescription drug misuse, gambling, but you have a whole other list of addictions that people don’t commonly think about. Well I think we could have addiction to work, having addiction to being needed, having an addiction to feeling loved, if that love goes away we feel completely empty without it. We could have addition to hanging out with friends, to social media, it’s really anything that we used to fill an empty hole or the void in us.

I wanted to ask you, we had a guest yesterday, he was talking about women and alcohol and saying that one of the reasons for that is women’s sense of perfectionism that they want to be perfect at everything they do. I don’t know if that’s generational but do you find that? It’s very dependent on the type of family unit they grew up in, and if they got praise in their family unit for being perfect or if they came home with an A and their parents said why didn’t you get an A+? It all comes back from the early experience of if my value was created on perfectionism then I will make sure that I’m a perfectionist because that’s how I feel worthy. So it depends on the family unit. We really are formed by the messages we received from the earliest time, very unconscious messages. Even if you think about women’s Lib time, you know their messages were very different than the messages in the 50s. So you know we are formed not just by our parents like Kate said, but by the times. Back in the 50s and 60s when women gave birth they left for weeks at a time, the children back at home were sometimes sent to orphanages for those weeks and we’ve seen that we don’t do that anymore. But the times affect our sense of who we are.

What about eating disorders which again is probably a factor of time, there were generations where you were happy to get a square meal etc. but eating disorders how does that factor in? Yes, it’s interesting. It’s again like what you’ll see what I say about all addictions or stuff we’re going through. Now it always goes back to these early times. A lot of the eating disorders I’m working with now, interesting enough, a lot of them have lots of issues with the controlling father. One had a father who only praised her if she was really really skinny. That’s how she believed she had to be to get his love, sometimes it’s about when I feel out of control in my life this is the only thing I can control, a lot of time it’s just need for control. You know it comes from many different places in and everyone but you know definitely Toronto, for sure I see a lot of people using food to feel in control of their lives.

Do some people have a difficulty addressing this as an addiction, they just see it as maintenance, as is what you have to do to be successful or beautiful or whatever. Like it is an addiction when you think about it logically but is it in some ways more difficult to address an addiction rather than drugs or alcohol where people believe they are using it to make himself better? Yes, you know usually I see people with the addiction, the eating disorders when it’s really spiraling out of control. When they can’t keep food down or they’re not eating at all and it’s usually when it’s spiraling and that’s when I see them, it is usually when it spiraled to point where they’re scared. They’re even scared. Most people with eating disorders don’t love that they have an eating disorder they just don’t know how to change it.

But they’re able to hide it very well for the longest time. Yes, and its interesting that people who overeat or under eat, it’s one of the addictions that we can see someone walking down the street. You don’t see alcoholism on someone walking down the street, right?

What are the symptoms or signs of an addiction that you could pick out that somebody at home may not have realized that they have an addiction? I think that to some degree an addiction is any behavior that is more destructive than constructive so something that’s taking you away from being productive in your life and being happy in your life that could start leading down the path of a destructive behavior and addiction.

And so you’re able to address an addiction with, is it a similar type of therapy, is what we’ve seen with Kate and Lynn, but targeting it in a different way? Yes, definitely once again it’s going back to the underlying root causes, it’s to actually change that behavior. Also I’d also add to that, that what was a little different than what Lynn and Kate did, they would be more our Catalyst program, which is kind of overall mental health, or you know depression anxiety stuff like that. When we work with people with addiction where it’s spiraling out of control we use a different approach, a team approach, and usually we have some people at our clinic 25 hours a week as an alternative to inpatient and they work with a private yoga instructor, they get acupuncture, they’re getting massage and is not just a feel good kind of message. We’re working with the tissues of the body because we got to change the beliefs that they hold there but they’re getting hypnotherapy, they’re getting marriage and family therapy were really trying to support them on every side.

So what role does aftercare play? Let’s say you’ve got somebody to point where it’s manageable and they’re no longer escalating out of control but they’re covering, they’re on the road and they’re almost, I mean I don’t know if any of us are ever totally recovered. I’d like to think so. But what do you do in terms of aftercare? The road to recovery at our center we actually call it rediscovery, because it is a journey and one of the number one reasons why the center was created was because there are very limited aftercare options in our city and other than some group sessions. A lot of people are going into inpatient treatment and they come out and they may have addressed some of their issues for the very first time in their life, and then they leave and the bubble pops and they’re kind of in their world and they’re trying to cope. There are a lot of challenges and that may lead to relapse or just the feeling of failure and just other behaviors. So what we’ve created is three different aftercare programs ranging from five hours to fifteen hours a week with the therapies that Carmen mentioned. To actually keep them on the path of rediscovering, because it truly is a journey.

We’re sharing of course your story with people all over Canada and the US so we’re talking about a center that happens to be in Toronto. Are you going to replicate this across Canada because I’m sure there are women and men out there listening who say when is this coming to my town? We want to.

What is the plan?  Definitely, we have virtual programs, we also have something called deep dive where we have clients coming in from Hong Kong to Chicago to California and they’re in for whether it’s three days or five days or a week in the city and they actually get to experience an intensive program during that time and we have the virtual programs to continue to support them.

So what do you do, get on Skype and talk to them? That’s awesome! Yes, so they can come in and they can do a really intensive amount of work. We had a guy from Hong Kong in here for I think two weeks and oh my gosh. He was there for about five hours or a day of incredible transformation and as he went home we will stay in contact through Skype until he comes back for other programs.

But we really do need centers all over North America, don’t we? Then when are we gonna get this? We do. We’re going to get this one going and then take over the world.

So for all our listeners out there where can they get a hold of you? You can visit HelixHealthcareGroup.com or they can give us a call 416-921-CARE or they can visit us on Twitter @Helix_Health.

And in the meantime for anybody who hasn’t yet signed up for or is thinking about it, what can they do quickly is there a short answer to stopping this and empowering themselves or what can they start to do? I think what we’re doing today is an incredible first step because it’s talking about it and if we are gonna lift the stigma on mental health or addiction we need to open our mouths, we need to start speaking more about it because addiction and many of these destructive behaviors it’s a very solitary act and it can make us feel extremely alone but you know as soon as you start talking to people, your girlfriend your colleagues, then other people will share their stories. And with that, with starting that conversation, we can also share where people can reach out for help.

And opening our minds to an alternative type of therapy and I love the positive feeling that seems to come from what I’m hearing about what these therapies are about. Well we can’t thank you enough and I have no idea but I’m sure there are thousands of people out there saying this and I’m a skeptic that would appeal to me. Thank you so much.

Thank you Karen Carmen and Tara for coming in. Thank you to Kate for sharing thank you to Lynn for sharing and we hope you’ll come back and talk to us again. This is What She Said on Sirius XM on Canada talks 167. We’ll be right back with much more.