Best Practice Is Holistic Healing from Within
"Change begins within. When it comes to brain-based disorders, stuck negative emotions or intrusive thoughts; just as seedlings need a proper environment to germinate and flourish, so does the human psyche. When the proper elements are in place, including personal growth through self-care and inner-work, deep and authentic social connection, and brain-directed care and balance; we can optimize at the cognitive, emotional and spiritual level to grow into the beings we were always meant to be." -Stephanie Gracia, MA, BCN
The activity in your brain determines everything you feel and do.
I have always been intrigued by the organ of the brain, even as a young child; curious about people's behaviors and how individuals' become who they are through learned behavior, personality traits and genetics -though I didn't have the correct wording at the time! This is what sparked my passion to help others and ultimately pursue a graduate degree in psychotherapy.
I realized in graduate school that there are certain cases that will be almost impossible to "fix" with psychotherapy alone. This is when I began studying alternative medicine and brought neurofeedback to the island of Maui.
The results were miraculous! There was no denying my clients felt better as their brainwave activity balanced and improved. My clients' became less anxious and depressed; they were more focused, creative, slept better and even made better choices!
It is not uncommon in my practice for a client to have their initial neurofeedback session, then come in a week later for their second and be unrecognizable. They are lighter, like a 50-pound load has been taken off their shoulders. They are smiling, joyful and free; making positive changes in all areas of their lives - and it shows!
How does Neurofeedback work?
Our psychology and physiology are markedly intertwined. Neurofeedback is biofeedback for the brain. It is non-intrusive, holistic, and therefore, cannot cause harm.
Using an EEG (electroencephalograph) or 'electrical brain picture' and sophisticated software, we measure brainwave activity and help the brain make more or less of specific brainwave patterns. The way we learn anything in life is through experience and feedback from the environment. In neurofeedback training, we give your brain the experience of functioning at it's most optimal level, and feed that back to the individual in half-second increments. Subsequently, in 20 sessions, the brain has approximately 72,000 chances to relearn and restructure brainwave activity!
Neurofeedback is a mirror of your own brainwave activity. Once the brain can see itself, it automatically self-adjusts and re-calibrates to the highest order of functioning. Metaphorically, it is akin to taking your brain to the gym. Through repetitive exercise, the brain learns to hold onto these positive patterns and let go of the ones that aren't serving them. Clients walk away being able to handle situations effortlessly which used to seem insurmountable. The Times publication described BrainPaint, the system I employ, as "like meditation on steroids."
Best of all, the changes are long lasting. Research tells us after the person has received the recommended number of sessions, typically 20 sessions at twice a week, the person's brainwaves show they are still in balance after ten years!
What Does a Neurofeedback Session Look Like?
Once the evaluation process is completed and the individual's protocols are chosen you will be connected to three to four electrodes to measure brainwave activity and feed-back the neuronal processes occurring while conditioning the brain to produce more desirable brainwave frequencies.
You will be watching your "fractals," a mathematical representation of neuronal communication on a computer screen in coherence with your brainwave patterns; while listening to your unique EEG information in metronomical cadence, 35 paired tones. The colors in your fractals correspond to chemical components or neurotransmitters. As the brain is rewarded for increasing desirable frequencies their fractals will become more vivid, symmetrical, and stay on the screen longer - the brain loves this and tells it to "do it again!" Similar to the symphony in the brain, the sounds will become more choppy or higher pitched when coming out of desirable frequencies.
How can Neurofeedback Help Me?
Anyone can benefit from neurofeedback training! Brain optimization by improving the way areas of the brain speak to and work together while enhancing the flow of neurotransmitters, blood flow, oxygenation and electrical oscillations to the areas of the brain that are not used to getting it will give anyone an edge or advantage. A study published in the journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology (2016) showed that neurofeedback improved children's IQ (ages 8-14) by 21 points on average.
Neurofeedback teaches your brain to work at its fullest capacity - to switch gears at the appropriate time, to improve coordination, enhance calmness, mood, and self-regulation of thoughts, feelings and focus. I believe we all all can benefit from enhancing our brains. We take care of our bodies and take them to the gym, why not our brain?
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Individual or Family Therapy
We strive to help each guest develop a healthier, stronger sense of Self, thereby gaining a sense of purpose and meaning in life.
Prior to admission, each of our guests are assessed by our lead therapist. This assessment includes information about well-being, past trauma, current functioning, strengths and challenges, and goals to improve the quality of life of our guests. Information will be obtained, with proper consent, from the guests themselves, their caregivers, possible physicians, psychiatrists, psychotherapists and other members of their treatment team.
What's an Individualized Treatment Plan?
Ho'omau Maui prides itself in developing fully Individualized Treatment Plans for each guest. Once a guest is accepted for enrollment, Ho'omau Maui's Co-Founders, Felicity Powers, MA, Ed., Experiential Director, and Stephanie Garcia, MA, BCN, Neurotherapist use our lens of expertise to collaborate on each case to develop specific experiential and therapeutic goals and objectives, treatments and interventions tailored to the individual's needs, interests, and challenges for growth.
Treatment is centered on following the design of the guest's treatment plan; pursuing the areas of most intense need, and complimenting the therapeutic work with experiential exercises we have chosen for each individual. We re-assess weekly in clinical treatment-team meetings to address progress and make any adjustments required for their plan.
What Type of Therapy Do You Use?
I have an eclectic approach to therapy which includes an array of theories and interventions using humanistic theory, cognitive-behavioral, systemic or psychodynamic, solution- based, narrative, and emotionally focused therapy. Based on our guests needs I may use all of these approaches at different times.
A Client-Centered Approach
Underlying each individual session is an ongoing relationship of rapport building where the client is immersed in the therapist's warm nature, empathetic and non-judgmental attitude, and holds unconditional positive regard for who they are and acceptance of where they are presently at in their journey. This term, unconditional positive regard comes from Carl Rogers, father of humanistic psychology. The concept is radical acceptance and support for a person irregardless of where they are and "meets the client where they are" working forward, as opposed to where we would like them to be.
Research supports these qualities in therapists and finds them most efficacious when working with clients. The qualities are humanistic in nature; and include warmth, authenticity, empathy, and acceptance (Qualities and actions of effective therapists, 2010).
Working Towards Self-Actualization
A core concept of humanism is that people, for the most part, are innately good. Most individuals are doing their best, given the knowledge and resources available to them; and with all living things, tend to move towards health, healing and wellness. Our challenge may be to spark their desire to want a fulfilling life and get past the pain or suffering that has been holding them back from this intrinsic human nature.
Most problems in people's lives we find originate in unmet developmental needs; which can leave people "stuck" in an earlier stage of development, leading to a lack of self-fulfillment.
At Ho'omau Maui, we place a strong emphasis on Self-Actualization and use the famous psychologist's Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of human needs as a tool for learning about development and meeting our most crucial needs. This visual tool is easy to learn and understand; it is something they can reference and use for life.
The power of relating to others helps establish more intimate and enduring relationships to yourself and others.
Our guests are immersed in group therapy four times per week, for 90 minute sessions. For many of our guests, group therapy can be more powerful and life-changing than individual therapy.
Why Group Therapy?
Many people enter therapy with the belief that they are unique in their suffering; that they alone have certain freighting or unacceptable problems, thoughts, impulses or behaviors, according to Dr. Irving Yalom, who has written ten books on the subject.
Group therapy is helpful in many ways - first it helps our guests' realize they are not alone. In reducing isolation and alienation, we realize from our peers that they too struggle with some of the same problems. They can relate to what the other guest's experience as they become vulnerable and reveal parts of their life story, including some of their most difficult memories or challenges. Guests' naturally fall into rapport and start a relationship of support and dialogue in our safe and nurturing environment.
Group therapy facilitates the giving and receiving of support. Group members speak to each other, not only the person leading the group. In fact, they're encouraged to reach out to fellow group members and offer hope, inspiration, encouragement or even suggestions.
Group therapy is where our guests find their "voice." Finding your voice is about becoming aware of your feelings and needs and expressing them in the group context. I often find those most reluctant to share at the start of group therapy will end up sharing the most as they start to recognize they are not alone, that this is a safe place to speak up, and this process may indeed help them.
Finally, group therapy helps guest's relate to Self and others in healthier ways. It provides the opportunity for guests to see how people interact in the moment, in a safe, nurturing environment. They feel supported giving honest feedback to another, using the assertive communication formula when necessary, now that they have built a strong rapport with each other during the group process. The group has provided a "safety net" for authentic connection.
Types of Group Therapy
The types of groups Ho'omau Maui offers include:
Process Groups - Where guests focus on understanding themselves and relational patterns through interaction with group members. In process groups, guests openly share their immediate thoughts and feelings related to an experience or check-in after a long day.
Psychoeducational Groups - In these groups the leader serves as teacher and provides information or instruction in a certain area which may include topics of assertive communication, interpersonal relationships and conflict resolution, or a topic that Ho'omau finds is a common thread in members, such as anxiety and how to cope with it. We also will engage guests in themed groups, depending on what we have experienced in adventure therapy or what the group is needing at that time.
Hawaiian Values through Mythology & Storytelling - Ho'omau Maui connects the Hawaiian culture with therapeutic principals by group sessions from our island's Kumus: Hawaiian teachers with a wealth of knowledge in Hawaiian history.
Our guests learn traditional ancestral values of the native Hawaiian culture, such as respecting your elders, paying homage to friends and family members, taking care of the 'aina: land, and being part of the community by doing your share and practicing being pono: doing what is morally or ethically right and selfless.
Storytelling and mythology also have a significant therapeutic benefit in lessons of nobility, courage, and overcoming fears and challenges.
Grounding exercises using the Lokahi wheel, referring to balance, harmony and unity for the Self, and in relationship to the body, mind and spirit will be used to connect each part of Self with elements of the Earth (see visual).
Art Therapy Groups - In these groups guests have a chance to explore their own artistic expression to promote self-awareness, healing and self-esteem.
Brain Health & Neurobiology - Learning the core aspects of brain systems and neuroanl processes is key to developing what Dr. Amen calls "brain envy" or having a strong desire to take care of our brain by having a wealth of information on brain health and awareness.
Did you know that our brain is the consistency of softened butter? The bones that form a protective shell around our soft neuronal tissue is actually rigid and sharp in some areas?
This group discusses everything from synapses to neurotransmitters and is an educational guide to taking care of our brains for overall physical and ultimately, mental health.
Cognitive Behavioral Group Therapy - Empirically validated and proven efficacious for over 40 years, Cognitive Behavioral Group Therapy took prominence in the 1970's. It's premise is that our thoughts and feelings are strongly connected to our behavior, each of these interact in repetitive and sometimes very negative cycles. By changing our thought patterns, it follows that the beliefs we hold, our attitudes and ultimately our behavior shift to help us overcome challenges and face life with a new perspective.
Adventure Therapy Groups - All wilderness therapy has a therapeutic component which allows guests to connect with themselves, nature and each other. These are profound experiences for many; overcoming challenges in the wild and learning just what you are capable of!