Author Archives: Barry D'Souza

When is it Enough?

Posted by: Barry D'Souza on November 13, 2020 9:19 am

TW: Sexual Violence

Being a Human-Centred, multi-cultural relativist and feminist informed, Emotion-Focused Therapist, working with an Integral Psychotherapy perspective means walking closely with clients on their path of trauma recovery, trying to keep in-step and sensing where they are going.  With what they feel they need, can manage, want to explore further, and when safe and ready all act as signposts along the journey.  But what happens when they go deep into the varied experience of their fellow women who upwards of 1 in 3 in the U.S. have suffered sexual violence.

            She is a client that I have known for nearly 8 years and the first session after a COVID summer began with a short list of new developments. Firstly, we explored her feelings of uneasiness surrounding her young son who now walked by himself to school.  There was some reference to a feeling of a growing distance to her long-distance boyfriend which had been previously mentioned.  Then the work of the day appeared. She was looking for her blueprint within which to place her own experience.  She hadn’t yet found it, but she definitely had explored the possibilities through a range of soul destroying examples, as I was about to find out.  My flinching inside warned me!

            Three years prior, she woke up to being sexually assaulted by a boyfriend.  The week before the session had been the anniversary of the awful violence, and troubling memories, the rest of her PTSD sequelae, along with a mounting distress that it was overtaking her ability to work were all re-emerging from their mind-body dormancy.  She had been looking high and low for a blueprint, figuring this might help.  I was there to bear witness and share like I always did with this client, what was coming up for me as she processed her way through the things.  By the way, she is longstanding client of more nearly 8 years and we’ll we have a very great working relationship – she knows that I will just be myself as therapist and it is ok.  This is by now, one of the elements that is helpful, she keeps telling me, in one way or another.  But what do I do about my internal flinching?

            Hers wasn’t as she read in the memoir of woman who at 12 years old was led out to a forest by a boy and was gang raped. Hers wasn’t like the woman in that wartime novel – raped by a Nazi soldier. Hers wasn’t any of the brutal rapes in various series she’d followed on Netflix. I wondered how she was managing such exposure and shared that I was feeling ‘my own’ anxiety, listening to her and could only imagine what was stirring in her experience.  ‘I admire your empathetic research.  But are you ok, it is enough?’

            “I am ok, but it is hard!”




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Schrodinger’s Cat in Couples Therapy

Posted by: Barry D'Souza on March 2, 2016 4:29 pm

Today I was working with a young couple who like most at a point in the early family and career-making stages of life, struggle to come to terms with the stress, pain and loss associated with transitions. It was the second session and the young, European couple, of mixed national backgrounds, began to reveal how their thinking was past and future orientated in so many ways.

My hunch about the couples therapy at that moment emerged – they were going to the past of who they were when they originally met to soothe themselves about the frustrations about where they were now (feeling stuck as individuals) and as result as a couple, feeling increasingly unhappy together. My hunch emerged further – their persons and personalities, to each other, had undergone extensive “flattening”, as the blame thrown to the other for what was going wrong for them and in their couple mounted.

I found myself in the session trying to reach out to feel the frustration of who they were as individuals and at the time, I felt this to be the ‘work’ of the moment. (note: it may be something of model reminder for work with individuals with a contemporary, western cultural background and experience, that the order to consider is individual frustration first, couple frustration second). As I started thinking of my couple as individuals needing to hear, feel and see each other again, it came to me – Shrodinger’s cat, the thought experiment in theoretical physics!

No expert on the matter, the idea that we never know the state (i.e. dead or alive) of cat in the box until we open it, and that we effectively have to imagine and consider the cat inside, as being anywhere in a continuum of alive to dead in the box, to really live the quantum reality, became an interesting metaphor. I didn’t explain it to them in the 54th minute of what was to be 1.5hr session, but, I suddenly knew what I felt could be useful – a little reminder that the other is wife/husband, woman/man, each a career professional, each a social being, each with a worldview, each with individual needs and a personal path (that is spiritual even if you let it be).   At the time we didn’t’ exactly do what I am proposing as a potentially fresh new couple’s therapy intervention. That is, each in the couple take turns viewing the other as the cat in Shrodinger’s box, observing the other in a continuum of themselves and all that they are or might want to be. The forgetting of this is problematic to the individual, man or woman, same sex etc. and the intervention designed to promote the summoning of the individual in more full view, may be restorative to a couple’s communication, fruitful to a compassionate understanding and accepting of the other’s needs, while it promotes a critical self-evaluation of how the man/woman has ‘othered’, ‘gendered’, ‘boxed-in’ the other as part of their couple narrative.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

How To Make Meaning of Political Violence Directed at Innocent Civilians When it Hits Your Home in Paris on a Random Friday Night?

Posted by: Barry D'Souza on November 18, 2015 4:05 pm

Please note that this blog article was written on November 16th

EiffelTowerThe title of this blog entry follows what I wondered as I came home on the TGV this morning. When the carnage began to unfold Friday night, I was hosting my therapist meditation group. It was only when my son-in-law who texted me to check that I was alright much later – he’d heard of me going to the Bataclan to see concerts many times before – that I had any inkling of war coming to Paris.

I turned on the TV and began to watch news coverage of what was a momentary hiatus in the bloody assault as I cleaned up plates from the potluck that we have after our blissful meditations. I thought, this is the essence of shock! Parisiens, in all variations from the “furthest away” of thinking that anything like that could possibly happen in our streets – were being pulled into something very awful of which only the first few dimensions were perceived.

Most of the restaurant killing had been completed but there were hundreds of hostages in the concert hall. I stayed awake as long as I could. Casualty figures were modest at 1am, but, I knew that when I woke, countless of those hostages would be among the freshly dead that Paris would mourn. When I had to go to bed I felt some nibbling guilt – for weeks I had had plans to catch up with an old friend down in Montpellier. I had a train to catch the next morning. Already, I wasn’t the slightest aware of the killing as it happened, and then when the rest of my Paris would start to reel, I’d be away.

This weekend, as I realized the randomness of who happened to be in the places where ISIS chose to slaughter, and felt amongst other things, political worries for what would come next, I yearned for many things. I wanted to have an expression of solidarity with those who lost their lives, their families and those who just felt the pain of the meaning of Friday night in Paris. I wanted to commemorate all of those who were unknown to me and to whom up until Friday were living their ordinary lives. I wanted to feel a little vicarious pain, imagine and connect with the loss, from all sorts of personal angles.

With the friends in Montpellier, amidst our ‘catching-up’, we shared on many aspects of the human side of processing. Sunday afternoon, when it was so beautifully blue skied, sunny and warm, I went for a walk, sat in the Parc de Peyrou and falling into a sublime moment of peace, felt no nibbling of guilt. Coming together as friends, as a group, as societies, to feel and to make gestures confirming our humanity is part of the meaning-making in the short term, I am sure. We Parisiens might do well to take our time here. Attempts to make more absolute meaning of Friday, November 13 in Paris, in what is the long, ideological war of attrition between opposite sides of the war on/of terrorism, (where civilian casualty and trauma is bountiful), might end up choosing anger and fear as the basis for a response…not that anger and fear are not understandable and rightful responses just now. So here then is my immediate decision to make meaning of weekend events over the longer term – I hope to be a ‘present’ force of humanity-confirming senses in the midst of crazy violence.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

A Yoga Psychotherapy!

Posted by: Barry D'Souza on September 28, 2015 9:00 am

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I would like to take the next few blogs to enunciate ideas for a novel union of which in the coming months, if all goes well, I’ll begin to have an actual experience of what I am proposing here today. The yoga psychotherapy group that will begin, I figure, as an affordable ‘meet-up’, hosted early Saturday mornings, is to be an experiential process group whose design aspires to the creation of new spiritual culture simultaneous to usual work in group psychotherapy. So first in this blog – why a Yoga Psychotherapy?

For many in the West, life is mechanized, sedentary, less original and lacks higher purposes. The epidemiology of addictions, physical disease, various emotional or mental health issues, social isolation, existential angst and malaise are symptomatic of how westerners approach modern life.   Positively speaking, more are seeking out the collaborative support of psychotherapists in confronting troubling personal issues. This trend correlates with two further emergent themes: one, a greater motivation to tackle personal emotional, cognitive or lifestyle obstacles to healthier and happier lives, and two, a lessening of the stigma attached to working with a therapist and growing awareness of the potential support, ‘good’ and discovery that such work can mean. Additionally, people are making links between what they feel to be ‘gaps’ in contemporary western culture in providing adaptive skills for a changing world and what seems to be suspiciously missing from daily life. Stretching the speculation even further, some may be intuiting a connection between ‘what’s up’ and what the historian, Karen Armstrong, called a “god-hole” in their personal lives (Armstrong: 1993).

In light of contemporary trends, the integration of a system of traditional yoga theory and practice into a model or an experience of psychotherapeutic interventions at the level of lifestyle change, while including a mindful focus on ‘meaning in life’ processes means a ‘punctuated’ step forward in the evolution of western psychotherapy. The west is eager and the time is propitious for therapists to look to the world of yoga in supporting clients. So I feel these days.

Yoga provides the basis for a spiritual-existential paradigm in counseling psychotherapy that on a personal level could help create an individual experience of life that is energized, derived from a profound sense of wellbeing and directed towards living purposefully. On both personal and socio- cultural levels, yoga psychotherapy reinvigorates the connection, belonging, love and compassion in a community as it supports clients in facing the variety of challenges that life delivers.  And as we therapists know – we are all clients!

In the history of spiritual insights and attempts to spiritualize psychotherapy in the west, Yoga Psychotherapy presents a paradigm shift towards spirituality-inspired counseling. The Vedanta and Yoga theory fuses the mind/body and soul into a compelling explanation and approach to human psychological and spiritual development. The essence of all yoga psychotherapeutic interventions is this holism.

So I will say this for now and continue next month with a little more on Yoga Psychotherapy. If any of my fellow therapists have any questions, comments or want to learn more before the next blog, please feel free to get in touch at [email protected]

References

Armstrong, Karen. History of God. Ballantine Books: New York. 1993.




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

August 2015 – Off Season Summer Reading Turns Haiku

Posted by: Barry D'Souza on August 20, 2015 1:22 pm

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So the summer is making headway and the reading that we are doing in the wonderful downtime up at the cottage by the lake or flaked out on the couch at night by the warm lamplight, is giving way to new learning, something novel, or a rediscovery of the insights of the wise men and women in the helping field.

In my fantasy I imagine the reading and the reflection it spawns as forming part of the subtle layers of consciousness, electrifying new neural circuitry, and becoming the colours of perception, that on the palette of interventions in the emerging ‘here and now’ of our work one day (when holidaying is done) comes out a fresh, embodied moment of shared connection. Summertime is for daydreaming.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Practical Considerations of Relational Work With Adolescents

Posted by: Barry D'Souza on July 17, 2015 2:48 pm

For those who work relationally, that is, for those who employ in therapy sessions, their experience of the client and the ‘work’ together, sharing personal details or stories is something you do from time to time, whether it is elicited or not.   Modeled early on during the first number of sessions, as part of how they ‘sit’ and are present with clients, the therapist’s disclosures may be said to help create the safe and collaborative ‘third space’ of therapy. But, what about when the client is an adolescent? What about when three sessions into the work, the young client exhibits great pride for the kinds of manipulations they successfully ‘use’ with their parents, making you wonder briefly if they might employ this art with you. When the subject matter turns to illicit drugs and the adolescent’s use of them and they enquire as to whether you (who for them at the moment is an adult, a therapist, and someone he/she is considering trusting) use them, the therapist’s disclosure in this instance speaks to issues of the therapist’s trust of the client, interest in authenticity and ultimately an unspoken equality in honesty in portraying personal experience.

Answering truthfully to a question that comes out of the natural flow of the exchange can mean a ‘powering down’ before the youth can make the therapist-client relationship more human. Feelings of being exposed to someone younger might arise making you feel uncomfortable. Knowing yourself and what is the source of this discomfort seems important. Telling a lie, even when the likelihood of the youth ever knowing different might undermine the authenticity of the emerging connection from the therapist’s perspective. If this tricky moment were later in the work with the client, it’d be a question of maintenance of the connection.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Domestic Violence Sensitivities and Reminders

Posted by: Barry D'Souza on May 26, 2015 12:37 pm

At the moment I don’t have clients victimized by domestic violence in my practice in Paris. So going to the 2nd Annual International Forum on Domestic Violence recently came out of a longstanding want to better understand one of the worst types of relationship outcomes and life situation traps, that a poor woman and a man (to be pitied until the day comes when he stops all forms of abuse) could possibly encounter. It is true I wanted to learn what a woman in a mixed couple with a Frenchman, the most probable instance here in the Anglophone community, might face in the way of exit challenges. But as a child who knew domestic violence in my own home growing up, I admit to wanting new sensitivities to any dimension of the embodied ‘separation’ pain and reflection, that a woman contemplating leaving the man they had children with and to whom they once may have pledged their lives, including the brutal reality of starting over from scratch, encounters.

This is what I left with in terms of list of vigilance for women here in France :

– realize and connect with « what is going on »
– generate possible responses and choices
– safety plan including organizing the protection for the kids
– log the « proof » with visits to doctors, etc., ensuring the story has ‘punctuation and accumulation’

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Maybe Every Therapist Should or Could

Posted by: Barry D'Souza on April 24, 2015 12:05 pm

I’m not sure how it works for others, but for me, being and feeling a part of a community of like-minded therapists on a journey of experiential learning and good fellowship is an important thing. I am referring to the mindfulness meditation group that I meet with the second Friday evening of every month. Therapists in other cities maybe doing similarly already – they call it ‘convergent evolution’ – but, if they aren’t already, I put it out there as something to consider.balance-110850_640

Here’s how it’s been looking so far these first few months. Each in our group of ten take a turn hosting.  The host mcees the evening and introduces whatever suggestions for ritual they’d like to put in place. After a number of meetings now we’ve adopted a basic structure for how we like to do the evening. We begin with meditation for fifteen-twenty minutes.  Always so nice after a busy week, I have to say. We then breath into a ‘mindful sharing of the moment’ check-in, that is surely guided by the spontaneous impression, perhaps gestalt, of the moment that emerges. Being therapists it is not hard to imagine that there is a level of open and natural sharing of ‘what’s up’.   Most of us can’t but help ourselves here. We meditate a second time for twenty minutes. Share ‘mindfully’ a second time, this time usually with a guiding theme, question or consideration. We then meditate a third time before we smile a deep inner satisfaction, and move into the closing of the evening – the mindful ‘breaking of a little bread’, potluck style. This past group we ate in mindful silence!

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA