Monthly ArchiveMarch 2021

Get More from Your Yoga Therapy in Utah

Yoga therapy is a catch-all phrase for yoga classes that are taken to achieve therapeutic goals. The term can just as easily be used to discuss the benefits of yoga for recovering from a physical injury, medical procedure, or mental disorder. In fact, the precise cause isn’t always known. For example, yoga can be a great way to improve your gastro-intestinal health, whether your stomach hurts because of a poor diet, anxiety disorder, or some combination of factors.

Yoga as Supplemental Therapy

This doesn’t mean that yoga therapy is a cure-all. If you suspect you have a serious medical condition, don’t hesitate to talk to a physician. If you suspect you have a serious mental health condition, we strongly urge you to seek the counsel of a qualified mental health therapist. These health professionals can help you understand the underlying cause of your pain and discomfort, as well as make an evaluation of yoga’s potential benefit. When yoga is included as part of a larger treatment plan for a health condition—medical or mental health—it’s often referred to as an adjunct or supplemental therapy.

Meditation vs. Mindfulness

Here’s a great example of how a mental health therapist can help you get more from your yoga therapy. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you may have noticed that the instructor ended the session with a meditation, known as savasana. Often, though not always, this meditation is guided by the instructor’s voice. Guided meditation has its own mental health benefits, but the practice of silent mindfulness holds even more promise for many people and their mental health.

Simply put, mindfulness is focusing on the present moment and the non-judgmental observance of one’s conscious thoughts. Talking to a therapist, however, can help improve your practice of mindfulness, while also putting this cognitive therapy in the more personal context of your own mental health troubles. A therapist can also help you evaluate the immediate benefits and long-term potential of yoga therapy for you.

Many yoga studios offer some combination of the two, by including a short, guided meditation at the beginning of the savasana, followed by plenty of time to enjoy the peaceful quiet of the studio space. That said, while some people find that the end of yoga is the absolute best time to engage in the practice of mindfulness, others prefer to alternate between a yoga studio session one day and a mindfulness meditation in their own home the next day.

At-Home Yoga vs. Studio-Based Therapy

To get the most out of yoga therapy, you should really find a studio and instructor who you can connect with. That said, this is one of those situations in which a studio class is better than yoga at the house—which is itself a lot better than nothing. And, at home, it’s free. And close. And it works around your schedule. Thus, we recommend getting out to the studio whenever you can but maintaining a regular yoga habit at home whenever you need. The popularity of this mix-and-match strategy also helps explain why there’s such a heavy incentive for studios to market unlimited monthly passes and punch card discounts. This can make studio yoga more affordable, while making it harder to accommodate scheduling uncertainty.

Preventative and Proactive Yoga Therapy

From chronic back pain to mood disorders, many symptoms can be strictly controlled or prevented altogether by maintaining a healthy yoga habit. Further, you can proactively build up your psychological resilience for any stress or trauma you may face down the road. Likewise, many people who effectively treat their mental health troubles end up drifting away from the practice, only to experience a relapse of symptoms.

Now, not everybody needs to see a mental health therapist before signing up for classes. Not all yoga is yoga therapy, but if you are looking to yoga to help with your psychological distress, you’re going to get the most of classes by consulting with a mental health therapist.

Types of Anxiety in Utah Beyond Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is universal to the human condition, and it’s a major symptom in many types of mental illness beyond just anxiety disorders. As our understanding of human behavior has grown increasingly nuanced, trauma, obsessive-compulsive, and eating disorders are now considered separate from anxiety disorders. Yet, anxiety is one of the most dominant and easily recognizable symptoms associated with these mental disorders. By understanding how different types of anxiety are likely to interact with other aspects of your mental health, you can learn how to better manage your anxiety level.

Anxiety and PTSD

The constant expectation of an explosion, a car collision, a gunshot, a blow to the head, or the loss of a loved one can send almost anybody’s anxiety levels off the charts. And yet, in the grips of PTSD, it may be difficult to even register the source of one’s anxiety. Instead, the physical symptoms—the stomach pains, headaches, joint and muscle stiffness, general fatigue—may dominate the attention of those afflicted with post-traumatic stress.

Left untreated, individuals may become so dissociated with the present moment that they act on their fears, and with dangerous consequences. The behaviors that are possible under this type of stress may result in shame which then exacerbates the individual’s psychological distress. The good news is that there are effective treatments for PTSD. Often, the biggest deciding factor is recognizing and seeking therapy in a timely fashion.

Anxiety and Eating Disorders

The most obvious connection between anxiety and eating disorders is the intense anxiety and fear of gaining weight that’s felt by those with anorexia. Utah is for from unique in this regard, but striving for perfection and an expectation to conform with cultural norms are a big part of the state’s culture. The act of self-starvation, binge-eating, and/or purging behaviors make these disorders relatively easy to distinguish from other types of anxiety.

On the other hand, that’s assuming the individual isn’t successful in hiding their eating disorder. The things we do to avoid anxiety often lead to intense feelings of shame after the fact. This can make even otherwise “open-and-honest” people reticent to talk about their problems and to seek help from a professional.

It’s also revealing that, by a large margin, more women than men suffering from eating disorders. On this point, many mental health professionals point to the fact that culture puts more pressure on women than men to internalize their negative emotions. Thus, a lot of men with anxiety become violent and end up in the criminal justice system. Men are also more likely to fall victim to substance abuse.

Anxiety and OCD

Rather than feeling anxious about being exposed to potential threats, obsessive-compulsive disorder tends to make a person feel anxious about NOT engaging in a specific—and often highly ritualized—behavior. Thus, much like eating disorders, OCD is most likely experienced and diagnosed not by the constant presence of anxiety, but rather by the behaviors that are used to avoid anxiety. And, again, by the shame that results from compulsively engaging in these behaviors.

Many types of compulsions, though certainly not all of them, take on a religious meaning. Hand-washing and praying (or chanting) are among the most common types of compulsions. These behaviors can be particularly torturous for members of the LDS faith, as well as other individuals with highly religious backgrounds.

Anxiety, Depression, and Substance Abuse

Anxiety and depression are more like cousins in the larger family known as mood disorders. The relationship between these two moods is multi-faceted and can take on a variety of behavioral expressions. At Mountain Mental Health, we like to talk about the difference anxious depression and depressive anxiety. We encourage you to read more about the relationship between anxiety and depression.

Anxiety and substance abuse paint a similarly muddled picture. With chronic substance abuse and/or when the drug abuse starts at an early age, it may be essentially impossible to determine whether an underling anxiety disorder was present before the substance addiction.

How to Get Help for All Types of Anxiety

Everybody experiences anxiety. It helps motivate us and focus our attention. It heightens our senses and enables us to better respond to potential threats. It activates our imagination and problem-solving. Just because anxious feelings are unpleasant in the short-term doesn’t mean that the individual has a serious mental health condition. And yet, anxiety can become persistent to the point where worry and fear are nearly constant. But here’s the thing: This doesn’t mean you’re helpless, either. Even if you can’t control your anxiety, you can still control whether you ask for help. It’s never too early to get help for psychological distress. Talk to an experienced Utah therapist about your troubles, and discover that improvement is possible.

Remote Therapy vs. Office Therapy in Utah: What’s Best for Your Mental Health?

Also known as virtual therapy, e-therapy, or online therapy, remote therapy is becomingly increasingly popular and widely available. In addition to nationwide “e-therapy” companies, many therapists in Utah offer this type of therapy service to prospective clients. Starting with cost, there are number of reasons why people tend to seek out this type of therapy arrangement.

First and foremost, a lot of people want to know—all things being equal—is remote therapy just as good as a face-to-face office setting? So far, the research confirms that it’s better than nothing and very cost-efficient as well. There is also research to suggest that online therapy may be just as good as office therapy, but the jury is still out. In fact, this area of study is so new there’s still hot debate over how mental health researchers should design their experimental studies to compare effect sizes. Simply accounting for differences in audio/video quality and the reliability of Internet connections is problematic.

Remote therapy was already growing in popularity before 2020, but among the big changes this year has been increased use of hybrid solutions in which you work with a local therapist in Utah but also conduct sessions remotely as mutually agreed to. One of the big barriers to maintaining a mental health therapy schedule is the time commitment. But rather than use nationwide therapy services that are entirely online, you can get the best of both worlds.

Individual Factors in Choosing Remote Therapy

Even though everybody knows better, it’s still easy to think that our mental health is somehow separate from where we live and what financial resources we have at our disposal. Talking to a qualified therapist in an office setting might mean a drive of several hours for people in places like Snowville or Garrison or Blanding. Even people much closer to the I-5 corridor may have considerable challenges in commuting to an office location.

One way to think of the potential value of remote therapy is the client’s own attitude about the approach:

  • If an individual doubts that any therapy is worth the trouble, seeks out remote therapy because it’s easy, and then doesn’t take the process seriously, this is a largely self-defeating attitude. A therapist may try to overcome this initial resistance, but if it’s surmised that the online nature of the therapy is a barrier to improvement, you can expect the therapist to make a different recommendation.
  • People who live in distant rural areas or who otherwise have trouble accessing therapy services may be thrilled to discover they have some way to talk to a qualified mental health professional, be it on a short-term or ongoing basis. In fact, the relief and hope tends to produce its own short-term improvement to mental health, an improvement that ideally can be built upon during future sessions.

The irony is that many of the same people who are most likely to benefit from remote therapy services are less likely to have the hardware and broadband Internet connection necessary for the best virtual therapy settings. On the other hand, for some people, remote vs. office-based therapy is a false choice. Some therapists offer in-home therapy. Often, the availability of these services is based on individual circumstances and living within certain geographical boundaries.

Comfort-Level and Confidentiality

In terms of confidentiality, there are pros and cons to both types of therapy. By visiting an office, you do run at least some risk of someone seeing you go into the building. Yet, remote therapy creates an entirely different kind of risk. HIPAA laws require mental health professionals to take all reasonable and standard precautions in safeguarding their clients’ confidentiality. The thing is nobody really knows yet what this means for online security measures.

It’s safe to say that the vast majority of people have nothing to worry about when it comes to online therapy. So long as you take basic privacy precautions, the people and organizations with the technological sophistication to hack these types of video feeds are generally interested in things other than, say, a stranger’s marital strife. But if confidentiality—especially the content of what you have to say—is a top concern, this is something to think about.

Combining Remote and Office Therapy

Again, the best solution is often a combination or remote and in-office therapy. These arrangements may simply help manage the limited availability and travel schedules for either the therapist or the client. Some therapists also permit their clients to contact them during off-hours under certain circumstances. Remote therapy is filling this niche, too. Short impromptu online therapy may supplement a regular office therapy schedule. Though rare, some therapists may even use remote communications as an introduction to therapy for clients who have trouble leaving their home or engaging in basic social activities. The idea, then, is to graduate to in-office sessions and eventually greater exposure to social settings in general.

No matter what mode of therapy you think may be right for you, no matter what mental health challenge you’re facing, we encourage and commend you for reaching out to a mental health provider in Utah.