Mobile psychotherapy rolls into Los Lunas; primarily for children

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First there were mobile kitchens, then libraries, dentists, and now, mobile psychotherapy.

Ungelbah Daniel-Davila-News-Bulletin photo: Clinical social worker Elise Hensley operates a mobile psychotherapy clinic that travels between Albuquerque and Los Lunas, where she utilizes treatments such as neurofeedback.

Elise Hensley has been working as a clinical social worker for 20 years and has owned a private practice for 10. Earlier this year, she eliminated the hassle of keeping two offices and invested in a mobile office instead.

Now, Hensley says she drives her mobile practice to Albuquerque two days a week, where patients come to see her from as far away as Santa Fe, and spends the rest of her time in Los Lunas.

Hensley says her specialty is in early childhood development and primarily works with children as young as 2, helping them with issues such as attachment disorders.

Her goal is to help little ones learn to “attach in a secure, healthy way,” she says, since it is during the first three years of life when a child learns to attach, a behavior that will provide them with other healthy behaviors for the rest of their lives.

If a child’s attachment development is interrupted through traumas ranging from unhealthy parents to poverty, abuse or neglect, Hensley says that could result in issues later in life, such as problems forming adult relationships and fears of abandonment.

“Early attachment can follow a person their whole life,” Hensley says, and can result in borderline personality disorder.

Hensley says while working with adults dealing with serious addictions, she’s heard many stories from individuals about how they experienced severe trauma as children, which inspired Hensley to get into early childhood development to try and prevent similar outcomes from happening to more kids.

She says hearing what were mostly mens’ stories of abuse and trauma was “just a huge eye opener.” Hensley says now, many of the children she works with are in foster care, waiting adoption or preparing to go back home.

One of the techniques Hensley uses to work with children is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR. This technique is used to treat trauma-related disorders through bilateral stimulation of the brain.

It causes an individual to relive their trauma, but from a distance, and learn to make new feelings associated with it so that it is not as painful and can be processed.

Hensley, who first learned this technique in 1996, says it allows you to “create a memory you want about yourself.”

A lot of the work she does involves neuroscience, which combines body and mind, such as neurofeedback, which works with brain waves. This technique “teaches the brain to make different frequencies of brainwaves than what we normally make,” says Hensley, and this is accomplished by playing games.

Using two computers, one that shows her the patient’s brainwaves and another in which a patient plays a game, Hensley says she is able to “reprogram” brainwaves.

A game, such as making an airplane fly, will only work if the brain is putting off more of one type of brainwave, thereby rewarding the brain. She calls it an exercise because the brain will only begin increasing the right brainwaves on its own after several sessions of training.

Hensley says there are four different brainwaves that the brain creates all the time — delta, theta, alpha and beta — but that different levels are produced at different times.

Delta is more prominent during sleep and theta is higher during deep relaxation or right before sleep. She says a person who suffers from ADHD has a higher level of theta during their waking hours when it should be lower and alpha or beta should be higher.

Alpha occurs when one is awake but relax and calm, while beta is the brainwave the occurs when one is actively thinking or problem solving.

Through nuerofeedback, Hensley helps train a brain that might be putting out too much theta to increase their beta waves. She says she is the only person that she knows of in the area using nuerofeedback, and that it can be a good alternative to medication in some circumstances.

“The intention is to really effect a change that you can’t get to with other types of therapy,” she says. “You have to effect the brain and body together.”

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact Hensley at 270-8778.


-- Email the author at udavila@news-bulletin.com.