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

One Hand Washes the Other

Posted by: Bonney Elliott on August 19, 2015 1:30 pm

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In nursing school in my early 20’s strict principles of infection control were drilled into our heads. From basic hand washing to elaborate sterile technique, the focus was on caring for people without spreading disease from the infectious patient to the wounded or immune compromised. These principles have served me when working up close and personal with the human body as a nurse, but nursing school did not prepare me for the emotional impact of caring.

 

In my first job as an RN at a children’s hospital, I loved the kids. Children are honest, fun, and incredibly resilient. Over time it became harder to separate my personal feelings from the clinical scenarios that unfold in an acute care setting. I often took on the suffering of my sick and dying young patients and their families. I brought it home with me. This was heartbreaking, and unsustainable once I became a young mother myself.

 

With support from family, I upgraded my skills and moved into community health in my early 30’s as a nurse practitioner. I developed more solid emotional boundaries, which I found easier to maintain outside of the hospital setting. Working with families from all walks of life still pulled at my heartstrings though. I am prone to holding onto the emotions of others, sliding from empathy into sympathy. It was early in this second phase of my career, that I received simple but sound advice from a visiting Elder from the Nova Scotia Mi’qmaq First Nation, a warm and wise medicine woman.

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

Diversity

Posted by: Priya Senroy on March 31, 2015 9:12 am

When we talk about diversity in our counseling practice, I think it’s not just working with diverse culture or diverse population but it’s also having an understanding of the cultural diversity of the materials we choose to use. Whether it’s a piece of fabric, a story or even an activity, each has its own unique characteristic; its unique symbolism and its unique healing purpose. latin americaDiversity is also found in some of the cultural rituals that we celebrate. I find that spring is one of the times when there are many such rituals take place. For me, spring is one of the strangest season and time of the year. While it is a time for birthdays, celebrating cultural New Year, anticipation of what am I going to plan in my vegetable patch, it is also a time to mark anniversaries of heartbreaks. It is during this time that I also get to go back to reading one of my favorite books by Clarissa Pinkola Este: “Women Who Run with the Wolves”. In one of her chapters, she mentions a grief exercise called “Descansos”,  which is basically markers of the changes, the turning points, the deaths (literal and figurative) in one’s life.  She says, “Descansos are symbols that mark a death. Right there, right on that spot, someone’s journey in life halted unexpectedly. There has been a car accident, or someone was walking along the road and died of heat exhaustion, or a fight took place there. Something happened there that altered that person’s life and the lives of other persons forever.”

I have been creating my own Descansos at various life transition events as they can also be seen, metaphorically, as crossroads where choices need to be made.

My background is not from Latin America where Descanos are the roadside shrines that mark the memory where an accident claimed a life. I can, however, relate to the archetypical images and the symbols and what Jung shares as a part of the collective unconscious. For me working with images from diverse cultures helps me to feel connected not only to the materials but also to the psyche of the experiencing the knowledge of the client and the community.




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

Compassion Based CBT and Spirituality Work Well Together

Posted by: Farah Lodi on March 20, 2015 12:00 pm

Compassion-based CBT, as described by Paul Weber, could be straight out of a manual of Buddhist teachings, or from Holy Scriptures. I use a lot of CBT with my clients, but in cases where the monk-555391_640client is overly focused on self-criticism and shame, actually believing the “alternative healthy thoughts” is a struggle. Conceptually they understand the logic of Socratic dialogue, but they don’t integrate the rational thoughts, maybe because they lack a key ingredient crucial to recovery: self-compassion. This is when I use more compassion-based interventions. Finding and developing self-compassion is a lot easier with religious clients. Here’s why:

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

Spiritual or Not……….

Posted by: Farah Lodi on April 1, 2014 3:58 pm

             Like most of the world, I’ve been praying for the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Depending upon the headlines I find myself oscillating between being  hopeful for their survival, or be fearful of their loss. Either way, I feel that I can eventually accept the outcome, because I personally believe that we are part of a Divine bigger picture – and this gives me a sense of purpose and meaning in life. For me, hope that our suffering will be temporary and justly rewarded in the end, makes it easier to bear trauma, grief, loss, and all of life’s challenges. Call this a coping mechanism or call it conviction, but it helps me get through life.

            Numerous studies have been done on the psychological resiliency that spirituality can give to people. Christian faith encourages an absolute trust in God’s  grace, while the Islamic faith embraces a complete surrender to His will. Hindu philosophy is dominated by a belief in reincarnation – this life is temporary, and death is a transition to the next life. Buddhist healing takes into account the mind, body, and spirit. The first of the four noble truths taught by Buddha was “life is suffering” -this  expectation of suffering leads to an acceptance of it. In Judaism, being part of the Jewish community is central to one’s identity and approach to life.

            Hindus and Buddhists regard this life as a transition to the next, so death is just a bridge over to the next life. Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in a hereafter, where good people will go to heaven, so death is a step into another, hopefully better existence. For spiritual people, death is not viewed as a final calamity, but as a natural course leading to something beyond. These various perspectives of how religious people connect with the universe, provide examples of how spirituality helps them live with their problems, not just helping them cope, but actually helping them heal and keep moving forward.

            In my experience, my clients who have a deep spiritual foundation are naturally predisposed towards better healing of emotional distress because of their belief in a Higher Being, their feeling of being connected to the universe, and their ability to make meaning of death. Doesn’t this make for a compelling argument for us counselors to address the spiritual needs of our clients?

           Does spirituality make it easier for the anguished family members of the missing 259 passengers and crew aboard MH370? I certainly hope so. And for those who don’t have the protective factor of spiritual faith, I pray God blesses them with acceptance, patience and courage.

Reference:

Charbonneau, C., Clark, N. H., Gall, T. L., Grant, K. (2005). Understanding the nature and role of spirituality in relation to coping and health. Canadian Psychology, 46(2), 88-104.




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

Reflecting on the Intersection of Human Psychology and Religion

Posted by: Jessy Alam on February 14, 2014 3:05 pm

If I could title a passion that I have pursued consistently for the last 10 years it would be: The Intersection of Human Psychology and Religion.  And yet, that title would be very much inaccurate. In fact, I want so much to find an apt and concise description for the phenomenon that I have witnessed in every individual that I have ever encountered as well as with every client I have ever treated. But I can’t. This dilemma is both a hindrance and a revelation to the issue I have brought forth.  These two things, the human mind and all that is contained by the term “religion”, are both by their nature limitless. I would like to commit to writing about this topic in upcoming articles—not only because there is so much content to be covered, but to relieve myself of the weight I feel every time I try to approach this enormous subject. At times it can be too much for words.

Faith, or lack thereof it, in anything supernatural plays a role in how individuals make meaning of life’s most minute details. What we believe about ourselves, the world and those around us has been marinated in existential wonder about the spiritual world.  But many seasoned clinicians have a hard time with this topic during sessions, especially when the client shares a different set of beliefs. I face this struggle, so have my colleagues and so have my own therapists when hearing me share about my own experiences. So how do we effectively create the space for dialogue on this issue with our clients? (In another article I also what to discuss why I believe it is of critical importance to touch on this subject with each of our clients.) The first step is investing time and getting our own therapy where we can discuss the evolution of our spiritual and religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and actually experience this discussion through the eyes of a “client”. I think this is paramount – we just cannot afford to skip this step. The second step is examining multiculturalism in therapy and what sensitive and ethical practice looks like. I will write separately about these in following entries. I think these two first steps of self-examination create the foundation necessary to help our clients in fundamental ways.

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