Teens and young adults are under more stress now than young people of earlier generations. Counseling can help build resilience and healthy ways to cope, supporting young people as they discover who they are and how they can do well in the world.
Our relationship with food is closely linked to our emotional health. Having emotions and eating are both physical events that are felt in the body, and we often try to change one by changing the other. Understanding this link allows us to cultivate an emotional relationship with food that supports our health.
We are an integrative health clinic, with 5 Domains, or pillars, of care. All of our therapies are evidence-based, which means that they are proven to be effective. We are also a collaborative practice, which means that our therapists work together for your care. We communicate with each other, and with your doctors as needed, about your treatments. This helps each treatment build on the one before to be more effective and support your health goals.
Our 5 Domains are:
Bodywork at Ha.Lé is evidence-based massage treatment for health. It blends ashiatsu, neuromuscular, myofascial release, structural integration, cupping therapy, and sports massage techniques, which means we are able to specifically address what is happening in your body. It is not a spa treatment just for relaxation, but a way to reduce pain, increase range of motion, and address spine, joint, and posture issues.
Somatics are movement-based therapies, offered mostly as classes, series, and workshops at Ha.Lé. Using techniques from yoga, tai chi, qigong, Feldenkrais, and body rolling, Somatics addresses how the body moves. It increases awareness of where the body is in space and how it moves through space, and can make those movement patterns more effortless. It also improves the health of muscle and tissue to reduce pain and increase relaxation.
Acupuncture stimulates points on the body to regulate systems and address dysfunction. It uses techniques including needling, cupping, tui na, and herbal supplement formulas to help rebalance the body. This helps regulate physiological systems like digestion, cardiovascular, and endocrine. It reduces pain levels, improves sleep, and increases relaxation.
Nutrition offers guidance on eating from an integrative perspective. It focuses not only on quantity, but the quality of food for nourishment, and what foods work best for your particular constitution. Based in Ayurvedic practices, it is Health at Every Size and Intuitive Eating compatible. It treats food allergies and intolerances and chronic illness like celiac, IBS, and heart disease.
Counseling offers mental and emotional solutions that incorporate psychotherapy, mindfulness-based practices, and cognitive behavioral therapy. We see individuals, couples, and families of all ages to treat anxiety, depression, addiction, trauma, grief, and LGBTQ issues.
Pain is more than a feeling, but a physical event in the body, with physical, neurological, and psychological effects. When pain is present for extended periods of time or becomes chronic, it changes how our bodies think and feel. Mental health care and counseling can help treat these changes and can often reduce pain levels.
Pain feelings are real, and are subjective, which means that there is no outside test to determine how much pain someone is in. In many ways, pain is like an alarm in the body, and the volume of the alarm can get turned up or down, depending on a lot of complex physical factors. There are mental techniques that help regulate the volume of the alarm and turn it back down, and counseling and mindfulness both help with this process.
Some people with chronic pain or a pain syndrome are reluctant to access mental health care for their pain, because there is a worry that if it is “all in your head”, then it “isn’t real.” Pain is never “all in your head,” but it does have specific mental and emotional consequences in addition to the ways it physically affects the body. All of these effects are real, and deserve to be treated and addressed through care.
Pain changes the way your brain works, and mental health care like counseling can help manage these changes and the stress, depression, anxiety, and other feelings that pain can cause. Our bodies are complex systems, and our minds are a part of that system. Easing suffering is important, and counseling for pain helps do that.
Compassionate self-care begins with where you are right now, at this moment. Instead of focusing on the general laundry list of criticisms so prevalent this time of year, it starts with acceptance of what is happening now, and then opens the gateway to a place that feels more sustainable for both physical and mental health.
Our bodies are often talked about in terms of how they look, or their aesthetic. Some of how we look is a choice, like our awesome shoes or warm hat, and much of how we look is not something that is under our control, like the shape of our eyes or the length of our legs. When we think critically about our bodies for things that we cannot control, we often end up with a loop of critical self-talk that harms our wellbeing.
A better way to talk about our bodies is in terms of how we feel, and how we feel in our bodies is something that we can change, often more than we realize. Taking yourself to class or for a walk can help you feel better for the rest of the day, or several days. Receiving bodywork can release muscle tension and mental stress, leaving you feeling better for days or weeks afterward. Coming to a counselor to talk through feelings of distress can help process through mental and emotional stresses that impact daily life, and acupuncture can effectively address pain and systemic imbalances that disrupt things like sleep and digestion.
If we let go of our expectations that our bodies should have a certain aesthetic, and instead focus on how we feel, we realize the transformative power of self-care. Our bodies are marvellous mechanisms of life, and there are so many ways to support and care for ourselves. When we start with this moment, and ask ourselves what would genuinely help us feel better physically and mentally, then we open the door to creating health and a sense of deep wellbeing.
The stress of the holiday season can reduce the joy we feel when we are giving and generous, and can deplete our capacity to give. We can restore our joy and activate the proven health benefits of practicing generosity through connecting with other people and practicing empathy.
Managing stress is key to restoring joy! Because the holiday season is often a time of family gatherings and social togetherness, it can bring up old hurts and emotions. Talking through your feelings with a counselor can help clear the air and restore your emotional equilibrium. Counseling can also help address climbing anxiety levels and work through feelings of depression. Creating time to take care of your emotional self can be a very effective way to address the increasing stress of this time of year, since unacknowledged emotions, unmet expectations, and mood dysregulation can all translate into general feelings of high stress.
When we are able to manage our stress levels, it can greatly increase our capacity to give and to feel generous. This in turn has proven health benefits, as it activates positive feedback loops in the brain. This positive feedback has been shown to increase longevity and improve heart health. It also releases oxytocin, the hormone that helps you feel deep wellbeing through trust and happiness.
Another way to increase our joy and capacity for generosity is to practice mindfulness. When we give to others, no matter the size of the gift, we can be mindful of how that gift makes them feel, and allow ourselves to connect to their feelings. By mindfully practicing empathy, we are able to increase everyone’s joy!
Treating stress through self-care, counseling, and mindfulness replenishes our resources for connection with others. We are then able to feel more of the joy that comes from being generous, filling our own hearts and the hearts of those around us.
The breath is one of our most important healing tools, and possibly one of the most overlooked. Breathing is something we do all day, every day, usually without conscious thought. Because it is so constant, it disappears into the background of our body awareness. When we consciously think about and change the breath, we are able to speak to the body in very profound ways.
The breath is one of the easiest bridges between the parts of our bodies that we can control and the bodily processes that are not conscious. It is a biological process that naturally falls into both categories, and so becomes a way for our mind to speak to our body directly.
Deep breathing: When we take a deep breath, it stimulates the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system that calms the body, helping us come out of a state of stress and distress, and move toward rest, restoration, and healing. Deep breathing helps reduce emotional distress and anxiety because it changes how those feelings are felt in the physical body. It can also help bring a sense of calm centeredness and overall wellbeing.
Breath awareness: Turning our attention to the breath is a fundamental mindfulness practice. When we pay attention to the flow of air in and out of our bodies, it cues the mind to tune into the present moment. This allows us to drop the anxiety and stress that comes with thinking about the past and future, and brings us more fully present to the physical reality of being alive. When we practice mindfulness like this, it can rewire neural pathways in the brain to reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and stress.
Breath in the body: The breath is also a physical event in the body, engaging a complex array of muscles and tissues and massaging the internal organs. Injuries, surgeries, and chronic stress can change the way the body breathes, which in turn can cause chronic tension and pain. Linking movement with the breath can help release this muscle tension and reset neuromuscular patterns. There are also breath awareness and breathing techniques that can help address structural issues like pain in the low back, pelvis, and neck and shoulders.
The breath is a powerful healing tool that allows us to speak to parts of the body that we cannot reach with the mind alone. By changing how we breathe and how we pay attention to our breath, we are able to counter the effects of chronic stress, reduce anxiety, release muscle tension, treat pain, and bring a sense of overall wellbeing.
Mood disorders like depression and anxiety are caused by complex interactions of brain chemistry, stress hormones, genetics, and other factors. The CDC recommends a collaborative approach to treatment, including primary care providers, mental health specialists, and other providers. The integrative therapies at Ha.Lé offer broad support for the body and mind, which helps regulate mood and easily complements other medical care.
Ha.Lé Counseling and Integrative Counseling provide compassionate one on one assessment and support for mood disorders. These sessions can be done in a private office, or while walking together on quiet residential streets in our neighborhood. This is called a Walk and Talk, and it allows the body and mind to process while in motion, which can be especially helpful for some people. Another option is Mindfulness Counseling, which provides specific tools for cultivating awareness and perspective and helps reduce distress across a wide range of situations.
More body-focused treatments can also profoundly support mental health. Bodywork and massage lower stress hormones by up to 50%, and boost levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are mood stabilizers. Sessions provide safe, nurturing touch, which makes space for you to relax, refocus, and find clarity. The effects are also cumulative. The first session can significantly reduce anxiety, and a series of sessions can provide reductions that are twice as large.
Acupuncture is a treatment that works to rebalance the systems of the body, and mood disorders are usually symptoms of a deep and/or complex imbalance. It is proven to reduce stress hormones and boost mood stabilizers, and sessions can have a more immediate effect than many medications.
Classes for therapeutic movement and self-care help to release endorphins, improve the connection between the body and mind, and lower stress hormones. They can also address the ways in which mood disorders can cause the body to curl forward in distress. Uncurling then allows the body to take deeper breaths, find its own internal support system, and feel energized.
Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are complex issues that affect the whole body and mind. Treatment that addresses whole system imbalances and brings the body back into a state of rest and healing can help stabilize mood and promote a general sense of wellbeing.
Our body is not separate from our mind, but instead they are aspects of the same system. An event in the body creates a response in the mind, and feelings and thoughts in the mind create physical responses in the body. When creating health, it is often necessary to address the mental and emotional aspects of distress as well as the physical effects.
Biologically, there are multiple ways that the mind and body communicate. Three of these pathways physically respond to our thoughts and feelings through the neurological system, endocrine system, and immune system. We are wired this way so that our bodies know when to prepare for danger and when it is safe to focus on digestion and healing.
When confronted with stress and danger, our bodies divert resources away from long term health in order to maintain short term survival. This means that our ability to fight off infection, to remain calm and centered, to fully and comfortably digest our food, and to have enough restful sleep is sacrificed in order to run away from lions, even if they are not real lions.
The reverse is also true. When our bodies experience pain and distress, it impacts our thoughts and feelings. The pain affects our nervous system, causing distinct physiological changes that can result in depression or anxiety. It also impacts our ability to keep things in perspective, increasing our worry and fear to levels above what helps keep us safe.
This is why mental health counseling is such an important part of what we do at Ha.Lé, and we have recently expanded our counseling offerings. All of our counselors understand the deep connection between the body and the mind, and bring deep compassion and expertise their sessions. We are here to help you create health for your whole mind and body.
Restorative practices are key to maintaining and creating health. Our bodies are designed to regularly have deep rest in order to reset the nervous system, flush the effects of stress, and rebalance internal processes, which all supports health and healing on a deep, fundamental level. Without enough restoration, our bodies become locked into chronic stress patterns that create dysfunction in our physical, mental, and emotional lives.
Mindfulness principles support restorative practices, which in turn creates a cascade of health benefits in the body. As the body moves into rest and restore mode, the heart rate will slow, the breath will deepen, and blood pressure will decrease. Common areas of muscular tension like the diaphragm, pelvis, and neck and shoulders, will begin to relax and release. As the musculoskeletal tension along the spine releases, the vertebrae will be able to make subtle adjustments toward alignment. The nervous system will also re-regulate itself, which helps to turn down the volume of pain signals, and other systems of the body like digestion, circulation, and circadian rhythms, will also reset and rebalance.
Mind Body Therapy uses this effectiveness of mindfulness and restoration to address specific health conditions. At Ha.Lé, we always begin with a conversation, and the initial conversation for Mind Body Therapy will assess your health condition and personal goals. We will also seek to understand your current physical, mental, and spiritual capacity. This allows us to create a personalized mind body practice for you that applies mindfulness principles to optimize your health.
Your personalized mind body therapy practice can provide specialized techniques for a variety of specific health conditions. It can help with chronic pain from musculoskeletal conditions, and cardiovascular disease including heart failure and coronary heart disease. Mind Body Therapy can also address conditions like diabetes mellitus, obesity, anxiety, depression, post traumatic disorder, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
Mind Body Therapy is the application of principles of mindfulness for wellness and specific health conditions. Mindfulness techniques are able to turn the complex systems of the body toward restorative states, which creates space for deep healing and rebalancing.
Dr. Gurjeet Birdee is a researcher, scientist, physician, and mind body therapist. He is now available for Mind Body Therapy sessions at Ha.Lé.