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Neuroplasticians of Social Justice: Multicultural Counselors in Training
Transcript of Neuroplasticians of Social Justice: Multicultural Counselors in Training
Gina Allen-Wilson, MA, NCC, LPC-I
Candice Williams, MA, NCC, LPC-I
The brain's ability to reorganizeitself by forming new neural connections throughout life Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.
How do we know what we think we know?
"My feet are like a new person"
Not just self-awareness, knowledge, and skills working with clients from different cultures...just as important are the effects of stress on brains...on the mind and body.
The mind is the product of the brain and is impacted by a person’s cultural context. Further, we now know that when the clients are developing new neurons/neural nets during the process of counseling...so are the Counselors' brains!
Researchers using fMRI technology let us see that our core concepts of empathy, congruence, unconditional positive regard and assuming that clients are their own best healer literally create two-way brain changes in session (Brown & Brune, 2012).
Think Level 5 on the Carkhuff Scale:
The counselor involves the client in discussion of specific feelings, -situations, and events regardless of their emotional content and facilitates a direct expression of all personally relevant feelings and experiences in concrete and specific terms.
How to be a Social Justice Neuroplastician:
*Constantly question your own competency in judging the context of others
*Consider ethical implications of NOT including information about the affect of oppression on the mind and body.
*Self-assess strong active and empathic listening skills on an ongoing basis
*Teach clients about the effects of oppressive systems (cortisol, PTSD, etc.)
*Collaborate to create a Wellness Initiative together
*Focus on Positives-NOT negatives
**Use the clients own words to create unique visualizations for reframes
*Teach clients to challenge and reframe negative self-speak and thought patterns
*Teach clients the benefits of deep breathing and mindfully focusing attention for positive neuroplastic benefits.
Transcend limitations and Transform them into opportunities for growth and well-being
What does that mean?
New Neural Pathways
Sprouting of new neural happen when you start doing new behaviors or actions. Regular and repeated mindful focus of attention also creates new neural sprouts.
Social Justice and Neuroplasticity
Imagine being constantly mindful of and intensely focused on (oppressive events) _______ because that is how you stay alive or cope with serious situations. What ways of thinking, feeling and acting might get "wired in"?
"...both deliberate and more automatic dysfunctional self-associations might play an important role in the cognitive vulnerability for developing anxious symptoms" (Glashouer, DeJong, & Penninx, 2011).
"Social justice reflects a fundamental valuing of fairness and equity in resources, rights and treatment for marginalized individuals and groups of people who do not share equal power in society becoause of their immigration, racial, ethnic, age, socioeconomic, religious heritage, physical ability, or sexual orientation status groups" (Constantine, Hage, Kindaichi, & Bryant, 2007)
We have learned:
*Meditation and prayer can build positive changes in the brain
*Practicing positive thoughts can overcome negative thoughts and change the amygdala
Now add OXYGEN
Social Justice Stress & the Brain
Stressful experiences cause:
*increased heart rate
*increased respiratory rate
*strengthened muscle tone
*disengagement of the frontal lobe
Overtime, the disengagement of the frontal lobe leads to:
Impulsivity, short-sightedness, aggressive behavior, increased anxiety, depression, alcohol & drug abuse, learning disorders, stress-related diseases
*Loss of neural connections (PTSD)
*Affects genetic structures
*Created in early childhood from poverty & neglect-poisons childrens' brains
**TRAUMA of war, rape, continued harrassment, abuse, etc. create stress cortisol
When you focus on Negatives rather than positives-
neurotransmitters receive the signals which then support and strengthen negative neural networks.
**Anti-social, criminal and violent personalities have less firing of mirror neurons (than counselors :) ...reducing recognition of emotions in others/empathy
CACREP Learning Standard
Section II, G.3.b. theories of learning and personality development, including current understandings about neurological behavior;
Davidson & Lutz, (2008). Buddha's brain: Neuroplasticity and
meditation. NIH Public Access. Retreived from http://
Garland, E. & Howard, M. O., (2009). Neuroplasticity, psychosocial
genomics, and the biopsychosocial paradigm in the 21st century.
Journal of Health Social Work, 34(3): 191-199.
Ivey, A. E., D’Andrea, M. J., & Ivey, M. B., 2004). Chapter 2:
Neuroscience: The Newest Force in Counseling and Psychotherapy. Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy, 7th Edition (49-85). Sage Publications.
Schwartz, J. (2008). The four steps: Step 1 - relabel OCD-UK.
Schwartz, J. & Beyette, B., (1996). Brain lock: Free yourself from
Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior. Harper and Collins, New York,
*Neuroplasticity is the brains able to reorganize itself and create new neural pathways-throughout the lifespan
*The neuroplastic aspects of counseling are empathy, congruance and focusing on positives-not negatives
*Negative neuroplasticity is created from focus on negative events and self-speak and is often bathed in cortisol
*Teaching clients positive neuroplasticity means using deep breathing, regular and repeated mindful focus of attention to: *challenge negative self-speak and thoughts
*enhance performance by Imagining AS IF
*create new ways of thinking, feeling and acting about old anxieties and problems
*Actually showing changes in oxygen levels*
In less than 2 minutes the following exercise not only begins to cool the Amygdala-but starts to warm up the frontal cortex...all in preparation for positive neuroplastic changes.
Clients can be taught this self-directed neuroplastic technique to begin to mindfully focus their attention to:
and many other applications as they learn to create new neural pathways...new ways of thinking, feeling and acting on old anxieties and old problems...
Less screaming-more dreaming
focused attention=increased frontal cortex activation and decreased amygdala activation (Davidson & Lutz, 2008)
Other Topics Available
*"Imagining As If" Brain Training Workshop
*Neuroplastic Intervention for Test Anxiety
*Qualitative Study: Exploring Cultural Components of Client Contributions in a Neuroplastic Intervention for Test Anxiety
Final Likert-type Scale
Please leave comments! Words are always potential qualitative research! :D
**Leave the feedback page with your presenter**
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND ATTENTION!