Lying on a sofa isn’t the only way to unlock a breakthrough. Here, therapists reveal three unique ways they help patients work through tricky emotional hurdles.
“Music is one of the only things that works in both hemispheres of the brain,” Shawna Vernisie, an art therapist at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, LI, tells The Post. “It’s a distraction to other senses.” So she plays her guitar, among other instruments, to help soothe and support hospital patients.
“I ask them what songs speak to them,” she says. “I had an oncology patient, where each time she had to have a painful injection, she chose to hear the song ‘Worth It’ by Fifth Harmony. Specifically, she would sing the chorus, ‘Give it to me, I’m worth it,’ to prepare for the injection.”
Music therapy is also often used to help children with autism, because it helps with cognition, memory, self-expression and teaching positive coping skills, Vernisie says.
“Books let people know they aren’t alone,” says Jennifer R. Wolkin, Ph.D., a Manhattan-based licensed psychologist and clinical neuropsychologist. So she prescribes books “pretty often” to her patients, because reading allows them “to continue the conversation outside the session.”
Some of her favorites include Tara Brach’s “Radical Acceptance,” for self-esteem challenges; Ben Michaelis’s “Your Next Big Thing,” for creative inspiration; and Sharon Salzberg’s “Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation,” to deal with stress.
Occasionally, Wolkin will also recommend fiction and poetry books.
“There’s a theory that if you are reading a fiction book, one can come to a self-discovery,” Wolkin says. “A client might identify with a character and then have an emotional catharsis and gain insight about themselves.”
Psychologist Monika-Maria Grace once gave a co-dependent patient an unusual prescription: to watch the rom-com “Runaway Bride.”
“There’s a scene in that movie where Julia Roberts’ character doesn’t know what kind of eggs she likes because she’d always went with a former boyfriend’s preference,” says San Diego-based Grace. Watching it, she says, her patient “saw her own co-dependency, and was able to work through it.”
Grace explains that when it comes to therapy, stories with a narrative arc help the psyche resolve its conflicts and find new solutions.
“Movies are so connected to our emotions because when a character in a movie goes through a crisis, we find a way to address our own crisis,” she says.