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Be a Neurobiolgical Therapist

Mindfulness & Neurobiological 

Tools for Healing - A Training Resource

By Jim Messina, Ph.D., CCMHC, NCC, DCMHS-T

What is a Neurobiological Therapist?

A Neurobiological Therapist could come from any of the following professions: physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, clinical mental health counselor, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, physician assistant. This type of therapist focuses on the whole person not just the disorder which the person presents with. The Neurobiologist are well versed in Neurobiological Studies especially Mindfulness. They accept the Wheel of Awareness Model of Daniel Siegel (http://coping.us/mindfulnessneurobiology/wheelofawareness.html ) which states the individuals to become focused, centered, and at peace must come to an integrated sense of self which includes the following elements:

  1. The Five Senses that bring in the outside world
  2. The felt experience of the body
  3. Acceptance of their mental activities
  4. A sense our connections to others
  5. Ability to distinguish the experience of awareness or knowing from that which they are aware of - the known.

The primary tool of these therapists is Mindfulness Mediation at: http://coping.us/mindfulnessneurobiology.html.

These therapist utilize a whole range of Mindfulness Tools at: http://coping.us/mindfulnessneurobiology/mindfulnesstools.html including:

  1. Mindfulness APS
  2. Mindfulness Podcasts
  3. YouTube Mindfulness Videos
  4. Stress Management at: http://coping.us/mindfulnessneurobiology/wheelofawareness.html
  5. Improving Your Sleep at: http://coping.us/mindfulnessneurobiology/improveyoursleep.html
  6. Dan Siegel's Wheel of Awareness at: http://coping.us/mindfulnessneurobiology/wheelofawareness.html   (See Figure Below of the Wheel of Awareness)

Who are the Typical Clients Needing a Neurobiological Therapist?

Clients who can best benefit from therapeutic intervention by Neurobiological Therapists are ones who:

  1. Have not been successful in therapeutic interventions for their distinct problems of substance use disorders, smoking cessation, anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, handling stress, chronic and persistent mental health disorders
  2. Have not been successful in following through with the specific medical recommendations for their: weight management, sleep disorders and chronic pain and medical treatment for their chronic disorders such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart conditions, pulmonary disorders
  3. Have sociological issues including: Homelessness, unemployment, divorce, failure in school and work, under-employment,
  4. Suffering from cultural disparities in our society coming from racism, discrimination, prejudice and hatred toward minorieits
  5. Have a difficulty dealing with the pressures of every day life

The Mind, Body and Behavior are Familiar Territory for Neurobiological Therapists

These professionals work with clients:

  1. Minds: The therapists work to better understand their clients’ mental processes (sensations, thoughts, emotions) that are created by the brain which is the physical, visible, biological basis of the mind. They Maintain a therapeutic relationship by listening, empathizing, helping clients identify their personal goals, provide support and attempt to help their clients stay centered focused on maintaining a emotional balance in their lives.
  2. Bodies: The therapists are extremely sensitive to how well their clients are taking care of their bodies in terms of maintaining regular contact with their physical doctors and are compliant with the medications and medical procedures encouraged by their doctors. Also, the therapists are concerned with how well their clients are doing the appropriate measures to maintain good health such as: 7-8 hours of sleep a night, a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise each day; eating balanced meals based on the good nutritional guidelines and maintaining healthy hygiene of their bodies.
  3. Behaviors: The therapists maintain a focus on their clients’ behaviors, be they watching for signs of: substance or alcohol abuse disorders; compliant participation in the therapeutic treatments to address their emotional and social problems; healthy participation in the communities in which their clients live and ability for their clients to live independently as much as possible.

Assessments used by Neurobiological Therapists

The Neurobiological Therapists are knowledgeable of the Assessment Tools available at: http://coping.us/cliniciantreatmenttools/assessmenttools.html  to use with their clients to assess such issues as:

  1. Patient Health
  2. Neurobehavioral Symptoms
  3. Adverse Childhood Experiences and Resilience/Stress Measures
  4. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  5. Depression
  6. Suicide Risk
  7. Bipolar Disorder
  8. Anxiety
  9. Alcohol Use Disorder

10. Substance Use Disorder

11. Compulsive Pornography/Sex

12. Eating Disorders

13. Physical Symptoms

14. Sleep Disturbance

15. Physical Pain

16. Family and Couple Functioning

17. Domestic Violence

The Neurobiological Therapists are knowledgeable in the following Clinical Therapeutic Treatment Tools

1. Dealing with Clients’ Trauma: for PTSD and other trauma in their lives. They use with these clients Evidence Based Practices for their specific diagnoses: http://coping.us/evidencebasedpractices.html

2. Dealing with Clients’ Substance Use Disorders

3. Dealing with Clients with suicidal ideation, suicidal planning and suicidal threats

4. Dealing with Clients’ cooperation and compliance with their Medical & Psychiatric Physicians in treating their current medical & mental health problems in Integrated Primary Care Settings

5.  Dealing with their clients’ connection with their communities through
SAMHSA Support for the Work of Neurobiological Therapists
SAMHSA reported that many factors play a role in these health disparities that impact people with serious mental and/or substance use disorders, including:
  • Higher rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, and infectious disease (including HIV)
  • Elevated risk factors due to high rates of smoking, substance misuse, obesity, and unsafe sexual practices
  • Increased vulnerability due to poverty, social isolation, trauma and violence, and incarceration
  • Lack of coordination between mental and primary healthcare providers
  • Prejudice and discrimination
  • Side effects from psychotropic medications
  • Overall lack of access to health care, particularly preventive care

SAMHSA has introduced the 8 dimensions of health by stating that wellness means overall well-being

  • It includes the mental, emotional, physical, occupational, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of a person’s life
  • Incorporating aspects of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, such as choosing healthy foods, forming strong relationships, and exercising often, into everyday habits can help people live longer and improve quality of life
  • The Eight Dimensions of Wellness may also help people better manage their condition and experience recovery.

SAMHSA’s Eight Dimensions of Wellness are:

  1. Emotional—Coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships
  2. Environmental—Good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being
  3. Financial—Satisfaction with current and future financial situations
  4. Intellectual—Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills
  5. Occupational—Personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work
  6. Physical—Recognizing the need for physical activity, healthy foods, and sleep
  7. Social—Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system
  8. Spiritual—Expanding a sense of purpose and meaning in life
The VA's Whole Health for Life Model
The Veterans' Administration has implemented a program entitled Whole Health for Life.The program focuses on 8 components which contribute to wellness and health. The areas of focus are: 
  1. Working your Body
  2. Power of the Mind'
  3. Spirit and Soul
  4. Family Friends and Co-workers
  5. Recharge
  6. Food and Drink
  7. Personal Development
  8. Surroundings
The Whole Health for Life Program Concepts
The VA encourages their patients to use the above circle to help them think about their whole health. The emphasize is on that all areas are important and connected. They enoourage their patients to believe that the body and mind have strong healing abilities. They also emphasize that Improving one area can help other areas.  The Areas are as follows:
  1. The inner ring represents a person's values and aspirations. They emphasize that their patients care focuses on them as a unique persons using mindful awareness which is being tuned in and present in this model.
  2. Patient self-care and everyday choices make up the green circle
  3. The next ring is professional care (tests, medications, supplements, surgeries, examinations, treatments, and counseling). This section includes complementary approaches like acupuncture and yoga.
  4. The outer ring includes the people and groups who make up patient's community.
This model relates to both the SAMSHA's 8 Dimensions of Health model and Daniel Siegel's Wheel of Awareness Model of Mindfulness.