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LIFE QUALITY RESOURCES

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For further information about neurofeedback, biofeedback, and psychotherapeutic services offered by Drs. Dan and Lucy Chartier and their associates, contact:
 

LIFE QUALITY RESOURCES

5613 Duraleigh Road, #101
Raleigh, NC 27612
Telephone: (919) 782-4597
www.LifeQualityResources.org

Physical Expressions of Mental Pain

Drs. Dan and Lucy Chartier have been relying on physical signs of inner, emotional turmoil for decades as a way to help patients discover a path to healing.

Dr. Chartier

Dr. Dan Chartier, a psychophysiologic psychotherapist, and his wife Dr. Lucy Chartier, a psychiatric nurse practitioner with a Ph.D. in psychology, are the principal clinicians at Life Quality Resources, in Raleigh. For over 20 years, the two have used tools such as biofeedback and neurofeedback to find a therapeutic link between physical and emotional pain. We engaged in a conversation with Dr. Dan Chartier.

“From my point of view,” he says, “the real gold standard of mental health is summed up in the word ‘adjustment.’ What I mean by this is that from the time we exit our mother’s womb and go on through life, we are faced with and challenged to adjust to constantly changing circumstances: the aging process, injury, disappointment in a relationship or career—one thing after another bumps us off center and we feel depressed or anxious or worried in some way until we can figure out how to adjust to that change and move on with our lives.

“A good example,” he continues, “is of a three-legged cat that lives in our home. I ask the question, ‘how fast do you think that cat can run?’ The answer,” he says, smiling, “is pretty darn fast.”

Carefully placed sensors provide critical information about brain wave activity.

“In fact,” he adds, “that cat can still climb trees! It lost its leg in a traumatic accident, but it has made a very excellent adjustment because it didn’t think about it. The cat didn’t think ‘what do I do now?’ It just did what it needed to do to survive.

“Now clearly,” he continues, “adjusting isn’t usually that simple for humans who experience traumatic events, but the goal is the same. It’s all about healthy adjustment to changing circumstances.

“Using a three-legged cat as an example of dealing with true emotional pain may seem unrelated to resolution of human issues, but the story makes a good point. As therapists, we are always linking the physical and the mental and the emotional. We are constantly engaged in the process of adjustment.”

Using the Body to Know the Mind

In addition to traditional talk therapy techniques, biofeedback and neurofeedback offer a means of monitoring physiological reactions and changes to help guide the work being done by the doctors at Life Quality Resources.

“We use a range of biofeedback and neurofeedback devices that allow us and our clients to move beyond an understanding of what they are thinking, and to gain an understanding of how what they are thinking or feeling is affecting their physiology, “ Dr. Chartier explains. “This may manifest as something as simple as the variation in temperature on the surface of the skin at the end of a fingertip, or changes in brain waves we are monitoring from EEG readouts. Often what we see in the patient who is suffering and not making a good adjustment to some change in life is abnormality in those physiological measures.

“For example,” he continues, “a peripheral temperature of the finger in a reasonably warm room, barring any psychical medical issues, should be within about four degrees of whatever that person’s normal base temperature is— somewhere in the low 90s. When a person comes into my office out of a hot July day and their peripheral temperature is in the upper 60s or low 70s, something is clearly going on internally, preventing appropriate physiological adjustment.”

Patients’ Stories

“Rose was a patient in her early sixties” Dr. Chartier recalls. “She had gone through a number of significant shifts over the last five or six years after changing careers, and was in a new relationship that was turbulent, to say the least. Her peripheral temperature was in the 70s when she came to me, though the room was in the low 80s.

“As she began to talk about the pain she’d been experiencing, and began to recognize that she had still not finished adjusting to things like the traumatic end of her marriage and abrupt career change, she began to cry. As she processed these feelings,” Dr. Chartier says, “she was surprised to notice her peripheral temperature beginning to rise and approach normal values. As she gave acknowledgement to her suffering, her physiology began to change, to adjust.”

Peripheral skin temperature may be a useful clinical tool, but it isn’t what prompts most people to see a therapist. “Most often,” Dr. Chartier says, “it is unresolved physical pain that brings a patient to us. Not that these aren’t real injuries—accidents, herniated discs—but when pain cannot be successfully treated with traditional pain management strategies, often there is an emotional contributing factor.”

Another patient, a middle-aged man, fit and in good health, came in seeking relief of chronic, unexplained neck pain. “We began using biofeedback to help him unwind the abnormal amount of tension he carried in his neck, and as we did he said to me ‘You wouldn’t know it now, but I was obese as a child.’ The patient then reported that while he’d been sitting and watching the feedback indicate the muscles in his neck were beginning to relax, he suddenly had a childhood memory of overhearing his aunt say to his mother, ‘for a fat kid he at least holds himself well.’”

Dr. Chartier explains: “That comment had locked into his subconscious the idea that if he held himself a certain way, and specifically held his head in a certain way, it would make up for being overweight—which was a constant source of teasing and childhood cruelty. Over the years, this ‘holding himself well’ had resulted in pain deep in his neck.”

“Trauma doesn’t have to be a horrific or life-threatening experience,” Dr. Chartier adds. “Harsh words or an insensitive comment to a sensitive child—or adult for that matter—can leave them in some form of pain when appropriate adjustment doesn’t take place. That pain may manifest as physical or mental discomfort, sleep disturbance, or chronic depression, until they acknowledge, recognize and adjust to whatever that trauma was so that they can get on with their life in a healthy, balanced, and productive way.”