Sometimes in life we reach a point in which we are simply stuck. Understanding and seeing our choices become difficult, challenging and time can pass before we notice opportunities have been lost. Prolonged periods of feeling stuck can lead to depression, anxiety, confusion, and lack of well-being. Our lives get smaller and smaller. So how do we get unstuck? How can one take life by the reigns and fully recognize the possibility at hand? In today’s interview I speak with local coach and healer Suzanne Mark. Together with her husband, Dr. Daniel Sternberg, a Clinical Psychologist, they own and operate Ashland Neurofeedback and Therapy here in Ashland, Oregon.
Thank you for providing this forum, Shields. We appreciate your interest in cutting-edge therapies. Every month, we are writing columns on different subjects that are relevant to brain heath and getting unstuck, and there is a huge need in this community around this topic. Many people contact us who have a desire to function more fully. Many people come with differing symptoms. This makes my job fun and exciting as I am always seeing results from different areas of the spectrum. The wonderful thing is that I do not even treat SYMPTOMS, as I have said in other articles. The technology that I use shows the brain what it needs to change and the brain changes itself! I am continually hearing feedback about how surprised people are that they feel more resilient and less overwhelmed by life and that areas of higher function that they could not get to before come about more easily.
To begin with can you please give us an overview of your practice?
We provide IASIS MCN Neurofeedback Services and complimentary therapies such as:
Deep releasing for mind-body change
NeuPathways to turn off Pain, Stress and Negative emotions
BioFlex Laser Light array for pain, tissue healing and more
Flower Essences for Psychospiritual change
Tools to improve balance and vestibular issues
…and other tools to be used ongoingly by the client when they “graduate” from care. My goal is for you to care for yourself, not to be dependent upon me/us.
Thank you. Let’s dive right into the key premise and application of your work.
I most enjoy helping people by disentraining stuck patterns in the brain. I also help people let go of old emotional stuckness through deep releasing, and pain release using a methodology that works with the brain to literally turn off stress, pain and negative emotions, and other complimentary approaches. All of the therapies I use have a strong brain basis. I love helping people change quickly so that they can get on with enjoying life.
Suzanne, in your experience what constitutes being stuck?
The main way I describe it is that as hard as you try, you simply cannot move forward in the direction of your choosing. Stuckness takes many forms that influence the way we think, feel and act. One of the key signs of stuckness is an inner sense of hopelessness or futility. You may start to think that you cannot do, be or have such and such, and that no matter what you try; you are destined to fail. It also has a lot to do with the emotional frequencies that you tend towards. Feelings like shame, guilt, apathy, grief or fear can signal stuckness. As the brain patterns change, you move up to clarity, courage, acceptance and peace. Overwhelm subsides. Also, when we are stuck, our ability to act in one or more areas is impaired. As the brain gets unstuck or “dis-entrained” from habitual patterns, we think more clearly, energy rises and action happens more naturally. (Please read Bruce’s testimonial.) Resistance diminishes and we re-enter the flow. We can choose to do something and it actually happens! Sometimes we notice we finished that long-neglected task with very little effort.
The frequent sense is that “there is something wrong with me and I have no idea how to fix it”. Personally, I tried different approaches and none of them worked to get me back over to my more flexible, capable self. Two respected colleagues Dr. Dane Roubos, and Arielle Rose, told me about this Neurofeedback at a time when I was most desperate to find a solution for my brain issues. I cannot thank them enough for their kindness, because after a course of IASIS Microcurrent Neurofeedback, I started to think, feel and act differently. I was able to do things that I simply could not – as hard as I tried. I was able to surpass my pre-brain injury benchmarks of success. This is why I can easily relate to suffering of others. From my point of view, it is very hopeful that there is an easier way. I am passionate about brain training because my own experience has been amazing.
Suzanne how do you see your work reaching out and changing lives?
I recently attended an IASIS conference in San Diego. IASIS Microcurrent Neurofeedback is a cutting edge EEG that is very gentle, yet powerful. At the conference, there was much talk about the efficacy of the new therapies, like STEM cell and therapies that improve neural plasticity. We need more of these effective technologies. My mission is to help people turn around in the least time possible so that they do not have to keep coming back forever. Many people are seeking non-pharmaceutical approaches. The practice that Dan and I have built is based on pragmatic, science-based, results-driven technology. Dan uses EMDR for trauma in his practice.
I would love to hear more about what inspires you to do the work you do and how you approach every situation with fresh eyes?
The people inspire me. Every person is unique. They have unique strengths and experiences that are their greatest teachers. I think the gift of a good practitioner is to see everyone this way by tuning into their essence. I take the time to listen to their goals and their challenges. I do not compare. I listen to where they are at. If you listen carefully, people will tell you exactly what the problem is and you can address it through problem solving. Problem-solving is fun with the right tools. Many people just need access to the right information, so they can take action. To this end, I provide them with tools that they can use to continue to free themselves from limitations after treatment is over.
In 2009 you had a serious head injury. How did this affect your life and the challenges you faced in the years to follow?
From one moment to the next, my life totally changed. It was hard to be profoundly stuck and to be unable to figure it out. I lost my mother in 2006. Then, I spent years trying to get out of first gear after sustaining a brain injury on a trip to Costa Rica in 2009. I did not even realize I had had a concussion. Apparently, the first symptom of a brain injury is denial! I kept trying to do this or that and not succeeding. To be honest, I then relocated from the US to Costa Rica to get away from my sense of failure. I can laugh about that now. As I was packing to move, I had to count things in boxes. I would count, say, 12 things, and grab a clipboard to note it…I could NOT remember that number only 3 seconds later. My working memory was not working well at all! Much later, I wanted to go back to school to get a Master’s Degree and I had to take a Statistics class that I found very challenging. I tried neurofeedback as a way to get through that class! Losing my mother and my brain injury had me stuck. After IASIS Microcurrent sessions, I landed in my life and was able to function again. I was able to manage complexity that I had not been able to manage. Recently, I hit a car that pulled out in front of me. I had another concussion and IASIS is also helping me get on my feet again.
How could you even imagine getting your life back when you are having such experiences?
No, I could not imagine it. I was living in the illusion of insufficiency and unworthiness. It was really a brain issue. My husband was so patient with me. He could not figure it out either! Now I have a life that I could not have dreamed of having. I am certainly not perfect but I am much more functional! Many people have the same experience. They feel stuck and start to believe the stuckness. I found a way out, and they can too.
Suzanne, on a week-to-week basis what types of challenges are you helping your clients overcome?
I think it is more appropriate to ask, “What types of challenges are your clients’ brains helping them overcome?” I think it is important to say that the BRAIN does the changing, I simply apply the technology. Issues as diverse as ADHD, Autism Spectrum, Addictions, Anger Issues, Brain Injuries, Depression, PTSD, Stress, Pain, Life Stuckness, Trauma, Parkinson’s symptoms etc. We are also working with Veterans that have complex PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) issues. We see many of them for free, or at reduced cost. Sometimes people’s brains just need a bit of a reboot. Some people have a diagnosis, some don’t; they just feel that something is missing and it makes sense to them that they might be able to resolve this at the brain level. I am inspired by their courage and spirit.
Can you share some recent success stories or testimonials with us?
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a very inspiring client who gladly allowed me to share his experience. He has done a lot of therapeutic work, but the neurofeedback really brought everything together. It is as if his life is reorganizing itself and he is along for the ride! I am often asked why this happens. It is a mystery, really, but I think it has to do with brain resiliency. Flexible brains can do more to support the whole organism. Here is his beautifully written testimonial, which I am grateful to say is not uncommon.
“I have been dealing with difficulty in most areas of my life since I was a child due to early trauma. Even though I knew what to do, I frequently couldn’t organize my brain and body to carry out the necessary actions. Since doing 10 sessions with Suzanne, there have been many barriers lifted and life has opened a new path for me. She is a caring and knowledgeable practitioner, and I recommend her services to those suffering from PTSD, especially. I have tried many things over the years, and this technology is a true gift.
The main areas where I have resolved issues have been the following:
– I got a new job to take myself out of a very stressful work environment
– Good nutrition has started to be implemented in our home
– Smoother communication is taking place within my relationship
– I am able to focus on intellectual tasks and even got a scholarship for an online certificate program
– Socially I am noticeably more able to relax
– My home has been organized to limit stress, including clearing out old clutter (which was very difficult to do before)
– I can notice more easily when I am in distress and can take steps to do self care
– My writing/performing of comedy feels like a block has been worked through and I am more comfortable on stage
– It has become easier to be honest with myself about my internal processes such as anxiety/depression, rather than engaging in avoidance
In short, my life feels like it has become more coherent and organized and that things are falling into place just as they should. As I am fond of saying, I have turned this ship around! Thanks Suzanne!
Another client, who also encouraged me to share her story, came in with a condition that had her crying for hours, unable to stop. Complex PTSD with dissociation from childhood/adult trauma and an old head injury had her stuck. She was unable to work and at her wits’ end with exhaustion and fear. She had been mostly in bed for a year. The cycle of uncontrollable crying had increased to every other day by the time she was referred to me. I knew we had to move quickly as she was losing hope, so we did a very intense course of neurofeedback. Within six sessions, the cycling completely stopped. In less than two months of brain training, she was able to integrate emotionally. She is back at work and back in life in all aspects. She is by nature an extremely capable person and she is living in that capacity again.
Recently, I worked with an 88-year-old who was in a motor vehicle accident that caused a head injury. She was having a hard time coordinating the brain with her quadriceps and really had to concentrate to walk without falling. An IASIS clinician in another state referred her to me. In just a few sessions, the retrained brain overcame this symptom. Her life started to improve in other ways as well. She was able to let go of some old pain from childhood! What most inspires me about our work is her perception of life as a precious gift, despite challenges.
One 16 year old had old head injuries, and had recently sustained a serious concussion in a car accident that caused uncontrolled rage. To quote him:
“I felt like I had lost myself after the crash. I also had anger issues to the degree that I would get so frustrated I would chuck my cell phone and I went through several phones! I was arguing and fighting with people a lot. My sleep was awful and I woke up too hot. I also felt helpless and stressed at school. There was this pointlessness about everything. Within the first few sessions my frustration went way down and I started bouncing back. I’m having no arguments and smooth relationships with my family and friends. My sleep is good now. I am much more motivated as well. Things I used to avoid because they were too stressful I can now deal with. I am more productive and I have a new apprenticeship in a field I am passionate about.”
I recently completed extensive work with a married couple, both of whom had been brain injured for many years. I taught them how to “turn off” stress and negative emotions while we did the brain training. It felt like a miracle to see them both heal, and to see the positive effect it has had on their relationship and many other aspects of their lives. What most inspires me about them is that they have so much knowledge about healing from brain injury from first-hand experience. It has been joyful to watch them progress. I always gain so much from my interactions with clients. All of these people, by the way, are quite exceptional people and I was truly honored to work with them and to get to know them.
Suzanne, you have a deep belief that people can get their lives back. Please say more.
That belief comes from the efficacy of this work. I am inspired and uplifted by my client’s successes. The right application of the tools I use works on most people most of the time. There is something else that is even more important. Each person who comes to my office has taken that first step outside of a habitual pattern. They have decided to try something different to meet their goals. Maybe someone has decided to stop smoking marijuana that they have been smoking since they were a teenager. Perhaps they have decided to pursue creative goals that they have had for decades. Maybe they just want to feel more “normal” again after an injury. In every case, they have decided that the limitations they are experiencing are no longer satisfactory. Like letting go of an old, broken down car, they decide that they are ready for an upgrade. The courage to change is the first and the last step in any brain training program. They can get their lives back, and they do, based on making new choices.
You mention that neurofeedback changes your emotional experiences to everyday situations. What do you mean by this?
Research shows that neurofeedback evolves your emotions from more limiting emotions to more expansive, un-limiting ones. We are getting good results with this. I have been teaching clinicians and the public how to evolve emotions to a higher state since 1999 with a simple, straight-forward emotional release technique. When I started the IASIS Microcurrent Neurofeedback, I realized that the two modalities worked incredibly well together. The EEG neurofeedback will do this alone, but the releasing of emotions helps people go from tense to relaxed, unhappy to happy, confused to clear, heavy to light, closed to open, inflexible to flexible, unproductive to productive and ineffective to effective…it is all about using the neuroplasticity of the brain that has been there, but may have taken a back seat.
The type of neurofeedback we use, IASIS MCN (Microcurrent Neurofeedback), has been in use since 1990. Other forms of neurofeedback, using different approaches, have preceded IASIS, and are still in use. IASIS does not “train the brain” like traditional neurofeedback, but instead “dis-entrains” the brain by allowing it to reorganize itself and release itself from frozen, stuck patterns. This is analogous to rebooting a frozen computer.
Suzanne you wrote a very important column in the LocalsGuide last month that spoke to brain development in minors and the use of marijuana. Please say more.
Thanks Shields. This is not being talked about nearly enough. There are a lot of studies coming out that indicate that early marijuana use leads to poor outcomes in school, poor relationships, diminished motivation and poor employment outcomes. Sadly, early cannabis use can lead to many adverse neurocognitive and psychiatric outcomes like decline in cognitive function later on in life, and even adult onset of psychosis and anxiety. This is to say nothing of the many negative respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and endocrine side effects with regular use, all of which have been clearly studied. It is much easier for adolescents to become dependent. One in six becomes dependent. This is serious, folks. We are helping people to get off drugs with neurofeedback. Contact me and I will send you the article and links to the studies.
Suzanne what is the best way for any of our readers to reach out to you and learn more about your services?
The best way is by text or phone at (541) 631-8757 for the most timely response.
Finally are there any last comments you would like to share with our readers today?
I am very grateful to be working with the people of this area. People also come from other states to receive this treatment. I have been giving back by teaching a class called, “Letting Go of Limiting Thoughts, Feelings and Beliefs” at The Osher Life Long Learning Institute at SOU, and I provide a free support night at my office every other Wednesday from 7-8:15. I do deep releasing on topics that participants want to work on. We do not engage in a lot of story and no one is required to disclose personal information. I am getting very good feedback.
Finally, I would like to add that I see many people in Ashland riding bikes without helmets. Did you know that you could get a serious brain injury from falling even when you are completely stopped? Imagine what damage you could do with a bit of velocity. Please, for your brain’s health, always wear a helmet appropriate to your athletic pursuit.
Ashland Neurofeedback & Therapy
420 Williamson Way, Ashland