Methods: How We Get There

 

Most people don’t need a lot of detail on how I’m going to work with them…they just want to know that what I do will work to help them meet their goals, whether they be practical, emotional or spiritual. If you are interested in the methods I use, feel free to click on the links below; They’ll explain a bit about the method and links to relevant articles and videos. If something piques your interest, let me know and we’ll be sure to incorporate that into your treatment plan. Expand the sections if you’re interested. You may find more articles and videos over on the resoucres page.

Authentic Movement

If you watch young children move, you will notice that they move very differently than adults – they haven’t yet learned that there are acceptable ways to move and unacceptable ways to move. Children follow their innate impulses for movement – it helps them to learn, sequence through emotions, and play. If they have too much emotion, they might have a bit of a tantrum. If they’re happy, they might skip or jump around. Sometimes they just do weird stuff that we adults laugh at because they don’t know what they’re doing is weird. As adults, we socialize our children. We will teach them to not wiggle in church, to clamp down the tantrum, to not dance in public – and some of this socialization is clearly necessary. But, they often also learn shame. So they  break the impulse from action, and eventually, become dissociated from their bodies until they no longer feel the impulse. Authentic Movement is a practice that helps us to return to the wisdom of our bodies and remember what it’s like to feel and respond to internal impulses. When we are able to live in our bodies we are more centered and happier; we know who we are and where we stand.

The practice of Authentic Movement always has a witness to nonjudgmentally bear witness to the mover. Following the movement period, the witness will speak to their experience of the mover along with the sensations evoked within them. Moving from a deep internal impulse while being seen is highly vulnerable. Authentic Movement can be a deeply profound experience for many people as, for many of us, our deep wounding is about not being fully seen or understood. Authentic Movement is practiced with eyes-closed so that the mover can fully enter into an internal state. The mover waits for internal movement impulses, then allows her/his body to do what it wants to do.  Authentic movement is not dance. It is a body-centered method for accessing the unconscious. Authentic Movement cultivates healing and understanding by:

  • bringing the unconscious to the conscious.
  • reentering the truth and wisdom of the body.
  • entering into nonordinary states of consciousness.
  • the experience of being fully seen by the witness.

Authentic Movement can be practiced one-on-one or in groups. In a therapeutic one-on-one session, the therapist is the witness, while the client is the mover. In group settings, the therapist will always hold the primary witness role, however, others in the group may witness as well. Groups can be designed so that one person is moving while the entire group witnesses, all can move while the therapist is witness, or a combination of those two wherein some people move and some people witness.

Body-Inclusive / Somatic Counseling

In body-centered (somatic) counseling we look at the mind and body as one inseparable unit. That is, anything that happens in the body will also show up in the mind, and anything that happens in the mind will also show up in the body. It has been both my personal and profession experience that a body-centered approach creates the deepest healing. As an ordained minister and body-centered counselor, I work with both body and mind throughout our sessions.

Somatic counseling is a holistically oriented therapy that integrates physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It accomplishes this by helping us to become aware of our bodies and the sensations we experience through them. Body awareness and movement are combined with dialogue in order to reveal the connections between life experiences and bodily experiences. This provides an opportunity to heal the whole person.

In somatic counseling we learn that the body is a deep resource and our most accessible teacher. To travel deep into the body is to discover truth. The body is a source of information and a vehicle for transformation and it is through the body that we communicate with the unconscious. The path to our authentic selves is through the body, not through denial of the body.

I work with the body for two main reasons. The first is that I found body-centered counseling critical to my own healing process. I spent several years in therapy and had learned to understand the root of my issues, however, understanding my issues didn’t help me actually move through them. It was through somatic counseling that I actually noticed a difference in my life.

The second reason I work with the body is that somatic counseling is strongly supported by clinical research, trauma research and the latest discoveries in neuroscience. The nervous system basically regulates how chilled out or freaked out we are. Because the roots of many dysfunctions are nervous system dysregulation (a common side-effect of trauma) and a cultural overemphasis on cognitive processes, I use breath, movement, vocalization, dialogue, and sometimes touch to help people regulate over-active and under-active nervous system responses, as well as to provide relief to an overactive mind. I work with the body because, unlike our minds, which can often circulate in confusion, the body doesn’t lie. Working with the body in a mindful state can often produce more clarity and healing than working on the cognitive (thinking brain) level alone.

Somatic Counseling & Trauma

Body-centered counseling is particularly relevant to trauma. When I work with people suffering from the aftermath of trauma, I am often working with nervous system regulation. Traumatized people often enter into states of hyperarousal, that is, an elevated sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) response. In this state people are often anxious, tense, agitated, or what you might call “wiggy”. This is particularly true for those suffering from Posttraumatic Stress & Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. When the sympathetic nervous system is in full gear, the hippocampus becomes relatively inactive. Since the hippocampus is responsible for incorporating memory and meaning making, the hippocampus must be online in order for counseling interventions to have lasting effect on the client. I used body-centered interventions to help people lower their state of hyperarousal. I then integrate other therapies, such as Internal Family Systems, to work with the unresolved trauma.

Traumatized people can also experience recurrent states of hypoarousal (that is, an under-active response system common in the freeze response). People can experience this as “going away”, shutting down, or numbing out. Hypoarousal also interferes with necessary hippocampus function, so I use body-centered techniques to elevate the individual’s arousal.

Counseling is most effective when our bodies are involved in the process. Everything we know about neuroscience and the nervous system clearly indicates that a body-based approach to healing is the most holistic and integrative. Part of what makes a body-based approach to counseling effective is that the body doesn’t lie. We can convince others and ourselves all kinds of things that aren’t true, but the truth will show up in the body. Lie detector tests are an example of how this works. A person can be calm on the outside while lying, but their insides may be speaking a whole different truth.

Breathwork

Oxygen is our first biological need (followed by water, food, shelter, community). In the stressful lives that we live, our typical response to stress is to become physically tense and to constrict our breath, when it is actually the full breath that we need to soften the tension. Muscle tension and breath constriction are a from of bracing to withstand the onslaught that we perceive is coming our way. Breathwork has an incredibly wide variety of benefits and is used, in some format, by most major spiritual traditions.

  1. Breathwork can be a critical component in helping us to pause when we are emotionally reactive, thereby giving us the capacity to respond rather than react.
  2. Breathwork can quickly create calmness through activation of the vagus nerve.
  3. Specific types of breathwork, like pranayama or holotropic breathwork, can take us into altered states of consciousness that can help us connect to the Greater Something.
  4. Specific types of breathwork-based interventions, like rebirthing, can help to heal early wounding.
  5. Helps to eliminate respiratory toxins (anesthesia, airborne chemicals).
  6. Increases awareness of bodymind connection.
  7. Can be helpful in decreasing stress, depression and anxiety.

Because breathwork is so central to cultivating calm awareness and connecting to our Deeper Self and the Greater Something, it is a component in the work I do with everyone.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a goal-oriented and systematic method of working towards change in both behavior and thought patterns that affect behavior. It is one of the most studied forms of therapy and has been clinically proven to be effective in treating a variety of problems including mood, anxiety, personality, eating, substance abuse, and psychotic disorders. Because it is particularly geared towards behavioral change, its one of the ways I work with clients to change habits that are no longer serving them. I don’t see CBT as the whole truth, or highly integrative, but there is enough wisdom in the approach that it can be an effective approach, especially for those folks who are more linear and not interested in exploring their spirituality. More often than not though, I incorporate CBT into some of the other work I do.

Contemplative Counseling

Contemplative counseling is rooted in psychotherapy and Eastern Spiritual traditions, such as mindfulness, compassion towards self and others, acceptance, and staying in the present moment. Much like Internal Family Systems, which is also influenced by Buddhist practices and insights, contemplative counseling holds that we all have a wise Self within us; that wise Self may be masked, but it is ever present. When we can soften harmful behaviors, thoughts, beliefs, and ways of being in the world, we have more access to our wise Self. That wise core is there even in our most insane moments and underneath all of our dysfunctional behaviors, so we cultivate and enhance the wisdom rather than just focusing on what’s not working.

Because that wise core is present in each of us, when we are able to access our own deep and compassionate wisdom, we can more authentically connect with others and our own lives. We recognize that we are part of the Greater Something, and within that deeper connection we soften our loneliness and the illusion that we are separate and incomplete.

Creative Arts Therapy & Expressive Arts Therapy

Expressive Arts Therapy & Creative Arts Therapy are interchangeable terms used to describe the therapeutic process of using expressive and creative arts to help people heal, increase self-awareness and enhance intuition. In creative arts therapy sessions, the counselor and client may use a wide range of expressive arts such as drawing, painting, drama, storytelling, dance, music, poetry, prose, drama, movement, dreamwork, imagery, and visual arts.

Creativity and imagination are innate capacities of all human beings. Young children will draw if given materials and dance when music is played. They are constantly making-up stories and enacting dramas.  However, once children develop an observer self that sees themselves through a judgmental lens, they begin to exile their creative process. They stop dancing, get stressed out about how to make a picture look just right, and eventually, stop telling stories. Creative expression helps us to process through emotions and to integrate the various aspects of ourselves and our worlds. Expressive Arts Therapy helps us to reclaim our creative birthright and our natural capacity of creative expression while also fostering a creative community for healing. It helps us to experience happiness and joy, thereby decreasing depressive symptoms. It can also help us to locate an internal sense of peace and calm as many forms of expressive arts can be meditative in nature.

Creative arts therapy focuses on the process, not the end product.  Clients do not require any special skills, just as children require no special skills to finger-paint.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT was developed for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It combines standard cognitive-behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and reality-testing with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness largely derived from Buddhist meditative practice. DBT has been clinically proven to be effective in treating BPD as well and those who have symptoms and behaviors associated with mood disorders, self-injury(e.g. cutting), sexual abuse, and chemical dependency. The theory behind the approach is that some people are prone to react in a more intense and out-of-the-ordinary manner toward certain emotional situations, particularly those found in romantic, family and friend relationships. Some people’s arousal levels in such situations can increase far more quickly than the average person’s, attain a higher level of emotional stimulation, and take a significant amount of time to return to baseline arousal levels. While I don’t work with those with BPD, I do use a modified, body-centered DBT approach with people who suffer from emotional intensity and mood swings.

Emotional Intelligence (EI)

Emotional Intelligenceefers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. It is a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions. Increasing our emotional intelligence helps us to have more stable and loving relationships with ourselves and with others. When we focus on emotional intelligence in counseling, we work with four aspects”

  1. Perceiving Emotions: The first step in understanding emotions is to accurately perceive them. This might involve understanding nonverbal signals such as body language and facial expressions. It also may involve learning how to pay attention to your internal sensations and responses.
  2. Reasoning With Emotions: The next step involves using emotions to promote thinking and cognitive activity. Emotions help prioritize what we pay attention and react to; we respond emotionally to things that grab our attention.
  3. Understanding Emotions: The emotions that we perceive can carry a wide variety of meanings. If someone is expressing angry emotions, the observer must interpret the cause of their anger and what it might mean. For example, if your boss is acting angry, it might mean that he is dissatisfied with your work; or it could be because he got a speeding ticket on his way to work that morning or that he’s been fighting with his wife.
  4. Managing Emotions: The ability to manage emotions effectively is a key part of emotional intelligence. Regulating emotions, responding appropriately and responding to the emotions of others are all important aspect of emotional management.

Existential (Life Meaning & Purpose) Therapy

Existential Counseling is aimed at answering questions such as, what is my purpose in life and what is the meaning of existence and humankind’s place within it? Existential issues often arise when we have a crisis in faith and when our fundamental beliefs about the world shatter, typically as a response to a significant difficult life experiences. Examples might be returning from active duty, trauma or the death of a loved one.

Existential counseling soberly confronts existential issues and facts of life such as death, finitude, fate, freedom, responsibility, lonelinessloss, suffering, meaninglessness, and evil. Existential counseling is concerned with more deeply comprehending and alleviating, as much as possible (without naïvely denying reality and the human condition) pervasive symptoms such as excessive anxiety, apathy, alienation, nihilism (existence is meaningless), avoidance, shame, addiction, despair, depression, guilt, anger, rage, resentment, embitterment, purposelessness, madness (psychosis) and violence as well as promoting the meaningful, life-enhancing experiences of relationship, love, caring, commitment, courage, creativity, power, will, presence, spirituality, individuation, self-actualization, authenticity, acceptance, transcendence and awe.

The focus of existential counseling is on the present, here-and-now, current circumstance, rather than exclusively on early formative influences. While the power of the past and of unconsciousness– those aspects of ourselves of which we are unable or unwilling to become aware– to influence the present detrimentally is recognized and addressed as it arises in treatment, the person’s subjective experience of self (“I am”) and of the therapeutic encounter is of primary importance. Choice, personal and social responsibility, integrity of the personality, courage, and authentically facing rather than escaping existential anxiety, anger and guilt are central features of existential counseling. In existential counseling, the human relationship between client and counselor takes precedence over technical tricks, as the relationship is the fundamental healing factor in counseling. Coming to terms with reality, and one’s own inner demons, without denying, avoiding, distorting or sugar-coating it is key to existential counseling. This compassionate, shared, professional yet profoundly personal human relationship provides both the structured, supportive container and potent existential catalyst for transformation.

Goal-Directed Counseling

In goal-directed counseling, sessions focus on solutions rather than problems. I believe that counseling is a service, and like other service industries, there should be measures for you to know that you’re getting what you paid for!  It’s also important for me to know that the work I’m doing with you is effective. One of the first processes of goal-directed counseling is helping the client to define their goals for therapy. Those goals might be direct (e.g. I want to lose 10 pounds) or diffuse (e.g. I want to be happy). In diffuse goals we have to further define the goal. So in the goal “I want to be happy,” we have to get clear on what happiness means to you. In both diffuse and direct goals, we then have to look at what gets in the way of reaching that goal. We also have to explore what benefit you might be getting from keeping things as they are. For example, If you smoke marijuana and want to quit smoking, but smoking helps you to manage your anxiety – then we have to figure out another way to decrease your anxiety, otherwise quitting smoking is much less likely to happen.

My clients’ goals guide my work with them. We regularly review those goals to keep us on track and to set new goals as needed. Meeting goals is a great way for us both to know that counseling is working. Some people come into spiritual counseling as a form of self-growth and self-exploration. While goals may be part of this type of counseling, it is not generally the main focus.

 Hakomi Influence

Hakomi is a Hopi word that means “How do I stand in relation to these many realms?” Hakomi is a mindfulness-based approach to counseling and holds at root:

  • As we develop from infancy to childhood to adulthood, we organize our experiences by apply meaning to them, to the world, and to our selves;
  • These organizational decisions come to operate as unconscious “core beliefs” about the world and our place in it which govern how we think, feel, develop, act, respond, and create;
  • These core beliefs limit our ability to function spontaneously and to live effectively through systematic, characterological habits which we originally created to avoid feeling a lack of safety, affection, attention, or approval; and
  • The purpose of therapy is to become fully human, alive, spontaneous, open-hearted and caring, with the ability to be equally effective acting in interpendence with the world or autonomously.
  • Transformation occurs in Hakomi when awareness is turned mindfully toward felt, present experience; hopes and fears unfold into consciousness; barriers to new ways of being are attended to; and new experiences are integrated that allow for the reorganization of core beliefs, which in turn allow for a greater range of mental, physical, emotional coherence and movement.  Transforming core material often involves working with Child Consciousness in the context of re-experienced memories, and working supportively with the spontaneous release of strong emotion and energy, as well as eliciting the cooperation of the unconscious to dialogue directly with it in mindfulness.

The seven principles that guide the work of Hakomi are:

  1. Unity: an inclusive awareness of the interrelatedness of things
  2. Organicity: the recognition and  honoring or each person’s individuality
  3. Mind/Body/Spirit Holism: the assumption that all elements of experience are essential.
  4. Mindfulness: the value of being genuinely aware of exactly what is happening
  5. Nonviolence: a commitment to respect and loving regard
  6. Truth: the pursuit of the actual nature of things
  7. Change: the trust that things can and will move and evolve

Homework & Practice

About 10% of the work happens in the counseling session. The other 90% of change occurs by what you do outside of the counseling sessions. At the end of most sessions, I will provide you with homework. I tend to not use the word homework though, because homework sounds like a chore and carries an implied understanding that the homework is being done for the person that’s directing it, not for the person doing it. So, instead, you and I will come to an agreement on practices that will be helpful for your growth or to meet your goals. People who actively engage in self-growth practices progress much faster towards their therapeutic goals than those who don’t. None will be arduous, beyond your ability to do successfully, or directed by me without your input or agreement.

Humanistic Psychology

Humanistic counselors approach to counseling s holistic in that they attempt to understand the whole person and to help people develop to their fullest potential. The belief is that when a person is living in their fullest potential, society is positively affected. Humanistic counseling holds that people have free-will and can make choices. It is, therefore, quite a positive approach to therapy because it is change-focused and personal-power focused. It is a bit individualistic and doesn’t always take into consideration the context in which a person lives. So while I hold the orientation of humanistic psychology, I temper that with my Social-Constructivist viewpoints.

Humor and Play

The struggles we work with and the wounds we are working to heal are important and serious. There is a time for seriousness, gentle compassion, and mindfulness. But, there is also a time for laughter. In fact, our capacity to laugh at ourselves and our issues (in a nonmocking manner) is one sign that we are moving through our wounding. Play is an essential component in the healing process. Unfortunately, when we experience trauma we often lose our capacity to play. This creates a negative feedback loop: The more we , the less we play; The less we play, the more we focus on the traumatic experience. Knowing when to lighten-up and create a break in intensity is an incredibly helpful tool. So, while I will be loving, reflective and caring in our sessions, we may also laugh together. I may also give you out-of-session practices that are play oriented.

Integrated Counseling / Holistic Psychotherapy

Integrated, Holistic Counseling aims to integrate Inner World, Outer World and Metaphysical world experiences. Holistic, integrated counseling means that clients’ needs dictate the approaches used. One approach may be good for one person, and completely inappropriate for another. Often a combination of approaches and interventions are integrated into treatment so that clients can receive the most effective and holistic counseling possible.

Integrated therapy is not just limited to how I work with people; It also means that I may work in conjunction with other health professionals as necessary. Many issues that people assume are psychological in orientation may have physical causes. For example depression is associated with hypothyroidism, anxiety is associated with hyperthyroidism, and both lethargy and depression are associated with low iron. Clients who experience symptoms that can have common medical causes will typically be asked to see their medical doctor to rule out physical causes of psychological symptoms. In general, I will request those who have access to medical care to have a full blood panel run because we cannot function at their emotional best when the body’s basic needs are not being met.

Internal Family Systems (IFS)

Internal Family Systems (IFS) works with each aspect of our selves as if they were separate personalities with their own needs, desires, wounding, beliefs, etc. For example, the person I am around my mother is very different that the person I am around my boss. It feels different internally and I behave differently externally. Often these parts “take over” our grounded, adult, wise Self. In IFS therapy we work to help that grounded Self to take a greater leadership role within the internal system of parts. IFS therapy is an incredibly effective way to deal with trauma, unmet needs, and integrating the Self into a grounded whole. This type of work does require a level of mindfulness that may not be available to all clients. However, mindfulness can be developed both in session and out of session.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. With mindfulness, we cultivate the capacity to witness our thoughts, feelings and sensations without judging them as good or bad. We learn to bear witness to our thoughts and feelings rather than being trapped in them. There have been quite a few clinical studies on mindfulness which has has been shown to reduce depression, decrease stress, and increase self-regulation and life satisfaction.

Emotional Modulation & Tolerance Expansion

Often what causes our own suffering is our inability to tolerate our emotional states. We have trouble tolerating extreme or uncomfortable emotions such as grief, sadness, anger, and even some of the more positively associate emotions like joy. We also often have difficulty tolerating too much physical sensation, such as pain, pleasure, and sexual feelings. In addition, many of us have a difficult time tolerating ambiguity and paradox, two things we are guaranteed to have plenty of in a lifetime. This inability to tolerate makes our lives very uncomfortable, and keeps us from staying grounded.

Emotion Modulation refers to the intensity with which we feel things. Someone who has difficulty modulating emotions might, for example, have a simple conflict with a spouse, but the emotional response to that minimal conflict might be experienced as if a divorce is imminent. Emotional dysregulation can be rooted in a variety of causes such as trauma and hormonal / biological imbalance.

I work with people to help them modulate their emotional responses and to slowly build their tolerance to uncomfortable emotions and sensations.

Movement Therapy & Embodiment Training

Every child knows how to dance. Expressive movement is natural to all humans; the first language to develop is the language of the body. We begin to limit our expressive movements when we become old enough to develop an observer self, that is, we begin to see ourselves from the outside vs. feeling ourselves from the inside. We judge, contain, constrain, tense, limit, control, and manage our self-expression in order to fit into societal roles. The external becomes louder than the internal and we become deaf to our movement impulses and strangers to our own body wisdom. Movement Therapy & Embodiment Training helps people to return to the time before they learned how to make themselves smaller. To reclaim their bodies as integral aspects of their psyche and spirit. Movement can be a powerful tool to express internal states, sequence through difficult emotions, gain wisdom, play, experience joy, and connect to others as well as to the divine. Most people are surprised at how powerful the experience can be and the deep impact it can have on how they live into their lives.

Multicultural Counseling

I come from a multicultural background and have and understanding of how multicultural issues and clashes can affect people. Multicultural counseling honors the cultural diversity of each client and requires that the therapist interacts with their client with cultural sensitivity. I do not pretend to understand the nuances of all cultures, however I can promise that I will do my homework as necessary, and respect and honor each persons cultural background.

Diversity is not just an issue of culture or country of origin. Many of us, at one point or another, find ourselves outside of the “norm.” Unfortunately, this can often result in prejudice and discrimination. I provide counseling to help clients navigate through their own reactions while exploring appropriate responses to their experience of prejudice and discrimination.

As a person of mixed heritage and mixed culture, I work well with others who also have the experience of ‘living in-between worlds’ and that sense of never entirely fitting into one world. Integrated Counseling is extremely helpful for mixed world experiences. I encourage those who are unclear on their family history to begin research into their familial history, because we cannot fully know who we are until we know where we come from and the ancestral lineage from which are born. Family Constellations can also be extremely effective for working through unprocessed and unacknowledged conflict when our biological heritage includes trauma from our diverse ancestral past (e.g. German-Jewish; Black-White; Spanish-Latin American).

Neuroscience

Before speaking to the impact of neuroscience on counseling, it first needs to be defined. Neuroscience is the study of how the nervous system develops, its structure, and what it does. Neuroscientists focus on the brain and its impact on behavior and cognitive functions. The nervous system is a complex network of nerves and cells that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord to various parts of the body. The nervous system includes both the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system is made up of the somatic and the autonomic nervous systems.  The somatic nervous system is made up of peripheral nerve fibers that communicate back and forth with the brain about things like movement. It’s what gives us that quick response when we pull our hand away from a hot stove. The autonomic nervous system controls the parts of our bodies functions over which we have little control, like heartbeat. It’s made of of three parts: (1) The sympathetic nervous system, which manages our response to perceived or real threats (fight, flight, freeze); (2) The parasympathetic nervous system, which manages our capacity to relax; and (3) the enteric nervous system, which manages the functioning of our abdominal organs.

Understanding the latest research in neuroscience is important for counselors helping people to make changes in their lives. For example, since the sympathetic nervous system manages our responses to perceived or real threats, it is overactive in people who have been traumatized and who struggle with anxiety and phobias. Neuroscience has shown that habits, behaviors, beliefs, responses, etc. get ingrained into the brain by repetition. You can compare it to taking a walk in the woods where there is no path. The more you walk the same route, the more that route becomes a fixed pathway and the one you will take each time you enter the woods. Neuroscience has also shown that we can make new pathways by consciously choosing a path not taken. The more you walk on the new road, the more that road becomes a pathway until eventually it becomes the main pathway. This means that change is scientifically proven to be possible and that there are relatively clear steps for creating change.

NonPathological

takes a nonpathological approach to healing. Most people come into counseling because ‘something’s wrong’ and it ‘needs to be fixed.’ While there is some truth to that, it is only one possibly way to look at the issues at hand. When we look at ourselves as if ‘something is wrong’ and ‘needs to be fixed,’ we are essentially saying that something is wrong with us. It’s been my experience that we are far too harsh with ourselves, far too willing to whip ourselves for ways of being in the world which may not be working. None of us get vulnerable or open up when we’re being judged. So, instead of just looking at what’s wrong, we also look at what’s right. Instead of just exploring depression, we also explore happiness.

A nonpathological approach is compassionate, loving, accepting, and welcoming. I work with clients to welcome all of themselves – both the comfortable and the uncomfortable parts of themselves. While each of us has issues or ways of being in the world that we’d like to change, even our most dysfunctional behaviors have some wisdom in them – we wouldn’t be doing them if they weren’t meeting some kind of need. We don’t name those behaviors as bad things to kill off because that only serves to create an internal war with the part of you that does the dysfunctional behavior and the part of you that wants to eradicate it – instead, you’ll learn to make friends with challenging partsand discover what need is trying to be met by the behavior. We can then look for alternative, more healthful ways of getting needs met so that you are more free to relinquish the dysfunctional behavior.

This approach takes into consideration that our psychological system is trying to help us in the only way it knows how. For example, if you’ve been traumatized and do not have great coping skill, you may start drinking to managing the traumatic responses. The impulse is a healthy one (to regulate emotional overstimulation) – it just has far too many negative consequences. If you had an abusive father, you may either develop rage and authority issues or have little personal power. Both of those behaviors are an attempt to get safety needs met, but they are also likely to interfere with other needs (success, autonomy, healthy relationship, etc.). I help people to learn ways to get their needs met that don’t have negative consequences.

Rituals & Rites of Passage

Ritual

Ritualized habits are ongoing events that are a regular part of life. They are what gives our life rhythm and cadence. The difference between a ritual and a ritualized habit (such as washing your face before going to bed) is that a ritual is performed with intention, consciousness, and with an understanding of its sacredness. While rituals are commonly perceived of as religious in nature, rituals can be highly personal and created to help us recognize the sacredness of our lives. Rites of passages can be enhanced and supported by the design of appropriate rituals.

Rites of Passage

Rites of passages occur in every culture. While they are often maturational in that they mark one developmental stage from another, they can also mark significant life events and help us to transition. Another important element of most rites of passages is the presence and participation of family and community members to bear witness to the transition. Examples of common rites of passages in US American culture are graduations, baby showers and marriages. Some well-known rites of passages of other cultures are the Australian Aboriginal walkabout, the Mexican quinceañera, and the Jewish Bat/Bar Mitzvah.

Rituals and Rites of Passages can also be designed to personalize an already existing rite/ritual or can be individually created to mark something significant that the culture does not honor as significant. Rites of passages can mark external events, such as divorce/separation and menarche (onset of first menstrual cycle), or an internal shift within the person. Ritual and Rite design includes an initial individual session (sometimes more than one, depending on complexity), the rite itself, and a closing individual session. Rites of passages can be supplemented with therapeutic support (e.g. holistic counseling, creative arts therapy, body-centered counseling, and bodywork/energywork).

Sand Tray Therapy a.k.a. Sand Play Therapy

is a form of limited-verbal expressive therapy used with all ages. Sand play therapy allows a client to construct their own microcosm using miniature toys and colored sand. The newly created microcosm then acts as a reflection of the client’s own life and allows them the opportunity to resolve conflicts, remove obstacles, and to connect to their inner being and recognize the beauty of their own soul as they begin to accept themselves.

In sandtray therapy the client moves very fine sand in a sand box specifically designed for this type of therapy. The client mindfully chooses “minis” from a wide variety of choices. Minis are miniature people, animals, buildings, etc. The client arranges the minis in the sandbox. It sounds like a very simple process, but sandplay therapy is very deep work that typically brings up unconscious material. It is usually very satisfying for most clients to see an external representation of an internal state, especially one that hadn’t even been clarified prior to the process. The tray might then be “reworked” to open to a different outcome, be that an internal experience or something in the external world that may need to be shifted.

Social Constructivism

Each of us construct our understanding of the world based upon the interactions we have with others. This means that our way of seeing the world and constructing reality is based upon the experiences we have; The knowledge and truth we hold about the world and people are based upon our culture and it may be similar or widely different than another person’s knowledge or truth according to their own culture. Culture here refers not just to national culture, but to the wide varieties of cultures we may be exposed to, for example, family culture, sports culture, economic status culture, etc. Integrated counseling takes into consideration the importance of the client’s culture and experience in developing their sense of themselves and how they fit into the world around them.