Integration is a key element of my therapeutic approach, and of mental health in general. Relief from depression, anxiety, or other stress- or trauma-based disorders often comes with the integration of different realms of experience or aspects of personality into a more cohesive whole.
In my clinical work I use a variety of means to facilitate healing and wholeness.
The therapeutic relationship provides the “safe, protected space”, the container in which vulnerable issues and intense emotions can be accessed and processed. Ideally the relationship itself can become a space where unconscious patterns from other significant relationships can be examined and worked through. According to the newly emerging field of “interpersonal neurobiology”, written about eloquently by neuroscientist and psychiatrist Daniel Siegel, the healing effects of psychotherapy are in large part based on the biochemical changes produced by these corrective emotional experiences..
Western science is now confirming one of the pillars of age-old Eastern philosophies: that mind and body are inextricably linked. Researcher/clinicians working at the mind-body frontier are learning exactly how thoughts and feelings are mirrored in the body and can be accessed through sensing into the body. Mind/body therapists work with these states using the tools of Mindfulness (focused, nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment) and Body Awareness (application of mindfulness to physical sensations) to explore and shift mental/emotional states.
The Hakomi Method
Hakomi is a body-centered, mindfulness-based psychotherapy method that is influenced by humanistic therapy approaches such as Gestalt therapy, and by Buddhist meditation traditions. Hakomi is experiential, i.e., it focuses on experiences in the present moment to deepen the therapeutic process and facilitate change. Its goals are to undo the ingrained defenses that limit people’s vitality and ability to find fulfillment in life.
Hakomi is a multifaceted system of therapeutic principles and techniques aimed at helping psychotherapy to go deeper and create more far-reaching results. One of many therapeutic methods to emerge from the hugely influential Human Potential Movement in the 1960s and 1970s, it draws heavily on both the Gestalt Therapy of Fritz Perls and Zen Buddhism. Like Gestalt, it is a largely experiential method, interested more in generating experiences in the moment to access the unconscious and initiate more profound change. Its overarching goals are to undo the ingrained characterological patterns of defense that restrict the unfolding of a client’s innate vitality, or organic self, and foster greater aliveness and fulfillment. With the body awareness and mindfulness that Hakomi uses as tools for self-exploration, clients who are feeling as though they’ve reached a plateau with traditional insight-oriented, talk therapy are often able to go deeper into their core issues and achieve more lasting, transformational change.
The heart of the Hakomi Method are the five Principles, which Hakomi therapists are taught not to employ just as techniques but to integrate into their way of being. The five Principles are: mindfulness, non-violence, organicity, mind-body connection, and unity. In Hakomi, mindfulness is both an internal attitude of the therapist and a technique for accessing deeper material. Since the therapist is working to get below the surface of the defenses, she is often more directive than in psychodynamic or person-centered approaches, but because of the principle of non-violence she strives to be less forceful than the sometimes very intense Gestalt approach.
EMDR is a therapeutic method that has been in use since 1989, which utilizes bilateral sensory stimulation of the brain in conjunction with a set of highly elaborated and well-researched therapeutic protocols and procedures, to facilitate accelerated processing of psychological issues. What is dramatically different about EMDR as compared with traditional psychotherapies is that, with simple traumas, it can yield positive results in a much shorter time frame – often in anywhere from 1 – 5 sessions. More complex traumas, such as childhood sexual abuse, usually take longer to resolve.
How Does EMDR Work?
Memories of distressing events are stored by the brain as a “gestalt”, complete with all the related sensory, emotional and cognitive information: visuals, sounds, scents, thoughts, feelings and body sensations. Memories of successive distressing events are then layered on top of the original memories in memory networks of seemingly related events. This can create blockages in the brain’s ability to process new information adaptively, that is, to resolve distressing or traumatic events.
A psychologist named Francine Shapiro discovered that it was possible to stimulate the brain’s two hemispheres through “alternating left-right visual, audio and tactile stimulation” (for instance, through hand movements, flashing lights, alternating tones or “buzzes” from vibrating devices, or by simple hand taps). This sort of bilateral sensory stimulation, coupled with the therapeutic procedures of EMDR, can reduce the “charge” of disturbing memories and emotions, and enhance the brain’s ability to respond adaptively to situations by creating links to different memory networks. This process is sometimes referred to as neuronal integration.
Expressive Arts Therapy and Sandplay Therapy
Expressive Arts Therapy utilizes the healing power of arts modalities such as visual arts, writing, movement, music or drama to access emotional material by nonverbal means. Beyond the inherent benefit of cultivating creativity, these techniques often allow access to deeper, perhaps unconscious emotional material and tap the non-analytic, intuitive capacities of the right brain.
In Sandplay Therapy, clients create compositions in a small box of sand using a variety of figures and objects. Clients often experience these creations as a kind of dreamscape, a symbolic representation from their unconscious.
I interweave these modalities based on clients’ needs and wishes. I always welcome questions about ways of working, and I am dedicated to tailoring the work to clients’ specific goals.