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  • Heather Towndrow, CH, LCSW

Shedding Your Old Habits: A New Approach with the DNMS


Have you ever wanted change so much that you didn’t care to leave the familiarity of your comfort zone? Maybe, but most of us actually struggle with just that: leaving our comfort zone. That can be one of the many barriers that inhibits us from the changes that we wish, want, or need to make. I’ve been there myself.

Here’s the thing about change: when we make changes about ourselves, usually the things that work for us stay ingrained. You know how a snake sheds its skin? The skin of a snake eventually gets old, too small for their body. They’ve outgrown the skin that they’re in! Fortunately their body knows what to do, growing fresh, radiant skin beneath, and like a new outfit ready to go, when the time is right, the old skin sheds right off, the new skin already prepared and ready to go!

I know we’re not snakes, but our brains work with the same biology. When our brains are ready to shed the old habits, they keep the habits that still work for us, adapting them to our new situations. We might believe we would have no idea what to do if our old habits were to shed, but just as the snake has a new skin prepared, so do our brains have new and effective habits, ready to be employed. What prevents them is the old, worn out, brittle habits that cover and impede the new and radiant behaviors beneath.

What keeps us from being to shed those old, ineffective habits with the ease that a snake can shed their skin? Good question, one which I may have an answer. The biology of the brain is much more complicated than the biology of the epidermis, but they still have much in common. You see, when a snake grows, it needs to shed the top layer of its old skin. If a snake doesn’t grow, it’s need to shed the skin is less necessary. I’ll get back to this point a little later.

There’s a new concept I recently learned about: being stuck in development. Do you ever have moments where something awkward occurs and maybe you feel a sense of embarrassment, almost as though you were a teenager in high school once again? Middle school and high school are pretty tough years, and some of us make it out okay, but others of us have some developmental needs that were not fully met in our younger years. Not growing mentally and emotionally to full capacity, you could say that we may get stuck, so when something triggers that area of stagnated development, it’s not our adult brain responding, but rather our child or adolescent brain responding instead.

Snakes don’t need to shed their skin if they’re not growing, but they may also struggle to shed their skin when they are growing, and that is when there is not enough moisture in the environment to help the shedding process. Their skin then gets stuck, and they can accumulate multiple layers of skin that needs to shed, causing issues for the snake. Just like the snake’s old skin, we can also not have the right environment for our developmental needs, and we have old layers of behaviors we get stuck with that then become barriers to our own behavior shedding process! What do you think about that?

I read up on it. Snakes usually do better with shedding their skin in a controlled environment where they can be kept as pets. The owner can then adjust the conditions for the snake and help them to shed their skin. Good thing for them! But what do we do about our undeveloped parts of our brain? The good news is you don’t have to become someone’s pet. You may however want to invest into therapy.

This is where the Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy comes into play Started in 2002, this therapy aims to engage a client in a therapy process where an individual can visit these stuck parts of themselves, get them unstuck, meet their needs, and therefore shed any unwanted and ineffective behaviors they’ve been stuck with for a long time. And because the brain is adaptive, it’ll know just what to do without those old behaviors! Just how the skin of a snake needs the humidity to shed the old layers off, so too do our brains need the right environment to allow us to come forward and shed the old habits and beliefs of ours. The skin of a snake needs the right humidity. The brain needs the right attunement and validation in order to move forward.

I found this therapy at the beginning of this year and knew I had discovered something good. I started to learn and study it in the spring, started to receive the therapy in May, and am now providing it at Internal Resolutions. So far I have seen some amazing results. I have seen it treat behaviors of eating disorders, self-loathing, depressed mood, anxiety, wounded relationships with our caregivers. This is only with a handful of individuals, so I am excited to see other results that can come of it! If you’re interested, please send your questions. Just as I am excited to have experienced the results for myself, I am excited to see what the therapy can do for you!


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