Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Psychotherapy and Healing: The Twain Shall Meet …….

First published in Just Let Go, a magazine released at the World Congress for Regression Therapies (WCRT-6), in September 2017

Psychological Counselling and Healing both use techniques that are very diverse, and on the surface, there seems to be no common ground. Psychology is a social science, it scientifically studies human behaviour, creates postulates about what drives normal V/s abnormal behaviour, and comes up with theories about the same. Based on this, various therapeutic interventions have been developed by psychologists over the years, to help clients deal with issues and problems. Right from Freudian psychoanalysis, to Rogerian person-centred therapy, to the currently more popular REBT and CBT, all these therapeutic interventions have been developed after years of research by some of the best psychologists our era has ever produced. Their efficacy has been proved over the years, and it takes years and years of rigorous training and certification to be able to practice these therapies.

The mental illness model is a bio-psycho-social one. In other words, it posits that mental illness is caused by a combination of biological (neurochemical, electrical, hormonal, or structural abnormalities), genetic, psychological (personality and temperament) and environmental (family dynamics, society, peers) factors.

Healing, on the other hand, is based on a very different approach. Healing works on things that may not be immediately and tangibly measurable scientifically. Many (though not all) healing modalities are based on the energy or chakra model (Reiki, Pranic Healing, Crystal Healing, Aromatherapy, Flower Remedies) or variations of the same. Healers work intuitively, psychotherapists are trained to work scientifically. Healers deal with the intangible (aura, energy, soul, spirit), therapists on the tangible (behaviours, responses, cognitions and beliefs). While every healing modality has its own conceptual framework, primarily it works on the mind-body-soul inter-relationship.

Coming from a background of Clinical Psychology, the world of ‘healing’ seemed like an unreal one. When I first started working with clients, I was armed with (or so I thought) all the various therapeutic tools and interventions to help them work on their issues and problems. My journey was initially a very fulfilling and satisfying one. As the years progressed though, I felt the need to equip myself with more tools. The more I engaged with clients, understood their issues and held their hand as they walked their often painful paths toward recovery, I felt I needed to do more. There were things I sensed that no therapeutic model or theory could explain.

My journey to seek for more tools, more ways to help clients led me to various healing modalities – hypnotherapy to begin with, and later, Reiki, crystals and so forth. Today, I still retain my conceptual bio-psycho-social training and approach and use this to remain grounded and keep my clients grounded. But I also do not hesitate to use my intuition, my ‘gut’ and my innate sense of what needs to be done in the moment with the client to make sure I am able to help them to the best of my abilities.

Essentially, my journey has taught me this: while classical psychotherapy and healing may seem like two ends of a spectrum, they are both driven by the same goal – that of helping clients overcome issues and arrive at a higher level of functioning. While we have some exceptionally effective psychotherapists, and some amazing healers in this world, combining the two approaches can bring benefits to the client that are priceless. Helping clients transcend their blocks and difficulties, while at the same time keeping them grounded in the current reality of their situation, is a feat that can easily and repeatedly be achieved through this combined approach.

Thus, healers and psychotherapists have much to learn from each other. Healers can learn the art of listening without judgement, the ability to maintain objectivity and give empathy, the ability to refrain from giving advice, challenge irrational thoughts, use confrontation wisely and empower clients do fight their own battles from psychologists. Psychologists on the other hand, would benefit immensely by learning to at times simply ‘be’ with the client in the therapy, learn to trust their gut and sixth sense, at times go with that sense and provide a soothing, healing space for the clients for their healing to take place. Instead of seeing each other as adversaries, if we learn to accept the best from every healing modality and integrate  it in our work with clients, we would have achieved what we all set out to do in this journey – help ease the path for people in pain.

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