Welcome to my blog series Therapy Rocks! To celebrate National Psychotherapy Day on September 25, I have collected images of therapists’ counselling and psychotherapy rooms from around the globe. Gone are the days of the blank screen, these spaces reflect warmth, creativity and authenticity.
In Mark Pearson’s paper on Ideal Counselling Rooms, he shares,
“…Privileged through lack of restriction by a specified physical setting, counselling can be effective while counsellors and clients wander in a garden, sit on the earth, or walk by an ocean. For practitioners working in a more regulated organisational context, the counselling workspace has been reported as a factor that can influence the relationship between counsellor and client, as well as session outcomes.”
In his photo essay, Photographs of Psychotherapy Rooms, Dr Jose Ribas writes,
“The room itself plays an important role, as it becomes the physical “holding environment” where the therapist conveys to the patient that he or she is safe to explore those areas within him/herself that are threatening or causing distress.”
In the Sacred Cauldron: Psychotherapy as Spiritual Practice, Lionel Corbett says,
“When the therapist is aware that he or she is in service to the soul – and this attitude does not need to be spoken – the therapy room becomes the sacred space, the hour becomes sacred time, and the process becomes a ritual in the best sense of that word.”
Psychosynthesis Psychotherapist, Therapeutic Counsellor, Soul-Centred Life-Coach, Group Facilitator and Trainer in private practice on the Northern Beaches of Sydney and Disordered Eating Consultant to Nungkari Treatment Centre in Byron Bay. I am a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being.
Clients comment that they love my home office therapy space and how they feel safe and nurtured there. They enjoy talking to my two British Short Hair cats – who can often be found warming my therapy room chair! I chose a dusky purple for the walls – purple is known to be linked with inner power, balancing the mind and emotions, intuition and spirituality.
1) Like most therapists – I have a great bookshelf (or 3!) 2) There are Goddess, Inner Child and Inner Peace cards for self-care and reflective meditation for both personal and client use 3) My therapy clock 4) Meet Acute – I made this doll and I use it with clients for inner child work 5) Therapy Rocks! A blog series I started to promote the benefits of psychotherapy 6) Female deities & mythological figures collected from the many women’s spiritual retreats I have participated in over the years 7) Kimochis – these are great for developing emotional intelligence 8) A few years ago, I visited Vienna and the house and museum of Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis – this is a photo of the front door at Berggasse 19 9) My art therapy and art journaling station – clients can express themselves, make meaning through art and be as creative as they wish to be.
Body-Centered Psychotherapist at Austin Embodied Therapy in Austin, Texas. I specialize in working with trauma, adult children of alcoholics, and survivors of childhood abuse. My approach is Gestalt therapy, which assumes our bodily experience forms the base of our relationships in the world. I blend traditional talk therapy with alternative approaches, such as hypnotherapy, play therapy, and sand tray, into my work with adults and children.
When my clients enter my office space they are welcomed into a calming space with ambient lighting and Deuter softly playing in the background. Deuter combines acoustic and electronic elements with ethnic instrumentation and nature sounds. My clients share how relaxed they feel when they enter my office. My office is also the place where I write. In between clients I am usually writing. I am a blogger, researcher, and counselor educator, and feel that in order to truly appreciate my office space, you must appreciate the energy and space of me as a writer. My clients often ask me how my writing is going and are always interested in new books on Gestalt therapy. The books in the photos here are ones I read often. Some of the books that I must have nearby are books on trauma, the body, the breath, Gestalt therapy, and Gestalt play therapy.
For me, Gestalt is not only an approach to therapy, it is an approach to being alive and whole. Gestalt is a way of being in the world and I cannot describe my office space without an image of Fritz Perls. Lynnette Davidson, a colleague and dear friend who was a graduate with me at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, drew this beautiful print that reads, “She let herself be seen”. This piece of art has such sentiment value to me and my own growth and healing. This print often starts a conversation with clients about what it is like to be seen as a whole being, rather than only showing parts of our self that feels comfortable.
The focus of my practice is on embodiment. I believe it is through my embodied presence that I am able to establish a healing relationship with my clients. Without somatic awareness of ones self, one cannot be aware of the other. My clients enjoy beginning our sessions with an embodied presence exercise (e.g. body scan); some clients will even report when they are not in their body and ask for assistance to bring them back. I love my embodied space.
Psychosynthesis Practitioner, Clinical Support Worker and Author at StephanieSorell.Com. I am passionate about working with – and writing about – the spiritual dimension of life and the natural environment. My latest book, Depression: Understanding the Black Dog, is released this month.
I live in Cumbria in England and this is the view from my work space window… I’m looking at it now as I type! Each year V’s of geese migrate backwards and forwards across the reservoir. It is an amazing sound to hear them passing overhead.
Psychotherapist, Supervisor, Group Facilitator, Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator at Brave Therapy in Bondi and Mosman in Sydney. I am the first person trained in the Daring Way™ method in Australia and run groups based on the work of Brené Brown.
Many of the items in my therapy room symbolize hope and values, an extension of the Brené Brown, Daring Way™ work that I facilitate. The rocks feel really nice to touch and have happiness, hope, courage written on them. I also have crystals for their healing energy. I have lots of different textures, shapes and colours in the room to wake up the senses and to let clients feel nurtured.
Independent Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor with 10 years of professional helping experience, Master’s in Clinical Pastoral Counselling and Chief Operating Officer at Directions Counseling Group in Worthington, Ohio. I specialize in ADHD, trauma & PTSD, conflict & communication and parenting.
Directions Counseling Group was founded in 1993 and most of the therapists have been sharing space here for 5 – 15 years. We are pleased to have our clients benefit from a comfortable environment while receiving exceptional professional counseling services. New clients regularly define the space as warm, comfortable, inviting and friendly with exceptional customer service. I personally love the ambiance as well as the peaceful spirit that is evident in this place. Even when I’ve talked with potential independent contractors to join us they’ve complimented the space saying, “there’s just something special about this place” – and those of us who share this space know it.
Board-Certified Life Coach, Masters and CAGS in Holistic Counselling and Founder of Vast Horizons Center for Personal Growth in Yarmouth, Maine. My extensive training is in Psychosynthesis, a psychological approach that focuses on achieving a synthesis of the various parts of an individual’s personality into a more cohesive self. I have extensive experience in psychosynthesis guiding and working with individuals, couples and groups on the path of personal growth.
Set in Sparkawk Mill, Vast Horizons offers a supportive and healing sanctuary for those responding to the call of personal growth. What is meaningful in my office is the atmosphere of peace, acceptance and tranquillity, heightened by the sound of the river below. To watch and listen to the flow of the river, you can do so here.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, Supervisor and Founder of Growth Counseling Services, a private practice recovery centre located in Glendora, California. I am recognized nationally and internationally for my ground breaking clinical work with spouses and partners of sex addicts, as well as my work with male and female sex, love and pornography addicts. I co-authored the 5 star Amazon reviewed book, Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts and The Creative Clinician: Exercises and Activities for Clients and Group Therapy.
As a former interior designer, my deepest desire was to create a serene, calming space that was gender friendly. My clients share feelings of peacefulness and relaxation, some even compare our offices to a spa, which puts a smile on my heart :-).
Psychosynthesis Therapist, Life Coach and HeartMath Provider at ChristelAbbore.Com in Helsinki, Finland. I provide psychosynthesis therapy which is a modern and practical school of psychology where the will of the individual plays a central role. With the help of psychosynthesis we can access the potential in us that often goes largely unrecognized and unused. Through therapy we can learn to understand ourselves better and see why we behave as we do.
My therapy room is a studio apartment in a quiet location in Helsinki. My goal has been to create a tranquil, clear space free from clutter and distraction – a space that feels safe and welcoming and suitable for all. I feel I have succeeded in doing that. Many clients comment on how peaceful and welcoming it feels to enter the room. Although my office is located only about 3 miles from the centre of Helsinki, the surrounding is very quiet and the sea is about 100 yards away. Many clients choose to arrive early so they can take a walk before their sessions. I always have a white orchid in the room and I often use it to describe the process to my clients; it takes time for the bud to mature and bloom and so on. I also have a picture of a rose and a porcelain egg to symbolize psychosynthesis. I have some cushions and wool blankets for comfort and warmth. I use the space for writing as well as it is free from distractions.
Sabrina Bennardo, LCSW and myself, Jessica Marchena, LMHC founded the Heart Connection Center in Boca Raton, Florida. We named it Heart Connection because we are passionate about Healing Emotions And Relationships Together (HEART).
Our clients tell us that they feel relaxed and peaceful in our center. The minute they walk in the door and hear the music playing in the waiting room, they feel the stress release. We put our heart and soul into our remodel and into the decor to a create a warm and safe place for clients to come and talk about their relationship pain and improve their connection with themselves and their loved ones.
Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Clinical Supervisor and Certified Daring Way Facilitator-Consultant at AmyTatsumi.Com in Washington, DC. I specialize in working with women who are feeling stressed, alone, depressed, disconnected, or stuck in their relationships, careers and lives. I help them to reconnect with the people and the parts of their lives that matter most in healthy, meaningful, soulful and authentic ways. Our work together offers a continuum of verbal and experiential modalities, such as art making, sandplay, shame resilience, holistic and mindfulness to support clients to become unstuck. My other speciality is therapy for therapists.
My office in Washington, DC is filled with temenos. I became a partner in the suite in February and designed my office to flexibly meet the needs of clients. When clients transition from their hectic city life or career into the office, many remark on the soulful, elegant, and sacred feeling of the space. They particularly enjoy the full wall of windows with warm natural light (and fresh air when weather permits), the working fire place and are intrigued by the extensive Jungian sandplay collection (which was donated to my practice). As a continuum of offerings are held here from individual work to weekend group intensives, no space is wasted. Function, flow, and comfort are maximized from the 8 person working table with a sampling of art tools and media to the 8 seat sitting area. I support most clients in building resilience and self-regulation resources and one of the most favorite parts of the sandplay collection are the coin sized metal charms with varied textures used to explore part of the resource building in self-regulation and grounding. I am grateful and honored to be able to offer this space for clients to meet themselves in the midst of life’s joys and challenges.
Founder, Managing Director, Counsellor and Therapist at Nungkari Treatment Centre in Byron Bay, Australia. I am passionate about working holistically with people who are suffering with addiction and eating disorders.
What I love about our therapy space is the natural warm light that streams through the windows and the gorgeous view out into the natural surrounds. Listening to the birds chirping, the cows mooing and the sound of the creek flowing when it rains is so peaceful and calming. It feels healing just walking into the room; the smells, sounds, taste and feeling of being surrounded by nature touches people on a soul level. The books reflect a personal journey of healing; I love sharing these literary gems with others looking for recovery. Irvin Yalom and his graceful and humble approach to therapy guide me to this day. The chapter on Struggling by A.H Almaas should be given to every person in treatment and my favourite, Pema Chodron who puts meditation, self acceptance and compassion in simple terms and with such humility.
Marriage and Family Therapist working at HadleyCounselling.Com in Newberg, Oregon, located in the Willamette Valley. I work with couples, children and individuals with a variety of concerns including depression, anxiety, addiction, marital issues and trauma.
The chair is our “therapist” chair. My colleague, Margaret Fuller and I spent quite a while searching for just the right piece. Something professional, yet warm, that ties our office together and is comfortable to sit in hours per day! I love the style we chose. The art work was a something simple that was given to my colleague and felt like a positive message for our lobby. Plus the look fits our space and the bright frame brings texture to our shelf decor. We have a gorgeous view of the hills outside of Newberg from both of our offices.
We actually spent a while deciding the best way to orient the couch based on what view would be the would be the most soothing to our clients. We decided that the hills would be a great focal point. Many clients have mentioned it in appreciation. Our space on a whole is very warm and inviting. We tend to have a lavender scented candle going where clients walk in and a selection of teas and water. We try to keep track of exactly which tea clients usually choose and keep it in stock at all times. For the parents waiting, we have a wide variety if magazines to keep them occupied and an extremely comfortable couch that I have found several parents napping on more than once! Also, several of my clients have taken their shoes off and curled up immediately after coming into the session room, which I take as a huge sign of being comfortable in the space.
Licensed Marital and Family Therapist and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist at Hope & Healing Now in Franklin, TN. I work with people who are struggling with sexually compulsive behaviors or addictions. I also work with spouses or partners of addicts to help them understand intimacy issues and to assist them in dealing with the intense feelings of betrayal and confusion that often arise upon discovery.
This is a chair in my office with two pillows that I made using stencils. Clients love these words of affirmation. The pillows are comfy and easy to hug too.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Access Wellness Group, Adjunct Professor in the University of Kentucky, Consultant and Researcher in the area of child abuse and neglect. I enjoy working with: couples, including pre-marital counseling and post-divorce counseling, men’s issues, anxiety, depression, work-related problems and issues of spirituality.
I love this space in my therapy office because it has my three favorite things in it: my wife, music, and therapy books.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I primarily work with adults who have experienced childhood complex trauma. My specialization is working with parents who are raising a child/children who have experienced trauma as well as adults experiencing complicated grief. I am in the process of updating my website, in the meantime, you can follow me on Pinterest.
One of the things I offer is outdoor therapy – so here is a photo of my outdoor therapy “office”. It is Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, a beautiful natural area near where I live/work (in the Texas hill country, about an hour west of Austin) and where I do outdoor therapy with teen and adult clients. I have found that nature and the outdoors can be a wonderful complement to traditional talk therapy for many people who have dealt with the effects of complex trauma their whole lives. What I have noticed is that being outdoors seems to: promote mindfulness (without me even having to facilitate that – the beauty of nature just pulls people naturally into the present moment), connects people to a sense of being an integral part of something larger and more powerful than themselves, encourages healthy risk-taking (like if a person is worried about coming across wild animals), provides a sense of calm and peacefulness, promotes physical movement, promotes child-like curiosity and playfulness (such as spontaneously wanting to splash in a creek along a trail). I use nature and the outdoors sort of like a therapeutic co-leader (whether it’s individual or group). For instance, I once took a group to watch a bat emergence (we have lots of those where I live) during a time of year when the bats would soon be migrating south for the winter. So that gave us a springboard to begin talking about transitions in a general sense, and then the group took off from there.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor at AprilForella.Com in North Palm Beach, Florida. I am an experienced child & family therapist specializing in low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, ADHD, divorce/blended family issues, forming and maintaining healthy relationships, past trauma, as well as those engaging in negative behaviors.
My clients are welcomed into a calm and warm environment. As you enter my office suite, you hear the sounds of the ocean, and see the reflection of sea glass that is softly lite. My office is located just minutes from the beach. Quiet and comfortable, filled with warm tones of sand, blue and teal green. My desk chair is hand painted by a local artist. The children are fascinated by the sea glass. I love my office space and so do clients.
Counsellor & Psychotherapist at Indigo Therapies in Penrith CBD, Australia. I am a registered nurse, qualified teacher and a practicing counsellor and psychotherapist specialising in bereavement. I help adults, adolescents, children and families who are suffering with grief and loss. I work with them to find a sense of empowerment and to breakthrough and rediscover the joys that a full and rewarding life has to offer.
Clients love the vibrant colours I have used in my practice and are entertained by quirky objects around the rooms. I love these spaces, where heart, head and emotions meet. I have a warm and cozy consultation room where clients meet with me to talk. There is also a dynamic, spacious room where emotions meet creativity – this is where my Angel Album and The Art of Journaling workshops are conducted. An Angel Album workshop is for people who have suffered the heartbreak of the death of their child/grandchild. Memories are precious – it’s a workshop where you create a beautiful memory book to keep mementos, that will become a family heirloom (photo bottom left).
Family Therapist and Owner of Geelong-based Watersedge Counselling. I work across a broad range of issues with a particular interest in how early experience of family informs the way we connect in the context of present relationships.
1) The Tree of Life features as a reminder that when we grow our roots deep beneath the surface of life, we become grounded, secure and productive 2) The strength and value of connection, relationship and community is highlighted by the Circle of Friends 3) The bottom left image sits above a couch and is entitled ‘Storm in a Teacup’ – a reminder of the way anxiety can blow things out of proportion, clients frequently identify with the image 4) Tree of Life.
Clinical Social Worker at Debbi Carberry Counselling and Psychotherapy in Kenmore in Brisbane’s western suburbs. I specialise in systemic therapy with families, couples and children.
1) I have butterflies on one of my clinic windows – a window full of them – they symbolise the challenges of life and the miracle of change 2) A beautiful figurine purchased for me by my darling husband – it was made by a clinical social worker who moved from her clinical work to sculpting …. Its beautiful! 3) My dry sandtray – I do lots of symbolic work and have two trays in my room – one wet – one dry – I love this kind of work 4) I have a large bookcase in my clinic filled with many books on the issues I work with.
Clinically Trained Psychotherapist practising relational psychotherapy, couple & relationship therapy and coaching at MelissaFerrari.Com. As a specialist in the field for over 15 years, I have worked with many people to help them live more fulfilling and happy lives. I help transform people by working with them individually in private practice and in my one day or two-day weekend retreats.
I consider my therapy office to be a beautiful and sacred space that brings me alive, keeps me centred and supports my work in service of both couples and individuals.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Creative Insights Counselling in Redlands, CA. I specialize in working with LGB and Trans individuals – or people for whom society’s labels are inadequate – individuals hoping to transition into their most authentic selves. I also love working with college students, older adults and people struggling with anxiety. Sometimes all these categories intersect and show the true diversity of the human spirit!
My office has a very fresh, relaxed feel, with light shades of yellows and grey, with pops of green that are a bit surprising! I love the contemporary yet comfortable vibe of the office. One of the key features in the office is the Starfish Portrait. The idea for the starfish piece comes from The Starfish Story, which I’ve included. To me, the story represents how each of us has the capacity to touch the lives of others – one person at a time. This is true for both therapist and client, and for that reason – the piece is not only beautiful, but a true representation of the power of psychotherapy.
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.” The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Supervisor and Trainer at ReneeBeckMFT.Com. I provide dreamwork, transpersonal counseling, therapeutic tarot, clinical consultation and supervision in Oakland, CA.
My office provides a sanctuary to reflect on the play of light & dark, joy & pain, that together create the beauty that exists in life.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at MeganBearce.Com. I specialize in supporting clients in a super commuter relationship, overwhelmed women, and gifted girls. My writing and speaking engagements are about the issues faced by women, couples who find work demands are keeping them apart, the gifted community, and I enjoy working with people who have a hard time asking for help. I am the author of Super Commuter Couples: Staying Together When A Job Keeps You Apart.
My office feels safe and comfortable – like a living room versus a doctor’s office. I chose a soft green wall color and love the view of nature out the window. I filled the office with plants and photos of lakes to bring nature inside. The books are ones I most recommend to clients. The art work I have chosen has such a great message to empower clients to move forward towards the goals they have for themselves – “We can choose…”
Accredited Mental Health Social Worker at Mima Counselling Services in Menai, Sydney. For 20+ years I’ve been honoured to share many individual and family stories of change, growth and healing, and I look forward to welcoming many more.
Feedback from my clients is that my space feels cosy and is a safe talking space.
1) A dear friend gave me the dolls house – many different family and relationship situations have been ‘played-out’ within these dolls house walls 2) The puppets and sand-tray/figurines enable children to tell their stories and try out new ideas 3) I use the ‘Seriously Optimistic’ cards for opening deep conversations. The imagery and symbols on these cards can be so powerful and can take the therapeutic conversation right where it needs to go 4) The doll bed and bath set gets enormous use and on the bookstand is one of my most favourite books, The Invisible String. The paper roll gets used for family time-lines and art therapy 5) The Therapy Tree door sign is very special as my son helped me design it based on the parent/child inter-twined tree trunk on a small statue my late father gave me. The name ‘Mima’ has a history too… it was a name given to me a long time ago by an Aboriginal family/community. They told me it means ‘guiding star’. I feel I honour them by using this as the name for my practice.
Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker, Certified Story Play Practitioner and Registered Play Therapist Supervisor at Play for Children in Kansas. I work primarily with military dependents and their families.
I enjoy the space because it feels like I am coming home when I enter. It feels whole, sacred, warm, and safe in my space. Clients typically talk about it being a safe place to come and do what they need to do.
The sand tray room is actually the collection of three of us. Two of my mentors have retired and I acquired their collections to use in my practice. I love to see the healing that takes place in there, but I really love to see clients discover things on their own and then make changes or work through the process of healing.
Check out more therapy offices and creative spaces on my Pinterest board,
Have you got a link to your office space that you would like to share? What do you make of these rooms? Feel free to comment below.
This post is part of my Therapy Rocks! series.
Sydney Counsellor, Soul-Centred Life-Coach and Psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
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You can find an edited published version of this post at PsychCentral.
By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
“Every month we put practitioners on the spot — figuratively known as the clinician’s couch — and pick their brains about everything from the trials and triumphs of working with clients to how they healthfully cope with stress.”
Jodie Gale is a qualified therapeutic counsellor, soul-centred life-coach and Master’s trained psychosynthesis psychotherapist who specializes in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. Along with her husband, their two children and two British Short Hair cats, Jodie lives on the Northern Beaches of Sydney in Australia. She currently balances being a full-time stay at home mother with a part-time, evening and weekend, home office, private practice.
1. What’s surprised you the most about being a therapist?
Just how much I have learnt from my clients!
I sit with the most resilient, courageous, interesting and creative people out there. Through their stories and by doing this work, I learn about the world, history, human nature, relationships and myself on a daily basis. I feel a deep sense of gratitude to be allowed into my clients lives and to engage with them in such an intimate, meaningful and soulful way.
2. What’s the latest and greatest book you’ve read related to mental health, psychology or psychotherapy?
I am presenting alongside Dr Anita Johnston at the Sydney EatFed Eating Disorder Conference in August so I am currently researching psychosynthesis texts.
I am loving, Depression as a Spiritual Journey by author, poet, spiritual counsellor and psychosynthesis psychologist Stephanie Sorrell. Stephanie has suffered with depression for most of her life so she brings both personal and professional experience to her writing. Her book challenges the prevailing mindset around depression as a mental illness and provides the reader with an alternative view – that we don’t need to just help, fix or cure depression, rather, we need to be with and find the value, meaning and purpose of it. This books holds a hopeful context for not only working with depression but with other concerns such as addiction, anxiety and eating disorders.
3. What’s the biggest myth about therapy?
That people who go to therapy must be mentally ill, diseased, disordered or just down right crazy!
Many people come to therapy to heal from longstanding, deep-rooted problems and trauma. Others come because they need to find help in dealing with day to day concerns that arise out of being human. For some, they come not because they have problems but because they want to get to know themselves better and live a richer, deeper, soulful, more meaningful life.
Ultimately, therapy is about building healthy relationships with self and others.
4. What seems to be the biggest obstacle for clients in therapy?
Many clients come looking for a quick fix to what are usually deep rooted and long-standing emotional, psychological and spiritual issues. Due to earlier wounding, many clients struggle with poor self-esteem/self-worth and at the beginning of their therapy, they usually don’t believe they are worth the time, effort and money that therapy requires. Letting go of whatever it is that they are using to numb their pain, rage and shame, and moving towards a place of trusting the therapist is often the biggest obstacle at the onset of therapy. As a therapist, I hold trust, faith and hope until they are able to own these qualities for themselves. Ultimately, clients need to allow themselves time to trust and heal.
5. What’s the most challenging part about being a therapist?
Whilst it has numerous advantages, for me the most challenging aspect is the isolation of working from home in private practice – I miss office lunches and parties!
It is also challenging being a sole trader and having to be an accountant, a website designer, a marketing manager and content creator – alongside being a therapist.
6. What do you love about being a therapist?
When clients first arrive at my door – their lives are often full of chaos and they are frequently drowning in a sea of despair, suffering and a sense of hopelessness. I love witnessing overtime how they grow, blossom and transform their lives.
7. What’s the best advice you can offer to readers on leading a meaningful life?
One of my favourite books of all time is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning . Ultimately, Frankl suggests that we cannot avoid suffering in life but even under the most difficult circumstances, we can derive a deeper meaning from it.
Rather than trying to eradicate your suffering, welcome it with open arms like you would a guest who has come to stay for a while. Treat it with acceptance, compassion and empathic love. Engage and build deep relationship with it. Ask, ‘what is the value, meaning and purpose of this suffering?’ This will help you to find value, meaning and purpose in life.
8. If you had your schooling and career choice to do all over again, would you choose the same professional path? If not, what would you do differently and why?
One of the most life changing times in my life was when I lived and worked as a housekeeper at Ballingtaggart House in Dingle in Ireland. There has been a resident wild dolphin called Fungie living in Dingle Harbour since 1984 and I was fortunate enough to swim with him every morning before work. I started swimming with him in the early nineties and on my first ever swim, I encountered what Maslow termed a ‘peak experience’ – it catapulted me out of addiction and disordered eating into recovery and my own journey through therapy. It is a long-held dream of mine to incorporate therapy and swimming with wild dolphins in some way.
9. If there’s one thing you wished your clients or patients knew about treatment or mental illness, what would it be?
From a holistic and psycho-spiritual perspective, symptoms are not so much considered mental illness as they are soul sickness.
I love this quote by Geneen Roth in Women, Food & God,
‘…your eating disorder [or addiction, anxiety or depression for example], is an attempt to fix something that has never been broken.’
This is an alternative way of thinking that turns the dominant disease, illness and medical model on its head.
So…just because you feel broken, it doesn’t mean that you are. At the core, you are whole and unbroken but for whatever reason, your true self has had to go into hiding, usually as a way of protecting itself. Psychotherapy provides a space whereby you can discover and awaken to who you really are; a soulful being with the immense potential for inner peace, balance, love and so much more!
10. What personally do you do to cope with stress in your life?
I have been in and out of my own therapy since before I started my training to become a psychotherapist. Therapists are human, we all have issues and I see that it is crucial that I work through my own ‘stuff’ so that I don’t project this onto my clients. I also think it is important to have personal experience of the modalities and the techniques that I use. Over the years I have worked with psychosynthesis, gestalt, Jungian, art, couples and group therapists. I am currently working with a therapist who specializes in mindfulness.
For my day-to-day self-care, I love to:
– art journal and recently participated in the Brené Brown Art Journaling Course
– take long-hot-mindful baths. I love the essential oil recipes in The Enchanted Bath
– my husband and I often take the kids for a Sunday morning bush or coastal walk
– dance. I used to dance 5 rhythms in the UK and have recently found a facilitator in Sydney
– get away on women’s retreats for self and spiritual development
(Photo credit: PsychCentral)
This blog is part of my Therapy Rocks! series.
Sydney counsellor, soul-centred life-coach and psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
This weekend, I had the privilege to be one of the first therapists in Australia to attend Brené Brown’s, The Daring Way™ . This workshop was facilitated by the first practitioner in Australia to become a certified Daring Way™ leader, Andi from Brave Therapy.
“The Daring Way™ is a highly experiential methodology based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown. The method was developed to help men, women, and adolescents learn how to show up, be seen, and live braver lives. The primary focus is on developing shame resilience skills and developing a courage practice that transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. It can be facilitated in clinical, educational, and professional settings and is suitable for work with individuals, couples, families, work teams, and organizational leaders” (Brave Therapy).
Andi runs workshops for those interested in self-development as well as for professionals in the health and well-being sector.
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this work and won’t give too much away – you’ll have to check it out for yourself 😉 . Next practitioner training dates here.
Sydney counsellor, soul-centred life-coach and psychotherapist Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
I share some of the things that I am passionate about, why I became a counsellor & psychotherapist , how I believe people change, the hopeful and soulful approach that I use and what to expect in your first counselling session. Check it out here.
This blog is part of my Therapy Rocks! series.
Jodie is a therapist who has a passion for working with women and the issues that women experience throughout their lifetime. Jodie also uses an approach called psychosynthesis, which she explains in her responses below.
I have a background in women’s health and provide therapeutic counselling, life-coaching and depth psychotherapy to women who are looking for emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. The types of women who come to see me range from ages 18 to 70+, come from all walks of life and a variety of career and cultural backgrounds.
I currently balance being a full-time stay at home mother to two young children with a part-time, evening and weekend, private practice in Allambie Heights and Manly on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
In the early nineties, I was working at a new age bookstore and crystal shop in Covent Garden in London, when I discovered a book called Swimming with Wild Dolphins. That day, I zipped out at lunch time and booked a flight to Dingle, a small fishing village on the South West Coast of Ireland where Fungie, a wild bottlenose dolphin had made his home. I continued to swim with him for 15 years, but it was this first encounter that I had what Maslow called a peak experience. In many ways, my spiritual awakening shone the light on the darkness that I had been living with for most of my life.
I returned to London and so began my self-development journey through many women’s workshops and then weekly, long-term psychotherapy sessions. The unconditional love and acceptance that I received from my therapist helped me to heal my early childhood wounding, chronic low self-worth, addiction and disordered eating.
In 1998, I attended an open evening at The Institute of Psychosynthesis in London, participated in their four day Fundamentals, then submerged myself in their Foundation Year; predominantly for my own self-development. Having worked through my own suffering, I felt that I had something to offer others and decided to train firstly as a therapeutic counsellor, then as a psychotherapist.
Nowadays, I consider myself to be aligned with what Jung called, a wounded healer of the soul.
I believe that people are more able to engage their will, make healthy choices and change when they have a lived experience of altruistic love, acceptance, empathy, kindness and compassion. All of these spiritual qualities make up a large part of the therapeutic relationship and are internalised by the client over the period of their therapy. It’s really about finding harmony and balance between love (feminine energy) and will (masculine energy).
A large chunk of the therapy is spent helping people to redirect their life energy towards identification with their authentic self (that has for whatever reason had to go into hiding) and disidentification from the false self, subpersonalities, defence mechanisms and the maintaining cycles that have been keeping them stuck and unhappy. Getting in touch with anger (which has often been turned against the self or perhaps swallowed down) is also useful for freeing the will to make changes.
Many women today are tyrannized by punitive and harsh internal voices resulting in self-loathing and self-hatred – so as a way of sustaining change, we work a great deal in therapy building self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-love, self-worth and a self-care program. When people are being kind and taking care of themselves, it is hard to stay stuck in old and self-destructive ways that are no longer serving their well-being.
The soulful, holistic and integrative approach that I work with is called psychosynthesis. It was founded by Italian psychiatrist and neurologist, Roberto Assagioli MD, who was a colleague to the likes of Freud, Jung and Maslow. He was a pioneer in the field of humanistic, transpersonal and spiritual psychologies and was way ahead of his time (early 1900s), by integrating mindfulness and spirituality into western psychological disciplines. Today, there are schools all over the world with psychosynthesis practitioners leading the way in areas such as mindfulness and neuroscience as well as revamping national health systems and addiction treatment centres with the psychosynthesis holistic and psycho-spiritual approach.
Psychosynthesis as a modality, is loved by both therapists and clients because of the hopeful context that is held. If someone is suffering with addiction, depression or an eating disorder for example, and they are being told, ‘once an addict, always an addict’ or, ‘you are suffering with a mental illness, disorder or disease and you will need to manage that for life’; many people find this doesn’t fit for them and this labelling adds to the sense of hopelessness that they may already be experiencing. From the first session, clients hear, ‘even though you may feel or think this way right now – you are not broken, diseased or in need of a cure. At the core, you are whole and unbroken and we’ll work together in a way that you can begin to realise and actualise this wholesome way of being’. One of my favourite quotes to support this is by Geneen Roth, ‘your eating disorder [for example] is an attempt to fix something that has never been broken’. This way of thinking and working turns the dominant disease, illness and medical model on its head.
Psychosynthesis is therefore non-pathologising and each individual is viewed by the therapist through what we call bifocal vision; ‘the client as a Self, a being with a purpose in life and with immense potential for love, intelligence and creativity…also as a personality, an individual made up of a unique blend of physical, emotional and mental characteristics’ (Whitmore, 2000, pg. 70). For example, someone suffering with an eating disorder is often immobilised by their identification with the body. When they hear, ‘you have a body but you are more than your body’ – they often see themselves clearly for the first time. This provides hope and motivation to change unhelpful thoughts and behaviours in addition to providing a context for the work.
Although clients report feeling better and start to make changes within the first few sessions, psychosynthesis psychotherapy is not a quick fix, or, a come when you feel bad kind of therapy. It is a process of self-awakening, a journey of the soul and a (re) discovery of who the person was always meant to be!
Being in therapy, the client will often have one of the most intimate, important and life changing relationships they will ever experience. So, from my perspective, the first session is a space for them to assess whether I am the right therapist or not.
As a way of discovering the context and emerging purpose for the work together, I ask what we call in psychosynthesis, the golden questions:
Then I ask the super golden question, ‘what makes your heart sing?’ as much of the work is about helping people get in touch with value, meaning and purpose in their lives.
Clients are usually nervous and may have perceptions of therapy that are true or false (most TV therapists spring to mind here!), so I talk about how therapy works and the methods that we may use: talking, self-reflection, dream work, visualisation, meditation, journaling, art therapy and homework. We also discuss boundaries, policies and the working contract – this includes ethics and confidentiality, risk of harm, fees and cancellations, consistency of sessions, review sessions, borrowing books from my library, social media and their choice to end therapy.
At the end of the session, many people report experiencing a sense of catharsis at having talked about something that has been deeply shameful and troubling to them for a significant amount of time.
I am passionate about my own self and spiritual development. Some workshop highlights over the last fifteen years have been a Jungian/Indigenous women’s retreat in the South of France called Women, Power, Sex & Soul, a Marion Woodman Body/Soul Retreat in New York, Day Soul Spas in Sydney with the Soulful Woman and conferences with Anita Johnston, author of Eating in the light of the moon and Linda Bacon, author of Health at every size. In the last few years I have also seen live, some of my long standing, female role models: Oprah at a taping of the Oprah Show, Geneen Roth in New York launching her latest book, Lost and found: unexpected revelations about food and money and recently Brené Brown talking live in Sydney about The Power of Being Enough.
Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist + Eating Psychology Specialist, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. Over the last 20 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private supervision, counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly, Allambie Heights and Frenchs Forest on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!
I am often asked about the difference between a psychotherapist and other helping professions.
For many years in Australia, funded psychological services have been monopolized by what Yalom calls, symptom focused, pathologising and medically orientated approaches. Whilst appropriate for some people, these masculine based approaches are not suitable for everyone.
Increasingly, people are looking further afield than GP mental health care plans and making a choice to pay privately so that they can have a broader range of choice regarding their preferred practitioner and treatment style.
The clients who come to my private practice are looking for a more holistic and soulful approach to their health and well-being as well as one which is evidence based and firmly grounded in western psychology; a balance of both masculine and feminine energy.
There is an increasing base of evidence which confirms what practitioners and clients of psychotherapy have known for years – psychotherapy really does work.
Clients report healthy lifestyle changes after just a few sessions and many see a significant difference in their lives within three to six months. Psychotherapy is a soulful approach to healing which provides long lasting change and resolution of the pervasive, underlying issues that continue to impact on life and relationships. Psychotherapy sessions are at least once a week.
There are many different schools (psychoanalytic, humanistic, existential, transpersonal, somatic, Buddhist, psycho-spiritual etc) and standards of psychotherapy training range from Degrees, Post Grad Diplomas and Master’s degrees. Most psychotherapists work in private practice integrating a multitude of techniques and theories.
Psychotherapists, who have had a classic and rigorous training, would have trained to the equivalent of degree level for at least four years and sometimes up to eight years. Psychotherapists trained at this level are also required to have a significant amount of their own personal therapy per year (approximately 40 sessions per training year) and usually group therapy throughout the duration of their training. This means that they have ’walked the path’ similar to that which their clients will be journeying along. This is one of the most important aspects of any helping profession training. Underpinning change in psychotherapy, is the use of transference and countertransference within the therapeutic relationship. If the psychotherapist is not using this, they are more likely providing counselling, not psychotherapy.
PACFA registered psychotherapists in Australia are required to have a certain level of training, supervision and clinical hours under their belt before they are accredited.
Counsellors work in a wide range of fields. Counselling normally focuses on a specific issue and tends to be more short-term work, from 6 sessions to 6 months (longer for therapeutic/psychotherapeutic counsellors). Counselling works best when it is consistent and attended weekly.
There are different standards of training for counsellors. Some train for a few hours, some for up to four years and at Master’s degree level. The three main types of counsellors are:
Therapeutic and psychotherapeutic counsellors are able to work at greater depth, using the transference, countertransference and the therapeutic relationship, and usually with a wider range of issues (UKCP).
Some counselling programs require their trainees to participate in their own counselling and some do not. PACFA registered counsellors in Australia are required to have a certain level of training, supervision and clinical hours under their belt before they are accredited.
A life coach works to help clients maximize their potential. The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has (ICF).
Coaches can gain qualifications through short online courses or at greater depth through private coaching organisations. Coaches often learn counselling skills, however, they are not trained in psychotherapy. Many psychotherapy, counselling and psychology trainings contain coaching components.
The ICF requires members to have a certain level of training, supervision and clinical hours under their belt before being accredited.
Social work’s primary focus is on the social determinants of health. Social workers advocate for social change. They take a holistic view of health and well-being and they work towards maximizing human potential (AASW).
Social workers often work in the fields of child protection, family welfare, youth, women’s and refugee services, hospitals and increasingly in private practice. In Australia, a Bachelor of Social Work takes four years and students are not required to participate in their own clinical social work, counselling or psychotherapy sessions. Social workers who provide psychotherapy in private practice should have a post qualification in clinical social work (US) or psychotherapy.
AASW registered social workers in Australia are required to have a certain level of training, supervision and placement hours under their belt before they are accredited.
Psychological theory underpins all helping professions. All of the above have elements of psychology within their training.
Psychology is predominately a medically orientated model which often focuses on diagnosis and symptom reduction of mental illness. Psychologists also use scientific methods to study the mind and human behaviours. They work in many fields: research, health and welfare services, government departments, academic institutions, education, corporations, marketing, training and development and in private practice (APS).
Many psychologists provide cognitive behavioural therapy. Psychologists providing psychotherapy should have a post qualification in clinical psychology or psychotherapy. Psychologists are not required to participate in their own clinical psychology or psychotherapy sessions.
Psychiatry is a medically orientated model. It involves the study of medicine and then training in mental and psychiatric illness. A psychiatrist can prescribe medication.
Training in psychiatry sometimes includes depth psychoanalytic psychotherapy, however, there is an ever increasing focus on prescription based psychopharmacology. If you feel that a psychiatrist is the professional best suited to you, find one who also specialises in talk therapy. Alternatively, participate in psychotherapy alongside taking medication – this will help get to the root of the problem.
The latest evidence shows that psychotherapy works better than medication alone for symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
NB. Training standards vary from country to country. Please check with the appropriate associations and federations for the requirements of where you live.
Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She has qualifications in psychotherapy, social work, therapeutic counselling, eating psychology coaching and has extensive experience and training in psychology and psychiatric illness. Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy and works in private practice in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?…Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do….And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love.
When we hear about the defense mechanism known as repression, we usually think about repression of dark energies; those that are present in our lower unconscious such as painful thoughts, feelings, memories and experiences.
In a ‘Psychology of Love’, John Firman and Ann Gila suggest that ‘under the threat of personal annihilation, significant sectors of our ability to experience pain and suffering are split off from ongoing awareness’. They describe these as a ‘disowned range of experiences most directly related to the pain of primal wounding – experiences such as anxiety and disintegration; lack of meaning and self in the world, feeling lost, trapped, or buried; isolation, abandonment, banishment, feeling overwhelmed, helpless or hopeless; emptiness or hollowness; despair, shame and guilt.’
Furthermore, Firman and Gila write that there is something else that cannot be held by a non-empathic early environment; our greatness and our gifts are also disowned and repressed as a form of protection. Their work is based on that of Roberto Assagioli – a pioneer of the humanistic and transpersonal movement and founder of psychosynthesis. He recognised early on that just as we have a lower unconscious, we also have a higher unconscious. This means that not only do we repress dark energies, we also repress our higher and spiritual impulses such as a sense of community, service, wisdom, love, compassion, empathy, will, creative, artistic and scientific inspirations and activities as well as other innate spiritual drives such as a call towards value, meaning and purpose in life. Repression of the higher unconscious and associated transpersonal qualities later became known as ‘repression of the sublime’; a term coined by French psychotherapist Robert Desoille.
Frank Haronian PhD in, ‘The repression of the sublime’, says that we often fear the challenge of personal growth and avoid taking responsibility for our lives because it means abandoning the familiar and the known which results in feeling anxious. Another, and perhaps the most disconcerting, is the fear of one’s own greatness.
Not only do we fear being envied or labelled as having ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ but a major issue we experience when we repress the sublime is how we project our greatness onto others; we envy them for being ‘brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous’. Haronian affirms this by stating that ‘we are in necessary conflict and ambivalence over these same highest possibilities in other people.’ We adore, idolize and idealise skinny, beautiful and talented (or not so talented) celebrities, models and other ‘great’ people. At the same time we hate, loathe and envy them because they have what we want (or not as the case may be!). They hold for us our light and dark projections that we cannot see, bear or own in ourselves.
There is a saying in the recovery movement, ‘if you spot it you’ve got it’. Recognising our sublime in others is a perfect way to begin to re-own the repressed, denied and split off parts of ourselves. So the next time we experience that hook, we need to stop for a moment and reflect, ‘what am I projecting onto this person?’ and ‘what do I need to own in myself?’ Is it my beauty, compassion, love, empathy, greatness or worth?
Once we start to become aware of our projections, it pays to take action. There is nothing more painful to our well-being than the self-betrayal of waking up but continuing to ignore our brilliance. Assagioli says it very clearly, ‘what we repress controls us’ and Jung, ‘what we resist persists’. It brings great detriment to repress the sublime – the higher, deeper and spiritual Self will nag and pull at us until we acknowledge its presence and allow it to be expressed for the common good of the whole (Sewell, 2005).
Assagioli, Roberto MD, (1965), Psychosynthesis, Thornton Press
Firman, John & Gila, Ann, (2010), A psychotherapy of love, State University of New York Press
Haronian, Frank PhD, (1967), The repression of the sublime, Psychosynthesis Research Foundation
Sewell, Marilyn, (2005), Repression of the sublime, UUWorld.org
Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She is a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist practising in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia
Are you feeling lost or disconnected?
Does something keep getting in the way of where you want to go with your life?
Would you like to know yourself at a deeper level?
Are you looking for value, meaning and purpose in life?
Would you like change in 2013?
It is only 5 weeks until the new year! Now is the perfect time to have some life coaching sessions to set you up for your new year’s goals.
Using guided visualisation – you will connect in a symbolic way with your deeper source of understanding and inner wisdom.
Some of the themes we will explore together are:
You can experience ‘Live Your Life with Purpose’ as a 3-hour one off experience ($275pp) or for a deeper exploration, over 6-12 weekly sessions ($90 pp per session). This offer is available to purchase until 25th December, 2012.
Life-coaching makes a wonderful gift to yourself or for friends and family. It is perfect for individuals or for a small group of family members and/or friends. Gift certificates are available.
The following session times are available before Christmas:
Saturday 1, 8, 15 December at 11.45am
Saturday 1, 8, 15 December at 1pm
Sunday 16 December at 9-12pm
Business as usual in the new year if you would prefer to start then.
Many of us have felt deep emotional, psychological and spiritual suffering at some stage in our lives. And most of us could do with someone to talk to. Yet a recent Australian study through UNSW found that only a third of people with psychological problems sought counselling or psychotherapy. This is a major concern considering “Australians reported significantly higher levels of psychological distress in 2012, with nearly a quarter (22%) of respondents reporting moderate to severe levels of distress this year (APS, ‘Stress and wellbeing in Australia in 2012’). The World Health Organization suggests that 350 million people worldwide suffer from symptoms such as depression, yet only 20% receive treatment.
As I wrote in my last post on National Psychotherapy Day, ‘it often takes a life-threatening health scare, a rock bottom or major life crisis before seeking and committing to therapy.’ There is far less stigma when we visit the doctor for physical complaints than there is going to a therapist for our emotional, psychological and spiritual concerns. How often do we hear, ‘I’m going to be late for work, I have a therapy?’ Rarely, if ever!
The American Psychological Association suggests that a lack of understanding about what is involved in psychotherapy, attitudes in society, a lack of recognition of the effectiveness of psychotherapy and the growth of the psychopharmacology industry (medication) are some of the contributing factors to the stigma attached to therapy. Another area of concern comes from within the helping professions via stigmatizing labels, language, medical diagnoses and the pathology of everyday emotional, psychological and spiritual concerns.
Diagnoses of symptoms that supposedly point to mental illnesses and/or mental disorders can be really helpful for some people but for many of us, disease and symptom orientated labels for what is essentially a response to trauma, are experienced as limiting and as a reduction of our wholeness. For others, diagnoses can lead to self-perpetuating behaviours and a sense of having no will or choice. Noah Rubinstein from Goodtherapy.org proposes that being diagnosed in such a way suggests that we are fundamentally flawed at the core. He argues that we are not.
The medical model which uses this style of language is the underlying model in the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ (DSM-IV, 1994). It is used extensively in psychiatry and has crept into many psychological approaches. Widespread criticism of the medical model for everyday emotional, psychological and spiritual concerns, suggests that it perpetuates stigma and reduces us as humans to one dimension of our being. It also doesn’t allow for the ordinary diversity that exists among us (Encyclopaedia of Mental Disorders).
The latest edition, the DSM-V, is the topic of further criticism and debate, some of which is coming from within the school of psychiatry itself. Psychiatrist Allen Francis warns us that if the latest version is published as it is, it will lead to the medicalization of normal human emotions.
A major problem with one dimensional treatment is whether our concerns are being intervened and cared for, at the right level. There is widespread criticism regarding symptoms such as depression being treated only at the physiological level through medication, when in many cases, the underlying motivation for the depression may be a loss of hope, value and meaning in life – all of which are considered spiritual concerns. Likewise, using a ‘fix it’ or ‘get rid of it’ approach to our symptoms can fail to address our wholeness. Their limitation is rooted in the fact that they primarily focus on parts of who we are, for example our thinking or our physiology, and not our whole self.
In many cases, symptoms such as depression, anxiety, addiction and eating problems – but to name a few – are not in need of a ‘cure’ or a ‘fix’. Rather, they are sought to be understood as a call from the deeper or higher Self towards transformational growth and realization of our wholeness, inherent goodness, worth and beauty. Symptoms often subside once the underlying cause is worked through and integrated.
When our symptoms and their underlying messages are missed by using one dimensional treatment, it can lead to symptom switching or the symptom may become exacerbated. Another problem is ‘revolving door syndrome’ and is widely recognised within the Medicare Mental Health Plan system. It is not that medication or certain techniques used such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) aren’t useful or necessary – they are at times – but they don’t address our innate wholeness and the whole story.
In Australia, government funded counselling, psychology and psychotherapy services have long been dominated by these medically orientated approaches. They provide us with little choice in regards to the psychological approach and the therapist of our liking. Master psychotherapist, Irvine Yalom, calls these kinds of treatment approaches ‘economically driven, perforce symptom orientated, brief, superficial and insubstantial…’
When we are reduced to our symptoms we are being pathologized i.e. we are seen as psychologically abnormal. A fear of being equated with our diagnoses and labelled as faulty, broken, sick, diseased, mentally ill or mentally disordered can perpetuate stigma.
A holistic and soulful approach takes into consideration all of who we are. We are first and foremost a Self, whole and unbroken at the core. And…we have a personality, otherwise known as the ego. When we are not seen or heard, or when we have suffered emotional, psychological and spiritual wounding and trauma, our life energy – or what we call in psychosynthesis, our will – can become trapped in maintaining cycles of addiction, illness, depression and so forth. This is the cause of much suffering.
From a holistic perspective, the psyche (soul) consists of body, feelings, mind, sexuality and spirituality. Therefore, many of the above concerns would be classed as soul sickness, not as diseases, mental or psychiatric illnesses: all terms used within the medical model.
Psychotherapy, from this perspective is therefore seen as a sacred space where we tend to, and take care of, the soul.
In psychotherapy, courageous and creative soul work happens. We are not broken, fundamentally and irreparably flawed. We go to therapy because we have deep wounds and trauma that need healing. If we are going to fight the stigma that still exists around entering into psychotherapy, we need a whole person approach and a softer,warmer, feminine and more soulful language that reflects the actual work that takes place inside the therapy space.
This blog is part of my Therapy Rocks! series.
Sydney Soul-Centred Psychotherapist + Eating Psychology Specialist, Jodie Gale, is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. Over the last 20 years, Jodie has helped 100s of women to transform their lives. She has a private counselling, life-coaching and psychotherapy practice in Manly, Allambie Heights and Frenchs Forest on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Jodie is passionate about putting the soul back into therapy!
Welcome to my new series, ‘Therapy Rocks!’ For over 10 years, I have had the privilege of witnessing people from all walks of life become more authentic, grow and transform their lives. In conjunction with my personal experience of therapy, there is an ever increasing base of evidence highlighting the benefits of short and long – term counselling and psychotherapy. These specific disciplines are effective and can provide long lasting change for a wide range of experiences such as anxiety, depression and many other emotional, psychological and spiritual concerns. Despite this, recent research suggests that most people are less inclined to spend money and time on their psychological well-being as they are on other areas of their lives. It often takes a life-threatening health scare, a rock bottom or major life crisis before seeking and committing to therapy. Yet many of these experiences can be avoided by seeking help sooner rather than later.
Today, September 25, is National Psychotherapy Day in the United States. The National Psychotherapy Day is sponsored by Goodtherapy.org and was created by a non-profit organisation called the Psychotherapy Foundation.
Founder of the National Psychotherapy Day, Clinical psychologist Ryan Howes suggests that there are several problems that psychotherapy has:
– Stigma remains for those who seek therapy.
– The media presents a distorted view of therapy and therapists.
– Psychotherapy has no unified, active promotional campaign.
– Low-income counselling options are sparse, underfunded, and overwhelmed.
– People aren’t aware of therapy’s proven, lasting effectiveness.
Over the coming months I will be writing about some of the above topics and hope to shed some light on all things therapy. Who knows…by this time next year, we may even have our own National Psychotherapy Day.
Other blogs from National Psychotherapy Day 2012: http://www.nationalpsychotherapyday.com/blog.php
This blog is part of my Therapy Rocks! series.
Jodie Gale is a leading specialist in women’s emotional, psychological and spiritual health and well-being. She is a therapeutic counsellor, life-coach and psychotherapist practising in Manly and Allambie Heights on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.