Zachary is a licensed professional counselor specializing in finding and developing modern, brain-based treatments for psychological and emotional problems. He specializes in treating chronic anxiety, panic, phobias, depression, post-traumatic stress, and helping people create the life they want to live.
One question has driven me since day one: “what creates change?”
How does someone go from feeling chronic depression and anxiety to calm, content, and fulfilled? What is that process, and how can I help people consistently get there?
I’ve devoted my life to knowing how that happens and helping people to make shifts that lead to lasting change.
My goal is to empower people, not only through inspiring them, but by using and developing scientifically-based psychological therapies that work better.
I want to take complicated “psycho-babble” and make it simple and understandable so that everyone can benefit from the amazing advances in the fields of neurology, brain science, and psychotherapy that are happening every day.
I’ve had the great honor of successfully treating hundreds of patients to help them return to a fully functioning and fulfilling life. I’ve treated patients with all kinds of phobias (driving, dogs, fear of taking medicines, and more), social anxiety, chronic anxiety and panic attacks, debilitating depression, painful traumatic flashbacks, and decades-long insomnia. I’ve worked with children who were at risk of being removed from their homes due to difficult behaviors, and couples on the brink of divorce.
Apart from all that, maybe my greatest honor has been to heal from my own anxiety, panic, and post-traumatic stress disorders. I didn’t know it then, but I’d had chronic anxiety since I was a teen. After high school, I did human rights work in an active war zone in Asia which left me with PTSD that added on regular flashbacks and nightmares and near daily jolts of adrenaline anytime something “triggered” me. The anxiety + the traumatic experiences eventually led to daily panic episodes.
At the peak of my condition, I was paralyzed with fear. My brain was in such dis-array that it became difficult to leave the house, I had developed a phobia of particular places and a few other things such as opening the mail, going to work, and reading the news. I spent countless days and nights frozen with fear on the couch, finding it difficult to slow my racing mind and heart. I started to obsess that maybe I had some horrible disease, and I spent weekends just sitting in the Emergency Room waiting area so that, just in case I couldn’t breathe or felt I was having a heart attack, I’d already be there.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
It was on my 2nd actual admission to the Emergency Department that a doctor came in my room after reviewing all the labs and tests and said something that would forever change my life. With a firm but comforting voice he said, “Zach, you’re going to be ok. You’re having a panic attack.”
I didn’t know what that was, but I spent the next 3 years committed to re-gaining my life back from these debilitating symptoms. I wanted to be free from the anxious worry, the panic, the fears, flashbacks and nightmares.
And I was determined to find out how to do it.
I went home and found research that your brain can change shape just by changing your focus and attention, just like lifting weights can change the shape of your biceps. I read The Brain that Changes Itself and Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain. I became fascinated with this idea that I could heal and re-wire my anxious brain. I set out to figure out just how to apply all this scientific research to my own brain.
I wanted to give up so many times. I kept getting my hopes up after thinking I found some “silver bullet” but that never worked. I took medications to fix a so-called “chemical imbalance” and that wasn’t the cure-all I’d hoped it would be either. I learned there’s no one-size fits all approach when it comes to recovering your well-being. Through a drudging period of trial and error, going from therapist to therapist, different psychiatric medications, books and research papers, and talking to other experts and patients who had overcome their own anxiety, I found what worked, what didn’t, and tried to understand why.
It took about 3 years to heal my nervous system and re-train my brain. Today, I’m not only better, I’m remarkably calm and resilient in the face of stress of all kinds. I feel more confident and content in situations that I once freaked out over. I not only overcame an anxiety disorder — I learned who I was underneath all the worry. I learned more about the great power of the mind to heal the body (and how taking care of my body helped heal my anxious brain), and the remarkable ability for the brain to re-create, re-wire, and re-build itself. I not only don’t have panic attacks and flashbacks, I learned how to love myself and how to be comfortable in my own skin which has served me in almost every area of my life.
This is the reason I became a professional counselor, and it’s the story behind my message — that you can shape your brain as powerfully as you can shape any muscle in your body.
And by re-wiring your brain, you make it easier to become the person you want to be, make the choices you want to make, and have the life you want to live.
This more public journey has just begun as I share this message with others who want to hear it and recover their own lives.
Whatever uncomfortable feeling you are experiencing, know that you can heal. And knowing that you can accomplish something the felt so big and un-changeable before means you can use those skills in so many other parts of your life. It will not only change your brain – it will change everything for you. I’m living proof.
Master of Arts in Counseling, Eastern Mennonite University.
Licensed Professional Counselor, Virginia Board of Counseling.
PUBLICATIONS, PRESENTATIONS, & AWARDS
Anxiety: Inflammatory Origins and Natural Treatments. Taylor, Zachary R. & Brogan, Kelly. Journal of the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. 2014; 38(3): 13-19.
New Solutions to Acid Reflux. Taylor, Zachary R., Journal of the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. 2015.
Nutrition & Mental Health: Current Trends & Research. Keynote Address. Presented to the Virginia Association of Community Psychiatric Nurses, Annual Conference. Lynchburg, VA.
Recipient of the Linda Heacock Memorial Fellowship, presented by the Virginia Association of Clinical Counselors (2009-2010) for clinical work in rural populations in Virginia.
First Place – American Counseling Association National Ethics Competition (January 2010).
Third Place – American Counseling Association National Ethics Competition (January 2009).
Researching Clinical Outcomes – Assessments & Measurements. Presented to Eastern Mennonite University Graduate School of Counseling (2012).
Palliative Professional Counseling Psychology: A Qualitative Research Study on Terminally Ill Cancer Patients. Submitted for partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology at Eastern Mennonite University.
The Ethical Use of Touch in Psychotherapy (November, 2009). A research paper presented to the Virginia Counselors Association, Williamsburg, VA. Also presented at Eastern Mennonite University (October, 2009).
CERTIFICATIONS & SPECIALTIES
EMDR Therapist. EMDR International Association.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. University of South Carolina.
Emotion-Focused Therapy for Couples. Susan Johnson.
Theraplay – Level I Certified. Theraplay Institute.
Certified Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor – Virginia.
Certified Crisis Pre-Screener for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
What creates change?
“What creates change? That question has consumed most of my adult life. Answering that question, for me, wasn’t much of a choice. It was a must. I had to find a way to change my brain, my thoughts, and my emotions, or else face life as a prisoner to chronic anxiety and fear, and that was a future I wasn’t willing to accept.” ~ Zach Taylor