Psychological Support on the Spiritual Path
I have spent the past twenty years immersed in spiritual practice, as well as deep psychological inquiry, focusing on how psychospiritual integration occurs in the body.
Through working with hundreds of spiritual practitioners and teachers in the Western world, I am convinced that spiritual work alone does not address many of our deepest psychological knots and traumas, nor does it provide tools to address our wounds in relationship that block us from fulfilling our deepest longings, dreams, and spiritual possibilities.
My clients are extraordinary men and women around the world – many who have engaged years of their lives on the spiritual path – who either recognize they need for support to move through a particular period or challenge in their lives, or who wish to engage in a broader process of psychological self-inquiry into areas their spiritual work has not reached. Many people who engage spiritual life over a long period of time come to recognize that the spiritual path often bypasses many important aspects of their lives, and choose to engage the process of depth psychological work not because there is something wrong with them, but because something is right. They wish to unlock the traumas, images, and core beliefs that are buried within their unconscious, and to ensure that they are living their lives as fully and freely as possible. Spiritual transformation addresses different aspects of ourselves and our lives than psychological work does, and for many people, both are needed at certain junctures of their lives.
I do recognize that life is essentially spiritual, and welcome a wide array of clients into my practice, whether they have a background and explicit interest in spirituality or not.
Somatic Psychology and Trauma
Somatic psychology is therapy from the “inside out” rather than the outside in. We unwind the images in our psyches, as well as traumas and limiting belief structures, through our bodies. Our bodies reveal the images and obstacles contained within the deep psyche.
Trauma, which is something most of us carry, is released more effectively through the body than through retelling of stories. Current trauma research reveals that we do not even need to know the details of what happened to us in order to heal ourselves. Many of the traumas and self-defeating patterns we carry emerge from early attachment wounds and are often pre-cognitive and/or pre-verbal, therefore we cannot remember them even with the best of therapy. However, the body itself carries the memories, images, tensions, and deep patterns, which can be released through the effective use of psychological skillfulness and intelligent tools.
The somatic, or body-centered, approach I use does not require physical touch, or even being present in the same room, to be effective. Even if our relationship is through the telephone, clients learn how to somatically process their own emotional experience and trauma as it is arises, to regulate their nervous system, and to navigate the challenges of human relationship with self-love and skillfulness.
Over the years I have been surprised to find that I do a certain amount of coaching with many, though not all, of my clients. I believe there is a deep and reciprocal relationship between internal transformation and external expression. I have found that as clients develop psychological healing and health within themselves, they are able to express themselves more powerfully and effectively in the world. The empowerment that is then gained through external action, expression, and manifestation in their lives, then helps them to integrate their psyches at deeper and deeper levels. I aspire for my clients to heal both internal obstacles and traumas that impede self and other love, as well as to manifest their deepest dreams in their outer lives, whatever those dreams may be.
My clients include many spiritual teachers or leaders who are struggling with anxiety and depression, breakdowns within their communities, blind-spots in their teaching work, or difficulties with their own psychological integration. I have also done mediation/repair work between teachers and their students when there has been disillusionment, including challenging issues like sexual relationships between teachers and students, infidelity in the martial relationships of teachers, feelings of betrayal due to power dynamics, and many other related topics. At times I have done consulting with spiritual groups in crises and group processes within communities. All of this is done in a strictly confidential container, and I am able to hold and work with great complexities and seeming contradictions that arise on the spiritual path. I also have experience with various types of spiritual emergencies, including kundalini awakenings, premature claims to enlightenment, and family crises that result from individuals unable to integrate their spiritual experience into their families-of-origin or present family structures.
Why Skype and Phone Therapy Works
Many people ask me if Skype therapy works, particularly as most of the work I do is somatic, or bodily based. My resounding experience, now documented through research, is that virtual therapy is as effective as in person therapy. See CNN Health Report research on this here.
The minor disadvantages working through Skype or phone – including occasional internet, telephone, and computer glitches – are outweighed by the advantage that I can connect with clients with whom I have deep resonance with and am well suited to support, regardless of where they live. I have clients throughout the United States, Canada, and many countries in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere.
I have found that there is a “room” where we meet through Skype, which is a shared space as intimate as my office. Even though I see only peoples’ faces and shoulders, there is plenty of information available to support deep somatic work.
BA in Cultural Anthropology, Honors (University of Michigan, 1991)
MA in Counseling Psychology (California Institute of Integral Studies, 1994)
PhD in Contemporary Spirituality (Union Institute and University, 2002)
I am a licensed psychotherapist in California (MFT Lic #50312, and certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner), and my work outside the state is conducted under the title of Spiritual Counseling.
For more information on my approach,
read my Huffington Post Blogs on these subjects: