Online Health Chat with Maura Lipinski, LISW-S, ACHT, and Trisha Miller, LPCC, ACHT

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


The theory of holistic therapy holds that a person's consciousness is not housed in any one part of the person, but is instead an integration of the mind, body and spirit. Practitioners of holistic psychotherapy, who believe viewing each person as a whole being is an essential first step in providing care, typically collaborate with those in therapy to help them gain awareness of the connections between their emotions, thoughts, physical experiences and spiritual understandings. Therapists can help individuals realize that each of these components work together in harmony to support typical daily function. This deeper understanding of the whole self can often lend itself to greater self-awareness, self-esteem and self-acceptance.

Holistic therapy does not work to eliminate symptoms. Instead, this therapy approach views symptoms as one way a person's consciousness can bring attention to a person’s higher awareness. In order to develop awareness through holistic therapy, practitioners work less to help individuals achieve change and more to help them accept the present moment—who they are and where they are. Therapists offer support as people in therapy work to accept what is going on within. Once this acceptance is achieved, individuals may be able to let go of their own resistance, which can further allow them to relax and release any fears. Acceptance and relaxation are important components of this therapy.

About the Speakers

Trisha Miller is a licensed professional clinical counselor with 12 years of experience. She graduated from Walsh University, earning a combined bachelor’s and master’s of arts degree in behavioral science/counseling and human development with a concentration in mental health. Trisha is a clinical hypnotherapist with advanced training in heart-centered hypnotherapy. She has a passion for helping clients transform and heal themselves by incorporating a variety of techniques focusing on the needs and strengths of the individual client. Holistic approaches to managing stress may include modalities such as relaxation and breathing techniques, hypnosis, guided imagery and meditation, as well as traditional approaches to integrate and heal mind, body and spirit.

Maura Lipinski is a licensed clinical social worker and advanced clinical hypnotherapist with a master of social science administration degree from Case Western Reserve University. Maura has held various clinical and administrative positions throughout her career, with an emphasis on individualized care that builds upon the strengths of each patient. Combining the principles of holistic wellness with traditional practices is an opportunity for individuals to define the types of treatment that can be most beneficial and supportive to their needs, thereby leading to a richer, fuller understanding of themselves. The practice of hypnotherapy through the Center for Integrative Medicine allows Maura to blend her lifelong interests related to energy work, meditation, natural and traditional therapies to support healing.

Fact Sheet

Let’s Chat About Holistic Approaches to Combat Stress

What’s Missing

loveitaly: I have always been affected by stress and anxiety. My life has not been easy. There have been tons of severe medical issues with immediate members of my family, life changing situations due to medical conditions in myself and so on. I love psychology, and I have heard many lectures on relaxation and wellness. I know to take the oxygen first if you are the caregiver. My situation has continued to escalate, and I have to take anxiety medications in very low doses to help me cope. What new approaches can I put into effect to try to deal with this overload in my life, which causes palpitations, anxiety, fatigue, poor eating, etc.? I sleep a few hours, but profound, because I finish my day exhausted. I read a lot of positive thinking books, and I have tons of relaxation CDs at home with beautiful music. What keeps me going is my great faith in the Lord, since I am a practicing Catholic and very strong in my religious beliefs. I pray 24/7, no matter what I might be doing. Is there something new I haven't tried? Thanks for your input and advice.

Maura_Lipinski,_LISW-S,_ACHT: Thank you for your thoughtful question. It sounds like you are already using many positive strategies. I would recommend the addition of hypnotherapy, which may be offered in your local area or through virtual visits with the Holistic Psychotherapy Department at the Center for Integrative Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. Hypnotherapy assists you in learning self-hypnosis techniques to connect with and release limiting beliefs and emotions that may be impacting your ability to effectively manage stress and anxiety. The heart-centered hypnotherapy model honors all religious practices and cultures; therefore, your own spiritual practices are a resource in this type of work.

donnag36: I was on prescribed mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder. I have since been taken off of them. While I feel more alert, I’ve noticed mild stress and anxiety since then, especially in loud places, in crowds and in noisy family get-togethers. I try listening to calming music, lying down alone in quiet. Is there anything I can do when I am not at home to calm myself down? Are there any stretches/exercises to help with stress?

Maura_Lipinski,_LISW-S,_ACHT: Thank you for your pertinent question. There are many tools using sensory techniques to assist with what you are experiencing, which sounds like sensory overload. Some simple grounding strategies that can be helpful are:

  1. Applying ice packs or heating pads to your neck, chest and the pulse points on the wrist can assist in treating and calming your nervous system, along with deep abdominal breathing.
  2. Use aromatherapy, such as diffusing an essential oil. I recommend contacting a certified specialist in the area of essential oils to support what you need on an individual level; however, lavender is one example of a calming oil that could be diffused or applied to the pulse points. It is important to use organic, therapeutic-grade oils.
  3. Repeat healing mantras, such as "calm and relaxed" during the relaxing time with music, as well as throughout the day as a reinforcement. This may help quiet intrusive, busy thoughts.

Your idea about recharging in a quiet space is a great one. It may be that you have a more introspective need. So, using visual techniques, such as imagining a healing light surrounding your body, can be beneficial during calm times. They can also help you to create healthy boundaries with others during times where you are feeling overwhelmed. Stretching, breathing and yoga are excellent ways to create healthy mind and body connections. The Center for Integrative Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine offers meditation groups, therapeutic yoga, hypnotherapy and acupuncture. Our integrative physicians also specialize in individualized health plans including nutritional supplements. Always consult with a physician regarding such treatments.

Specific Stressors

donnag36: My13-year-old teenage daughter has developed severe anxiety. It is mostly social anxiety. She had a panic attack about the consequences of turning a homework assignment in late. It started out with school, but now she does not even want to be around extended family. Are there any suggestions to help her deal with anxiety without putting her on medications?

Maura_Lipinski,_LISW-S,_ACHT: I would recommend a child and adolescent therapist. Many types of relaxation, including hypnotherapy, guided imagery and positive activities that will increase self-esteem based upon her specific interests, may be useful. If she likes art or animals, there are many specific types of therapy, including art therapy, equine therapy or volunteer duties, that can help in this way.

HiddenFox: I have had high blood pressure since my 20s (I’m now 66). In spite of the medications (which work under normal circumstances), when I get in a stressful situation (e.g., medical procedure), my blood pressures spikes to 180/90 or higher. Even when I was a teenager, my blood pressure would spike when I was getting routine sports medical checks-ups. I am somewhat of a worrier and do take Cymbalta for anxiety. Do you have any suggestions?

Maura_Lipinski,_LISW-S,_ACHT: Guided imagery and meditation related to reducing the physical effects of stress can be especially effective. Hypnotherapy work will allow you to connect with limiting beliefs that are often formed in childhood on a subconscious level so that you can release these beliefs and begin to add positive affirmations whenever the stress and spiked blood pressure begins. Often, blood pressure spikes when with a medical practitioner, so arrive to the appointments early and take time to relax, breathe and repeat positive affirmations to yourself prior to the actual BP check. Meditation practices on a daily basis are very helpful as well. Yoga is excellent!

donnag36: Although I've been healthy my whole life. I started having serious health issues in the beginning of 2015. My whole life became very stressful at the same time. I am finally getting over the major medical problems. There is still a lot of stress in my life. It seems one part of my body is always in pain, always wanting attention. It shifts from one part to another. This was never the case before. I am 35. I'm not sure how to describe it.

Trisha_Miller,_LPCC,_ACHT: I am sorry to hear of your recent medical issues and life stressors. Holistic approaches, such as heart-centered hypnotherapy, could be a great resource to allow you to tune more into messages your body may be providing you. For example, dealing with chronic pain often coincides with emotional stress. Sometimes, it is helpful to speak to the pain, so to speak, to allow release to occur. Other strategies that can help would be to imagine the pain leaving your body by surrounding it with a calming, healing light while breathing into the area of discomfort. We offer a shared medical appointment called Integrative Strategies for Pain Management that will introduce you to many other helpful tools to manage and cope with chronic pain.

Supplement Suggestion

Chattgal: Are you familiar with EMPowerplus Q96 and their micronutrients? What is your opinion of them?

Trisha_Miller,_LPCC,_ACHT: Sorry, but I am not familiar with this particular supplement. I would recommend consulting with an integrative medicine physician regarding the use of any supplement, as well as the likely benefits to your individual overall health.

Techniques for Reducing Stress

test1: Hi. What are good and simple techniques to use to stay calm when you are very frustrated and stressed?

Maura_Lipinski,_LISW-S,_ACHT: There is a positive technique that you can use by closing your eyes and imagining a comforting, relaxing place. An example is the beach or another place in nature. Identify a word that describes how you feel in that spot. This is an anchor for you. Bring your thumb and forefinger together. Once you open your eyes, you can make this anchor at any time, and your body will remember the calm feelings. The use of guided meditation is excellent, and you can download meditations for daily use. There are many professionals who can assist, such as therapists, massage and Reiki practitioners, etc.

CMB: Do you have any tips for people interested in meditation who are just getting started?

Trisha_Miller,_LPCC,_ACHT: Congratulations on your recent venture into the world of meditation. Meditation is an excellent way to quiet the "business" of our conscious mind and busy lifestyles. I would recommend looking into guided meditation groups, which are offered through The Center of Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine. Also, it is not uncommon that during meditation one's mind may wander. This is normal. The most important thing to remember is to non-judgmentally shift focus back gently to your breathing or the guided meditation. With practice this may get easier. Good Luck!

maresp123: What is the correct way to breathe when trying to relax, in through nose/out through mouth or in nose/out nose? How long should each breath be, and how many breaths are a good start for relaxation before beginning to breath normally again?

Trisha_Miller,_LPCC,_ACHT: There are many different, and varying, breathing strategies that can induce a state of relaxation. The most important thing is to breathe. This may sound simplistic, but often when we are under stress, we as humans do not breathe fully or deeply, which can create more tension and stress within the body. One strategy that may be helpful is a simple counting of the breath. To begin, breathe in to the count of four, hold the breath gently to the count of two, and then exhale to the count of six. You can either breathe in or out of the nose or mouth, whatever feels most comfortable.

Healing with Hypnosis

Chattgal: I have had some recent flashbacks about trauma I went through at age 2, but don't recall otherwise. I have considered hypnotherapy, but my counselor has advised against this. I have a friend who was really helped. What are the precautions or potential drawbacks versus benefits? Does the hypnotist always help the person deal with new insights right then if they are traumatizing?

Maura_Lipinski,_LISW-S,_ACHT: The model that we use is called heart-centered hypnotherapy, which is a very supportive model. You can connect with us here at Cleveland Clinic to learn more, or if you are not local, you can log on to the Wellness Institute of Diane Zimberoff in Seattle, WA and ask them for local practitioners. They train practitioners across the globe. Due to the trauma, it is important that a practitioner moves at a pace that is helpful for you; however, the use of ice packs and heating pads to assist with releasing the shock of trauma can have a profound effect. Our model always includes a healing portion at the end of the sessions where you are expanding upon the new insights and positive affirmations moving forward. It is also helpful because it helps to reconnect you with your emotional power and strength.

Caring: Can you explain a bit more how hypnotherapy works and how a person can find a qualified therapist, i.e., what credentials to look for.

Maura_Lipinski,_LISW-S,_ACHT: Hypnotherapy assists you in accessing your subconscious mind and embracing your personal power, as well as increasing the ability for emotional regulation. Many physicians, therapists (counselors or social workers) and psychologists are trained in these methods. Ask questions regarding training and certification of the professionals that you seek. We offer a model called heart-centered hypnotherapy, which was created by Diane Zimberoff/David Hartmann of the Wellness Institute in Seattle, Washington. They are very helpful in assisting people with connecting to qualified hypnotherapists all over the world.

robbednar: How can hypnotherapy help with woman's health issues such as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)? I have tried acupuncture and supplements, but I’m looking for more relaxation techniques.

Maura_Lipinski,_LISW-S,_ACHT: Mind/body techniques such as hypnotherapy and guided imagery can help to increase overall feelings of well-being by connecting with healthy emotional release. This often assists in pain management as well. Our center offers shared medical appointments (group work) related to various areas of health. Through individual hypnotherapy work, you can connect with any emotions that need to be released. In addition, you can connect with healing of mind, body and spirit. Often, emotions and physical sensations are connected in various ways. Meditation and guided imagery are very positive in terms of relaxation and the creation of new neural pathways. All of the modalities mentioned are powerful ways to connect with the subconscious in order to introduce and reinforce positive thoughts and, therefore, increase the positive experiences in life. Discuss your specific concerns with a hypnotherapist to create an individualized plan for support. My reactions to stress are probably deep rooted from childhood experiences. I have managed to keep these feeling buried, as I do not want to relive anything. My question is, would hypnotherapy be a good or bad thing for me?

Trisha_Miller,_LPCC,_ACHT: It sounds like there are many unresolved emotional wounds you are attempting to avoid. Heart-centered hypnotherapy would allow you to connect to the emotional pain, so that you could release the repressed feelings in healthy ways. It takes a lot of energy to keep our emotions buried, and often, if not addressed, this can lead to unhealthy stress reactions, behaviors and/or physical manifestations. The purpose of connecting to past trauma is so that we can release repressed emotions, nurture the inner child and change unhealthy subconscious conclusions to the positive. This would also include making new decisions and behaviors that support overall healing-mind, body and spirit.


That is all the time we have for questions today. Thank you, Maura and Trisha, for taking time to educate us about holistic approaches to combat stress.

On behalf of Cleveland Clinic, we want to thank you for attending our online health chat. We hope you found it to be helpful and informative. If you would like to learn more about the benefits of choosing Cleveland Clinic for your health concerns, please visit us online at

Maura_Lipinski,_LISW-S,_ACHT: Thank you all so much for the important questions today. Hypnotherapy is about healing, releasing unhealthy subconscious conclusions and changing negative beliefs to positive in order to actually change the way we think about ourselves. We are all worthy and lovable beings, so continue to remember that there are many therapeutic mind/body models to support healing. Find the method that works for you and enjoy the journey. Maura.

Trisha_Miller,_LPCC,_ACHT: Thank you all for the wonderful questions. I hope you found the information useful. Best of luck.

loveitaly: I commend the two speakers for such an interesting topic and for answering the questions in such a detailed manner. Thank you.

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