Posted November 18, 2019
By Kristen Wolosonowich
Psychotherapist Dr. Kathy Barton-Brown is no stranger to teaching others how to turn personal pain into passion and triumph. She is an expert in the mental health field, having been a private practice therapist for over 15 years. She has helped countless clients understand, heal and learn coping behaviors about several forms of mental health conditions. Dr. Barton-Brown is a huge advocate for not just those suffering from a mental illness, but also educating their families and loved ones as often times there is tremendous misunderstanding and confusion on why someone may be struggling.
Trauma, Dr. Barton-Brown explains, can happen at a very early age and will go unnoticed because families often operate in dysfunction. This makes the abnormal become the normal to which they can relate. She explains more often than not there is massive childhood trauma involved which can seem scary. The good news is once the issues are identified, understanding and true healing can begin. Dr. Barton-Brown says, “We normalize the dysfunction and then when we begin to seek out becoming emotionally healthy, family members who are not healthy become defensive or many times get angry with us.”
Dr. Barton-Brown explains that we live in a society now where our children are bombarded with social media messages and stimuli which can often result in anxiety and depression. There is “good anxiety,” such as anxiety over planning to go to prom, planning a wedding or buying a house. These are all normal reactions to big events. However, she explains, there is also “bad anxiety” that lasts for several weeks and ultimately becomes paralyzing. This type of anxiety can lead to panic attacks and anxiety disorders. Dr. Barton-Brown says it’s key to understand those children and adults who are prone to mental illness or dysfunctional behavior. Warning signs in children can be anger, social withdrawal or those children who appear to not have a voice. These identifiers can lead to children growing up to carry on the negative behaviors and not breaking the cycle, because oftentimes they don’t recognize there is a cycle to break.
Dr. Barton-Brown points out that there are other factors involved in recognizing early signs of mental illness. While behavior is certainly one major factor, there are environmental and genetic factors to which we should pay significant attention. Alcohol and addiction runs in many families and given our country’s current opioid crisis, we’re aware that addiction does not discriminate across gender, race, religion or socio-economic lines. She talks about her own traumatic childhood and having a father who was an abusive alcoholic, and growing up knowing she wasn’t going to continue the cycle. It was her early intention not to marry an individual who had addictive qualities, and she had major insight at a young age to use her personal pain as triumph in putting a stop to the family cycle of alcoholism.
Dr. Barton-Brown advises to seek help immediately if you are not feeling mentally healthy and, more importantly, know it is OK and so incredibly treatable. Once you receive a diagnosis and identify the root cause, you can begin to obtain the tools to begin healing. She is an advocate for medicine, referring to it as a “bridge,” and finds it necessary when brain chemistry doesn’t allow you to have a good quality of life. However, Dr. Barton-Brown also knows the importance of holistic approaches in healing from mental illness using breathing techniques and implementing behavioral changes.
Dr. Kathy Barton-Brown provides us specific “tools” for our toolboxes in recognizing and coping with uncomfortable emotions. First, she says we have to always be “emotionally aware” and recognize emotional triggers. We all have triggers and once we understand the trigger, which takes us back to the origin of the anxiety, we can work our way out of the situation by understanding what triggered the uncomfortable emotions in the first place. Second, she advises to seek support groups for many afflictions such as alcohol, narcotics, weight, co-dependency and emotional instability, to name just a few. The good news is there is so much hope and help out there and you can privately pursue self-care and wellness with anonymity.
With struggle comes massive strength, Dr. Barton-Brown explains, and we all have a story of both we can use to triumph.
Dr. Kathy Barton-Brown
2710 W. Court St., #8
Flint, MI 48503