You could say I'm the poster child for "bad therapy experiences". Don't despair - watch this video for a real eye opener.

"Therapy: It's an Inside Job"

  • Avatar Peasy says:

    This is perfect and sounds just like my current wonderful therapist. The problem here is ME! I have not yet been able to relax enough in her gentle presence to allow her to work with me despite continuing and various body awareness and relaxation efforts. I want so much better open up to her, but how do I do it? We are both frustrated.

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Hi Peasy, yeah, I can imagine it’s frustrating. That “on guard” part of our brain can be a force to be reckoned with.

      I’m not sure whether you’re checking into your body or not. When you mentioned, “body awareness” it seemed that you might be. In any case, that would be the fail safe method of trying out different techniques. You can usually trust your body to tell you what’s a trigger.

      And I wasn’t sure if you’re familiar with the workings of the reptilian brain. That’s essentially what’s calling the shots in your sessions even though you might trust your therapist. It means that how you’re automatically responding to your therapist isn’t your fault. It’s just that the reptilian brain requires a different set of criteria in order to be safe.

      If you haven’t already, try the 12-Second Chill just to be sure you understand how to check in. Then enlist your therapist in an exercise whereby you sit back a few feet from her. Once you’re there, try checking in again to your body to see if it made a difference. You can experiment with distance to see what’s right. Once you’re feeling safe (less activated in your body), you can attempt to move forward in little baby steps.

      I’m glad you asked the question because learning to just “be” with your therapist is so key to your therapeutic process – I’d want this to get settled before getting too deep into the details of your life.

      Best wishes for your therapy,

  • Avatar Hilary says:

    Dear Shrinklady, thank you so much for your nurturing and very practical and do-able teaching! It’s exactly what I needed so thank goodness I found you!

    I used to feel so overloaded and often worse at the end of a session with my therapist. We did do a little body/sensing in – but not nearly enough and not in the same way you describe. I’ve started practicing your ideas and it’s making a massive difference in my life in general. And I’m only two weeks in to your course.

    I haven’t spoken yet to my therapist about this new self-soothing skill I’m able to do and wonder what the best way to describe it is. I think she will definitely get it and I’m hoping I’ll be brave enough to ask her if we can do this in sessions. I’m right at the end of therapy and with transference still resolving I think it’s important for me to really absorb this liberating skill.

    How would you sum up your brain wise/body sensing techniques in a few sentences so I can share that with her?

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      I love to hear that you’re finding these techniques helpful Hilary. Thank-you. It’s these kinds of comments that inspire me to get the word out there.

      So you asked how to broach the subject with your therapist. Just before I reply I’d like to share something about my work. Because it was definitely shaped by my clients – I learned what worked and what didn’t from them. For instance, I don’t recall ever being taught how to work with freeze in the way I do now. That came straight from my clients. So in saying this, I’d like to empower you Hilary to share your own experience with her – that any brain science would take a back seat.

      Actually, it sounds as if you have the type of therapist who is equally open to your input on what works and what doesn’t. I might begin by sharing how you’re using these techniques in between sessions and how it’s helping you. And I’d be very specific on how you felt it worked for you. If her input is positive, I’d offer the idea that you’d like to try one in your session. (If you feel that’s too bold for you Hilary, put the suggestion to her in the form of a question. “I know we haven’t been working this way in general however, I understand from my reading that others are using this technique in their therapy and finding it useful. Do you think it might be worthwhile for us to give it a go?”

      If you’d like to share some brain science…

      I think the biggest revelation from neuroscience and it’s application to therapy is that the brain changes best via “experience”. You see, an “experience” happens in the present and the brain will only change in the present. So thinking about the past or trying to anticipate events in the future doesn’t change you. These aren’t considered “experiences” for the brain to learn from.

      For instance, many folks come to therapy after they’ve unsuccessfully tried to change themselves. They may have read self help books and have had good intentions of changing but it didn’t stick. So therapy has that advantage – it offers an experience that’s hard to replicate on your own.

      It’s also known that the emotional area of the brain doesn’t understand language (except for some emotionally laden expletives and heart felt sayings). So merely talking to your therapist (i.e. with little emotional content) or “thinking through” has it’s limits in terms of changing us. However, when we sense the body we’re actually tapping into the same brain area where emotions reside. We’re also having an “experience” which accounts for why it helps just where it’s needed.

      Your therapist may also have come across the idea that “insight is not sufficient for change”. In other words, while learning about our history and patterns in therapy helps us to appreciate how we got to be the way we are today (it’s comforting to know we came by our problems honestly) – it’s hard to get us to change at our core with that alone. Rather, when we become present to our emotions (that is, we hang out in the body sensations that reflect our emotions) or we merely bring our attention to the sensations in our body, we’re actually doing exactly what the brain needs in order to make change happen.

      Hope that gives you a few idea to go on Hilary. Thanks again for your comment.


  • Avatar Lisa says:

    Dear Susan
    You are brilliant. That box analogy is so spot on. Ha!
    Every time I watch /listen to one of your pieces its like – YES! Exactly! ShrinkLady is soooo onto something here. WHY oh why is this not common knowledge/practice for ‘recognized health professionals’.

    I can’t help thinking future generations will look back at therapy in this period and think – as we do about previous generations – ‘Can you believe that’s what we thought was the best way to treat people?! Can you believe professionals and ‘modern medicine’ were that ignorant of basic biological functioning?! I can’t help thinking Cukoos nest except prescription drugs are the 21st century lobotomy. Thank YOU for having the courage to go against the grain and for sharing your wisdom.

  • Avatar Sarah says:

    I am very happy to find your site, Shrink lady.

    I am the object of bad therapy by a famous and trusted psychiatrist who decided to read a book about Brain Spotting. He must of skipped the most important section on “grounding” me first.

    What happened is I would go into many violent memories that I had disassociated from, as if they were happening for the first time. Even after the office appointment, the movie reel of my life with a violent psychopath continued. I wanted to jump off the balcony. He gave me medication, I wanted to jump off even more, and doubled locked the doors.

    After taking the course, the sessions were a “piece of cake”. but I am still remaining shattered from the initial memories. Because I lost respect for his unethical method (using a therapy without training) I lost respect and stopped going to him. I am trying to heal on my own, but realize that I do need a lot of help.

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Oh I’m pleased to hear you’re no longer seeing that psychiatrist Sarah. It’s so discouraging to hear reports like this…you go to therapy to heal and end up being re-traumatized 🙁 That was not supposed to happen.

      I’m not familiar with what techniques were used in your sessions Sarah but the “movie reel” flashbacks can get triggered if there’s too much discussion going on and not enough “containment”. This usually happens when therapists aren’t checking in with their clients as the session proceeds. Like clients need to be prompted to gauge their activation throughout the session. And the only accurate way of assessing your activation is to check into your body which it sounds as if this whole part was missing for you…as you say, he needed to have started with “grounding”. You’re absolutely right about that.

      Do you have some courage left to try therapy again with another therapist Sarah? It might sound odd to go to therapy to heal from a bad therapy experience, but it might be really helpful.

      If you do take this step, I’d strongly recommend a body-based therapist. In my view they’re the best trained practitioners for working with trauma.

      Every therapist needs to be aware of working with trauma using “titrated” baby steps however few do except for body psychotherapists. And they’re the only therapists that I know who are encouraged to use their own internal signals as guides. That adds another level of safety so there’s less of a chance in being re-traumatized.

      In fact, with body psychotherapy you wouldn’t even be talking about traumatic events until there’s a lot more stability in your nervous system. That way, by the time the subject comes up, you’re in a better emotional state to handle it. So hopefully, this information might lessen any hesitation in giving therapy another try.

      Thanks for your comment and all the best,


  • Avatar Tom says:

    Really good video.

    Was seeing 2 separate therapists for the past several months, one of whom seemed to “know it all” but…really just irritated me, but, I could keep seeing “he was right” or wondering “dang, what if…he is right and I ignore what he’s saying?”

    The other guy, like you shrinklady, is really on the same plane as Daniel Siegel (that’s how I found him, but searching for therapists into mindsight in my city, and scanning through pages of Google’s results til I found just that). I’m able to explore my discomforts while being soothed and seen and understood.

    I just ended with the irritating, a**hole therapist today, and seeing this video tonight helps make sense of a lot of this. (Funny, I found your site searching “authority issues” after the a**hole therapist made this claim about me, and I do dig your website, so thanks to him, I guess?)


  • Avatar sue says:

    I’ve been pretty overwhelmed for some considerable time, both inside and outside therapy, but couldn’t explain to myself what exactly is going on with me! Now I know! Now I know why I’ve been failing at my job, in relationships, moving forward with ‘my new found life’ (a long story…), not sleeping, etc etc. Thank you Shrinklady! I look forward to exploring your website more, reading your book and watching more videos, but right now I’m just going to think about the crisis-comfort-freeze zones.

  • Avatar Judy says:

    I loved your video. It made perfect sense to me and you presented the ideas in a really clear way.
    I have gone to therapists forever, most were kind and helpful. One molested me and I ended up being worse off than when I started. I have a great therapist now, but this is a new way of looking at the
    chaotic feelings that seem overwhelming at times. Thank you.

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Thanks for your post Judy and sharing your experience. It’s quite disheartening to hear stories of therapist betrayal, especially when we’re reaching out for help and are already feeling vulnerable. That kind of breach in trust can catch us off guard. It’s not supposed to happen. Therapy should be one area of life where we needn’t have to worry about feeling safe. So I’m sorry that happened to you.

      It’s wonderful to hear though, that you had the courage to get back into therapy. That says a lot about you.

      I’m glad the movie resonated with you.


  • Avatar catherine ellis says:

    Im so glad I have found this site, I feel so abandoned by the therapist i was seeing and I know I have transferance issues, but I did not trust him enough to speak to him about them, he was emotionaly aloof and I felt not really listened to, I often use to shut down, (the only way I could manage myself), I feel lost and betrayed and I dont know why.

    The therapy opened up memories of past trauma and abuse, Im back now on the waiting list for more therapy but I know that I will need help getting over the transference issues I have with my last therapist, but I see that others have had the courage to deal with this and so must I,.no matter how terrified I feel, I don’t blame him or me for that matter but oh the pain is bad……

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Oh, I’m so glad you trusted your instincts with your last therapist Catherine that is, in not opening up. It’s pretty hard to heal from emotional traumas if your therapist isn’t emotionally available to you.

      Even so, it’d be understandable that you might have developed a stronger transference with him than you cared to and hence why you’re now feeling lost and betrayed. His aloofness could easily trigger these feelings within you.

      And just so you know, shutting down in therapy is quite natural – even adaptive – in that circumstance and given your history.

      I’m glad to hear that you’re willing to give it another go.

      All the best,


    • Avatar Sandra says:

      Catherine, I’m so sorry to hear that you seem to be in the same position re an aloof therapist and very painful transfer issues as I was, and I will never ever forget it. The pain of not understanding, feeling bewildered, and longing was awful , but I promise you some strategies I learnt in the BCP gave me the help and relief I was desperate for. I just thought I would come and offer what help I could to you after having just seen your comment a moment ago which took me back to where I once was.

      Good luck, and I wish you all the very best.

  • Avatar Sandra says:

    I’m not sure this is the right place to leave this comment, but Suzanne I just wanted to thank you.
    Roughly 2 years ago I watched this movie, and I decided to do the Brain Coaching Program. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I do mean that. Apart from it being so interesting it proved so effective, and helped me in many areas. The wonderful thing was I could apply techniques and strategies taught to countless situations in my life.
    Now, having been away from the program for a while, I’ve decided to return and do a complete refresher course!
    Thanks again. Sandra

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Oh that’s exactly what I like to hear Sandra. Thanks for letting others know too.

      I’ll share a secret with you. I use it myself. Sometimes I hear my voice in my head guiding me on. Kinda funny when you think of it 🙂

  • Avatar Rose says:

    Hi Shrinklady,
    Thank you for sharing this. I’m studying to be a music therapist and I have come to realize that I have to accept how my survival mode in an anxious (frozen or crisis) state affects me. It’s been very humbling, but I have to take care of myself so I can be aware of how to take care of my future clients.

    With that, I have noticed that my verbal communication is muted when I want to speak my mind. It’s like I have to react when someone asks me a question, but this only happens in a situation that is out of my comfort zone. I would like to learn how to move in and out in my comfort zone so I can speak what I am thinking and not jumble over my words, have trouble listening, and catch on to the general culture that I have noticed others do not believe I catch onto. Internalizing has been my way of surviving, but it can be very unhealthy too in the way that I choose to internalize.


    P.S. I also want to thank Sharon for sharing because this is a topic that I want to become aware of for myself at a personal and professional level.

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Oh you’re welcome Rose. Music therapy eh…that’s wonderful….love the “right brain” type therapies.

      I was glad to hear you mention how important it is for us therapists to take care of ourselves. Indeed, in my own experience, that route has offered the greatest impact on how I work with clients (I was in body-based therapy). It’s been a direct correlation…as I have become attuned to my own body and emotions, I have become more attuned with my clients.

      And just to offer some hope…it is quite possible to re-regulate the nervous system so you live your live well within the Zone. The key is to reduce your nervous system arousal pattern on an ongoing basis and especially at times when it’s hardest to do. That in itself, will help to bring you into the present. (You can use the 12-Second Chill for this….although there are easier ways too.)

      Now, it does takes a concerted effort over a period of time and there are times when it’s really tough. Even as you begin though, you’ll notice changes in yourself. In fact, I continue to be amazed how clients’ lives continually open up in unexpected ways as their nervous system becomes more regulated.

      If you do indeed give it a try, please come back and let me know how it’s going.



  • Avatar Camila says:

    Hi, thanks for the video. I’m actually a forensic psych student in 1st year and in freeze zone as you put it for most things specially related to my studies. i have so much going on and haven’t been able to focus on my studies and this is driving me into the crisis mode as i have little control over whats happening at the moment. anyhow this was a great new perspective and im looking forward to more videos.

    i guess just like any other psychologist i must look after myself too before looking after others. will be looking at the 12 second chill video but any other tips as well??
    Cheers from down under =)

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Hi Camila, yeah it’s so important to take care of ourselves as psychologists. I was reminded how important it is in my practice this week. Cause if I can’t be emotionally available to my clients, I set a defining limit on what is literally possible for them.

      Yeah, being a good therapist is really all about where we are within ourselves. If our Zone of Comfort is maxed, we can’t go where our clients need us. However, if we expand our nervous system capacity, we expand emotionally.

      You had asked for tips. Yes, here’s one tip…and you may already be onto this Camila…

      It’s far more efficient to work on yourself – on the inside – than in trying to control things outside of you. By changing your internal environment (there’s probably a better way of phrasing that), what you see outside of yourself, will be transformed.

      In other words, how we see the world is shaped by how we experience ourselves on the inside. That’s where we have the greater control. So contrary to the idea of “reduce your stress by cutting back” (which is the common advice and not always preferable especially if you want to complete your schooling), you literally grow yourself from the inside so you are up for any challenge as your life expands.

      Hope that gives you some food for thought.


      P.S. And if you didn’t catch this earlier, I teach how to get out of crisis mode with lots of practical tips in my Brain Coaching Program 😉

  • Avatar PJ says:

    What a great video! I just learned so much about myself and my spouse.

    I’m a survivor of multiple childhood traumas. I went to therapy for one year, steadily at first and then, upon the therapist’s suggestion, only when something cropped up.

    About one year into the therapy (maybe 15 sessions total), I finally felt comfortable and trusting enough to dig deeper on a particular issue. It was an issue I didn’t even touch for a year because it was something that often left me numb. Finally, I was starting to feel the depth and weight of this issue and its impact on my life, and I wanted to process it.

    I let the therapist know this by e-mail and requested a session the therapist did not respond. Then, we set up the appointment and she cancelled last minute and never wrote back to reschedule. I later learned that the therapist’s personal life was getting in the way of her therapy practice. She had to go silent on everyone for about three months.

    When she returned, I tried to see her but I had to stop going because even the sight of her made me feel very afraid.

    I guess I’m curious about what your thoughts are. I was devastated. I’m a high functioning person with steady employment, a lot of responsibility at work and at home and in my community, and I was managing it fine and I’m shocked and dismayed at how losing my therapist unnerved me and made me unable to function for a few days.

    After five months, I was still crying about this so I found a new therapist. I’m scared of this person though she seems like a sweetheart. I’m starting to wonder if therapy is just madness — going to a therapist to talk about what happened with my last therapist? I think I’m now worse than ever and regretting ever opening up my heart and stability to this much risk in the first place. I had no idea that therapy carried so much personal risk if your therapist just drops you. I feel bad for my therapist but I also feel bad for myself.

    Thank you for your thoughts.

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Oh, I can imagine how this experience might hove blind-sided you PJ especially as you say – your life was functioning well enough. It’s hard to think that you could have seen that coming.

      It’s unfortunate that your original therapist just left like that especially as you had opened up to her at such a deep level. It’s good to hear you were able to go there and btw, this bodes well for your future therapy.

      However, you deserved time with her to help transition to a new therapist and at minimum, some acknowledgement of how hard this change must be for you.

      So, I totally get why you would have reacted fearfully upon her short return and why you’re feeling afraid of this new therapist. You see, you were opening up to an emotionally younger part of you and now having been abandoned just when you started to trust again…well, it’s harkening back to your earlier traumas (that I assume some of which were relational).

      If you think of a young child being left behnind and how she’d cope in a world she doesn’t know how to navigate in, that’s what you’re presently coping with.

      So, I’m glad to hear you’re taking steps to take care of yourself. Therapeutic relationships are afterall, relationships and things can go awry.

      On the flip side, working through this issue will certainly help you to deal with any betrayal you might have experienced earlier in your life.

      In fact, owing to how the brain is interconnected, dealing with this current abandonment will help to heal your earlier experiences. As as therapist, I would certainly be encouraging my client to work through this issue before tackling earlier material (We’re more resourced as adults and this being an “adult” experience, is usually easier to move through.)

      And just so you know PJ, it’s not uncommon to go to another therapist to deal with what happened with a previous T. The issues can range from a one off comment that your previous therapist said all the way to an extreme situation where abuse was occurring.

      This therapist was clearly out of her depth…with her “when something crops up” type therapy. Her awareness of early development and traums seems clearly lacking. So PJ, I’m tempted to think it’s actually better that you are with someone else. Personally, I would only work with a therapist who had a lot of experience in the area of brain-wise and trauma therapy.

      I hope that helps relieve some of your queries PJ.

      All the best,


  • Avatar Sharon says:

    During a session with my therapist, I noticed my arousal level rising. I stopped mid-sentence and took several slow deep breaths and a 12-second chill. It helped. I told him I was on the edge and needed to get back in the zone. He said that was a good skill to know.

    However, a week later, I ran into my old therapist at the church we attend. I was going in a door as she was coming out. We have a long history together. Three years ago she terminated me after five years of weekly therapy because of unresolved negative transference. She smiled and said hi to me but I stood frozen in front of her and began to hyperventilate. I wanted to greet her but my reptilian brain was in a panic. I am afraid to go to church and run into her again.

    I can’t live like this! How did I sit with her for all those years and now I am unable to even speak to her! Is there any way to find peace with her again?

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Oh that’s so cool how you used the Chill Sharon. And yes, I’m pretty sure you can find peace again. In fact, I think you’re already half way there.

      I know it’s possible because I’ve experienced something similar myself. That said, I don’t think there’s a quick solution for you but it’s definitely possible for you to one day to smile warmly and confidently upon meeting her.

      Everyone’s had moments they’d wish they could replay. Alas, most won’t see this as a sign (and an opportunity!) to do some emotional work. But if you’re up for doing the work you’ll find many other things in your life will improve as well. (I call that the “collateral advantage” of working on a single issue – it affects you on such a deep level that you see improvements on all levels).

      There are two ways to approach this problem, both of which require that you understand how the workings of the nervous system bring your level of activation down.

      One is related to the way our nervous system responds when activation is running high. High activation means we’re more likely to move into freeze when triggered. If our activation is really running high, it doesn’t take much to trigger us.

      When you ran into your former therapist the arousal pattern associated with your automatic internal reaction could not be contained. That is, her presence triggered you beyond what your nervous system (your “bucket”) could handle and the primitive lizard brain moved you into freeze.

      And just so you know Sharon, your body chose the freeze response – you literally had no control over this reaction. However, if you’re able to lower your baseline activation level, you’ll be less tipped into freeze. Using the 12-Second Chill is a good beginning. Learning to go deeper using that skill will certainly help. (I explain this a lot more in my Brain Coaching Program “BCP”).

      Even if you’re successful in reducing your overall level of activation, you still could have an uncomfortable reaction upon seeing her even though you’re no longer going into freeze. To reduce this reaction, you’ll need to do the work of uncovering the emotional issues that you’ve projected onto her (that is, through the negative transference).

      Please remember that it’s actually not your ex-therapist that’s the cause of this transference. Once you’ve cleared away the related emotional issues you’ll experience her just as you do any supportive person in your life. Since you’re in therapy now, I trust that you’re already on this path.

      I hope that gives you some ideas to work with.



      P.S. There’s another tool I’d recommend for you that will help you to handle encounters like this without over-reacting. It’s called “The Take Two Technique” (also part of the BCP), and it to is based on systematic desensitization using imagination and body sensation.

  • Avatar Kimberly says:

    Hi! I have only watched your first video but I look forward to leanring more! I have been looking for answers on my mental health for years! I hope this helps! Just read about disaccotiation which sounds like me! I have been labled with depression, ocd, pmdd, I have had ppd, anxities, my most recent self diagnoosis is add.Thank

  • Avatar Sara says:

    Thank you for a brilliant video, ShrinkLady. I can really relate to the crisis and freeze modes, and the awful feeling of not being able to think at all (let alone think straight!)

    I get thrown out of my comfort zone all too easily, and then it’s like my rational mind is completely gone. I find the idea of a lizard brain really helpful as well because when I’m in the crisis or freeze zones, I know I’m behaving really irrationally, but feel completely unable to do anything about it. It’s like the different parts of me aren’t joining up. It would be fantastic to learn a different way of being!

  • Avatar sharon says:

    I recognised the problem of leaving therapy and spending days recovering from a session and your presentation really helped to explain why. Thankyou

  • Avatar Joan says:

    i can relate to suzanne.. i feel like a wild child some time.. i have been working on my self. ive had lots of help..but im still feeling like some things missing…. i do have faith..

  • Avatar Anonymous says:


    I’ve only watched your first video so far. I’ve been in counselling for the last couple years due to a breakdown, marital separation and gender dysphoria. My body is male, in it’s early 40’s; inside I feel like a 16 year old girl. I have decided NOT to go onto hormones; that would be an answer in some respects, but it is a VERY hard road.

    I used the word “contained” with my counsellor last week, to describe what women’s jewellery does for my emotional state. She mentioned to me that containment is something a counsellor does for their clients in the session. I’d had no idea that containment was a psychological term. She knows that I have an active mind and determined pursuit of answers, and it was only a few days before I did a google search on the subject. Out of the first page of websites, yours was the only one to come anywhere close to describing the concept in a meaningful way.

    Freeze Mode and Crisis Mode are things that I’ve lived with as long as I remember, and your word “Flow” is a word I’ve used many times to express what feminine expression does for me. So far, everything associated with “Flow” seems feminine to me, even such things as prayer, gardening and singing.

    In the last 2 years, I’ve been calling my Freeze Mode “depression”; it sort-of fits descriptions I’ve read of atypical depression and rejection sensitivity. And I’ve been calling my Panic Mode “anxiety”, though I haven’t been able to find any description of anxiety that really fits what I experience. I find relief by using:
    – Jogging, coffee & chocolate, which temporarily expands my area between Freeze Mode and Panic Mode.
    – Mirtazapeine, which helps me sleep and takes a little bit of the edge off.
    – Singing, prayer, mindfulness, and tactile stuff, which calms and focusses me, helping to bring my internal state back within the lines.
    – Expression of my feminine identity, which seems to make me more more resilient in general.

    I am determined to find freedom this year, and your video helped me discern more precisely what that means, in a word, “Flow”. My gap between Freeze Mode and Crisis Mode has always been very small, and I easily flip-flop between those two states. I’ve managed to hold onto a full-time job, but struggle to work more than 33 hours/week in the last couple years. Life has always been a struggle, and for a long time I’ve felt like I was broken in some way, but only now starting to really comprehend what is going on inside me. Thank you.

  • Avatar Laura says:

    I just got a big feeling of ‘Yes’ that’s it! That’s what’s happening this is
    Why I’m not progressing, I’ve lost my flow…thank you so much!
    My new therapist is going to be as thrilled as me when I tell her about
    This I’m sure! Feeling more positive about it already!

  • Avatar Miki says:

    Thank you for sending out your video, it made me laugh and it made me nod in agreement. My first shrink was a character: shared to much personal information, like his son having a drug problem, constantly took “patients” phone calls during my sessions, would even discuss other clients. I finally was able to quit him but, my next therapist did not work out either, during one session she called me a bitch so, I fired her too. Forward ten years later my psychiatrist recommended I see a therapist that works out of his group and I have been seeing her for nearly three years. I have an intense eroticized transference toward her,( I have obsessions with different people), the one before my current therapist was a man I worked with, and my first therapist. Last year she recommended DBT therapy for me when I was very suicidal. Before this recommendation she wanted to see me twice a week but, I could not afford the extra visit.

    I have had plenty of blowouts with my T and I have been more than mean, once I was so angry I stomped out of the room after cursing at her. I did apologize. Late last year she told me I treat her like shit and that she was done with me yelling at her. I have told her in the past I do not like it when she raises her voice at me, so the feeling is mutual. It now feels like she is guarded with me and I feel frustrated and very depressed a lot, especially after leaving a session with her. I tried to leave her last November but, I couldn’t stay away, my emotions were in turmoil. I asked to see her on my old day and she felt I was being demanding and was angry. I am back, she did giving me my old day back but, I feel we are not getting along the way we should and thoughts of leaving are back, I do not know what to do or even think. I would love some feed back on my post. Thanks.

    Hi Shrink Lady,
    Thank you for your insightful videos, they are great. I identified with your description of freeze mode; I thought these symptoms were depression. Are freeze and depression the same? I wonder if my therapy is working for me anymore? I often leave my sessions upset, crying, angry, frustrated, and I used to arrive angry. I am on meds. and have been in talk therapy for 3 years. How do I approach my therapist with the information you have presented in this video. Do you think she would not appreciate my telling her I believe my nervous system is not ready for me to dig around in my head and, that she may not be guiding me properly? What should I say?

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Hello Miki, I read your previous post and this one…thank-you for sharing so honestly. First, please understand that you are not to blame for how your therapy has turned out. It’s an uneasy reality…sometimes clients have to take their own therapy in hand when their therapist is not able to show up in the way they need. And this seems to be the case with what you’ve described.

      You may already be aware that therapists are not immune to issues. It seems you’ve hit upon a blind spot with yours. Speaking as a therapist, I don’t say it’s a cake-walk to work with anger when it’s been targeted at you – that said, the primary goal for the therapist – even if it’s the session after an “event” – is to repair the relationship…not to go on as if nothing has occurred. And until the “elephant in the room” is addressed it’s pretty hard to have anything of meaning to come out of your therapy. There’s no such thing as “pretend” therapy.

      I gather from your remarks that the energy behnid your anger was not matched by your therapist. (I don’t think that’s unusal. Not many therapists are comfortable working with anger.) What I mean by this is that you weren’t met with the same amount of energy in the opposite direction. I run into these situations less so these days given that I work from a body-based perspective (where anger is channeled through the body) however, let me share with you what I think you needed as if I was right there:

      These thoughts are within me in preparation for my next step…I don’t believe the anger was really meant for me and so I don’t collude with that notion. And therefore, I’m a bear about the boundary…I have to be slightly more powerful so it’s clear you haven’t overwhelmed me.

      I’m thinking on my feet – I’m going to places within myself I don’t often venture to willingly. As I bristle inside against your rage I mount a force from within me and meet it with an equal amount of love. I will not let you disparage our relationship and I convey messages in keeping with our history together sometimes along the lines of…

      “Miki” I would say…”I’m right here, I’m not going anywhere” (I say this as an attempt to reach you through the rage and instinctively I know that rage often has roots in early abandonment)…”this is not you” (i.e I can see the tormented child within you – you are not your baggage…(I’m sure even as you express the anger, you don’t identify with it deep within yourself). “We’ll work together to move beyond this..please stay connected to me” (I try my best to maintain a steady, non-judging eye contact).

      Then of course, both of us are shaky and somewhat wasted. We spend the next few minutes unpacking what had happened that led to this rupture. If our session ends in a warm hug we know we’ve overcome something important. Nothing is as it was for either. We’ve both changed for the better.

      And it’s not that anger won’t re-surface at some point again in the relationship Miki…like a child…we all need to test the waters to know for sure…it’s that there’s a confidence and a knowingness, you’ll be loved, cared about despite it.

      Practically speaking Miki, I imagine you’re asking yourself where do you go from here. My inclination is to encourage you to try and work it out with your current therapist. She might not be the right one down the road, however it seems this discord between you would be carried over into another therapeutic relationship. In fact, it’s probably being carried over to all your relationships even now. The more talking about what’s really happened between you, the better.

      You might tell her for instance, that you’ve noticed a difference in how she responds to you and that you believe you may have indeed hurt her. Ask her what you could do or say that might make things better between the two of you. Share with her – if you haven’t already – how important she is to you.

      As for your final question…I’ll leave that for now as I suggest alternatives in my BCP program.

      Take good care Miki and I hope this has given you some ideas to work with.


      • Avatar miki says:

        Thank you for your reply and thought full in site and suggestions. I read your reply the day you posted it but, I haven’t replied sooner because I wanted to read your post several times, absorbing and fully understand what you have written. You are correct, my therapist did not match my anger with love but, with an equal amount of anger. Your prediction about taking any resentment with me to the next therapist is also correct. My relationships with my last two therapists ended badly and because of this it took a while for me to trust my T and open up to her. Plus, I directed a lot of anger over the last two Ts at her.

        Last week I mentioned you had written me, how I felt distant from her, and that I could feel she was guarded towards me. I repeated what you wrote, that it felt as if there was this elephant in the room we were ignoring. I told her you suggested I stick with her and work out our feelings. She was very agreeable and smiled. I will be seeing her tomorrow and I am looking forward to continuing where we left off last week. I will tell her how important she is to me as you suggested. An interesting side effect of my situation is my erotic transference has lessened a little bit. I will keep you informed about my progress.

        Thank you Shrink Lady for your caring response and advice, for which I am very greatful. I would like to meet you someday.

        Best regards.

  • Avatar candumu mucandu says:

    This is a very essentiel diet for me because actually the topics tackled what am going through.Thanks so much and God bles u with more knowledge.

  • Avatar rekha says:

    Really good expanation of what is needed and what hppends in the therapy/counselling.Beautifully explained as well as with photographs and illustatrions and graphs.A totally good video.

  • Avatar kim says:

    Hi there, i am just into therapy and we have talked about neuroplasicity (sp?) when you have always been in crisis or freeze mode as you call them, the first step is knowing what it’s like in the comfort zone…’s been months now and i am still exhausted….i think i am beginning to understand that this REAL work takes time. I always wanted to know how to fix me, what i needed to do….my therapist says, “the slower i go, the faster i will get there” thanks for this video – it puts it into plain language that most of us dealing with anxiety or the like can relate to …keep working with us,

  • Avatar Caroline says:

    Hello, Thanks for the video. It makes sense but how do I put it into practice? I’m not sure how to use it in my daily life. Thank you

  • Avatar Ruth1 says:

    Yes, I do see myself leaving my sessions sometimes worse off than when I arrived. I hope that your resources can help me.

  • Avatar johnmorrison says:

    Thank you for the material. I am currently both in therapy and a practising therapist, also recovering from a stroke which effected my speech and language centres. T he notion of being held and emotional containment hugely important I recognise the work can only begin whe we feel safe .I have contacted your site because of all that I have learnt from my stroke and eager for more
    God Bless

  • Avatar Suzanne says:

    Hi Shrink Lady. I have been going through a change of life –I think I’m finally growing up! I’m a very young soul who grew up fast. Dealing with all of my life’s challenges from childhood to today, I have a hard time with accepting things for what they are right now. I am very restless and never satisfied or happy with what I have. If I don’t have goals set, I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing anything. I met my significant other online 3.5 years ago and we have been living together for three years. He has small kids….10 and 12 and we have had nothing but divorce battles. I thought I was done with that in my previous relationship/husband. I also moved to a remote location to be with him. I am a real esate agent and it has taken me three years to start earning a living, and I have always paid half of all our expenses. I know I do not belong here in this city and I need to move to take care of the freebird child inside of me. I love to have fun and do new things. My boyfriend encourages me to do what I need to do. I feel stuck in a rut. I don’t know what my purpose is. I am bored to tears and don’t know why I’m even trying anymore. My passion is dwindling and I don’t take care of myslef like I used to. I know my issues are caused by my thoughts. I am alone here and feel my only link to reality is onlline. Your video is giving me another perspective that I may be able to get myself out of freeze mode when I’m alone and down and out of crisis mode when we have the kids and all is about the kids, cooking, cleaning, the ex wife and my boyfriend’s job. I’ll be watching all of your videos and information that you have and maybe it will help me get out of my rut and back to my normal, spirited, positive self that I know I am. Thank you.

  • Avatar Nick says:

    I think this one video helped me understand a lot. This video is very simplified but yet a very powerful illustration method that lets us visualize what is actually happening to us at those dysfunctional moments in our lives. Just with this video alone I have somewhat of an understanding as to what is happening to me as well as starting to recognize the zone limits or boundaries with myself.

    Thumbs Up For The Shrink Lady!


  • Avatar Elizabeth says:

    I am glad that I found your video. It has introduced some new things to me that help me make sense of what is going on. I have been in a relationship for 7 years and am recently married. For the past 5 years have not been there for my partner, but feel that I have been on constant Freeze mode. I am very good at taking a lot of what is said to me when my faults are pointed out and I’m told what I need to do; but I forget. Then we both feel worse.

    And now I have just gotten a new full time job, and the stresses of everything today has given me a melt-down today where I can’t stop crying. I’m even crying now whilst writing this. However I think there is hope in the ideas expressed in your video. I just want to make myself and my husband happy. I don’t want to continue to say ‘yes I understand’ and then not be able to experience new emotional management and grow and develop into a better person for both of us. I hope I can do this. I look forward to more of your information in my inbox.
    Thank you for your help.

  • Avatar Vicki says:

    I’ve been going to therapy for about 25 years, to 14 therapists, one psychologist, and one psychiatrist. I went to the last therapist for 3 years, which is 2.5 years longer than I lasted with any of the others. I’m still not sure what is wrong with me. I have difficulty dealing with aggressive people and tend to hide at home. I was laid off from my job and have trouble looking for work because I can’t seem to get organized, make phone calls, and meet with people. All of the mental health professionals that I spoke to said that I have anxiety, and some said depression and clinical depression. The last one brought up DID and wanted to try EMDR, which I was familiar with because two prior therapists also suggested EMDR. I think I don’t have DID. “Its An Inside Job” leaves me hopeful that I can find help because I can relate to the crisis and freeze modes, and I would love to be able to live within the comfort zone. Thank you so much for the free video.

  • Avatar Enma Pernillo says:

    I am happy to have encountered your video. I have just started therapy and this video explains why I have felt more turbulence at the end of a session than before the session. I was at the third session when I was considering not continuing with the counseling because I felt it was causing more harm than good. I hope to continue receiving more enlightening information from you in the future.

  • Avatar Mark says:

    I deployed to Iraq in 2008 on a rather uneventful 9 months. I have not integrated back home very well and now have been to the VA for counseling for three years. I’m currently on medication that seems to not make much of a change and I still deal unsuccessfully with the same stressors. I have since dealt with several addictive behaviors. I started looking online for help that works and ran across the Shrinklady’s Brain-wise video. This makes good sense and I’m looking forward to more information. Obviously medication and government appointed help is failing.

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Hi Mark, I hope you know that you’re not alone. It’s unfortunate that the information doesn’t get into the right hands. Too many Vets are needlessly suffering as a result.

      My work is based in part, on Peter Levine’s. I think you’ll find his site helpful in making sense of why meds and a purely ‘talk therapy’ approach are clearly not the answers. His book, “Waking the Tiger” showed a whole generation of health care practitioners how to resolve “fight, flight, freeze” in the lizard brain – including me.

      As you read his book, you might find these articles on how the brain works a useful reference.

      Let us know how you make out Mark.

  • Avatar kathy says:

    I am looking for someone who can help me back on feet and help me relate better to people. I tend to put my foot in my mouth quite often . I try to relate to people and hang out with them but i don’t feel i fit in anywhere can you help me.

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      I can so relate to what you’re talking about Kathy. Blurting out stuff and immediately regretting it…I remember that time in my life….hurting people when you don’t mean to and feeling embarrassed the next. And if you’re like me, after a while – knowing I couldn’t trust myself – I pulled away from other people particularly women who didn’t like my more direct approach to begin with.

      Please know Kathy, that this doesn’t have to be the way. And it doesn’t take years in therapy either for it to change. The main issue here is that you don’t have a buffer zone – where you get to pause and think before you react. It’s like being triggered and the reaction being unstoppable. And I can just imagine how frustrating that is for other aspects of your life too.

      When I’m working with clients, we chat about “emptying” them out….sorta like what a good vacation does. A session here and there will do that naturally just like talking to a good friend. However, what you need is something that’s more permanent so you don’t have to keep relying on “emptying out” artificically, so to speak.

      Basically, your nervous system needs to be able to regulate your emotions on its own. When the nervous system works as it should, you’ll have less need for control and you’ll return to being spontaneous – only this time with a lot more ease and control over your emotions.

      Looking forward to telling you more in time,

  • Avatar Mark says:

    This video helped tremendously. I have been dealing with depression since I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008. I lost my job, my father had a massive stroke, my parents lost their home soon after that (they have since moved in to my home), and I have been on the brink of foreclosure for over a year. I lost over 100 pounds in 7 months. Outwardly, it seemed like a victory; but my journey to get their was that of self hatred, starvation, and punishment. I have seen several therapist; one of which went out of her way to call me at home, and tell me that she thought I was lying.
    My symptoms have continued to spiral out of control, and with my most recent episode I am afraid of these emotions getting any worse. Really afraid. I was in the midst of one of my attacks, and reached out on the internet; only to find this video. It brought me out of my attack. I like to think of myself as a rational person (all points considered), and the advice offered in the video gave me a new insight in to why my previous experience with a therapist was so negative. I look forward to recieving more material. It really helped.

  • Avatar Denise says:

    Thank you so much for explaining how we cycle through emotions. I was mauled by a dog when I was 2 years old, and then endured a violent household and neglect for 15 years. I’ve spent my whole life cycling between freeze and crisis. Mostly freeze, which is good, I guess. I’m so excited to find out how to heal my nervous system so I can endure life’s ups and downs without going out of the zone. I also have’t slept without Ambien since 2006. I’m really hoping I can sleep one day.

  • Avatar Rich says:

    Unlike many of your responders, I am (and have been) in a productive therapy relationship for over two years. The crux of the matter is this, I am on the tail end of a 3 + year downward spiral including the evaporation of a ten year marriage, a company closure from a well paying job, the loss of real estate holdings, investments and very, very low income since that point in time. I am also in the process of losing my personal home, I am driving a borrowed car and vacillate between my ‘Freeze Zone and Crisis Mode. I am currently in the latter at a higher state than in quite some time and feel hopeless and truth be known, if not for my daughter, my life would have nothing much to show for the years I have been on this planet. I am despondent, go through periods of rage followed by lethargy. I am intellectually aware of what is happening to me but the emotional waves that come over me are overwhelming and debilitating. I know I need to ‘do something’ but am seemingly powerless to do so and economically trapped at present. I am seeing absolutely no purpose to my life other than fathering my daughter. She is the only value in life I still hold dear. I am feeling crushing defeat at present. This is no way to live and I know thee is another ‘side’ to this, I just don’t see when it will appear again.

  • Avatar Faye says:

    how do I pick a therapist? the last one I had did nothing and sat there silient the entire time then asked for the money.

  • Avatar Faye says:

    I enjoyed the video. You touched on a lot of the things I am experiencing now. What are the next steps? Thank you.

  • Avatar michelle n. says:

    Everything you said made sense. It took my brain on an adventure which made me realize I was trying to function outside my comfort zone. What a relief to know that I’m not defective, or copping out on life, but just need to be easier on myself. Thank you so much for the effort that went into making this video. It helped me tremendously.

  • Avatar Tammy says:

    This video really made sense and explained the different levels of how our mind processes a healthy nervous system. The crisis, freeze mode and thre comfort zone. It really is true for me since I have felt all the ways that you describe for each zone. I look forward to viewing more videos equiped with valuable information that can be used in my life on a daily basis. Thanks so much for the insight!

  • Avatar Susan says:

    After eight psychotherapy sessions, the last of which was five days ago, I noted in my journal that I have to tell my therapist that the sessions are too intense — in other words, I am spending too much of the time outside of my comfort zone and often leaving in a state of near-collapse. So after coming to this realization, receiving your video and the explanation behind what is happening could not have been more perfectly timed. I will talk to my therapist about how I can build my tolerance gently while I expand my comfort zone. Thank you for this and all your wise words. They are such a gift.

  • Avatar Diana says:

    I understand your way of thinking it does make sense. I have been bogged down with one prob on top of another for so long I definately think I have either been in crisis or freeze mode. There are sometimes so many outside problems and you cannot switch off.

  • Avatar Cat says:

    I think my comfort zone is about 1/4 of an inch right about now. I seem to rally between. OMG and “it is just too much for me”. Not sure how to get in that comfort zone.. Have been to therapy with not much luck, never did stay long. One time typed out my entire life trusting him with details I never shared. He said it was bull shit and gave me back my manila envelope with the plans for the new pool in his back yard drawn on the back. I doubt he ever read it. Another problem is I know quite a bit about psychology. It was my first love Coming from a dysfunctional family I began analyzing everyone quite young trying to understand what made them do the things they did. It also helped to protect myself from setting them off. I also have had a life that is pretty unbelievable. I can speak of it objectively yet, therapist with less life experience don’t believe it and seem to assume I feel or react in ways another would. I had a therapist once who had been where I had and understood me perfectly. she moved away and then later died. I have concluded there is no one who could possibly imagine or believe the things I tell them just at face value and I hate having to explain myself and then correct their interpretation. It just sounds like I am in denial and is an exercise in futility I have a very good understanding of myself, where I am and how I got here. I am just in a state of transition and have lost my focus and drive.

  • Avatar Christine says:

    Thanks Suzanne. Once I watched through the whole video it made alot of sense to me. The spiralling between freeze and crisis just trying to survive gets boring. I’m looking fwd to your next installments.

  • Avatar Andrea says:

    Amazing!!!! So helpful. Thank you so much for creating this video. It makes so much sense to me. You simplified a complex concept and truly explained my problem. I’ve always said to friends, I don’t know how hard to “push myself.” I suffer from depression and cycle between crisis and freeze mode. As a result, I always feel like I’m forcing my way through life. It’s exhausting and I want to change. Even before watching this video, I finally came to the conclusion that sustaining change doesn’t happen when I’m frazzled or shut down. Thanks again!!!

  • Avatar Danelle says:

    The video really helped me out i understand alot more of my depression and some what how to control it.

  • Avatar cat says:

    i enjoy the videos you send me and will do my best to use the ideas that come with them. I will also be telling others of this to help them with their crisis i thank you and hope to see you in onother one of your videos .


  • Avatar Deirdre says:

    I am so glad i found your site. All your dvd’d have been very helpful and help me to see that there is hope at the end of the tunnel and i am now able to understand where my therapist is moving to in the sessions. I feel more prepared and in control and spend less time in crisis mode. By using the chill and recognize when my body is screaming at me, i have experience allot less physical pain.

  • Avatar Sal says:

    I find some of the ideas interesting.

  • Avatar Linda S. says:

    Described me to a “T”! Learned more in this video than in 22 years of therapy!

  • Avatar Sylvia says:

    Just wanted to say that this video really made me understand a few things about the way my mind works. I don’t have a therapist but i am looking online for things that can help me. I would love to talk to you about a few things one on one over the internet if u don’t mind. 🙂
    Thanks a million it has been really helpful

  • Avatar Angela G. says:

    I have taken medication for depression and anxiety for several years and they have helped. The past year I have experienced an increase in stressors, mainly financial and work-related. I work in the mental health field and realized I needed medication adjustment. My psychiatrist suggested I see a therapist to assist with maintaining stability once the meds kicked in. I have my first counseling appointment in 5 days with a therapist who is excellent. Although I am a bit hesitant about being the consumer instead of the helper, I believe I will benefit from it. The video was helpful and explained things in an easy to understand manner.

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      To be frank Angela, it took me a while to settle myself down after reading your post. It wasn’t your fault and please know that I’m grateful for your comment..I just felt so discouraged that the mental health field continues these myths:

      1) that medications are necessary to heal and/or feel better – they’re not (and in my view they often prevent deeper healing).
      2) that we can only hope for “maintaining stability”. (I suspect that your psychiatrist is operating from: If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.)

      There is absolutely no reason for you to continue to suffer from anxiety and depression. You not only can be cured from these problems, you can live a much richer life than you can imagine at this point.


  • Avatar natalie says:

    Great video! Sounds so simple to understand yet reveals very important knowledge about ourselves. I am going to think about what I learned and then watch this video again to settle it in my memory. Hopefully this new compassionate understanding would help me to function better, manage stress better without this tendency that I have to blame myself for not being perfect. Thank you!

  • Avatar Meggen says:

    Thank you for offering these videos, this is exactly what I have been going through. It has been two years since I was traumatized at my job and fired. The stressors continued and I had a nervous breakdown where I was barely able to think or function for 8 months. It was so awful that even eating was too exhausting and wasnt able to leave my house for two months and could barely get out of bed. I was dizzy and buzzy, and everything burned my mind out and made me anxious.

    Resting has helped me tremendously, but I still cannot get emotionally excited without experiencing electric feelings and shortness of breath. My brain gets overwhelmed by everything, watching movies causes my brain to feel like a strained muscle and I get air hunger. Traveling away from home has been better but I still feel pressure building in my brain the further away from home I go, even though I dont feel anxious.

    I seem to have a delayed stress reaction. I will be ok while traveling away, then get tired, then when I get home and lay down my body starts burning up and its hard to breathe, this will last for awhile and I will feel tired for days afterwards. I cant wait to learn more about staying in the zone.

  • Avatar Deirdre says:

    I have found a great therapist and i really trust her, but when i enter the room i automatically go into crisis or freeze mood. We talk about the family and that is fine, but as soon as we need to deal with the deep stuff, i stutter or have slurred speech or most of the times say nothing. My thoughts travel through my head, but it is like it is impossible for me to verbalize what i feel. I use to email her as it was easier than talking, then we could discuss it in a session. Now i don’t sent to email her anymore as i find myself typing to much detail of childhood abuse and bad choices i have made in life and i am terified of talking about this in a session. She is a great therapist and make me feel like she cares, how can i get myself to open up and allow myself to heal.

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Yes, Deirdre you may trust your therapist – but your lizard brain doesn’t! And it’s that part of the brain that you need to tame first before you go digging into your past.

      It’s like every time you see your therapist, you’re jumping into the deep end of the pool. What you need to do first is sit on the edge of the shallow end and dip your feet in the water. Only when you’re ready, do you even get into the water.

      In other words, work on feeling safe first. Try using the 12-Second Chill in your session. By using your body, you’ll be accessing the lizard brain directly.

      There’s certainly much more to say on this topic. I hope this helps.


  • Avatar matt says:

    This sounds very interesting and really hits home. I feel like I’m either jumping out of my skin or burned out. Thank you and i look forward to learning more

  • Avatar Heather H. says:

    Hello Shrinklady,
    I am so glad I watched this video! It makes so much sense to me that your nervous system needs to be healtly, before you start digging, into deep rooted issues, or trauma. I am going to talk with my therapist, and let her know, I want to start to practice these methods. Now, aware of these cycles, I know, there are many times I leave therapy in freeze zone….
    Your video was very helpful, for me. Thank you for the knowledge. I am very thankful.
    Warm Regards, Heather

  • Avatar Kevin says:

    Good and informative video.

  • Avatar Lee Anne says:

    I loved the movie. It made so much sense! I can relate to being a “maxed-out middle-aged woman.” I have been trying to learn better ways to self-soothe than just trying to think differently. The movie really helped me to visualize how the nervous system gets overloaded without us even realizing it. When something really upsetting happens, we don’t have any reserves. That can be a scary experience. You just feel like you’re falling apart. I would like to learn how to “close all of the boxes.” Thank you Shrinklady!

  • Avatar Leisel says:

    I never thought about the fact that I am ALWAYS either emotionless and wondering why I am even alive, to over reacting and freaking out about the smallest things and then either going into a rage or crying my eyes out and not even knowing why.

    I am happy to have seen a chart that puts a picture in my mind of what is going on. This calms down the crazy anxiety a little bit and I am going to try very hard to find a therapist who can deal with severe dissociation disorders. I want nothing more than to be in the normal zone and out of the crisis and freeze zone.

  • Avatar tina says:

    Hi Shrink lady, my biggest problem is that I feel that I have to equal everyones efforts. i.e. If someone does something for me I pay back double. I am always doubly grateful for the smallest thing someone does for me. I always feel endebted to them. I give 100% to everyone that asks and when I ask for something and my needs are put on the back burner I get hurt. Say my husband asks for help and I spring into action trying to find solutions and trying to lighten his load. However when its my turn to need something he is busy or leaves it to later or tell me not to worry. Knowing I will worry and will try to sort it out.

    another senario. I work full time my husband works two days a week, he has three day to do anything he wants and on the weekend
    I look for him to spend time doing things together and him helping me clean and sort the house for the coming week and he will go off and do his thing and tell me to leave the house know full well that if I do when we get back I will still have to do the bulk og it. Because it does not bothe him he does not worry. It bothers me as if its not done it just plays on my mind and bother me until I know its done.

    Am I being crazy here, I get great satisfaction from having everything done then going off and enjoying the carefree hours knowing I can totally relax. If everything is not done then I wont fully relax and will want to cut my outings short and get back and get things sorted. Like ironing clothes for the next week of work. Am I over the top do I expect too much am I ocd. I get so hurt when no one else even thinks of cleaning up.

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Hi Tina, I’ve run into this pattern quite often in my practice – and by the way, that’s what it is to the nervous system – it’s simply a pattern. That’s good news for you. Cause if it’s a learned pattern – and it is – then it can be unlearned. But not in the usual “let’s analyze and think it through” approach.

      I’ve actually had quite a bit of experience with the dynamic including dealing with my own issues with what I call, “emotional caretaking”. So, I’m very pleased to share my thoughts with you.

      In body-based language, the activation associated with asking and receiving is too challenging for your nervous system…the short version of the story…you never had much experience with these behaviours early on and so there are not sufficient pathways in the brain.

      In other words, you haven’t had much practice and in the same way we approach any new activity, there’s some discomfort. Now the discomfort is no doubt being driven by some early experiences. However, we don’t even need to know exactly what those experiences are to feel better.

      You see, it’s the uncomfortable feelings that compel you to clean, even though it’s time to relax. If you work directly with that discomfort Tina, you will see changes in yourself.

      Then, in time, you will find yourself basically stepping into new behaviours as if you’ve always been this way. That’s the beauty of the implicit memory system and training your nervous system.

      Tina, I hope to hear you say that you expect much more from life!



  • Avatar Bob says:

    Still not sure what else is at play. The Pt gets a compressing hug through the session?

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Yes, that’s right Bob. Metaphorically speaking, a “compressing hug” throughout the session is exactly what’s needed for a client to get back into the Zone. Done repeatedly, this practice will return the nervous system to its natural rhythm.

      Basically, the activation associated with the emotional energy needs to be contained and brought back to baseline. And in some cases, if the client and therapist are so inclined a hug or two would certainly do the trick!

      More often though, the “attuned” care of an engaged therapist helps the client contain the emotions. And from my personal experience and that of hundreds of other therapists, adding in body-based strategies, takes results to a whole different level.


  • Avatar Sammie says:

    Hey, just talking about crisis/freeze mode do you think it’s possible for someone to pass out in a session? I mean obviously if someone has health issues or high anxieties, it could lead to other complications like a heart attack or passing out, but I mean just stress related? I’m a pretty healthy gal and I was in one of my therapy sessions with my therapist and we were getting into some deep therapy work and instead of “running” with the flight/fight response, I forced myself to stick out the session and pretty much the whole session, I was in freeze mode. I’m aware now that what I was feeling was very much dissociation during that time, but I have never felt out of that strong. It was like everything in the room was far away and at one point my vision went a little foggy. Ever had this happen to a client?

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Oh for sure Sammie. I have had clients experience this distortion in their perception. For example, they might see me farther away. Some folks have felt as if they were taller or shorter and others have felt disconnected to certain body areas….like for example, their arm feels unattached. And feeling foggy is very common with my clients.

      Generally speaking, if the dissociation surfaces in the session, we get the fogginess or distortion out of the way BEFORE we move on. That’s the priority. The nervous system learns much better in the Zone.

      Hope you’ve recovered and are safely back in the Zone!

  • Avatar Jennifer says:

    I am a counselling student and just love the way that you have taken the neuroscience and walked me through an optimal way of functioning in a way that is relevant and easy to understand, and very hopeful. What I also love is that you are getting a bench mark out there against which anyone can measure their experience of therapy – uber ethical – thanks. Humanity is encouraging even in a shrink……just teasing…..

  • Avatar Betsy says:

    My nervous system is shot due to multiple traumas, and 21 moves with the army. Although I am in therapy, I tend to soar from one extreme zone to flattened out at the bottom. I am truely interested in something that will help me stay in my comfort zone, while working through my issues. I seek to remove myself from my roller coaster ride and remain as long as possible in my “comfort zone”.
    I am a visual learner so your video was the perfect way to understand this concept. My therapist (a neuropsychology ph.d) is very open to different concepts. I will certainly share this video with her and I look forward to more information from you.
    Thank you.

  • Avatar Alysia says:

    That video actually helped. Thank you
    I was dating this guy for over a year and than we broke up and than started seeing each other again a couple weeks later. He was over yesterday and we had an argument, I had to go to the store and when I came home him an his stuff were gon…. I didn’t know what to think.
    I felt like it was a slap in the face. Him saying he’s done..
    The way you explained freeze mode, is the way he acts. We will have good talks but it never gets fixed….
    I’m so confused right now…

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Hi Alysia, yes, I can certainly see how it would be confusing for you. You’re probably picking up that he does care for you and yet he “flights” the relationship!

      It’d be very hard not to take that personally. However, you might keep in mind that there may be other reasons for him leaving…one of which is the possibility that the intensity of his feelings for you maxes him out.

      I know that might sound strange. We all profess wanting to have deep loving feelings for our partners. The problem is that some of us are more easily triggered by our partners despite strong feelings towards them.

      And there is another layer of complication…even though he might have the right kind of intentions as your “good talks” suggest, the nervous system controls more of our behaviour than we like to think as I explained in the video.

      We all only have so much energy to “will” ourselves into change. So even if he is strongly motivated, it’s an uphill battle to push himself into a new behaviour if he doesn’t have the resiliency for it. (To increase our resiliency we first need to get our nervous system into a state of “readiness” for change.) Hence, why you might not be seeing anything changing in the relationship.

      In fact, here’s where couples often run into trouble. We typically blame ourselves for not being able to change (whether it’s conscious or not) and if or when our partner reminds us of our failings (no matter how gently), it can set a cycle of blame in play.

      If it’s any comfort Alysia, it might helpful to know that flight, fight and freeze are very close to one another when we’re maxed. I imagine his need to “flight” the relationship was felt as the only option at the time.


  • Avatar tina coyle says:

    Sounds great how do I get to stay away from whats the use…is that overload or just frustration fro doing all the hard work and not seeing my efforts come to fruition.

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Hi Tina, yes, I would agree that kind of thinking of “what’s the use” is often coming from “overload”… one way of describing a freeze mode. When we’ve been trying so hard, as you have been, it’s very tempting to do more of the same particularly during those times when we feel some of our energy returning. We automatically revert to what we’ve always done i.e. trying harder.

      The problem with “trying harder’ when we’re still coming out of freeze mode though is that we risk being pushed deep into a helpless state where we feel victimized as if something is being done to us. I might suggest an alternative strategy.

      Indeed, it might not be in the “trying” where the real problem is located, rather there might not be enough active engagement in the process (of either being in therapy or in your life circumstance – I wasn’t quite sure what circumstance were referring to above).

      And…to be fully engaged in the process requires a presence of mind. Unfortunately, we come full circle because being in freeze mode makes being present even more of a challenge.

      The alternative to “trying hard” is in “letting go” but not in the usual sense of “thinking” your way there. Coming out of freeze mode requires something quite different than coming out of crisis mode.

      I hope that gives you some food for thought Tina.


  • Avatar Wendie says:

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I have 2 therapists, one comes to my home and one prescribes meds at her office. I get better results from the one who comes to my house because when I get deep and lost, she seems to always says something that gets me back in my comfort zone. I could be a wreck the whole session but when she leaves her feed back have made me whole again and I’m able to handle my day way better. Very greatful for her 🙂 We just had a session and we discussed me changing with the med therapist because we don’t connect and I fall apart when I leave her office. Thank you for a new understanding 🙂

  • Avatar Lissa C. says:

    I am a high school teacher and a part-time grad student in the area of Mental Health. So much of what you are saying makes sense — from a personal standpoint. The last few years have held many challenges for me, and I have realized that, even though I have not experienced some huge trauma, all the struggles and challenges of the last decade have added up to a case of PTSD. Now, however, I realize that a better way to describe it is that my nervous system has been overtaxed by situations, most of which, I could not avoid. I have done therapy, but it was such hard work — the therapist just sitting there wanting me to spill my guts. Instead, I have been researching psychological websites looking for ways to self-soothe myself — that is what I have felt that I need. I want to build up my nervous system because I have to live life. And, life is sometimes tough. I look forward to gaining more insight about how to do this. I need to develop the skills to manage my own stressors if I am to ever be able to help others handle theirs — some of whom will have even more challenges than I have. Redland Girl

  • Avatar David says:

    Your advice makes so much sense to me. This is exactly what I feel.

    When I think back to therapy sessions or opening up to others, the feelings you describe are what I get. I feel like I’m touching on something that needs to be touched upon, but it’s like I’m opening up pandora’s box and I don’t know how to deal with it all. I don’t feel any more in control than when I began.

    But when I compare that to, say, exercises I’ve done with my swim coach (who’s also a tai chi instructor) that have left me feeling in total control of a difficult mental situation, the feelings are like night and day. The exercises we do involve breath holds and hypoxic training where we relax the body and then put it in a state of stress (low oxygen)… then come out slowly and relaxed, breathing deeply. After a few minutes we do it again. When I finish doing that, I feel like I’ve just conquered one of the deepest parts of my mind and put myself in a state of absolute clarity. It’s amazing.

    This video explains why far more clearly than any other explanation I’ve seen. Thank you.

  • Avatar Donnie says:

    It’s so helpful to have this explained in its simplest form. I’ve never been able to pin it down long enough to explain what it is that happens to me at any almost given moment. If that’s how you’ve always been, you kind of have to think that it’s just the way you are. I’ve always thought of a comfort zone as being risk free. Meanwhile I’m swerving in my lane, either getting lost or stuck in a ditch. My therapist is wonderful, and what you are saying is very consistent with her insight as well. She has recommended some mental exercises designed to increase my ability to focus on the current moment in a mindful way. While I’ve managed to develop a pretty decent imagination, I think it’s time to bring my thoughts home to a more comfortable and happier place. Thanks for the video.

  • Avatar Denis Madvo says:

    It is definitely an interesting theory which can be applied to one’s every day living.
    Thank you !

  • Avatar cb says:

    SO helpful. I realize that I operate in crisis mode and freeze mode MOST of the time. Because I realize that something is wrong, I instinctively try to fix it, or think and ruminate about every issue that deeply concerns me about my life – of which there are many.

    I’m BP2, and currently undergoing a med switch, so my thoughts are racing……I thought that “thinking and trying to rationalize” would calm me down, ” but i realize that I am in freeze mode/survival mode right now, and wont really learn a lot….I tend to end up worrying, catastrophizing, etc. Add to this that I have experienced SEVERAL traumatic events over the past two years and it was necessary for me to move home, at the age of 37 , with a grandparent who neither understands bipolar disorder, nor the need for rest or low stress conditions……employment, financial issues, relationship issues, self esteem, etc….all seem to be pouncing on me at the moment…..and i realize my nervous system is going crazy.

  • Avatar Amber says:

    This was really helpful and so validating. Your description of the comfort zone and freeze and activation areas really is right on target. When triggered, being propelled into arousal is so instantaneous and the sense of helplessness pervades. I think it takes an extremely astute and sensitive, gentle therapist to know how to skillfully work through these places, especially when the client has a traumatic history.

    I stopped therapy about 7 months ago after feeling like I was constantly being pulled into arousal mode, and then spending the next week trying to recover. Though my therapist was well versed in trauma reactivity, she was not skillful at helping me to come back to my comfort zone. My sense of her being distant, judgmental, and impatient with my stuff (and my being aroused) only exacebated the internal struggle I was experiencing (and the shame that goes with that place).

    After not being in therapy for a while and now finding myself being easily triggered and having heightened arousal again, with that sinking “I am broken” feeling, I am looking into therapy again. I most definitely want someone that “gets” the whole nervouse system/somatic connection and who also is compassionate, kind, and skillful at bringing me back to my comfort zone. I really appreciate what you have shared here and the clarity it gives me as I move forward.

  • Avatar Nikki says:

    Hi Dr. Shrinklady,
    I want to thank you for sharing your infomration with me and everyone else who finds access to you online. Usually, to watch something cost money, and you have chosen to share and actually help at no cost. Thank you for that. I thought the clip was full of great infomation. I will use this when I begin my therapy next week.

  • Avatar Joan Noel says:

    This is exactly why I do yoga – it calms me. Thanks for putting the experience into words that have roots in science.

  • Avatar Hannah says:

    The movie was very interesting and I am happy to have watched it. I would like to return later and watch it a 2nd time before I could say what thoughts I have. There is a great deal to think on in the movie, and thank you. Hannah

  • Avatar audrey says:

    I love the movie, I make so much sense and I have a whole lot more insight into my own growth.
    I cannot wait to see part two.
    I also wanted to say I think touch therapy is needed badly. As I child I was never held nor told that I was loved and I find that I have this longing for my therapist to hold my hands or give me a hug when I having a major melt down.
    I think it does not happen because I am gay and maybe she will think I may feel something for her. Just guessing.
    I am not sure, but I did mention touch therapy to her and I felt stupid that I did when she basically told me it will never happen and that I should give myself a hug when I feel the need for a hug in therapy. I am still angry with her for saying that to me. But, other than that she does good work with me and has helped me a great deal.

    • Avatar Miss Q says:

      I’m sorry that your T won’t hug you. I developed feelings for mine, but he tactfully told me that because of ethics, he cannot go there. Because of my ethics (he is married) I can’t either. So for a while we were hugless…. but one day I marched in and just said “I NEED a hug. I won’t threaten you, I just really need it.” The boundaries were established and respected on both sides. We’ve discussed it and it’s all ok. And he will now hug me goodbye. Of course this has been over the course of a few years. Maybe, Audrey, this is something you need to discuss with your T. If it is that important, you need to bring it up and why! And let her know you are angry, and why! My opinion.

  • Avatar Keitha says:

    I believe in the success of this practice. I am working with a psychologist that talks to me about the weather and “happy” things to start our sessions, then we go into deep stuff and she gives me advice. I was surprised that she always had something to say that could ease my mind, but it might have something to with my attitude…. “it’s an inside job,” no? I have been seeking change in myself and have two very powerfully trusted friends that both know about mindfulness- which seems to help with my crisis and freeze a great deal. Thank you for confirming my “suspicions” about how this will work when the progress reaches that point. I am experiencing progress already- and being a couch potato is something I have had to work at, but, it works, so there’s incentive…

    Thanks again,

  • Avatar Denis says:

    You really come across in a very direct and yet personable way, both of which are fantastic approaches, in my opinion. And you explain very clearly the “why(s)” that are running the show in the background.
    Thank you so much for sharing information that has the power to heal so many individuals, Denis

  • Avatar Sandy says:

    …so stress and anxiety perpetuate our condition by keeping us out of our comfort zone, thereby preventing growth? I sure can relate to the lack of energy I feel for almost anything I need to do when I’m feeling especially anxious. I’m looking forward to your next video. Thanks, Sandy

  • Avatar george says:

    Great Job!!! Very Generously offered to all of us!!!! THANK YOU!!!!

  • Avatar Yasmine Buraik says:

    Excellent movie. I am currently experiencing an MS exarecbation. I can so relate and see exactly how I was maxed out. Thank you for the timely reminder.

  • Avatar pam says:

    This was great! Now I know what went wrong with my first 2 therapies–the first one I was stuck in the Freeze zone for 4 yrs sitting in a hole of lethargic depression, and the second one lasting 3 yrs stuck in the Crisis zone, constantly arguing with the therapist. Neither helped me advance. Later on my own I made some progress and even without having this info, I can say it still correlates with the various work I’ve done on my self.

    If only all therapists could see this!

  • Avatar Julie says:

    Interesting video! I am lucky to have had some training in mindfulness practices before I ever started therapy, so I already had some skills with using my body to ground myself. I naturally brought those skills into my sessions, and happily my therapist seems to have embraced cooperation in that area.

    Maybe an option for people who can’t find a therapist who specifically works in “body psychotherapy” or a related area is to find a local group that does some kind of body-focused practice (like yoga perhaps) and then discuss with your therapist what you are learning and ask for help remembering to use those skills.

    I think many people can be afraid to take a more active role in requesting what they need from their therapists, but so far I’ve gotten very positive responses. Both of you can learn something new!

  • Avatar Walter says:

    I have not seen a therapist yet, i am still not sure if I am comfortable with that idea….
    I do recognize the zones in my life, and know that most of the time I am operating in the crisis or freeze zones. I can never just fall asleep at night, my mind is always racing about one thing or another. When I am with a partner it upsets me that they can fall asleep so easily and I am left inside of my brain that is moving like Grand Central Station at rush hour.
    I think having this information is very useful and I am going to try and apply that to my life, just taking one issue and one box instead of the whole warehouse so to speak. I look forward to hearing more on this topic in the future, thanks!

  • Avatar Darrell says:

    Therapy hasn’t seemed to work. Have had my head in the sand for about a month. Thought about suicide,(not really me), but always think about those left behind. Dissociation and amnesia have turned my world upside-down. Dont remember doing things that I have been accused of(Very shameful), and, if I did remember, would surely end my life.

    Have chose not to talk to anyone in my family (Mother and siblings) for some of the cruel acts and words in my adult and childhood years. My mental health and accusations of others has strained my marriage of 27 years to the point, that we are more like room-mates. Most of my friends and family (including older Grandchildren) no longer speak with me,and,as a result, am very lonely and dont really have Zest for life.

    Your info helps.Thanks a heap.Darrell

  • Avatar blackmangopit says:

    This is very interesting stuff to think about. So I just realized why I couldn’t get anything out last session – I was in freeze mode. So how do you get back into your comfort zone? Do you wait until you feel normal again or what? If I go to next session in freeze/crisis, then what’s the point in being? Aaccording to the neuroscience you talk about, starting in freeze/crisis won’t allow the brain to make any changes.

    • Avatar Shrinklady says:

      Thanks for your question. Yes there are strategies for getting back into the Zone and I’ll be covering that topic in an upcoming movie (Be sure you’re on my list). So your question is a timely one for sure.

      If you have an “attuned” therapist, he or she can help you get back into the Zone. Sometimes it takes more than one session of course particularly if you are in Freeze Mode. As I mentioned in the movie, it’s how your therapist helps you “contain” your emotions where real change occurs. Repeatedly, this experience of moving through our emotions and back into the Zone helps us to better manage stress and emotions.

      You suggested that you might be in Crisis mode at times. Well, that’s actually a perfect place to begin change. So don’t hesitate to show up in therapy feeling like a train wreck!

      Freeze requires a slightly different approach – there’s some really exciting things to learn about that. It’ll amaze you – it certainly did me. I’ll be covering that in the Brain Coaching Program.

      I know that doesn’t give you all the answers. Hope that helps a bit.


      • Avatar blackmangopit says:

        Yes, it does help immensely. I realized I am being too hard on myself and was thinking my inability to communicate during the session was because there is something wrong with me. But if it’s a biological response to deep issues, it’s more acceptable to deal with. I look forward to learning more! Thank you for having such a thorough website with so much info.

  • Avatar hopeful says:

    I think I did therapy wrong in the beginning but we briefly talked about that and also always wasn’t sure what I was there for but we talked about that also and I’ve finally given up on worrying about either of those things so now it is getting much easier and I’m not worrying about how I appear…just trying to let the process happen naturally. I really don’t comment much on here but I do use this to help everything make more sense and really gain some calmness on reading from your most “seasoned” contributors on the forum…Attachment Girl is one who has so much wisdom and I find her very helpful.

    Also, people who have had sudden breaks with their therapists…I feel such empathy for them…I felt like I was going to be dropped and I spun out of control for a period but I finally brought that up…I brought it up but couldn’t seem to face it when it was happening…I guess the fear of being vulnerable. Now that I feel calmer (had to re-start meds) which I didn’t want to but it makes a big difference I don’t worry quite as much so it had to be that way for me. Well I really enjoy the site a lot and thankful to you shrinklady for creating it and helping so many of us.

  • Avatar Quent Thomas says:

    I am a graduate student studying toward a master’s in MFT. I have an assignment to study and report on theories of resiliency wrt PTSD. I have also read Daniel Siegal’s “The developing Mind” which has piqued my interest in neurobiology and how our brain is trained from birth. Putting the two together provides an option for a theory of resilience and risk factors based on “the comfort zone” you have described. Are you aware of any studies that report on treating PTSD using what you have described or is this all part of the CBT/mindfulness approaches I have been studying?


  • Avatar Ilse George says:

    Very informative. Thank you.

  • Avatar Deborah says:

    This is wonderful – I completely “get” what this approach is all about, and it makes supreme sense to me.

    I recently watched a very interesting documentary. It is called “The Unmistaken Child.” The film documents the story of a Tibetan monk seeking the child believed to be the reincarnation of his deceased lama. I was very struck by something that connects to the “self-soothing” notion. When the monk and the toddler are together, the monk (and other elders) are completely, unconditionally involved with the child. When the child does get stressed and unhappy, and begins to fret and cry at one point in the film, the monk who is his caregiver picks him up and speaks so soothingly to him, and redirects his attention. The energy was so positive, and so calming. I thought back to my childrearing days with my now-adult daughter, and could remember how frazzled I would get by her when she was frazzled. I wasn’t always able to be soothing, and I see how the skill to be self-soothing is generated by the treatment of the parent figure who does NOT freak out or get controlling or critical, but simply soothes and shifts the attention of the fretful baby. I was really moved by that – the adults obviously had a center of calm within themselves that they were able to respond from.

    I’m 57, a divorced woman, and living alone. I have had depression for my whole life, and have lived with the ups and downs, and had good therapy. I’m not in a therapeutic relationship now, and sometimes wish I were, because – though I am mostly “stable” with the aid of medication, I do still have bouts of dark depression that trip me up. I have tried to “think” my way out of these pits, to no avail. Now I understand, based on the science explained here. I completely believe in the brain science of comfort zones, and the freeze and freak-out modes. I think I can benefit from beginning to integrate these new concepts into my way of being.

    Thank you so much, Shrink lady.

    • Avatar Ralph Lewis says:

      For effectively soothing past “dark memories” try fasterEFT . com too.

  • Avatar Alana says:

    Now that I’ve seen the first video, the work makes more sense and matches with what’s going on in the sessions. I understand what The Edges mean from the point of view of the nervous system. My brain likes this. My body likes being on the couch.

    This will no doubt help me find more creative ways of dealing with difficult family relationships. Thanks for the video!

  • Avatar Pamela says:

    I heard the brain works like the photographic process of “develop, stop bath, fixing bath.” When under stress, the chemicals needed to make a permanent memory (fixer bath) are lacking, so children cannot learn under stress.

    Then as an adult, those memories needed for healthy living are not present.

    So I “subconsciously” choose “bad” relationships/situations to re-create what I failed to learn as a child, hoping for a better outcome somehow.

    The problem is that the person I’m re-creating with is NOT my mom or dad or siblings, so the lesson is doomed to failure.

    I’m told that my only hope is in going deep within myself and healing those original injuries. How? By looking at myself as a young person when I had those feelings, and looking at myself now as an adult. And it takes practice, which sounds like work, but as I find success in this process, I find more and more joy in the attempt to heal. Thanks for listening. Love in Sobriety, Pam Pratt

    • Avatar Sky says:

      Hi Prattpamela and Shrinklady,
      Some friends and I were discussing this just the other night. They were adamant it was the only way. I am not 100% sure, though it does appear to make sense. I had the same problems with relationships until I stopped having a relationships altogether(romantic ones). It happened too many times in the end. A sudden realisation of the banging your head against a brick wall syndrome. Perhaps not so sudden!
      What do you think Shrinklady? Is this, somehow, a variation on your theme (BCP)? I can almost bend it to make it so – with a good deal of bending! I am sticking with you. Although its a slow process it seems to be working for me, covering pretty much all my problems and hangups, and helping lots.

      • Avatar Shrinklady says:

        Yes that’s what we seem to do Sky. We act our our stuff through our relationships. The more aware or conscious we become, the easier it is to recognize the pattern and see how we’re playing out the dynamics. We’re just like kids in that regard. Of course, it’s easier to see the acting out in kids.

        Then of course, we need to change the pattern which is what I talk about in the BCP. And now that we have a better idea on how the brain is organized, it’s clear that the most efficient way of doing that is through ‘experience’. That’s why relationships, be they romantic or otherwise, can be potentially healing. In the case of romantic relationships, the problem is, things can take a long time if we don’t know what the brain requires in order to change it.

        I’m so pleased you’re putting the ideas in the BCP to practice.

        Thanks for your comment,


  • Avatar maxine says:

    This was very informative. I find that I keep myself busy to avoid dealing with the real issues in my life. This overloading causes me to be in crisis mode. I’ve been like this most of my adult life but now that I am 41 and dealing with hormonal issues, it is too much! Thanks for clarifying what is going on with me.

  • Avatar Kelly says:


    Thank you for setting a standard for healthy therapy. These concepts that you are describing about neuroscience sound like a combination of somatic experiencing, and the work of Peter Levine and others in the field.

    I have to say that for the past 3 years I have been working with a therapist who has had SE training, and using the theory you describe. Prior to this I have had 15 years of traditional psychotherapy with an excellent psychologist. Hands down- “The new method wins” It was never a competition- It is the way the brain works, processes emotions and heals itself. It has taken me a while to “buy in” to this train of thought but I am seeing results from years of dissociation and responses to trauma.

    Thanks for sharing. I hope many people can hear and see that there are other methods to wellness that heal.



    • Avatar Shrinklady says:

      Thanks Kaner for sharing your therapy experience with us. That’s a great testimonial for a brain-wise approach. (It echoed my personal experience to a tee.)

      Getting the word out has been quite a challenge. So, I’m doubly pleased to read your comment.

      For years there’s been a wall of slience from therapists about these ideas. Thankfully, things are changing and there appears to be more openness about using the brain-wise strategies.


  • Avatar chris says:

    I find this facinating. I can related to going in an out of the zones when my brain is out of whack emotionally. I do want to learn more on how to stay in the comfort zone! Good stuff.

  • Avatar shawn says:

    Very interesting concept. 20 years of counseling and nothing has really changed with me, I hope this technique can help.

  • Avatar Denis M. says:

    What you talk about is quite insightful and intriguing. I look forward to learning about your perspective in this area of research and application. You have consistently been a source of objective and good information regarding the bigger picture of therapy, and it is much appreciated. I therefore wish to thank you for all your efforts at reaching out and trying to bring about a better harmony into this world, through your insights.

  • Avatar Susan H says:

    I really appreciate the explanations of the theory behind the program, but I don’t have a sense of the technique(s) for changing the nervous system. So while it seems good in theory, there hasn’t been a clear statement of how it can be changed, success rate, time frame for improvement, etc. I’m interested, but I’m not sure I should sign up. None of the videos gave me a clear or specific example of interventions to accomplish this change. I’m not asking you to give away the program, but one concrete example would really help me out.

    • Avatar Shrinklady says:

      Hi Susan, good questions. I can so appreciate your desire for specifics. Here’s what I can tell you.

      Folks come into my practice wired or flat out. I help them move into different mind body states where they feel better. The difference to this approach from most others is that I do it without the “talk” that usually goes on with most therapies. Clients learn to bring themselves into the present moment by working the energy in very specific ways. These strategies make up the bulk of the Program.

      The change in clients over time is holistic. They might have come in for a help with a specific symptom and find that this work takes them to a different level. Not only do they get symptom relief in that area but other areas of their life starts to change for the better. They experience relief in all aspects of their lives.

      Because once you know how the nervous system works naturally you get to know how it gets to work within yourself and then you can make the changes that change your life. It’s about gettting smarter about how the brain works…working with it, not against its own rhythm.

      Hope that helps,


      • Avatar Nancy says:

        I have been going under the assumption that the body/mind path you use is fairly mainstream and assumed my therapist was aware of it and its benefits. Is this being practiced by a lot of therapists in the US that you know of, or is it relatively new? I don’t think my therapist has a clue about this path. I’m not sure she cares to sway from her beaten path, since she is fairly close to retirement. It’s all about talk. I have brought up the multiple issues in therapy that I have discussed on your Web site and it is all minimalized. I am in a better position than when I started therapy, but I really feel it’s only because so much time has passed since the occurence of the traumas that brought me there. Not because of the interaction that occured in sessions. I feel let down, because I think there can be more. Because of your work, I am moving on. My therapist keeps reminding me of my age. Why would that stop someone from a better experience?


        • Avatar Shrinklady says:

          Hi Nancy, I’m sorry to hear your therapist hasn’t responded openly to these ideas. Your therapist – like many others – have been fairly resistant to these ideas even in the face of solid neuroscience that supports them. Indeed, there are well respected leaders in the field that continue to face strong resistance among therapists – even though they might receive standing ovations at conferences for their tireless work!

          I’m continually amazed how a so-called “forward thinking” group such as psychotherapists who are usually known as champions for personal growth and change, do not consider it equally important for themselves.

          I made the decision long time ago that it was possibly easier to go directly to the public. In this way, hopefully and ultimately, consumers will influence with their pocket book. In other words, savvy consumers will recognize the cost/benefit advantages offered by brain-wise therapists.

          It’s interesting Nancy that your therapist keeps referencing your age. I thought possibly – given that she nears retirement – she might actually be speaking of herself and her own reluctance to embracing change. You’ve asked the right question and one that I’d be tempted to ask her: Yes, why would age stop anyone from a better experience!


          P.S. The easiest way to find a brain-wise therapist – although there are no guarantees – is to look in the directories for a body psychotherapist.

          • Avatar Nancy says:

            I appreciate your response. It isn’t easy to pull away, as I admire and respect my therapist and placed a great deal of trust in her insight. Additionally, she was with me through several major events and knows first hand what my family has been through, which makes it hard to give up that connection. I will miss her. However, it seems she gently scoffs at and dismisses anything beyond “just talk”. I feel there is more and the information you share on your website has reinforced that feeling, so I choose to move on.

            Thank you for providing these professional insights so we can make more knowledgeable decisions. You’re the bomb! :>)

  • Avatar Monica B. says:

    I am excited about this series. I love learning new things. While I was listening to the slides, I evaluated my current therapy experience. I have been in therapy for a year now and don’t feel that I have made much progress. I don’t think my therapist likes me very much. Sometimes we talk about difficult things and he just lets me leave his office. He doesn’t help me to calm down or bring me back to center. I sometimes wonder if I should find another therapist.

    • Avatar Shrinklady says:

      Hi Monica, yes, I don’t think these ideas haven’t reached most therapists. Not only that, they might not have the resources to help clients calm down.

      And yes it’s hard finding a therapist you feel “gets” you and “loves” you. I’ve only had one therapist like that. Even when I think of her, my heart starts to warm up. She’s a resource long after our work ended. She saw who I was underneath my stuff and I could feel her love.

      Here’s the thing, we need to access feelings in order to change them (at least that’s the fastest most effective way we know at this point). So, how can you access deeply rooted feelings if you can’t trust your therapist? How can you take emotional risks if you feel your angst won’t be contained? These are probably good subjects to bring up in your therapy but of course they might a bit of a challenge to do so…that was always the hard part for me.

      I wish you all the best in your work,


  • Avatar Scott says:

    Where did you get these ideas? Have you come up with them on your own? I’m a licensed psychologist, and I have never seen this model before?

    • Avatar Shrinklady says:

      Hi Scott, I wish I could say I came up with them on my own. The ideas are from neuroscience and the clinical practices of body psychotherapists. I’ve translated some conceptual ideas to make them more user-friendly but the science behind them are solid and based on the works of Allan Schore (e.g. Affect Regulation of the Self), Bessel van der Kolk (e.g. Traumatic Stress), Robert Scaer (e.g. The Trauma Spectrum), Dan Siegel (e.g. Mindsight), Stephen Porges, Jim Grigsby (The Neurobiology of Personality), Bonnie Badenoch (The Brain Wise Therapist), Peter Levine (Somatic Experiencing) Pat Ogden (Sensorimotor Psychotherapy), Roz Carroll (Body Psychotherapy – UK), Lynne Zettl and Ed Joseph’s (Self-Regulation Therapy) and countless more.

      The field lacks a name. The closest name that captures the model might be Regulation Theory (my preference) So far, no one label has stuck.

      Thanks for asking,


      • Avatar Sara B. says:

        I listened to a 9 part CD series by Daniel Seigel called “The Neurobiology of We”, and he uses the term “Interpersonal Neurobiology” to describe the field, if not the model. I think it’s fascinating and I love the way you are personalizing it and putting it all into understandable bytes. Because even though I may be able to understand the concepts at an intellectual level, that certainly doesn’t mean I automatically can change my own neurobiology. THat’s why I’m looking for every resource possible and I appreciate your program. I’m looking forward to finding out more about how to take active steps towards creating change for myself. Thanks!

  • Avatar Lesa says:

    This seems like it is a great series. I just got a chance to actually slow down and check my emails and saw all three videos in my inbox lol… yeah its been a while. I’m actually a college student studying to be a counselor so this really interests me. At the same time its a good thing to know as well because during the present time I’m going through counseling for myself… well actually I’ve been on hiatus for about a month, mainly because I just didn’t feel comfortable during counseling and I always stayed in Freeze mode I guess. I’d go into the counseling session right after classes and right before work so I was never actually in any sort of comfort zone I guess…. Becoming “brain-wise” will actually help me in the long run I think. Thanks for the videos!

  • Avatar Dianne says:

    This is an interesting concept as I find my self on both side of the comfort zone and very rarely feeling comforted or comfortable. Looking forward to hearing more.

  • Avatar Caroline says:

    This is really good stuff. I didn’t know that staying in the ‘zone’ is the best way to learn. But how does the therapyst keep the client in the zone? what things can the therapyst say to make this happen?

    • Avatar Shrinklady says:

      Hi Caroline, definitely the therapist needs to take an active role in this case. However, he or she also should be checking in with you. And the more you know about checking in with yourself, the more you can verbalize this to your therapist.

      There are lots of strategies that make it crystal clear when we’re going outside the zone. That’s one of the areas in my Brain Coaching Program that I’m working on.


  • Avatar raeleigh says:

    this is realy really goodd

  • Avatar Kathy says:

    I think I am starting to understand. How do I see the 2nd part so I can put this together.
    Thank you

    • Avatar Shrinklady says:

      Hi Kathy, thanks for your interest. You’ll need to sign in at the top…there’s a graphic about “Getting on the List”. Once you’re signed in and confirmed, you’ll receive an email on where to get the second movie.


  • Avatar Barbara says:


    I am (finally) in a successful therapy relationship, yet I do still see myself dealing with the fluctuations you describe. Therefore, I am looking forward to any info regarding a better maintainance procedure to monitor my own state, get myself to learning edge.

    TY for this effort,

  • Avatar Joy says:

    Hi Shrinklady,

    I loved this movie – thank you so much for this! It explains a great deal why some of my past therapy experiences have made me feel worse, not better. The explanations about containment and comfort zones are especially enlightening about this. Also the info about the way the nervous system and the brain work really makes sense. Brilliant stuff – every therapist should know about it.

  • Avatar Tina says:

    I’ve seen both movies a couple of times now. On the first viewing you think you have taken it in, but I strongly advise people to watch a couple of times. You will be amazed. I am not in therapy at the moment, (just stopped, my decision) so it is giving me a great deal of time to think about how much I was always hanging in the wind when I left a session. High activation coupled with a feeling of being thoroughly scrambled, and then stunned on top of it all is not much fun and takes forever to settle down. If it ever does. Before the inevitable next session!
    So Thank you Suzanne, these movies are informative, make such sense and so are really helpful.

  • Avatar EVELYN says:

    Makes perfect sense and you explained it so well. Can’t wait to learn more.
    Great job!

  • Hi Suzanne,
    I really liked your video. Great explanation of good therapy.
    Marilyn Chotem

  • Avatar Kathy James says:

    Hi Suzanne,
    Great movie,your site is a wonderful resource. SRT is a difficult concept to understand but your movie does perfect job of breaking it down. I would like to post it on our ShrinkRap blog with your permission.

  • Avatar Debórah says:

    Dear Dr. Suzanne LaCombe,
    Thank you for sending the link to your video. I am looking forward to viewing your “Why Therapy Doesn’t Work for Some People” video from the link above. Your ability to communicate effectively, and in layman’s terms, so clients as well as clinicians benefit from your experience is awesome.
    I feel very fortunate to have found an incredible therapist. As a recent Clinical Psychology MA graduate, specializing in co-occurring disorders and MFT-Intern (currently seeking a (preferably paid) internship, I utilize attachment theory, neuroscience, trauma/PTSD experience clinically, as well as in my personal psychotherapy.
    In order for me to be able to provide containment, empathy, compassion, and understanding with my clients, it was crucial for me personally, that I do a tremendous amount of work in my personal therapy. I have been in therapy off-and-on throughout my life; however, it was not until the passing of my husband, and my decision to return to the pursuit of my career as a psychotherapist, that I began my incredible journey within my own recovery.
    Four years ago, when I made the decision to pursue my career in psychotherapy, my “comfort zone” was incredibly small, if any. It became evident, in the first semester of graduate school, that I had much work to be done in my personal therapy, to expand and develop my window of tolerance, my comfort zone, brain and nervous system. In hindsight, I have been extremely fortunate to have been led to various psychotherapy modalities, including dialectical behavior therapy and psychoanalysis, with highly empathic, compassionate, and experienced psychotherapists.
    My current therapist, Ronnie Kaye, author of Spinning Straw Into Gold – Your Emotional Recovery from Breast Cancer, is highly skilled in moving me in and out of my comfort zone. In the two years we have been working together, I have never had to leave a session in crisis or freeze mode. While I experienced a great deal of positive mental/emotional growth and change prior to working with Ronnie, during the two years of intensive individual and group psychotherapy sessions, I frequently left sessions in crisis or freeze mode. Similar to Deborah from the UK described, prior to 2006, I alternated between hyper and hypo vigilance my entire life. Just as these states did not form overnight, but rather progressed over time from states, into traits, and habits; expanding our comfort zones is not a quick-fix short-term therapy, but requires consistent and persistent therapy with a wise guide assisting us on our personal journey of insight, clarity, growth, and change.
    I feel privileged to have gained my own personal growth and honored by clients, as they gain my trust, empathy, understanding, and containment, as their guide through their own journey of personal growth. I look forward to viewing your future videos. Suzanne, you have much to offer to other clinicians and clients through your insight and clarity. I look forward to participating in the amazing collaborative experience of like-minded individuals, who understand the integration between the mind and body.
    To our success as clinicians and within our own personal journey. Debórah

  • Avatar victoria says:

    Dear Suzanne,
    This is almost a PS to an earlier message left.
    I cannot quite believe this but I have left therapy and my therapist. It was not that I didn’t like her, I did very much indeed and I am very sad to have left her. It was the realisation that 99% of the time I leave sessions in severe Crisis or Freeze Mode, and living alone with no distractions possibly does not help being able to try and even vaguely get back into my Comfort Zone. My poor therapist I am sure means well. She asks me just one or two “normal” questions as I am leaving, but I am so stuck in Crisis or Freeze I hear them but don’t hear them. My sadness is is that in other ways it has helped seeing her by at least slowly being able to talk to someone and open up. However I truly could not go on like this. Maybe in time I will find a therapist who can help me back to my Comfort Zone before leaving. If I may, then just one question. Do you think I should talk to a new therapist about this and ask her whether she does this with clients before they leave? I see with such clarity how incredibly important this is and certainly would be for me. Trouble is finding someone you like/who likes you, and then not lose her because she doesn’t practice what you have talked about in your movie. Thanks Suzanne.

  • Avatar Eve says:

    Hi, Shrinklady, very interesting stuff. I feel a distance between me and my Therapist still after four years, i cannot step outside my comfort zone even though i want to sometimes because i dont feel i have a connection strong enough to her, this bothers me so then if i undertsood you correctly i go into freeze mode.

    I dont feel emotionally connected to my therapist and feel i should do, but due to past transference issues with another Counsellor i feel her Boundaries keep me from going that far. When i met her i was in crisis mode, and flutuated between that and freeze mode for a while, and instead of the rollercoaster i now bob up and down and am able to deal with one issue at a time.

    I really enjoy trying to find out more about me and my situation and how therapy works, good job. Look forward to the next one!!!!

  • Avatar Caren says:

    It was helpful for me to learn about the freeze zone and crisis mode. I often live in my confort zone, but when I am in crisis mode or freeze zone, I really cant think and snap at my kids and husband. Also, when presented with a crisis situation, I have experienced being able to stay within my confrot zone and expereinced being very much NOT in my comfort zone and not thinking as clearly as I would if I were.

    I work on these things in therapy, but not in the words you presented here. It gives me a new/different way of looking at what goes on with me emotionally throughout the day.

    I wonder if you have any specific thought about dealing with an eating disorder in terms of a brain-wise/nervous system approach?

  • Avatar caroline says:

    Thank you Shrinklady for your insight.

    It has made me think about my own practise with my clients (i am a counsellor in training) and how to be more aware of not leaving them in the crisis or freeze zone, being more aware of containment.

  • Avatar FlyfreeIzzie says:

    Ohh yes and tis’ cool to see how you look and speak 🙂

  • Avatar FlyfreeIzzie says:

    Hello Shrink Lady-

    Very good video. I enjoy your explanation and I also love neuropsychology!

    One of my favorite neuropsychological books is “The Boy Who was Rasied as a Dog”.. can’t remember the author but it’s an awesome balance of clinical case studies and the brain. Also “the Body Remembers” is another one that really connects trauma and the brain. It’s very validating for people dealing with trauma and the reminder of how the brain is affected as well as how the brain has the plasticity to change. Awesome!

    The best therapist I have ever had was amazingly soothing and encouraging in my self-care. It did help me go through some intense therapy and most of the time, I left able to manage despite the painfulness so this makes loads of sense.

    I also believe that some people have a harder time feeling soothed and understanding self-care esp. when their whole life has been filled with negative self destructive behaviors but they aren’t connected with that so they quickly loose hope in the theraputic encounters.

    Great video.

    The Butterfly Warrior ))i((

  • Avatar the dude says:

    good job! as a newbie art therapist, it’s very helpful.

  • Avatar James says:

    Hi Suzanne,
    Wonderful framing and conceptualization of how the brain learns. I have always been seeking a balance between my head and heart behaviorally. What you present suggests that it really is my comfort zone rather a balancing act that I am seeking in order to flow more evenly through the events in my life rather than creating a reactive state putting into either a crisis or freeze state. I look forward to viewing your second video and how this concept can apply in relationships.
    Cheers and thank you for your excellent work, it works for me!

  • Avatar pdani says:

    Suddenly can see the conflict in my marriage in a different way. I am usually in freeze mode
    whilst my husband is in the crisis mode. Amazing stuff. Thank you.

  • Avatar nls says:

    Thanks, sometimes when i leave my sessions i’m not sure what to make of it. As a matter of fact i have a sessions today that will be way out of my “confort zone” (bring in a family member for the first time).The explanation has given me a better understanding of how therapy is suppose to work.

  • Avatar S. J. C. says:

    I think I understand the concept of the therapist ”soothing” a client’s nervous system. Do you think that this occurs in a non-conscious way, with the client subliminally perceiving what the therapist does? My therapist does not verbalize very much and I am sometimes left waiting for the ”soothing” which does not seem to be happening. Am I just not able to perceive their caring? I wonder if I am resisting being soothed because I do not really trust the therapist.
    What do you think?

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Hi S.J.C., it sounds like you’re not getting what you need in your therapy and you’re starting to second guess yourself. It’s reasonable to expect your therapist to directly address your need for self-soothing and to check in with you until you’re feeling better.

      In doing so, your nervous system will learn to feel safer and more comforted – not just in therapy but outside as well.

      I explain more why this is essential in my Brain Coaching Program.

      Thanks for your question,


  • Avatar Katharine says:

    Thanks so much for this movie Dr. Lacombe. It helped me to continue to clarify the work we are doing in our sessions… again!!:) Can’t wait for the next one!

  • Avatar Sasa says:

    Am needing some clarification… At one time early on you say that the brain learns best on the edge of our comfort zone. Later you emphasize several times that the brain learns best within the comfort zone. I believe it is the latter rather than the former… need clarification~

    Thank you! Am enjoying the video~

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Hi Sasa, yes I can see that it might be confusing. It might be helpful if I explain it this way. Sometimes we challenge ourselves and it makes us feel uncomfortable. Like what I’m doing now is challenging for me. I’m putting my movies out there. If I had done this last year – truthfully, I’d be a basket case. However, the work I’ve been doing on myself has gotten me to this place so I can step out some more.

      You don’t want to feel so uncomfortable that you’re overwhelmed. When we’re in ‘overwhelm’ we don’t think straight.

      Not all learning has to occur on the edge. I’m just meaning that if you happen to be on the edge, there’s a greater probability for deeper change. I prefer ‘inside the zone change’ for myself. It takes a little longer but I feel less like I’ve just jumped into cold water. I hate that feeling!

      I hope that clarifies it a little more,


  • Avatar Kate says:

    Thank you for your refreshing perspective on the role of overwhelming emotions in therapy. So simply explained and profoundly neglected by many mental health professionals.

  • […] Watch Dr. Suzanne LaCombe in the first part of her Brain Wise series. In it, she describes what happens for folks in therapy and how the brain learns to stay out of “crisis” or “freeze” mode. […]

  • I love this. You explain it so simply and clearly, Suzanne. I will be blogging about this video today.
    Thanks for being a great resource for therapists and clients!

  • Avatar Lea says:


    I was just describing in an email to a friend, that my life feels like it has more ‘space’ in it, now that I have been exercising in preparation for a Triathlon. When I heard in your video, about a healthy nervous system and finding that flow state where our experiences are within our comfort zone, it made a lot of sense! I can re-visit my changed experiences and say to myself, yes, I am spending very little time in crisis or freeze mode, compared to before. And circumstances have not changed, but my responses to them have!

    Thanks for sharing your insights in this way!

  • Avatar TP says:

    Great video! This helps me not be so hard on myself and to allow myself to go in and out of the zone. You hit a key point about the emotions and being in the comfort zone before going there.

    Thanks for sharing this great informatino!

  • Avatar Jennifer says:

    Hi Suzanne,

    It is so good to hear from you. I am thrilled that you created this video on the brain and the nervous system. It’s no wonder that I became so ill while in therapy last year. It all makes sense in hindsight!

    I am happy to share that I found a new therapist who is an expert on both PTSD and Anorexia. It’s a completely different experience from the last. :o) In addition, she definitely puts me at ease and I’m not as frozen as I was with my old therapist. I also find that she moves me more and more into my comfort zone. In fact and ironoically enough, my new therapist said that she wouldn’t be doing a whole lot of “digging”. Now I understand why.

    Thank you again Suzanne.

    I look forward to the upcoming installments.


  • Avatar kelly g. says:

    this has helped to take pressure off myself and understand a bit more about my emotions thankyou

  • Avatar erika says:

    Hi Suzanne,

    thank you for putting the concept of ‘titrating an experience’ or ‘working within the window of tolerance’ or ‘dosing’ in such clear and easily digestible words and pictures!

    As a Massage Therapist I work with many clients that are experiencing body bracing or lack of tone in the muscles, the counterpart of experiencing chaos or dissociation. And indeed, therapeutic touch and the skills of grounding, centering and resourcing are very helpful to return to the Zone of Comfort.

    Thank you for ‘spreading the word’ Suzanne!


  • Avatar Connie says:

    21 years ago when I began my journey to recover I attended talk therapy, read the bible, some other literature similar. Searching for the missing piece to my recovery, asking every day for help.

    I have always felt that there was more to recovery than just talking a thing to death. I began realizing when I faced the memories and entered into the moment, the pain and memories began to fade.

    Since I have held that only I can heal, but having a guide is essential. Thank you for confirming my beliefs. This has become an important aspect to my recovery and guiding others in theirs. I am now working on my Phd in clinical psychology, with the intent of extending on work such as this. I began using Somatic Experiencing as an integral part of my recovery, it has helped me to open to a new world.

    Thank you so much. Blessings

  • Avatar Kim says:

    I have been in threapy for a year and a half and am still feeling like I have 100 boxes open at a time. The problem is I leave threapy feeling ok, but go back to the same enviornment so the feelings come crashing back down on me. I am overwhelmed, can’t think straight, and feel like I am drowing. The only reason I stay afloat is my son. I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have him in my life. Your video explains exactly what happens with my emotions and my physical being. I am glad to have this to use as a support system outside of my threapy sessions.

  • Avatar R.G. says:

    I agree with your hypothesis. Now that I am cognative of this, I will begin to work on myself and I believe that I will see results. The analogy about the “open boxes” were perfect!

    Thank you,

  • Avatar Sindy M. says:

    Excellent! excellent!So helpful.

  • Avatar Nancy says:

    Amazing. If we learn the most on the brink, or edge, of the zone, how do we stay in that place longer to learn the most? What can we do to get into the zone before going to session? I would think it may be harder to be in the zone if you are always going directly from work.

    Containment in therapy interests me because I leave therapy distraught, and as I try to make sense of it I become frazzled and I run it through my head for days as I try to come to some conclusion about what happened. It takes a lot of energy. I spend half my time between appointments wondering if its just me, am I doing it wrong, should I go quit, or should I look for another therapist.

    I think its so cool that you are helping us to better understand how our minds work so we can participate more effectively in the process.

    Thank you for your energy and excitement!

    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Hi Nancy, yes, there are a few things the movie didn’t get to. I feel like I could do several more movies…

      Here’s the thing. We can tell we’re on the edge of our zone through our body. This takes practice and I’m describing how to do this in my Brain Coaching Program. And not all learning needs to occur on the edge – I wouldn’t want to be in school feeling this way for example!

      And you actually don’t need to worry about going into your therapy session feeling out of the zone. In fact, I tell my clients to come in especially when they’re feeling crappy (i.e. out of the zone).

      You see, hopefully with the help of your therapist he or she will get you back into the zone by the end of the session. That’s how the nervous system changes – through experience. Over time, your nervous system learns this.

      However, not every therapist knows how to help clients get back into the zone. With the information I’ll be covering in my program I’ll teach what’s necessary to have more control in being able to accomplish this including some tools you can use and especially when you’re outside therapy.

      Thanks for your question,


  • Avatar Elizabeth says:

    This is wonderful information. Thank you, Suzanne. It explains what I experienced just four days ago in therapy and why I had to sit in the car for an hour, calming myself down before I could feel safe enough to drive home. Now I understand what happened and I know that it wasn’t just me acting like an emotional loser again. Very helpful and practical–thank you so much for sharing this and for being ShrinkLady. I’ve learned much from your website!!

    • Avatar kate says:

      I too have sat in the car emotionally overwhelmed and feeling unsafe after therapy. The first time I experienced the overload I sat with my journal in the therapists waiting room. I think I was hoping she’d come out and reassure or calm me. Instead I got a stern and questioning look and learned was a better choice I stuck with that therapist for years. Therapy made me worse and for that reason I kept going – I got more desperate for help. I finally left and started healing. When I returned two years later my therapist said I do better without therapy. All along I just needed someone to accompany me as I dealt with very stressful life circumstances. Thanks Elizabeth and Suzanne for the validations!

  • Avatar Anonymous says:

    Your information is very encouraging. I like the easy format of your video – its mostly in layman’s terms – makes it comfortable to follow what you are telling me. I look forward to more!

  • Avatar victoria says:

    Eureka! Now I understand!! Most of the time I am in therapy I am either in Freeze Mode and “deer in the headlights” in feel, or in Crisis and way way out of control. This is the way I usually leave after an hour, and very often feel like running, never ever to return. Amazingly I do, though sometimes it takes a month or two!
    I now get the idea from your movie and thank you so much. I don’t quite know how to help myself, but just knowing it is very assuredly going to help. It must.
    I am new to My Shrink but have heard all about you, and every single comment about you has been excellent. I now see why. I now really look forward to all and any other ‘things’ from you, and thank you. I just know I am going to really enjoy, and learn from being a member.

  • Avatar Judy W. says:

    Hi Shrinklady.
    Thank-you for this information and lovely to see you on here.
    I think that maybe this explains why after some sessions I leave feeling more comfortable in my own skin and on other occasions less comfortable or integrated.
    I look forward to seeing your next film on relationships since what we all want is to behave in aways that help us to connect better.

    Travelling hopefully, female UK

  • Avatar Deborah says:

    Having just moved back from the UK, I am so excited to see this video! I was a counsellor practicing in the UK and we used this type of therapy (through Deep Release). So glad to find someone who believes the same way and uses it to help clients! It also confirms what I’ve heard, learned, taught and used! We simply used different terminology–hyper and hypo vigilant.

    Thank you so much for bringing this to the forefront of therapy!

  • Avatar Lisa says:

    Hello, Suzanne,

    How does a therapist figure out where the border is between comfort zone and crisis? If the best learning takes place on the border, don’t we need to hang out there for a period of time within the session? How much time is too much? In my therapy, sometimes I get insight and I am able to process the emotion, and sometimes it takes a couple of sessions to do this. If this happens, I will often feel in the crisis zone for a long period of time – until I resolve what is triggering the emotion.

    Thanks for the video – it is very good and you are a clear communicator as well as conveying instant warmth and caring.


    • Shrinklady Shrinklady says:

      Hi Lisa, a therapist needs your help in order to tell where the edge is and/or whether you’re feeling outside the zone. The more a therapist is in her body, the easier it is for her to tell this automatically. That would be a really attuned therapist.

      I check in regularly with my clients. A client might be talking about something that I think might be troubling for her however there might not be any visible signs that it is so. If I didn’t check in, I wouldn’t have a clue. If she just continued to talk over top of this emotional turmoil, we’d lose that big opportunity for changing the brain.

      One thing that I’ve noticed is that as I’ve become more in my body, I’m able to pick up on emotional distress faster. But I miss it all the time too. That’s why it’s so essential to pause and check in.

      And by the way, hanging out on the edge for a whole session would be really hard. It probably wouldn’t be good for the nervous system either – too draining for most people and especially if there was no resolution at the end, then what would be the point.

      As I am writing this, I can imagine you might have more questions. These are the type of questions I’ll get into in my program.

      I hope it helped to clarify some of your questions Lisa,



  • Avatar Sage says:


    I really want to tell you your timing could not be better,for me anyway. Your analogies really helped me re-visit work I did in therapy. My now retired, so regretfully former, therapist explained my emotional”gridlock” (my terminology) as overwhelm, a maxed out nervous system. I am lucky say he did ground me, and gave me tools to recognize when I was “maxed out” to help contain myself. But this did not happen overnight (I saw him for several years). I am seeing another therapist and I am very comfortable with him but,…. I don’t feel the same sense of….. connection. My first therapist seemed to know exactly what I needed to deal with, work through, or reinforce.
    Life has once again thrown me into an extremely stressful and difficult situation. I know it is temporary but I find myself cycling back and forth between overwhelm and freeze mode. So I am very entriqued to find out what is in the second movie. (I would say excited if I was not so damn depressed:).

  • Avatar Elaine says:

    This information was very helpful because it describes what happens in my therapy so often. I feel that I stay in the freeze zone most of the time during therapy and dont know how to bring myself out and dont get the help from the therapist to get out of it either. I have been trying to find a way to explain what I felt was going on so that me and my therapist could discuss it and hopefully fix the problem. And this explains it so well.

  • Avatar patricia says:

    hi suzanne
    my own therapy was from aabout 1970 to 2004 or so. i changed therapists often at first and even moved across country, but finally settled on group with a therapist from The Meadows who was also a minister. this was “it” for me! i never left bleeding and i never saw anybody else leave that way! he is a master!

    i still feel there are some areas i want to work on, namely body image, eating dis-ordered etc. but feel more whole and functioning than i ever have been.

    thanks for your work and i look forward to the next installment.

    i am retired now and face new challenges and want to be the best me i can be!


  • Avatar Tom says:

    Dear Dr Lacombe,

    I’m an osteopath (and 1st year Bachelor student in Psychology) from Belgium and what you are presenting is something that has been my field of interest over the last years. As an osteopath I saw patients coming in with back pain but who were also stuck in the survival mode. The latter I only discovered at their second visit when they described how their back pain had subsided but also how their view on life’s challenges and coping ability had changed. I’ve distilled the parts of my work that have the most impact on this process and written it down in several blogs :
    I also started to teach practitioners the principles to this process (which is hands-on) and also they are coming with remarkable recovery stories.
    Your video blog shows that the world is changing that many people are capturing this new approach and putting it at their hand and with their heart in it which is wonderful.
    So thank you for sharing and look forward to the next confession.

    Best regards and be good to you.

  • Avatar Teri says:

    Very interesting video. I’ve been in therapy 10 years, and one of the biggest problems my therapist and I have is trying to keep me out of the Crisis or Freeze zones. I’m an extremely sensitive person and am very easily overloaded emotionally. Growing up, i was discouraged or punished from showing my emotions. So i have a backlog of huge emotions suppressed. I have trouble accessing them, and when i do, BAM! they hit me too hard to tolerate. My therapist and i have been working forever to try to get me to the point where i can access, acknowledge, and feel my emotions in a normal way. I am usually in a mode of feeling very little. then dambreak! then freeze and numb. and i have to recover. We’ve been working on coping skills and self-soothing, but it is still so hard to stay level. I am constantly triggered by things that remind me of past injuries.

  • Avatar Julie says:

    This is helpful. I do find within my therapy sessions that there is the fluctuation between the comfort zone and outside of it … what I find most difficult is when a therapy session ends and I am outside of the zone … it can take me a day or two to process things on my own … when I probably most want to be gently brought back into my comfort zone before ending the session. After watching this, I am thinking that when there is five or ten minutes left in what is a more difficult session I might just stop and ask for a chance to help me move back into my comfort area … not sure if this is making any sense …

  • Hi, Suzanne,

    I’m thrilled to see you getting this information out. Given my background as both a therapist and a neurofeedback provider, your new series is right up my alley. I know my clients have benefited from my learning about how the brain develops and what’s needed to get for us as adults the development in the brain we may not have gotten in our childhoods.

    It’s so helpful for people to understand why they feel the way they do, what that means about their wiring, and what can be done about it.


  • Avatar Frances says:

    Hi, I am new to these ideas and therapy but this all makes sense to me. It is extremely helpful to know that there are others out there who have the same experiences. It can be very isolating to feel’there might be something wrong with you’ but what you explained in your first movie made me realise that we are all the same. I look forward to learning more – Thank You!

  • Avatar Claire says:

    I attend group therapy and my comfort zone is often maxed out by other peoples experiences and how this triggers my own memories. the unfortunate thing about group therapy is when I have actually spoken in the session, its time to move on to someone else which leaves me feeling out on a limb, distressed and out of my comfort zone. i am very interested to see how this method works and am looking forward to your next instalment of this series.
    Thanks for your hard work

  • Avatar Michelle says:

    I’m in my second year of therapy and have become quite interested in how it all works. This video gives a clear explanation of what good therapy looks like. I’m anxious to hear about skills needed to “self-soothe” in order to stay in “the zone.” This video helps me understand that the emotion must be “moved through” but “easy does it.” For me, it’s realizing that “normalizing” is important to stay out of the crisis and/or freeze modes.

    Thank you so much.

  • Avatar dapperdanman says:

    Hello Shrinklady!

    (or should that be DOCTOR.Shrinklady to me???!!!)

    Yeah, it’s been a long time since we heard from you, but it was
    really worth the wait!

    Great job on the video. The concepts are difficult for the average person to get, at least at first glance. But I think you did a super job putting these new insights from neuroscience into “plain English”.

    I wish I had known this stuff when I was in therapy!

    What really hit home for me was your discussion about how these ideas applied in relationships. I think it makes it easier for a lot of people like me to get this when you use “real life” examples. I hope you keep using them in your future videos.

    Again, thanks for this Update – I can barely wait for the next installment!


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