Episode 231 Jen Blanchette Managing Brain Injuries Transcript

This transcript is from episode 231 with guest Jen Blanchette.

[00:00:00] Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host Scott DeLuzio and now let’s get on with the show.

[00:00:21] Scott DeLuzio: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today my guest is Dr. Jen Blanchett. Dr. Blanchett is a therapist whose focus has been working with trauma and the nervous system, and her clients include, People who have experienced trauma, like, traumatic brain injuries and other types of things like that.

[00:00:42] Scott DeLuzio: And she’s here today to discuss the connection between the various traumas that people have endured through, through their brains and how they affect us, and also more importantly, what we can do about all of that type of stuff. So welcome to the show, Jen. I’m glad to have you here. I’m

[00:00:58] Jen Blanchette: so glad to be here.

[00:00:59] Jen Blanchette: Thanks for having me. [00:01:00]

[00:01:00] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, absolutely. So, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and the types of work that you do with your clients. Yeah,

[00:01:08] Jen Blanchette: so by training I’m a clinical psychologist and I also have been trained in EMDR therapy, which is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, which is a lot of psycho babble for, I’ve been trained in trauma therapy.

[00:01:25] Jen Blanchette: I also am a certified heart math practitioner. I do a therapy called biofeedback, where we’re looking at your heart rate variability and their ability for your, the intelligent heart to be able to regulate your nervous system. A lot of the folks that I work with have suffered from trauma. They deal with panic attacks or anxiety, so their nervous system needs that retuning.

[00:01:51] Jen Blanchette: So I find that’s a really helpful modality that I use with folks. So that’s another thing I do. I trained in [00:02:00] Virginia, so a lot of. Maybe naval former Navy veterans. I lived in Norfolk for probably 10 years, and in the counseling center at Regent and University, we would frequently see service members.

[00:02:13] Jen Blanchette: And I think just growing, you know, going to college around that environment. Dating a few Navy guys myself honestly, kind of helped me keep a pulse on military culture a little. , and I think I, I certainly have always seen a service member throughout the years on my caseload. And I just really have a big heart for their struggle and I just, my heart goes out to all the sacrifice that they have given to do what they’ve done to protect our country.

[00:02:45] Jen Blanchette: So I just, I feel indebted to them as well to continue this. So, yeah. Any questions from what I’ve said?

[00:02:53] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, No, I mean, that’s great. And I love Getting that kind of support and feedback from people who you know, they may not have served themselves, but [00:03:00] they are out there trying to work to better the military and the veteran communities to kind of give back to those people.

[00:03:06] Scott DeLuzio: And you know, we really appreciate people like yourself who are out there doing this type of work because without people like you. We are not gonna be as strong as we could be or as or as resilient and bounce back from the issues that we might be facing. So, so we appreciate that and so we thank you for the work that you do as well.

[00:03:25] Scott DeLuzio: Let’s jump into this. Let’s talk about various types of brain injuries. Cuz unfortunately those things are unfortunately Common amongst people

[00:03:32] Jen Blanchette: in the military. Very common and much more common than a civilian population because of the nature of what folks have been through in the military.

[00:03:40] Jen Blanchette: So I’ll just kind of go over the building blocks of brain injury. So certainly have acquired brain injury, which is our umbrella term over all of brain injury. So, There’s internal causes of brain injury that would be like a stroke, an aneurysm. And folks who’ve actually had a TBI are more [00:04:00] inclined to have one of those.

[00:04:01] Jen Blanchette: So it’s important to think just because mine is in the TBI category, I had an external force that’s the other side. So it’s internal and external. So more often than not, folks in the military might have had an external force, a traumatic brain injury, whether that be a blow to the. An actual so you could have a closed tenant injury or an open where something is actually punctured the skull.

[00:04:24] Jen Blanchette: So that could be shrapnel or other types of things that might have punctured the actual skull. So there’s open and closed in that TBI external category. And a lot of injuries, majority of them are closed. So the traumatic brain injury, you know, it’s called the invisible injury for a reason.

[00:04:45] Jen Blanchette: because we cannot see it and no one can really know the effects. And oftentimes we don’t see any of that on brain imaging. So I think it can be maddening for anyone with a TBI who struggled [00:05:00] with this because, okay, I had an injury to my leg. People can see that. They can see that I have this injury. And so they kind of know maybe something happened to me.

[00:05:10] Jen Blanchette: If you have a TBI or something has happened in your brain, there’s no indication to other people to know something is wrong. And same thing with trauma. Like they can’t see the trauma that you’re carrying inside your body, inside your mind, and your heart. So they’re not readily understanding that you’ve been through this very difficult experience and with the brain.

[00:05:31] Jen Blanchette: It really, it’s the driver of like drive on. It was driving on everything that’s happening in the body. So yeah, I think it’s important for service members to realize that. The general public don’t, they don’t really get it. You know, they don’t really have great education on tbi, on brain injury, on concussion.

[00:05:52] Jen Blanchette: Even though we see, you know, in mil in the foot in like the football arena, for example, Oh, this player had a concussion. They’re on [00:06:00] protocols, and then you know, they’re back. But there’s no really discussion of what it’s like for them to deal with that concussion or to deal with persistence symptoms after concussion or tbi.

[00:06:13] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. That’s an important point I think that you bring up cuz not only should the service members and the veterans who have experienced some of these things recognize the fact that other people may not understand what they’re going through. They may look at them and say, Well, he or she looks healthy.

[00:06:28] Scott DeLuzio: They look perfectly normal. They look fine. But why are they acting this way? Right? And but I think it’s also important for the people who are around them the family members and people like that to recognize that if something, Seems off with the person. It seems like they’re, you know, behaving differently.

[00:06:47] Scott DeLuzio: They’re, forget forgetful, They’re there’s a whole list of symptoms and I’m sure you can talk more about those types of symptoms. But if you’re recognizing that some of these symptoms are popping up and you can’t quite pinpoint why these things are coming up, Well, [00:07:00] it, it could be related to something like a brain injury that they may have experienced.

[00:07:06] Scott DeLuzio: During their service and they may or may not have even told you about it because maybe they didn’t wanna bother you about it or something like that. You know what I mean?

[00:07:14] Jen Blanchette: Yeah. Or they, you know, there’s so many reasons why I think perhaps they might have not gotten treatment. The service members I’ve worked with, I think certainly they’ve talked to me about, you can speak more to this, I’m sure, about military culture and needing to do deprogram, kind of that we’re just gonna move through it, we gotta get through it, we gotta get the job done.

[00:07:37] Jen Blanchette: I’m talking in that kind of male voice behind me. Although, and we know we have female service members that might be listening to this, but I think that voice is there too, regardless of gender, so, or. You know, I’m just thinking of a veteran who didn’t wanna be taking off of a certain type of status.

[00:07:56] Jen Blanchette: If I have a problem, if something is wrong with me, then [00:08:00] I can’t do my job. That means they’re gonna take me off of my job. And what does that mean for me? So they might minimize symptoms or neglect symptoms despite having symptoms.

[00:08:11] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, no that’s absolutely true. That. There is that stigma that your job is gonna be in jeopardy or you’re not gonna be able to continue working in a, an area where you may need certain clearances or whatever the issue might be.

[00:08:27] Scott DeLuzio: There is that stigma, and you’re right with that inner voice that we might have whether it’s a male or a female. I think there, there’s a lot of those alpha kind of personalities in the military where they just. We’re just gonna get the job done, like and the heck with the consequences.

[00:08:43] Scott DeLuzio: We’re not worried about any of that stuff cuz we’re invincible and none of this stuff is gonna matter. So we’re just gonna keep pushing through and, you know, deal with whatever later and so that, that is definitely stuff that happens. And then over time you, you [00:09:00] might not even think about it.

[00:09:00] Scott DeLuzio: It’s like, well, I was able to finish that mission. I was able to finish the next mission. I was able to keep going. Why am I all of a sudden now experiencing all these symptoms? It couldn’t possibly have been that. Cause I’ve done so much in between then and now, you know? And so, so that might be the thought process that goes through.

[00:09:17] Scott DeLuzio: Someone who’s experienced some sort of brain injury, but. One of the symptoms is kind of a confusion, a lack of rational thinking. And so they may just not be thinking clearly, but you could talk more about some of the symptoms that people may be experiencing too, just to keep people aware of that type of stuff.

[00:09:35] Jen Blanchette: Yeah, they, I would say the symptoms vary. So it’s, that’s always a fun part of concussion and brain injury is that they vary really dramatically because I think the brain, there’s different parts of our brain, right? So if there’s like, in concussion often we talked about diffuse exon shearing. So in the brain we have neurons and we have axons, and it’s.

[00:09:58] Jen Blanchette: The brain is really like [00:10:00] yogurt that’s in a tight container. So if we shake that yogurt up, all those little molecules have changed position. But if we open the container after we shaken it, it doesn’t look that different. Right. But functionally, if that’s our brain, it’s very different. Also, the example I’ve been I’ve heard before is like a stretched out t-shirt.

[00:10:21] Jen Blanchette: Yeah, it’s still a t-shirt, but it’s very different and it looks very d. . So, I’m trying to think where I was going with that example of different symptoms. Yeah. So one of the biggest symptoms is headache, difficulty with attention. A large percent of our brain is also attributed to visual information.

[00:10:45] Jen Blanchette: So one of those symptoms can be visual difficulties, vestibular or inner ear problems that I see as frequent. And what is, what can happen sometimes with service members if maybe they had a concussion. [00:11:00] TBI and the service, they recovered from that, maybe they were able to go back to work and then they had another subsequent blow to the head after service.

[00:11:08] Jen Blanchette: Right. Well, what we know is that. Concussions stack on top of each other and trauma makes it worse because that’s another cognitive load on the brain. And oh, there’s an interesting graph that I show from the, from the VA where they overlay the symptoms of TBI and ptsd and there’s a lot of overlap.

[00:11:29] Jen Blanchette: So I think it’s important to know that some of my symptoms might be hard to differentiate if I’ve been through a traumatic experience and I’ve also had a tbi. , right? Yeah. So all that to say they can vary, but I see kind of similar kind of headaches are a problem, also a problem with chronic pain. And so I think for the veteran, it can be hard for them to tease out and say like, Maybe this is my trauma, but could it have been due to the concussion?

[00:11:57] Jen Blanchette: Have I had another fall or blow to the head just in [00:12:00] daily life? Maybe I fell off a ladder and I’m not recovering from this concussion, or I had a fall falls or the highest percentage of types of TBIs. So in the civilian population, we think car accidents or sports. Sports is for youth, but for adults more often than night, not it is a fall.

[00:12:18] Jen Blanchette: So, you know, Yeah, it’s interesting in everyday life.

[00:12:22] Scott DeLuzio: Because. I was thinking about that yogurt example that you were talking about and, you know, some of the yogurts have the fruit that’s on the bottom of the cup and if you shake that, Yeah, like you were saying, if you were to shake that, you would all get mixed up and it would look like yogurt.

[00:12:34] Scott DeLuzio: It wouldn’t be the same yogurt that you would’ve gotten prior to shaking it. But if you left that yogurt sitting there long enough, eventually some of that fruit might start to settle back down. And I’m thinking of that almost as like the healing process where things are sort of going back to where.

[00:12:47] Scott DeLuzio: They belong, but they’re not all gonna get a hundred percent back to where they were necessarily. Right? But then if you shake it again, it’s going to compound things and it’s gonna make things even more out of place than what they should be. And so [00:13:00] that just goes I think I’m.

[00:13:02] Scott DeLuzio: Bringing this up, I think, because it goes to show the importance of taking care of yourself, especially after having some sort of, of a brain injury, because it could make things 10 times worse. You know, just throwing random numbers here, obviously, but it could make it so much worse if you do get a secondary or third, or fourth, fifth head injury, right?

[00:13:23] Scott DeLuzio: It’s like just continuously shaking. That thing at yogurt. Right, Right.

[00:13:28] Jen Blanchette: And we’ve seen some of that research come out on CTE with football players who have had multiple concussions, and it’s, and they’ve also talked about sub-concussive blows, which could apply to military and service members as well.

[00:13:42] Jen Blanchette: If they, maybe they didn’t have a full blown concussion, but they had a blow to the head. You know? You know the nature of maybe different service members’ jobs and how that sub-concussive blow could have been numerous throughout their service. Mm-hmm. In whatever role they had. Maybe jumping from things or being shaken [00:14:00] up in a vehicle, for example.

[00:14:02] Jen Blanchette: Yeah. There’s lots, I think because it’s a high risk job and multiple chances for the brain to have a jolt. They could also have some sub concussive blows so they wouldn’t have fought. It’s a con concussion.

[00:14:15] Scott DeLuzio: Right, Exactly. And I know just driving around in some of the military vehicles on uneven terrain even, you get jostled around quite a bit and.

[00:14:25] Scott DeLuzio: You could even hit your head against the window or the door or the side of the vehicle. And if you hit it hard enough and you don’t have any sort of protection, like a helmet or something like that, you you could give yourself a concussion or not give yourself, but you could end up with a concussion

[00:14:39] Jen Blanchette: or a sub-concussive blow.

[00:14:40] Jen Blanchette: Right, Right. And even if you’ve had a helmet, so, you know, I see the pictures of service members and helmets, but that really doesn’t matter for concussion because your head is hitting against your. So then you need about ag is a force for concussion. So if that force in which you’re hitting your head was in excess [00:15:00] or near ADGs, then we could consider that another blow to the head, for example.

[00:15:05] Jen Blanchette: Yeah,

[00:15:06] Scott DeLuzio: exactly. And those helmets are, I mean, they’re military grades, so. Sometimes they’re made by the lowest bidder, , and you know, that maybe they’re not designed for with that type of thing in mind. You know, they’re designed to protect against shrapnel and, you know, bullet impacts and things like that.

[00:15:22] Scott DeLuzio: They’re right, they maybe aren’t necessarily

[00:15:24] Jen Blanchette: considering, so they’re more for the open head injuries as opposed to closed. Right.

[00:15:29] Scott DeLuzio: So they’re gonna be designed more for that type of thing. I’ve seen pictures of helmets of service members that actually had a bullet sticking out of it, you know, like Right.

[00:15:38] Scott DeLuzio: They stopped the bullet and that’s good because otherwise that, that person wouldn’t probably have survived that, that shot. But but then again, they probably also are dealing with a brain injury just from the impact of that bullet. So, you know, there, there are many different ways. These types of things can happen.

[00:15:54] Scott DeLuzio: But what I’d like to talk about next is some of the ways that you work with patients [00:16:00] to treat these effects and the symptoms that they have from these brain injuries. Yeah. You mentioned earlier that you use emdr therapy and you briefly describe that, but could you tell us what that’s all about and kind of what the, what it entails as far as the actual therapy is?

[00:16:16] Jen Blanchette: Sure. So if I can, I’d like to take like where, what I would start with somebody first. So EMDR in is kind of one of those power therapies. It’s like, you know, it’s like my big tool in the toolbox. So what I start with and what’s important I think for anyone can do what? Anyone can do this.

[00:16:33] Jen Blanchette: Right now is think about the springboard for brain health. So I always talk about like, how can I have the healthiest brain today? And you don’t have to get, you don’t have to go to EMDR therapist to do this, but if you think about four things, , they are very simple, but they’re not easy to implement because if everybody did them, then we would be, we would have rockstar brains and we would be , you know, like living our best lives all the time.

[00:16:57] Jen Blanchette: So those four things, and probably things that [00:17:00] you’ve heard multiple people talk about, but there’s nuances. So definitely nutrition is huge. You know what foods are you eating and are those foods conducive to brain health? And I don’t think, I don’t prescribe to certain telling people to do certain diets.

[00:17:15] Jen Blanchette: Like, you gotta be keto to have the best, You know, I don’t believe in any of that stuff. Supplements, you know, maybe there’s some research, there’s a little bit with magnesium. And brain health, certainly like common sense, you know, eating like general, your macronutrients, so getting your carbs, getting your proteins, getting your fats, like those macronutrients are really important for the brain.

[00:17:38] Jen Blanchette: And thinking about those antioxidants, omega threes. That’s gonna be very helpful to your brain. So certainly like eating fish and getting those omega threes is very helpful to the brain. But generally thinking about like lots of fruits and vegetables, fiber is super important. We don’t consider, and my guys my steak and potato guys, I’m like, Can we please add some vegetables [00:18:00] because.

[00:18:02] Jen Blanchette: That’s going to, that’s gonna be helpful for your mental health and for your physical health to help things move through because it helps nutrients move through the brain and the body. So often guys don’t think about fiber. Some are very good with it and others. I’m like, I’m just like telling to pour flax on everything.

[00:18:17] Jen Blanchette: Like get some flax seed and just poured on .

[00:18:19] Scott DeLuzio: They need to start eating the food that their food eats is what you’re trying to say. Right. ?

[00:18:23] Jen Blanchette: Yeah. Yeah, it’s just funny conversations like getting bans with some of my guys, especially, it seems like, they’re like, I’ll, you know, I’ll do this. I’m like, Can we just put some blueberries on top of it?

[00:18:33] Jen Blanchette: Come on. You know, like, I go them a little bit and they laugh and we have a good moment, but they kind of hear me. Right? You get it. So, so thinking of like, just adequate nutrition is great movement. I don’t say exercise because, you know, I don’t want you to think this is like, okay, I gotta do my PT and like, run, run, run.

[00:18:53] Jen Blanchette: A lot of people reject that after service or after being an athlete. They don’t wanna feel like [00:19:00] they’re being forced to move, but thinking of their movement. What we know about movement in the brain is that blood flow is so important. So if we’re not getting adequate blood flow to the brain because we’re not moving, we’re sedentary.

[00:19:12] Jen Blanchette: Then that’s also going to not be great for brain health. That’s going to make concussion brain injury symptoms worse. It also makes mental health symptoms worse. So trauma, you know, all of that. There’s been great research in walking. Like walking is great exercise if you have a dog. A lot of service members have love their dogs, you know?

[00:19:34] Jen Blanchette: That is a great excuse to walk. That is still great exercise. You don’t have to kill yourself. That’s can be great for your brain. One of my guys will do lifting as opposed to like yoga, weight lifting. Their finding is, can be really, really helpful for increasing your heart rate and blood flow, especially if you’re getting in that metabolic zone.

[00:19:51] Jen Blanchette: Mm-hmm. I won’t get too much into, I’m a fitness instructor too, so I often think about like metabolic zones with weight lifting. Which just means you’re kind of lifting a little [00:20:00] bit quicker to increase your heart rate. And so you do get a little bit of that cardio benefit when you’re lifting is super cool.

[00:20:06] Jen Blanchette: Okay, that makes sense. Yeah. Yeah, so nutrition and movement and social interaction. So we don’t think that social inter interaction would be for brain health, but it is. So actually I have this graph. I can tell you the research study, right? , if I can make it bigger. I don’t have, I can give it to you later.

[00:20:27] Jen Blanchette: I have the graph. Okay. But I don’t have the research study. So they did this study in mortality. They looked about a number of things that can cause early mortality, such as smoking more than 15 cigarettes a day. I’m trying to look at some of them now. Alcohol. Alcohol consumption. So drinking like excess of six drinks per day, going to cardiac rehab.

[00:20:50] Jen Blanchette: If you’ve had a cardiac event, you know. You think that’s important to do? Right? So bmi, like being obese versus being. [00:21:00] They also look at social relationships, so complex measures of social interaction, high versus low support, and that had such a bigger effect size than some of these other ones like their bmi.

[00:21:14] Jen Blanchette: So I think the pandemic has taught us that if we aret engaging with other people, we are not healthy. I think everyone has felt some kind of depression or anxiety just due to decrease in our social interaction. It’s not just interaction, it’s quality. Like people, I’m feel like people know me. I feel seen.

[00:21:34] Jen Blanchette: And I often tell people, often my brain injury survivors, there’s all kinds of brain injury support groups in your state if you’re in the us. But to find those that now on Zoom, so it’s really easy. And for service members, I’m sure there is a group probably near you where you can be with other service members or veterans mm-hmm.

[00:21:55] Jen Blanchette: that know what you’ve been through.

[00:21:59] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. I mean, e [00:22:00] even if it’s not. Group specifically for something like that. Even something like the VFW or an American Legion where you can go and just be around those people, that’s that’s an easy way to, to do that. It’s like, you know, walking in the door.

[00:22:13] Scott DeLuzio: Everybody has at least one thing in common that they served in the military, that’s. A real low hanging fruit, easy way to find that sort of social interaction. Right,

[00:22:24] Jen Blanchette: Right. But it’s really being known, it’s important. Mm-hmm. to feel like that sense of belonging and being known in our friendships and our family relationships.

[00:22:32] Jen Blanchette: Mm-hmm. . So the last thing is sleep. So, so important for brain health. . If you’re not sleeping, then your brain is not basically recharging. So that is super important. Many of my veterans have sleep difficulties, likely due to trauma, also due to the nature of their work in the military. So whether they were like on flight status and they had to kind of be on ready, [00:23:00] whatever, I don’t know the terms, but you know, you had to be ready to go essentially.

[00:23:04] Jen Blanchette: Or if they were deployed somewhere and they were kind of on guard all the time, their sleep was often interrupted. And I find that sometimes getting some help with that, whether that be doing some kind of sleep study, I know it’s not the funnest thing or a sleep specialist, and figure out and diagnosing what is actually happening in your sleep, what’s going on, and if there’s any kind of intervention that can be.

[00:23:29] Jen Blanchette: regarding your sleep. So sleep is very important and that’s, those are my four things that I look at before. I would add on really starting doing traditional psychotherapy or any therapy for trauma, for example.

[00:23:44] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, I mean, tho those four things. You know, they seem like they would be a just a no brainer kind of thing.

[00:23:50] Scott DeLuzio: Like, just like, of course you should eat healthy. Of course you should be moving. Yeah. Doing some sort of thing. Like of course you should get a good night’s sleep. And you know, although those [00:24:00] things seem like they should just be obvious and when you talk about ’em they sort of are a little bit obvious.

[00:24:08] Scott DeLuzio: It, we all, we tend to fail quite often at doing these things. Maybe we got a couple of them down, like maybe we eat, well, maybe we get, get good sleep, but we’re not moving and we’re not getting the social interaction and Right. You know, we’re not doing all of them. And so, you know, what can we do to focus on these things?

[00:24:28] Scott DeLuzio: Are there things that we can do to get better at doing all of these things without feeling like we’re forced to you know, go and do PT anything like that? You know what

[00:24:39] Jen Blanchette: I mean? Right. Yeah, I’d like to think in terms of rhythms, you know, how can you have more of a cadence of, okay, is it starting with breakfast?

[00:24:48] Jen Blanchette: Like my, I’m really gonna focus on, if we’re talking about nutrition, maybe I’ll focus on my breakfast and I’ll kind of keep it simple and do like oatmeal with like walnuts, and then I’ll add some antioxidants, [00:25:00] put some blueberries in there, get some. Even more fiber on top of that oatmeal with like flax.

[00:25:05] Jen Blanchette: And so you really focus on one thing and not try to overwhelm yourself with, I am failing in four areas. I have to fix the whole wheel now. Right? It’s too much to start at once, but small changes do really help. So I think focusing on one thing at a time. And I think it’s important to try to make waves.

[00:25:25] Jen Blanchette: So it’s just part of like the cadence that I have with other people in therapy that I’m asking about these things all the time. Hey, is there someone this week that you can call and go out with and have coffee with, you know, do something with. You know, can you have a buddy come help you with that project that you’ve been wanting to do but you don’t have help with?

[00:25:44] Jen Blanchette: You know, those are examples of the social and action piece, and that’s often homework. Who are you calling this week? Who are you seeing this week? What can you do to start to build that relationship? Cuz that is, we think it should be organic, the relationships we have, but it’s, they’re not. [00:26:00] I think it does take work, but it’s good though.

[00:26:02] Jen Blanchette: Well, yeah, I mean,

[00:26:03] Scott DeLuzio: yeah, I mean, any sort of relationship is going to take some sort of work unless they’re forced relationships where. Like a coworker kind of thing where you have to be at work every day. And so yeah. You’re just gonna have a relationship. And so, it’s in a way that’s somewhat easier because you both have to be there otherwise you don’t get paid and then you’re in creating other problems.

[00:26:22] Scott DeLuzio: Right. But yeah. But in those other social interactions, you don’t always have to Do those types of things. And so it’s easy to just say, Oh, well, I’m gonna skip it today, or I’m just not gonna go join this group for for, you know, a walk in the park or whatever it is, you know? Mm-hmm. . I’m just not gonna do it today because I don’t really have to.

[00:26:40] Scott DeLuzio: And so, yeah. You know, we tend to forget about those types of things, you know, how easy it is. Just back out of,

[00:26:49] of

[00:26:49] Jen Blanchette: certain socials. Yeah. And I think it can, you know, the trauma stuff I find is a barrier a lot of times because it’s like, okay, like there’s these, all these relationships that I want to be in, [00:27:00] but then they’re kind of scary.

[00:27:01] Jen Blanchette: Mm-hmm. , because then I’m gonna be known and then are people gonna ask me things about my trauma or trigger that trauma? And I think it can be people who. Well versed in trauma or understanding potentially what someone has been through in their service. Can ask questions that can be very triggering or insensitive or just like why would the world, would you say that kind of stuff.

[00:27:29] Jen Blanchette: Would

[00:27:30] Scott DeLuzio: like group therapy be a good option for someone who’s in that type of situation where they don’t want to deal with people who maybe don’t understand what they’re going through because they don’t want to get. Stupid questions, if you will being, being asked of them. But if they’re in a room full of other people who have gone through something very similar, they could probably feel pretty comfortable knowing that they’re not gonna get those kind of questions.

[00:27:51] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Would that be a good option? Yeah,

[00:27:53] Jen Blanchette: definitely. Yeah. I think, you know, the group therapy and peer groups, like military [00:28:00] groups that you know are tailored kind of to veterans, even if there’s not the focus of talking about trauma, but the focus is whatever it is. You know, whatever that group, maybe they’re working on some kind of charity project or something like

[00:28:12] Scott DeLuzio: that.

[00:28:13] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And I find that with the the military groups the people that you, you talk to in the military, you’re not gonna get those kind of questions. You know, we kind of get it like we know if you’ve been deployed, there’s a good chance. That if you’ve been in, in combat, I should say, there’s a good chance that maybe you did have to kill somebody.

[00:28:35] Scott DeLuzio: And we’re not gonna ask that question. That’s not a question that we care to ask. We don’t want to know the answer, quite frankly. Like, that’s

[00:28:41] Jen Blanchette: not right. We know better than to, you know, lead with something like that or talk about something like that.

[00:28:46] Scott DeLuzio: And that’s something that. I think someone in the civilian population may not realize that’s a triggering question, that’s not something that you should ask.

[00:28:57] Scott DeLuzio: It just isn’t the best question to ask. I [00:29:00] should say. And so, you know, finding your group of people that. Understand you understand what you’ve been through and your experiences. And yeah, I get it. Nobody was standing in your shoes at that point in time doing the exact same thing that you were doing, but they have their own experience and they can kind of relate and understand where you’re coming from when you’re talking about stuff that, that may have happened or even not wanting to talk about it.

[00:29:25] Scott DeLuzio: They can understand that too, I’m sure.

[00:29:28] Jen Blanchette: Yeah. Yeah. That you don’t even have to go there. Like, that’s not even something you have to talk about or be part of your relationship. You can keep that if you just wanna keep that to your therapy or, you know, whatever box you keep locked away in your head.

[00:29:42] Jen Blanchette: Yeah. Now, so, so maybe it’s a good segue to talk about EMDR a little bit.

[00:29:46] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah I think so. Yeah, so, so let’s I’d like to know more. Like what the actual process is. Mm-hmm. . if we covered all these four steps we have the nutrition and the movement and the social interactions and the sleep, and we kind of have that stuff [00:30:00] in a pretty good place.

[00:30:01] Scott DeLuzio: What does EMDR look like when someone comes in for these types of sessions? What can they expect? Yeah,

[00:30:08] Jen Blanchette: so I think for a trained EMDR therapist you can expect that, you know, I’m gonna go at the pace that you want to go at. So the first, and I can kind of run through like the first phase of EMDR is history taking.

[00:30:20] Jen Blanchette: And that can seem like really daunting to someone who’s been through something very traumatic. And my training is, I’m not gonna get details of your trauma in that history taking. I just want to know like, hey, what is the category of what the things we’re gonna work on? Okay. What is that category? Okay, that’s the category.

[00:30:39] Jen Blanchette: And then we go to resourcing. So that’s phase two of emdr. We’re really gonna create psychological resources for you. Those would be. Developing a comfortable or calm place where internally you can go to if something is too distressing or destabilizing. So that can be like [00:31:00] as, as simple as your backyard.

[00:31:01] Jen Blanchette: It can be imagined place. Like I’m just gonna imagine a place like I’m on top of a mountaintop and I’m gonna take all that in and enjoy like kind of the nature pieces and it’s multisensory. So we’re gonna bring in the five senses. Okay. What does it feel like when you’re there? What does it smell like?

[00:31:15] Jen Blanchette: What do you, all the different things. And then where do you feel that relaxation in your body when you’re there? So I think, as I say, that your shoulders are dropping a little bit. I’m getting my therapist’s voice , you know? So we’re really trying to tune the nervous system again because it knows what to do.

[00:31:31] Jen Blanchette: So you’re I think the key I wanna tell people is that your nervous system knows what to do. Sometimes it can get stuck. It might have been stuck for a very long time into sympathetic. So there’s two. Branches of our autonomic nervous system. There’s a parasympathetic and there’s a sympathetic fight or flight.

[00:31:49] Jen Blanchette: Gotta do it, gotta go. We know what sympathetic is, so we’re trying to engage that rest and digest system and we all have it, even if we haven’t had a very [00:32:00] restful life even before the military. Some folks, I know it’s harder for them if. You know, had childhood trauma on top of their military related to trauma.

[00:32:09] Jen Blanchette: So their like, I never knew what was safety was. Okay. Then we have to create that safety. We have to figure out like, what does it even mean to feel comfortable? Maybe not even safe, maybe it’s just this as comfortable, like, I’m in my backyard looking at my dog. That’s good. I’m comfortable. Okay. We can start there.

[00:32:28] Jen Blanchette: So you can just start with comfortable on that, if that’s all you can do. That’s good. Other kind. We do a lot of different things in phase two of kind of relaxation training. I don’t know if you’ve ever, anyone’s ever talked about four square breathing. Let’s breathe through our square, breathe in, breathe out, you know, hold on, release, that’s your square.

[00:32:51] Jen Blanchette: Lots of different tasks that we do. And then phase three Is we’ve already then gone through the different things you wanna work on. So we’re gonna [00:33:00] identify, okay, where, what are the different targets, we call them targets or memories in EMDR that you want to work on? So we’ll have a target SE sequence, and usually that is the first experience, the worst experience, and the most recent.

[00:33:16] Jen Blanchette: And we usually, in emdr, we start with the worst. And that’s like, Ah, I’m starting with the worst. That’s scary. I know. But we can really take that worst experience and take it into chunks, like, okay, maybe we just take one part of it. Part one was this, and I’ll give an example of a car accident because that’s a civilian example, but I think maybe there’s been a, They can take any accident.

[00:33:40] Jen Blanchette: Right? Right. So maybe there. The first part was seeing the car come at you. That was part one. The middle part was the glass, seeing the glass crack. The last part was after the accident and like being in shock. So I’ve had [00:34:00] people even break up that worst experience and we, I call it like titrating it.

[00:34:04] Jen Blanchette: So we’re just gonna take it in chunks and each one of those has been a session. For that particular person. And the idea with EMDR is we wanna say in a window of tolerance. So if you feel like you wanna run out of the room and never come back and see me again, I have not done a good job. So I want you to feel like this is manageable, it’s uncomfortable, but I can do it.

[00:34:23] Jen Blanchette: I’m still present with you right now. I’m not fully in my trauma. I don’t feel like I’m there. I feel like I’m with you and if you, for whatever reason, if someone doesn’t feel like they’re with me in the room, I’ll say, Let’s take a minute. Maybe we’ll do code Toone Place. Maybe I’ll use an exercise. I do code to container where we have an imaginal container when we’ll put things or experiences in that are keeping them from processing the trauma or as a block.

[00:34:49] Jen Blanchette: So it’s another tool that I use. So phase three is when we identify our the picture, what the picture actually is. If we’ll just take this car or car accident example.[00:35:00]

[00:35:00] Jen Blanchette: The worst part of it was when the glass was flying at me. What was the negative cognition? I’m outta control. What do you wanna feel? That it’s over. That’s the positive cognition. How much do you feel that, Oh, I don’t feel that like that’s true at all. So that’s like a zero. Okay. What’s the emotion?

[00:35:19] Jen Blanchette: Fear. Okay. Zero to 10. How strong? And eight. Okay. It’s pretty high. Where do you feel it in your body? All over the place in my chest. Sometimes we peel chest throat from there. We’ll go to desensitization. That’s phase four and that’s where they’re one foot there, one foot here with me. And we use eye movement or bright little stimulation.

[00:35:44] Jen Blanchette: So that’s, if you’re with me, I would say I’m moving to the side so you can see, But you would follow my fingers like that, or we use taps or we can use. Tones, [00:36:00] there’s lots of different types of bilateral stimulation. The thinking in the model, Francine Shapiro founded EMDR by walking when she was experiencing, like trying to process her own trauma.

[00:36:11] Jen Blanchette: So she was walking and she found that the movement helped for whatever reason. And I think there’s, culturally, there’s lots of different examples of using drumming or other bilateral movements to kind of help trauma move through the. The eye movements interesting with the brain because much of our brain is, you know, acclimated to visual processing.

[00:36:32] Jen Blanchette: The eye movements have been shown to move more quickly through the trauma, however, Because I specialize in concussion. Some of my concussion people cannot tolerate visual eye movements, so I’ll use tapping or I’ll use other types of bilateral movement. I even had one concussion client who couldn’t even tolerate any touch.

[00:36:52] Jen Blanchette: They would just kind of rub their shoulders like this. My guys sometimes for tapping, they don’t wanna, you know, do these shoulder taps [00:37:00] or a butterfly hug. So I say, Okay, well no one knows if you’re tapping your knees right. Just tap your knees one. Then the other. and they can do that bilateral stimulation on their own.

[00:37:11] Jen Blanchette: And we use that in calm place. We use that throughout the model as we add tactile touch or the visual side to side movement of the eyes. So

[00:37:20] Scott DeLuzio: is that something that, that they can do just on their own? It doesn’t necessarily need to be in, in a session with you or, you know, whoever they happen to be working with?

[00:37:28] Scott DeLuzio: Right.

[00:37:29] Jen Blanchette: Yeah, So they would, I would ask them to do in between sessions, calm place, exercise, and a relaxing strategy. I don’t have them process trauma on their own. Okay. So it’s more for the relaxation that I’ll have them do their own bilateral stimulation, whether that be tapping their knees and there’s lots of different I’m, I feel like I wanna, I do some on YouTube or something, but there’s definitely some YouTube of calm place that I can give you a link to.

[00:37:52] Jen Blanchette: Center for Creative Mindfulness, I believe has a lot of those exercises on YouTube for free that they could do and that’s part of the phase two of [00:38:00] emdr. So we’re using that throughout. We’re using the resourcing. We’re helping. If something becomes too distressing, we take a break always, and every 60 seconds we’re taking a pause.

[00:38:10] Jen Blanchette: I’m saying take a deep breath, let it go. rest. What do you notice now? And so what we start, maybe we started with that picture of the glass flying and each time sometimes it changes, sometimes it doesn’t. But maybe the first At first it kind of, you know, doesn’t move as much. And then there’ll be a moment in the processing where they say, Oh, well now I’m thinking about.

[00:38:35] Jen Blanchette: What I was, you know, seeing that person and feeling like I’m totally out of control, that I’ll never be safe. Okay, let’s notice that. And they go back to processing, and if they get stuck, I’m there. So if they like, you know, I’m really, really stuck. Okay. Well, let’s bring one of your resources in.

[00:38:51] Jen Blanchette: Maybe we’ve been, we’ve talked about a nurturing figure in their life. Remember your Aunt Sylvie, I’m making this stuff up. Can she be there [00:39:00] with. Okay. Put out Sylvie on your, you know, she’s like kind of sitting next to you as you’re going through. And we’ll go again. And so Aunt Sylvie’s there. Okay.

[00:39:08] Jen Blanchette: That really helped. Aunt Sylvie kind of patted my back as I was there. So we’re actually reimagining the trauma in safety and using resources as we need them. And so the resources are different for each client. Like it really depends on the person. They look very different for each person. And so that’s the fun part is exploring and getting to know like what helps them feel comfortable and safe.

[00:39:28] Jen Blanchette: What people, what types. People have helped them feel safe in the past. So that’s the kind of cool part of emdr, which I really love. So phase four desensitization is what we call it, and that’s the, we have that image and we need to desensitize in our body that it’s not happening right now and it’s in the past.

[00:39:48] Jen Blanchette: And at the end, if everything has gone beautifully, you have a zero distress. That target that we started with, and then we go to phase five, which is the installation of the positive cognition. So [00:40:00] I’ll say, Okay, you have the, remember the event we started with? Yeah. Okay. What do you notice now? Well, Yeah. I just feel like it is over, so, Okay. Does that the positive thought? Yeah, it is. Over. Tap that in. Use your eye movements or do your tapping. Great. So we really install that positive cognition that is over, or I can manage it. I’m okay now. Whatever it is. These are different positive cognition that I’ve done with people that they’ve come up with on their own.

[00:40:26] Jen Blanchette: And then phase so six is body scan, so we always end with the body. So we do a from your, from, I’ll say from your head all the way down to your toes. I just want you to do a scan of your body and just let me know if you feel any tightness, tension, or usual sensations. and usually most people don’t have any.

[00:40:45] Jen Blanchette: Sometimes they do. If they do, I go back and I’m just like, Okay, let’s see what that is. Do the body scan again. Sometimes it’s, they’re still stuck, their body’s still stuck, and we have to either do that in another session or do some more processing. Seven is closure [00:41:00] and eight is reevaluation.

[00:41:02] Jen Blanchette: Okay. It’s hard to . Hopefully. That was a good explanation of EMDR.

[00:41:08] Scott DeLuzio: Well, I think it is because I’ve heard of EMDR before. I’ve looked into it but I’ve never had a. Really detailed overview of what takes place during all of these sessions. And approximately how many sessions does it take for your average person to get through the EMDR treatment?

[00:41:28] Scott DeLuzio: I know it, the answer is, it varies because everyone’s gonna be a little bit different. Some, someone might be stuck on something, it might take a little bit longer. But on, on average, what would you say? Yeah,

[00:41:37] Jen Blanchette: on average, I would say of actual reprocessing sessions. So when you get to reprocessing, depending.

[00:41:44] Jen Blanchette: Like if someone has complex trauma, there’s multiple traumas. There’s childhood trauma too. We’re talking about like 24 to 48 sessions. Okay. If it’s a single incident trauma, you know, it might take just a few sessions and they are good. If they’ve had a [00:42:00] pretty. Normal childhood. There’s maybe been just a couple of traumas that they’ve experienced maybe in the military.

[00:42:06] Jen Blanchette: My experience hasn’t been necessarily that with many of my veterans. It’s been, there’s a lot of incidents and so it’s taken a little bit longer for them. But I find that people functionally feel a ton better after eight sessions. , so doesn’t mean you have to stay in EMDR treatment forever. Like you can say, Maybe I wanna work for this one memory or two memories and really feel like I’m feeling a lot better.

[00:42:32] Jen Blanchette: You can do that cuz I want people to feel like it’s accessible. It’s not overwhelming. Like, I can do this.

[00:42:39] Scott DeLuzio: Right. And I think another thing to point out is that it’s not that the memory necessarily disappears. It’s not like you’re erasing someone’s memory. Like men in black with the little wand thing that they had.

[00:42:52] Scott DeLuzio: And

[00:42:53] Jen Blanchette: because everybody would be healed if I had a wand.

[00:42:55] Scott DeLuzio: Exactly. If you had some magic tool like that, we’d all be, you know, [00:43:00] just we’d all be happy. Nothing, Nothing. I wish I did because and you would work yourself out of a job and that would be Yeah. A shame for you and everything, but, Right.

[00:43:08] Scott DeLuzio: You know, I think I think it’s important to note that because there are certain things that, Yeah, sure. We would like nothing more than just forget all about it. But there’s other times. When some of those traumas are sort of defining moments in our lives and we don’t necessarily want to forget about it.

[00:43:27] Scott DeLuzio: We just don’t want it to control our lives and Right. Take over everything. You know, the death, but I would say the death of a friend or something like that could be something like that, or a loved one or whatever. That could be a very traumatic thing. , but you don’t wanna just forget about that person either.

[00:43:42] Scott DeLuzio: So, so it’s, I wanted to point that out because it’s not that, you know, you’re not going to totally forget about it, but it’s, But you’re gonna deal with it in a better way than you, you maybe were

[00:43:53] Jen Blanchette: right. Yeah. So the goal of trauma therapy is to feel like in the body that’s over. [00:44:00] So the problem. With PTSD is, it feels like it’s happening right now.

[00:44:05] Jen Blanchette: Mm-hmm. , so we want to feel like in the body, it’s not happening right now. Right. And so you’ll still have those memories, you’ll still have that sadness and that difficulty with the memory, but it won’t feel like my heart is racing. I’m, I don’t know how to control my breathing. That’s what it feels like when those, that trauma gets triggered.

[00:44:28] Jen Blanchette: And so the goal is really to feel like it’s. , right? So you’re not, you’re

[00:44:32] Scott DeLuzio: not feeling like you’re out of control, like mm-hmm. , why is this happening now? And all that kind of stuff. Like, you’re not gonna have that experience Yeah. Going forward, right? So, and that’s the goal anyways. You know, so, I think that was a great explanation and I’m glad that you brought that up because you know, I’ve heard of EMDR therapy.

[00:44:51] Scott DeLuzio: I’m sure a lot of the listeners have heard of it as well. Usually with regard, To PTSD is where you hear [00:45:00] about it. At least in my experience. But it’s good to know that there’s other things too, like, there, there’s a lot of different traumas that people experience. Things like, Yeah, like you said, a car accident or, you know, things like that.

[00:45:10] Scott DeLuzio: Which, you know, is a traumatic experience but it could. You know, things like having a brain injury and this type of treatment could help with that, to process those things in a healthier way than maybe just saying, ah, you know what, I’ll deal with it. It’ll get better on its own. And cuz I think we all know that’s probably not true and in a lot of cases, Right?

[00:45:31] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah.

[00:45:31] Jen Blanchette: Yeah. And I just wish that the service members would have had treatment earlier because it’s just so hard for me. When I see someone that has, had this, been carrying this trauma for 20 years mm-hmm. or longer, and I, and it feels like, like I have to carry it this way. Yeah. But there’s a different way to hold it.

[00:45:56] Jen Blanchette: Like it, I feel like if you carry it like the boulder that it can be, [00:46:00] it’s just gonna get you, it gets get heavier and heavier and heavier, and you don’t have to hold onto it in that.

[00:46:10] Scott DeLuzio: And if you wanna think about it like, like that maybe not even a boulder because a boulder’s something that you can’t even pick up to begin with necessarily.

[00:46:17] Scott DeLuzio: Cause they’re just massive. But I love metaphors, . Yeah. No, but if you were to hold just a book out in your hand and just hold it straight out at first you’re gonna be able to do that, I think everyone, unless you have some sort of medical condition, you could probably just hold a book out.

[00:46:33] Scott DeLuzio: For a little while, and eventually your arm’s gonna start to get tired and it’s gonna start to feel like you can’t hold it. It’s the same book, nothing’s changed. It’s just you’ve just been using that same muscle or the same muscle groups over and over and over for a continued period of time.

[00:46:48] Scott DeLuzio: And you’re not gonna be able to continue to hold that book up steady anyways. And so eventually you’re gonna have to do something to change that either. Get something to support [00:47:00] your arm to, to keep it held up or put the book down. And so you have to do something to change that. And I think that’s a good way to, to think about, you know, our mental health is, yeah we can maybe push through a tough time for a little bit, but eventually we’re gonna need to get some help cuz we can’t.

[00:47:20] Scott DeLuzio: Holding on to that forever. Eventually we’re gonna need some help processing or dealing with whatever it is that we happen to be going through. So, this has been really I think a great episode talking about the various Symptoms that people might have from brain injuries, talking about the different therapies and stuff.

[00:47:38] Scott DeLuzio: And I’m sure that we could probably go on for hours talking about the different types of things that, that are involved with brain injuries. But I don’t want to take too much time with this particular episode, but maybe we’ll have you back on for a part two type of episode later on.

[00:47:50] Scott DeLuzio: I’d love to to kind of go a little bit deeper into some of this stuff, but, Where can people go before we, we wrap this up? Where can people go to either get in touch with you or [00:48:00] find out more about the types of things that you offer? You know, maybe you’re not offering it in their area, but maybe at least that gives an idea for what people can look for closer to

[00:48:08] Jen Blanchette: their area.

[00:48:09] Jen Blanchette: Sure. Yeah. So I [email protected], so that’s my website and I am now licensed in telehealth in 34 different states. So I’m trying to like update my website to show what different states. It’s a cpac, it’s called for psychologist. , they’ve just let a lot of us do telehealth in different parts of the country, so if they’re, you’re in the US I might be able to work with you in your state, so that would be awesome.

[00:48:39] Jen Blanchette: I also do coaching for brain health, so if you’re not in that area, I do some coaching for brain health and just optimization as well. So if you’re just wanting your brain to work better, Let’s chat for sure. I also, I’m the host of TBI therapist. That’s a podcast that’s focused on recovering from concussion and brain injury.

[00:48:58] Jen Blanchette: So if you just want some more tips on [00:49:00] that, like you can listen to that for free.

[00:49:03] Scott DeLuzio: Absolutely, and I will have links to all of this in the show notes so that people who are looking to get in touch with you to find out more information about the telehealth if they’re not in your area. And also to listen to the podcast.

[00:49:15] Scott DeLuzio: I’ll have links to all of that so people can check that out. Thank you again. I really do appreciate your time and your. Your work that you do helping people with these these injuries? Really I think it’s important work and you know, I really do want to just commend you for all the work that you are doing.

[00:49:30] Scott DeLuzio: So thank you very

[00:49:31] Scott DeLuzio: much.

[00:49:31] Jen Blanchette: Thank you. This has been awesome.

[00:49:33] Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book. Go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

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