Therapy can be highly effective for a variety of mental health conditions and problems of life. Dr. Newell specializes in the treatment of stress and trauma-related conditions including anxiety disorders, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Dr. Newell utilizes an ecological systems framework in his practice by carefully developing activities across the biological, interpersonal, organizational, familial, peer-related, spiritual, and recreational aspects of the bio-psycho-social self. This perspective also provides for a useful approach for conceptualizing human resilience as a transactional process that evolves from human relationships and experiences across various domains of the life-course. Dr. Newell specializes in the cultivation of personal and professional resilience through the intentional pursuit and achievement of meaningful and purposed life-goals and experiences.
Stress and Problems of Life
Stress typically originates from environmental stimuli (stressors) and the individual or collective behavioral responses to these environmental stimuli. It is generally understood that chronic stress can be pervasive, having cumulative effects on human beings and all their working systems. Common sources of stress include one’s job, marriage, parenting, physical and mental health challenges, and other problems of life.
Physical stressors are those which affect the biological functions of the human body leading to physical exhaustion, illness, or chronic fatigue. Physical stress may come from working too many hours without proper rest and nutrition; not taking time to recover properly from a physical illness; chronic illness; losing sleep to care for an infant or sick child; chronic alcohol or drug use; or neglecting essential physical health care needs and positive health behaviors (diet, exercise, rest).
Psychological stress is sometimes related to an individual’s internal abilities to process and cope with stressful life events. Psychological stress is much more subjective than physical stress and differs from person to person. Psychological stress can generate a variety of behavioral reactions including anger, fear, feeling overwhelmed, or even helplessness toward the stressful situation. Chronic psychological stress or “pile up” has potential to lead to more pathological behaviors such as anxiety, panic, or mood disorders.
Social (or psycho-social) stressors consist of interactions between biological, familial, occupational, spiritual, community, and social systems (among others), as they intersect and integrate with one another and the inherent and often uncontrollable stress generated from these interactions. Social stressors also include myriad macro-level influences, such as the economy (economic recessions in particular), social politics and the influence of political leaders, and the corresponding shifts and adjustments in human behavior that occur as a result of the stress generated from these systems.
Anxiety and Trauma-Related Disorders
- Anxiety disorders commonly involve the anticipation or dread of future danger or misfortune such that chronic apprehension begins to significantly interfere with demands of daily living, personal well-being, and professional quality of life. Common symptoms of anxiety include feeling restless or on edge, chronic fatigue, difficulty with concentration and focus, changes in mood, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance. Specific types of anxiety include separation anxiety, social anxiety, phobias (animals, transportation, weather, etc.), and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
- Panic attacks involve sudden and unexpected onset of intense apprehension, fearfulness, terror, or impending doom. The physical symptoms of panic attacks include heart palpitations, sweating, trembling or shakiness, shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, nausea or abdominal distress, feelings of dizziness or light-headedness, fear of losing control, and fear of dying.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be understood as the consequential, complex, and problematic patterns of behavior that result from the impact of a traumatic incident or event involving either actual or perceived threat on the victim or victims of that incident. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) describes traumatic events as inclusive of natural disasters; fire or explosion; serious automobile or other moving vehicle accidents; exposure to a toxic substance; child sexual and physical abuse; severe child neglect; domestic violence; physical or sexual assault; torture; rape; sex trafficking; life-threatening illness; bearing witness to severe human suffering; homicide; suicide; combat stress; or sudden unexpected death or serious injury to a significant person or persons. The core symptoms of PTSD are intrusive thoughts and memories associated with the trauma; avoidance of trigger stimuli associated with the trauma; feelings of self-blame, guilt and shame; difficulty experiencing joy and happiness; and chronic hypervigilance about one’s safety and well-being.
- Secondary Traumatic Stress: Close interpersonal relationships with individuals (or clients) suffering from trauma could potentially have both a negative and infectious impact on families, friends, and other close associates as they bear witness to the intense or horrific experiences of that particular person’s trauma. Hence, vicarious, indirect, or secondary trauma reactions have been described as natural and consequential behaviors and emotions resulting from knowing about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other (or client) and the stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person (Figley, 1995). Indirect trauma is not a clinical diagnosis but may include less pronounced “trauma-like” symptoms such as intrusive thoughts; traumatic memories; chronic irritability or angry outbursts; fatigue; difficulty concentrating; avoidance; and hypervigilance toward trigger stimuli as reminder of loved ones (or clients) and their trauma material.
- Clinical depression involves chronic dysregulation of mood characterized by episodic periods of extreme lows and/or extreme highs, marked disinterest in pleasurable or recreational activities, anxiety and irritability, chronic fatigue, excessive feelings of guilt and shame, and difficulty with concentration and memory.
- Major Depressive Disorder is characterized by episodes of chronic depressed mood or lack of interest in pleasurable activity for a period of two weeks resulting in significant impairment in social, occupational, familial, marital and/or other essential functions of the psycho-social self. The two-week period or episode may be characterized by pronounced feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, guilt or shame, irritability, fatigue, anxiety, appetite change, and difficulty with concentration and memory. For some, major depressive episodes include recurrent thoughts of death and/or suicidal ideation.
- Bipolar Disorder is also referred to as bipolar depression and manic depression. Bipolar disorder includes the symptoms of major depression but is accompanied by periods of elevated mood called manic episodes. Manic episodes are characterized by inflated feelings of self-worth or grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, pressured speech, distractibility, and excessive risk-taking behaviors that significantly impair social, occupational, familial, marital and/or other essential functions of the psycho-social self.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of talk therapy that involves actively engaging thought processes as they influence patterns of behavior. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on insight-building with regard to the reception and processing of life stress and the corresponding influence these processes have on human patterns of behavior. An essential premise of CBT is that self-defeating patterns of thought lead to self-defeating behaviors. Hence, CBT assumes that changes in maladaptive thoughts and feelings can lead to changes in behavior.
- Mindfulness-based practices focus on the cultivation of personal awareness through conscious awareness and attention to human intention and purpose as it exists in the present moment. The application of mindfulness practices such as awareness, openness, non-judgment, and self-compassion has been associated with many indicators of improved physical health, emotional health, and overall well-being. Beyond the interpersonal qualities of mindfulness practice, this approach may also include active practices such as the use of deep breathing exercises, meditation, muscle relaxation, and yoga.
- Person-centered philosophy: the person-centered approach to therapy assumes that all individuals are capable personal growth and are well-equipped to move forward through life’s problems. Emphasis is placed on individual perception of life’s challenges and the disengagement of self-defeating behaviors through cultivating personal strengths, empowerment and resilience.
- Solution-focused technique: the solution-focus technique involves holding clients accountable for change (solutions) in their lives as part of taking responsibility for past decisions. This forward-thinking approach centers on developing practical solutions to problems of life rather than searching for answers in the past. From a problem-solving approach, task-oriented treatment goals and objectives are developed as part of the therapeutic process with emphasis on individual strengths as the source of positive solution-building.
- Strengths-based assessment: this approach to assessment involves the use of motivational interviewing techniques to evaluate and critically analyze individual (or family) resources, capabilities, support systems, and motivations to meet challenges and to overcome adversity.
Personal Growth and Professional Development
- Professional Coaching: The complex intersection of personal and professional stress can make it difficult to create a healthy and functional work-life balance. Professional coaching involves the identification and application of individual strengths and values to articulate one’s personal and professional life purpose and goals. Professional coaching is not a therapeutic approach and does not require a clinical diagnosis but is highly effective as a motivational tool in the pursuit of a healthy balance between personal quality of life and professional resilience.
- Professional Burnout: The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently classified professional burnout as an “occupational syndrome” characterized by feelings of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and marked reduction in one’s sense of personal and professional accomplishment. For human service workers, burnout has been described as a cumulative state of physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual exhaustion resulting from chronic exposure to [or practice with] populations that are vulnerable or suffering. Professional coaching can also be a method used to address occupational stress (including job relocation), professional burnout, and compassion fatigue in any professional career or job setting.
- Professional Self-Care: The practice of professional self-care is a carefully defined set of practice skills and strategies to mitigate the emotionally challenging effects of providing services to individuals, families, groups, or entire communities. Self-care can be summarized as the utilization of skills and strategies by social workers and other human service professionals to maintain their own personal, familial, emotional, physical and spiritual needs to actively and consciously promote holistic well-being and professional resilience, while attending to the complex emotional needs and demands of their clients. Dr. Newell’s research suggests that developing an ongoing plan of professional self-care is highly effective in navigating the difficulties of human service work and can be used to mitigate the effects of both professional burnout and compassion fatigue.
- Social Work Licensure Supervision: Licensure is essential for social workers engaged in direct practice experiences. The process of licensure supervision is intended to facilitate professional development for social workers as they pursue their career goals and aspirations. This is particularly true for social workers purposed for clinical practice in the fields of mental health care. Licensure supervision for LBSW’s and LMSW’s can be easily incorporated into the work day through face-to-face or virtual supervision sessions.