Holistic Psychotherapy is a healing method that invites you to go inside yourself and explore the vast world of imagery that lives there. In that interior space, you can reawaken your spiritual connection and heal old wounds. It goes exactly where psychedelics go, just without the chemical support. If you found your plant medicine experience inspiring and new worlds opened up for you, Holistic Psychotherapy helps you stay connected with your visions and figure out how they can help you. And if your experience was chaotic or frightening, Holistic Psychotherapy helps you resolve the trauma and straighten out your relationship with the medicine.
The holistic approach sees the world of imagination as internal but also independent from you, meaning you can build a relationship with it, learn from it, and it in turn can learn from you. This going inside yourself involves getting calm and settled, and tuning into the thoughts, feelings, images and sensations that are happening right now. I act as your coach and guide as you encounter your internal world, where you don’t talk about your feelings and energies, you talk to them. Like plant medicines, Holistic Psychotherapy takes you to the interactive movie theatre of your mind, where emotional healing and spiritual journeying can take place.
There methods I use are:
- Connecting with the parts of you that are in pain and healing them (Parts Work).
- Tuning in to subtle energies in your body that may be frozen or tangled, and allowing them to release (Energy Work).
- Working with unresolved images from your plant medicine experience so they can find their way to a freer, happier configuration (Active Imagination).
- Finding a place of peace and resiliency through meditation (Insight Meditation).
- Releasing your imagination through shamanic forms of guided imagery (Guided Meditation).
- Revisiting traumatic memories and releasing them from their toxic charge (EMDR therapy).
- Working on your issues through the vehicle of role playing different characters from a recent dream (Dream Work).
- Employing the power of acupuncture meridians to help resolve emotional issues (EFT tapping techniques).
In regular talk therapy the relationship is between you and the therapist. In Holistic Psychotherapy another important relationship is in the room– the one between you and your inner system. Once you are in an engaged relationship with your own insides, the healing work goes faster than with the talk therapy method. And if you have taken plant medicine, you have already visited your internal world, and we will have a common language to work from. As guide and coach, I help you through your inner world so you know what to do next in your healing, and we search together for your True Self, the essence of you, the great fixer-upper.
Holistic Psychotherapy is not diagnosis based. To have a diagnosis you need one set of people who are well and another set of people who are sick. Holistic Psychotherapy sees us all as suffering from the human condition. If it’s true that we are spirit living inside a body, then we can all live the exultant, creative life that is in there, and not stay so stuck inside our pain-based beliefs and fears. We can enjoy being alive the same way a child does, we can have the instinctual sureness of an animal, and be content.
Here in more detail, are the methods that I use. In a session we figure out which particular one, or quite often which combination, will work best for you.
Parts work invites us to do a rethink of who we are. Usually, we see ourselves as a single monolithic “Me”. This ‘Me” sometimes makes good decisions and it sometimes makes bad decisions; and pretty often it can seem conflicted or change its mind. Parts Work, or Internal Family Systems Therapy, uses a different model, and sees us as a system of different parts. Our internal parts are in conflict a lot of the time, so in this model our inconsistencies come from the fact that first one part, then another, gets the upper hand in the battle to control me, a little like the movie Inside Out.
Addiction and other compulsions are a good example of this battle. I do fine for a while, keeping my urges under control, but then some kind of stress comes along, and an invisible internal temperature gauge kicks in and says, “It’s getting too hot in here, time for action!” And with that the Addiction Part takes over and it leads us into our binge. Eventually the need for self-medication runs its course, and the Addiction Part no longer has the energy to stay in charge. Then opposing parts race in with self-recrimination, oaths to never fall again, hatred of one’s self-sabotage and so on, and they remain in control until the next relapse. And that is how the cycle goes, no-one ever quite vanquished, no-one in control forever.
In Parts Work therapy s you go inside yourself and actually meet these warring parties and befriend them all– even the problematic ones. What you learn from them is that in their own way, each part of you is doing its utmost to protect you and reduce your suffering. Even the Inner Critic, who seems to almost hate us, and even our addictive parts, who seem bent on self-destruction, are at heart trying to protect us the best way they know how. They are just a little misguided, that’s all.
Eventually, or sometimes quite quickly, you get to meet the parts these protectors are so busy protecting. This is usually a young, vulnerable part, an inner child or inner teen who went through a bad experience, or never got the nurturing and love they needed. These parts, often hidden for most our lives, get to be made well again in Parts Work as you reconnect with them with compassion and caring. You let the young part tell you about itself, until the part believes you really get what the trauma or lack of nurturing was like for it. When the young part feels really heard, it is usually ready to then let go of its legacy of pain through an internal healing ritual. With that, the part’s creativity, spontaneity and capacity for intimacy can flourish, and those misguided, over-zealous protectors are now free to permanently change.
Energy Work and Active Imagination
Emotions show themselves in our bodies – a leaden heaviness can go along with depression, a churning in the stomach or a tightening round the heart may be the physical display of anxiety or fear. Our usual way of coping with this is to try to block out the discomforting sensation so we cannot feel it. In Energy Work you reverse this direction and deliberately tune in to the difficult sensations.
First, you notice the physical sensation as closely as you can. Exactly what kind of sensation is it, where is it, does it move, does it change? Then you examine your relationship to the sensation. How do you feel towards it? So often the answer to this is a negative one – it annoys me, I hate it, I’m afraid of it, I wish it would go away. You then work your way towards a place of curiosity and compassion towards the sensation/emotion, and you befriend it with an attitude of kindness and acceptance. This acceptance allows the trapped energy to loosen and move, finding its way out of your body, or resolving into a more harmonious pattern.
Sometimes the body sensation gives you information about itself by morphing into an image. Energy that is felt as a blockage might for instance be seen as a large and unmovable stone, while that deeply uncomfortable sensation in the pit of your stomach may be experienced as a massive black hole. It is then possible for your solution to grow out of that image – the hard stone softens or shifts, or you look closer and see light around the edges of the black hole. This doesn’t happen by an act of will or by forcing on your part, but emerges spontaneously from the image itself. It is the nature of energy to be in motion whenever possible, and ironically, a major thing that keeps it stuck is our frustrated wish that it will just go away. Once we can let go of that, the blockage can begin the process of movement and change.
If you have taken plant medicines you may have already have been given a storehouse of spiritual information to work from. I have found that plant medicine imagery often comes to life again when invited, allowing you to develop and deepen your relationship with it. Instead of letting your plant medicine experience fade into a postcard memory of one “amazing” experience, you can preserve it as a living resource for what comes next in life.
A core practice of internal change is meditation. It supports us in the work of going inside, and it helps us put up with the person we meet when we get there. The practice I use with people is Insight Meditation, or Vipassana. The instructions are simple enough: notice your breath, and when a thought, feeling or sensation comes up, take note of it with kindness, and non-judgmentally return your attention to your breath. That is it – easy to say, and very hard to do. We find that we continually distract ourselves, and then continually condemn ourselves for the self-distraction. So part of the practice is to develop patience and self-forgiveness for yourself as you get lost in thought and do it “wrong” -- over and over. Gradually, as you continue with this, your sense of identity migrates somewhat from the circling thoughts that cannot stop (the pain body as Eckhart Tolle calls it) towards your calm center, the seat of your compassion, your true self.
I teach this meditation technique in my sessions so you can focus better within the session itself, but also to use during the week as a tool for coping with stressful moments, and as an ongoing practice. It dovetails nicely with the other methods of Holistic Psychotherapy, because it helps you establish a stance of compassion and openness towards your own inner system.
I also use guided meditations, based on techniques from shamanism, where I lead you through a series of images that represent a journey into your inner world, your own imagination. I invite you to summon universal forms of imagery, such as being by the ocean, on a mountain top or in a garden, and let them come alive for you. As the imagery takes on a life of its own, it unfolds in ways that are quite unexpected, and opens you to entirely unexpected growth.
If you have taken plant medicine we may be able to reconnect with the guides and helpers who came to you in your visions. Initially, you may have been very happy to meet your guides and helpers, or you may have even been scared of them, but you probably have a relationship that can still be developed and deepened right now. It’s very common for people to be able to reconnect with these important figures long after the plant medicine experience.
The letters EMDR stand for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which is a hefty name, even for psychologists. This method helps resolve traumatic memories, and it works by stimulating each side of the brain in sequence, while you call up the old memory. Originally this was done by moving the eyes left/right, left/right, left/right, but it was later discovered that the same kind of stimulation could be done by wearing headphones and listening to a tone alternating from one ear to the other, and also with hand held clappers that vibrate in sequence with the sound. You can do the same thing yourself by tapping on your knees in a left/right, left/right sequence.
As you revisit the traumatic memory and let it unfold in your mind’s eye, your right brain starts to communicate better with the left brain, and the toxic charge of the memory starts to process away. Just as liberating, EMDR also targets the self-limiting beliefs you may have picked up along with the trauma, such as, “I am unworthy, I am powerless, no-one can ever love me” – the usual suspects. These, as much as the traumatic memories, can continue to haunt us years after fearful or abusive events. EMDR reverses these beliefs with statements like, “I am a fine person,” or “I am not to blame for bad things that happened to me.”
EMDR is recognized as an evidence-based treatment for reversing the emotional damage of trauma. It is one of the few methods formally recognized by the Veterans Administration in the treatment of war trauma.
Every night we become the director, the actors and the audience of spontaneous dramas that play before the mind’s eye, and when we wake up we call them dreams. Most of our dreams get forgotten, but they can actually contain a great deal of emotional information, if only we can pick the lock on what they mean.
Actually, you don’t “find out” what they mean, you just ask. In Dream Work you get to be a thespian and play your own cast of characters. You move from the seat you are sitting in to an empty chair, where you take on the role of each dream character. You speak as them, learning what it feels like to stand in their shoes and be them for a while. As you feel the personality of the character you get to learn the attitude, wishes and desires of these parts of you that are hidden but trying to speak. And when you listen to your inner drama company, you get information on what it was that sparked the dream, and how to move forward.
If, for instance, you dreamed you were being chased by a scary monster, you will take on the character of “me,” being chased, and then you take on the character of the monster, and perhaps even the place that the chase is happening in. It could be that the monster or bad guy, once they get to speak, is not really so monstrous at all, but is a part of you that has been ignored for a long time and is frustratedly trying to get your attention through extreme means. What emerges does not come out of my – or your – interpretation, but out of the mouths of your own dream characters.
Tapping, known as EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique, has you tap with your fingers on acupuncture points on your body to help move stuck energy, while you say self-affirming statements. When you do it, there’s a good chance you will notice straight away a sense of calm and a feeling of being more in charge of yourself. I am impressed by how well it has helped people through specific situations and crises, such as insomnia, racing thoughts or phobic fears.
EFT starts with a set-up sentence that has this structure: “Even though I (here you put in the problem you want to work on, let’s say, “feel anxious”), I still deeply and completely accept myself.” So in this case the set-up sentence would be, “Even though I feel anxious, I still deeply and completely accept myself” – and as you say this, you tap the “karate chop” place at the sides of your hands together.
After you have done this three times, you then tap in sequence on each of ten acupuncture points around the head and body, saying a reminder phrase or word -- in this case it would be “anxious” – at each one. At the end of each round you take a slow breath, and consider if you need to do another round or make a new setup sentence.
People sometimes ask why you would say the negative feeling to yourself over and over again, but what you are doing here is processing out this negative energy until you reach a place of calm. Later in the process when the bad feelings are subsiding, we may switch some of the wording to intentions that will bring in the positive state that you seek.