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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

Psychophysiology: Addressing the Complexity
of the Mind-Body Connection

Dr. Dan Chartier, of Life Quality Resources in Raleigh, has earned a broad following as a compassionate and skillful psychosphysiologic psychotherapist. “That title,” he explains with a smile, “is simply a way of acknowledging the inextricable link between mental, emotional, and physical health.

Dr. Chartier

Dr. Chartier points out that psycho-emotional stress either helps create or exacerbates physical conditions such as pain, diabetes, or heart disease. “That’s when a relatively simple issue becomes exponentially more challenging,” he notes.

Early in his practice, Dr. Chartier expected to use psychotherapy with people who needed help reducing depression and anxiety, and biofeedback and other methods for people with more physically focused issues, such as chronic pain or high blood pressure. “But my patients very quicky taught me that I could not find a clear demarcation from where the mind stopped, and the body began, or vice versa.

“Sometimes they had headache pain that was really disrupting their lives,” he adds. “But as we worked on it using biofeedback, they often began to report insights about how the headaches were associated with family stress or past trauma. So, I stopped trying to separate the two and became a psychosphysiologic psychotherapist.”

And Dr. Chartier acknowledges the inherent complexity in this field. I believe that if any practitioner is alive and awake in their discipline and practice, every case is a challenging case,” he says. He sees helping each person regain balance, as quickly and efficiently as possible, as a unique challenge.

Trauma Underlying Pain

“The fairy tale of The Princess and the Pea comes to mind often when considering the power of childhood trauma,” observes Dr. Chartier. “No matter how many ‘mattresses’ there are, the sensitive being still feels that bump in their life—even decades after it happened.

“A good example of this is a patient I worked with some years ago who—despite seeking help from numerous specialists—had persistent neck pain.

“Initially, we focused on the physical pain,” says Dr. Chartier. “Biofeedback often helps people brush away the layers of accumulated years and other experiences to reveal the one particular experience that has set in motion both a psycho-emotional development and its physical manifestation,” he explains.

“That feedback is sort of like a GPS guidance system—offering cues to a person’s consciousness. For example, we might ask: Is there an earlier time you might remember feeling like this? And the response can often be extremely useful in understanding the source of their problem.

“In the case of the patient with neck pain, biofeedback was helpful in surfacing a memory of himself as a very obese child. He remembered overhearing his aunt say to his mother, ‘For a fat kid, he at least holds himself well.’ And this comment helped start a pattern of him ‘holding’ unnecessary tension in his neck in order to ‘hold himself well’ and look more presentable. That tension was the source of his neck pain.”

Detective Work

“There is a detective process involved,” explains Dr. Chartier, “a systematic uncovering of the sources of physical and psychological pain. What we do is help the person understand that they came to this level of distress as the result of a traumatic event or series of events. And, as people begin to understand those traumas—and how they responded to them—they can release some of the associated anxiety and tension or pain, and move on to resolution.”

Such detective work also helped a woman Dr. Chartier treated who couldn’t swallow. “No one could find any reason for her difficulty,” he says. “The neurological tests were negative; there were no tumors or blockages. Still, she was reduced to only liquid food for weeks and months.

“We started with biofeedback to help her reduce her tension to a more normal level. In the process, a powerful memory resurfaced about her beloved grandmother. She was with her grandmother who was recovering from a stroke and was helping to feed her. In the process, her grandmother died.

“The grandmother’s death was caused by a second, fatal stroke, but my patient didn’t know that. What found its way into her head was the idea: It’s my fault. I choked grandmother by trying to feed her and that’s why she died. The woman was exacting a punishment on herself subconsciously, literally choking herself off from eating.”

Pain as Trauma

“Both these stories,” says Dr. Chartier, “illustrate how a trauma can produce physical symptoms. But pain and physical injury can also be traumatic, with major psychological impact.

“In one such case, I worked with a college professor who had become significantly impaired after two strokes. We started with neurofeedback training on the opposite side of the head that had been damaged by the strokes.

“The frustration of trying to heal the injured part of the brain was too much to ask,” he explains. “Instead, we focused on strengthening the healthy parts of the brain, where we felt confident there could be early success. And, in this case, using that strategy, the professor’s skills improved steadily.

“Having improved brain function in that way, we could then shift the focus to the impaired part of the brain. It was a slow process, but with a wonderful outcome. As one of his son’s put it: My dad’s back from the place he had gone to.”

Finding the Way Back to Well-Being

Dr. Chartier often sees patients with brain injury, or some kind of pain or disability. And he notes that chronic pain sufferers face unique hurdles.
“An illustration of this is a young woman who had been caught between moving pieces of equipment in a factory—certain that she would be crushed to death. The accident left her with traumatic echoes of fear, but also with pain patterns in her back and legs.

“For PTSD cases like this one, the focus is on helping their brains learn the way back to a neutral state. Trauma typically leaves the brain stuck in a vicious cycle of pain and distress. The autonomic system remains on guard as if every moment is threatening. And the body tries to defend itself by tightening, wary of the next attack. This often either causes or exacerbates pain. Our goal is to interrupt that cycle.

“Patients come to me because they need help in restoring their sense of well-being,” he explains. “Through biofeedback, neurofeedback, and counseling, my goal is to help patients restore their natural ability to heal. From a physical standpoint, this looks like helping a patient tune into the pain, the tension they’re carrying in their head, shoulders, jaw, or back. Very often, people are completely unaware of the way they are bracing against pain in an effort to control it when, in fact, these unconscious defense mechanisms are worsening the situation.

“As they learn the skills of guided relaxation, allowing the release of muscles and the re-regulation of the autonomic nervous system, the body is finally able to heal, setting them on the path to rehabilitation.”