body-oriented psychotherapy

Teaching the course on body-oriented psychotherapy brings up a host of interesting thoughts, ideas and feelings in my mind and body!

It is a commonly held notion that psychotherapy does not involve touch. And for the most part, as in the way it is practiced by most psychotherapists it does not involve touch. Also the few psychotherapists that do use touch may not do so in all their sessions or even with all their clients.

The use of touch in psychotherapy is a very sensitive issue and not to be undertaken in a flippant manner. It needs to be approached carefully and considerately, recognizing and honoring the client’s boundaries.

I have found touch to be a powerful tool esp. when clients are very emotional. I have found that when clients are crying and/or grieving, they feel comforted when I place my hand gently on their back.

I always, but always, only use touch when I have taken permission from the client. And in each instance of using touch that is to say if a client gave me permission once, it does not mean that it is a blanket statement. So each time that I feel called to use touch I check in with them. If I am using touch in a different way or on a different part of their body I check in or inform them. If for any reason it gets uncomfortable I take a step back, always making sure that they feel in control of how much or how little touch they are getting.

Since I often feel in my body what the clients are feeling in theirs, I use those cues from my intuition to guide me in where and how to use touch. This ability comes from having done a lot of personal work, and by developing intuition through various meditation techniques and from the blessings from God and my Gurus.

Do I recommend that other therapists use touch? Only if they feel comfortable doing so and feel called to do it. I do recommend that they not be scared of ever using touch in psychotherapy, but also to use it with great care and sensitivity. Touch can be very soothing and healing and it is a powerful way to form a connection and build rapport.

In certain cases it can also be very provocative and in that case it is a judgment call on the therapist’s part, whether they consider it in the best interest of the client to elicit the material or not. Very often in the case made against the use of touch, it is said that clients’ who have undergone sexual abuse or molestation definitely should not be touched in any way. In my experience that has not always been true. These clients often also have a hunger for the good touch and respond very positively to respectful touch. And respectful, validating touch can become a tool to challenge their narrative about touch as well as their self-worth.

To conclude i quote the abstract of an article by Ofer Zur Ph.D. http://www.zurinstitute.com/touch_standardofcare.pdf

The question of touch in therapy has been debated since the inception of the field early in the last century. The main concern about physical contact in therapy has focused on the sexually exploitative therapists and the concern that a client may interpret touch as having sexual intent. Ignoring years of clinical and developmental research, many risk management experts, traditional psychoanalysts, consumer protection agencies, insurance companies and malpractice attorneys have promoted the notion that any touch beyond a handshake is clinically inappropriate, unethical or below the standard of care. Drawing on the faulty slippery slope theory that even appropriate boundary crossings are likely to lead to boundary violations, they assert that even scientifically proven, appropriate and clinically helpful touch is likely to lead to unethical, sexual touch. The aim of this paper is to clarify the relationship between professional, therapeutic touch and the standard of care. To achieve this goal the paper defines the standard of care in psychotherapy, and details the elements of the standard and articulates what the standard is and is not. It then briefly reviews the clinical research on touch in therapy and identifies the different types of touch employed in therapy. The paper then articulates, in detail, how non-sexual, clinically appropriate and therapeutic touch falls within the standard of care of psychotherapy and counseling. Additionally, the paper discusses issues, as they relate to touch in therapy, of theoretical orientation, codes of ethics, risk management, differences between sexual and non-sexual touch, and it reviews the idea of the slippery slope. Finally, the paper outlines how therapists, who appropriately use touch in therapy, can demonstrate compliance with the standard of care.

My ideal client

I welcome whoever walks in through the door. I prefer working with highly functional people. My ideal client is interested in self-growth and personal development.

You are living a good life and are interested in what makes you tick, you are intrigued by the working of your own psyche and may even be interested in what lies beyond the realm of body-heart-mind. You are interested in investigating the soul/spirit and question what current scientific thinking is unable to fathom. You may have a holistic perspective and want to broaden your range of acceptance and compassion. You are looking for ways to live in alignment with your higher values and your goals are to live with integrity, love, peace and joy.

You are aware and have a full life, but still find something missing. You may be feeling stuck in certain areas of your life. Or outwardly you might seem to be okay, but inwardly you might feel empty, lacking in direction and focus. You may have some PTSD symptoms or suffer from occasional depression and/or anxiety, or find yourself in a challenging relationship, or be looking for a renewed purpose and meaning in life. You are open to looking at your symptoms as a gateway to go deeper to a place of greater self-acceptance and nurturing. You are willing to work on dropping old patterns that do not serve you anymore. You want to change and even transform yourself and need support and guidance with that. You need the therapist to see your blind spots and reflect those back so you can proceed further in a more efficacious way.

You would benefit by gaining a better understanding and clarity of your inner functioning, of what behavior and attitudes you learnt where, and possibly glimpses of what lies beyond your conditioning. You may benefit in terms of being able to create the life that you want and to accept what cannot be changed eg. other people in your life! However as you change your own attitudes and behaviors you could find that others respond to you differently too.

Who am I? I am an old soul, currently in this human journey with you. I play the role of a female therapist of color with a double Master’s degree, who loves to enable people to become more aware of themselves in a loving and compassionate way.

Why do I practice psychotherapy? Because I am passionate about self-awareness and about enabling people to live from their core of love, peace and joy.

How do I do it? Mostly intuitively- which involves being aware of my own responses and reactions to what is present in the room, holding space with awareness and compassion, being flexible and tuned into my clients’ feelings and being able to reflect back what I observe, as well as being creative in finding interventions and dropping what does not seem to work.

I am the best person for the job because I am stoked by my work. I think it is a privilege to get to know people at such an intimate level, and to accompany you on your journey of becoming better acquainted with your inner dynamics and to be non-judgmental of whatever might emerge. I have done years and years of self-work, both through psychotherapy and through meditation and hence I am best suited to do this form of work.

Why should I go to therapy?

You: I am an intelligent person and I can figure out my problems. Why should I go to therapy and pay someone to give me advice about my own life? How can anyone know me better than myself?

Me: I agree with all that you have said. And I want to point out that sometimes we have some blind-spots that not even the most self-aware person can see. It helps then to have someone who is very interested in you, and in the dynamics of your psyche to show you what those blind-spots might be. Also getting help when you need it is the intelligent thing to do. Just as you need to go to a cardiologist when you have physical heart problems, it helps to go a psychotherapist when you have issues with mental or emotional health.

You: Well other people around me can tell me what my blind-spots are. Why should I go to a therapist?

Me: True, people around you can tell you a lot about yourself too. If you have those kind of relationships in your life, where you can trust people to say the truth, without any intention of hurting you. Great! That is wonderful. I will add that even the best-intentioned people have their own dynamics with you, since therapists are paid professionals they are trained to keep their biases out of the way and to serve you fully. Also more often than not they do not give you advice, but listen in a way that helps you sort out what all you are thinking and the different layers and aspects of your thinking and feeling.

You: But that will only show me that I am confused or have many different things to consider. If you are not giving advice then how can you help?

Me: That is the beauty of therapy. The therapist listens in such a way that by reflecting back what they hear and by asking the right kind of questions, you come to a place of clarity and understanding.

You: So what kind of questions are these?

Me: The kind of questions that allow you to drop deeper in to your process, that allow you to discover aspects and sides of the issue that you may not have considered before. They ask the kind of questions and/or observations that allow you to make connections between what you said earlier and what you are saying now. They make the kind of observations that bring the sub-conscious processes into your conscious awareness, so you can integrate them better.

You: I am not sure if I want to know what is in my sub-conscious. If it is not coming into consciousness than there must be a good reason why it is there, so why rouse the sleeping dogs? Isn’t there some such proverb?

Me: Yes, I believe there is a proverb like that. The gain from uncovering the sub-conscious material is that once it comes into consciousness it no longer has a hold on you. You can choose how you want to handle it once it is in your awareness.

You: I am guessing that the reason it was put into the sub-conscious was that it was too painful. Will not all that pain come up then? So why pay someone money to rake up old pain?

Me: Yes, sometimes painful memories might get dredged up. But being in therapy helps you to process them and work through them so they no longer have control over you. They are only memories, they belong to the past and the therapist can help you to lay them to rest and make your peace with the past and move on in a lighter, freer way.

 

Welcome to the layers of self!

hello world,

recently a new born baby entered the world in our extended family and i am starting this blog, my baby. this is an adjunct to my website layersofself.com

that is the name of my private practice as a psychotherapist. i work with people and help them to help themselves resolve or at least deal with their problems and issues. often they learn a great deal about themselves and their inner and outer worlds.

i enjoy my work as i am interacting with people at a rather intimate level. they share their innermost thoughts and feelings, not always right from the first session first we need to get to know one another a little. then we need to establish trust and build rapport.

often my clients want others in their world to change and they think if only the other would change i would be happy. i am no different in that respect. But one learns that i am responsible for my happiness, no one else. wishing and wanting the other to change is just going to keep me stuck in my old patterns. once i/they recognize that and are willing to make the changes in their own thoughts and attitudes therapy flows more smoothly.

it is not all easy going from then on by any means, but the basics have been established. there are ebbs and flows as with any other process.