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The Healing Power of Sound Intensive Meditation Experience

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Crystal Singing Bowls Mind/Body Connection

Healing Pathways is very excited to bring you the crystal bowls to bring balance to your mind, body, and spirit. The bowls are pure crystal and tuned to specific frequencies and chakras to enhance the meditator’s experience, taking you deeper into meditation. Most ancient cultures used the magical power of sound to heal and to bring the body back into resonant balance. Regardless of your level of meditation practice, the crystal bowls will assist you in reducing stress, anxiety, and pain, promote happiness, peace of mind, and help you hear the music of your life-purpose.

Come and learn to open up to your deeper wise self while resonating with the healing sounds of the crystal bowls. Regardless of your level of meditation practice you will be able to experience a richer grounding, healing and/or connection to your higher source. Mindful practitioners of all levels are welcome to come and enjoy this unique meditative experience. Feel free to bring a blanket and pillow for the meditation portion of the program.

Given her background in evidenced-based healing models, Dr. Leona Kashersky is presenting this ancient practice of crystal singing bowls, chakral system theory, rhythm and mantra meditation with the modern principles of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). This fusion of past, present and future is sure to enhance your inner work of integrating your heart and mind at a serene location provided by Healing Pathways.

Stay Tuned! Next event date to be posted soon!

For registration call: 916-595-7233
Email soundhealinghpps@gmail.com for registration details
Cost $140 3 hour instruction and experiential didactic.

 

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Join Healing Pathways Psychological Services at the 2017 Healing Arts Festival!

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The Healing Arts FestivalHAF-Favicon, originally called Intuitive Healing Arts Festival, was created back in 1999 and has always been a place to find top quality psychics & healers, new thought, and ancient traditions. We pride ourselves on having the best of the best in the metaphysical and holistic community and continue to expand with new offerings. The spiritual journey is exciting. At the Healing Arts Festival, we respect all seekers as they travel their paths. The Healing Arts Festival is a forum to discover resources for your journey of personal growth. We create a safe and uplifting environment, and have zero tolerance for immoral interpersonal behavior or business practices.

spiral in natureThe Spiral is seen in nature, art, and ancient culture. In 3 dimensions it is known as a helix and can be seen in our DNA or the galaxy. The spiral symbolizes our spiritual journey from healing and rebirth into wisdom and compassion. It leads us from ego consciousness to cosmic awareness, from the inner world to the outer world, and represents the ever expanding consciousness.

About The Owner/Producer:

Prasanna Hankins

Prasanna Hankins is a healer and entrepreneur in the metaphysical community. She is a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda and has been practicing and teaching his healing techniques for over 10 years.

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Mental Health Access and Equality: 3 Steps to Freedom!

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Mental Health Access and Equality: 3 Steps to Freedom!

By Dr. Leona Kashersky, PsyD

 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as many as one in five Americans will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives. This report is likely an underestimation of how many Americans experience mental health challenges during a lifetime. Of the nearly 60 million Americans who experience mental health concerns each year, many will never seek treatment for a variety of reasons including social stigma, cultural norms, and lack of access. In fact, a recent report published in the journal Psychological Science and the Public Interest found that an estimated 40% of individuals with serious mental health concerns either never receive care or start an intervention program without completing it.

The stigma surrounding mental health issues can be a significant barrier to care. Unfortunately, many people unknowingly contribute to the stigma simply with their everyday language choices. A poor choice of words not only stigmatizes, stereotypes, and creates unrealistic assumptions about certain people, but also can trivialize serious mental health conditions and their accompanying experience. As we move forward into a more enlightened future where mental health access and needs are considered just as normal and standard as the need to address a flu or more chronic physical health challenges, let’s dream of this brighter and more hopeful world together here!

In this new and more beautiful world our hearts know is possible, we would accept mental health hygiene and seeing professionals as part of living a normal and healthy life. Acknowledging and discussing symptoms wouldn’t be secretive or shame-based. Just as our communities gather to support those with physical illness, we would gather to do the same for those with depression, anxiety, and neurological differences. We would have more open dialogue about how this gathering would look different because the needs of these individuals are different than those suffering from flu or other chronic physical health challenges. This more beautiful world would allow us to come together armed with education and support to face life’s most challenging mental health setbacks without the shame and judgement we often face in our world today.

In this more beautiful world our health plans would adequately cover inpatient and partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient programs. All of us would have access to appropriate levels of care when we need it. Communities and families would know how to embrace and integrate individuals who are struggling with appropriate and supportive boundaries. Substance abuse treatment would be easy to access and affordable, saving countless lives. If we really want this beautiful new world, we can begin this journey by taking 3 simple steps.

  1. Accept what is! All of us need mental health maintenance. All of us grieve. All of us suffer. It IS the human condition. Let’s accept it and help each other.
  2. Suspend judgement! Judging ourselves or others in their mental suffering only serves to extend the duration of suffering. LET GO of the should’s and other criticisms.
  3. Dream of the life you want and believe it is possible! Imagine how you will feel when this happens. Allow yourself to experience the full emotion and somatic sensation of those emotions. Allow your mind to fully appreciate all that is there for you.

These steps will allow you to magnetize to your ‘More Beautiful World’ tribe. This community will be the seeds to this more beautiful world in our hearts we all know is possible. These roots are already growing and taking hold, so let’s keep dreaming together. We are manifesting our hearts desire and creating a new reality together!

 

References:

  1. Corrigan, Patrick. (September 4, 2014). Stigma as a Barrier to Mental Health Care. Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved from: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/stigma-as-a-barrier-to-mental-health-carhtml
  2. Mental Health America. Mental Health Information. Retrieved from: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/mental-health-information
  3. Eisenstein, Charles. (November 5, 2013). The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. North Atlantic Books.
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The Healing Power of Sound

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The Healing Power of Sound

Photo credit: Blue Heron Crystals and Minerals

by Dr. Leona Kashersky & Nicolina Santoro, MA

The crystal bowls can assist in reducing stress, anxiety, and pain, promote happiness, peace of mind, and help you hear the music of your life-purpose.

The next class is on May 27th at Healing Pathways Psychological Services. 

For registration call: 916-595-7233
Email soundhealinghpps@gmail.com for registration details
Cost $140 3 hour instruction and experiential didactic

Please enjoy the following snapshot of some of the theory and practice used in the facilitation of sound healing at Healing Pathways! 

The Chakra System, in yogic practice

The seven chakras, in the yogic tradition are the centers in our bodies in which life sustaining energy flows through.It is thought that blocked energy in our seven chakras can often lead to illness, so it’s important to understand what each chakra represents and what we can do to keep this energy flowing freely.

The Chakras In Summary

  • Root Chakra — Represents our foundation and feeling of being grounded.
  • Location: Base of spine in tailbone area.
  • Emotional issues: Survival issues such as financial independence, money and food.

 

  • Sacral Chakra — Our connection and ability to accept others and new experiences.
  • Location: Lower abdomen, about two inches below the navel and two inches in.
  • Emotional issues: Sense of abundance, well-being, pleasure and sexuality.

 

  • Solar Plexus Chakra — Our ability to be confident and in control of our lives.
  • Location: Upper abdomen in the stomach area.

Emotional issues: Self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem.

  • Heart Chakra — Our ability to love.
  • Location: Center of chest just above the heart.
  • Emotional issues: Love, joy and inner peace.

 

  • Throat Chakra — Our ability to communicate.
  • Location: Throat, just above the collar bone.
  • Emotional issues: Communication, self-expression of feelings and the truth.

 

  • Third Eye Chakra — Our ability to focus on and see the big picture.
  • Location: Forehead between the eyes (also called the Brow Chakra).
  • Emotional issues: Intuition, imagination, wisdom and the ability to think and make decisions.

 

  • Crown Chakra — The highest chakra represents our ability to be fully connected spiritually.
  • Location: The very top of the head.
  • Emotional issues: Inner and outer beauty, our connection to spirituality, wonder, and pure bliss.

 

EMDR 

EMDR is an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, a tool to process traumatic experience. EMDR works through bilateral neural stimulation or brain stimulation to integrate traumatic material. The singing crystal bowls create a sense of bilateral stimulation, while the meditation focuses on reprocessing, and altering core belief patterns. The bilateral processing is not only possible using the eyes; we can use sound, touch, and movement of any bilaterally moving body parts with a split timed rhythm. Some psychologists conceptualize EMDR as a form of ‘Exposure Therapy’, desensitizing people to traumatic material and thus relating it to exposure therapy. A more accurate description would be that it integrates the traumatic material.

“Memories evolve and change. Immediately after a memory is laid down, it undergoes a lengthy process of integration and reinterpretation—a process that automatically happens in the mind/brain without any input from the conscious self. When the process is complete, the experience is integrated with other life events and stops having a life of its own. As we have seen, in PTSD this process fails and the memory remains stuck—undigested and raw.” ~ by Bessel Van Der Kolkata, M.D. In The Body Keeps the Score chapter entitled Letting Go of the Past: EMDR

 

Three summarizing factors about EMDR:

  1. EMDR loosens up something in the mind/brain that gives people rapid access to loosely associated memories and images from their past. This seems to help them put traumatic experience into a larger context or perspective.
  2. People may be able to heal from trauma without talking about it. EMDR allows them to observe their experiences in a new way, without verbal give-and-take with another person.
  3. EMDR can help even if the patient and the therapist do not have a trusting relationship. This is intriguing because trauma, understandably, rarely leaves people with an open, trusting heart.

 

 

Physiological and Therapeutic Effects of Drumming

Recent studies have shown physiological benefits to drumming meditation practices such as, the reduction of the physical symptoms of anxiety, stress, the body’s immune system, brainwave activity, dual cerebral hemisphere activation, and connection with the present moment.

Because of the deep sense of tranquility that the act of drumming facilitates within the Central Nervous System, the effects of stress, and the accumulation of trauma stored within our cellular memory can be processed and integrated through this non-confrontational and deeply personal act even in group settings. This form of mindfulness based attention has also shown to activate the cells themselves, allowing for deep trauma to be released from cellular memory with little interference from the mind’s protective measures and defenses as the trauma is engaged and released by group participants. The chemical messengers of the brain or neurotransmitters reinforce this practice by stimulating alpha wave activity, inducing feelings of well-being and happiness.

The shared experience of drumming in groups is observed to facilitate a shared space of connection and consciousness among its members, alleviating common feelings of isolation, social fear, and inhibition.

Drumming seems to provide a platform for people to experience religious or spiritual connection through a universal practice that has been used by all cultures in some form or another. Through this connection, a space is created to access the deepest parts of our human condition.

 

 

References

  • The Body Keeps the Score science grounding in sound, breathe, and movement as a healing modality. Bessel Van Der Kolkata, M.D
  • R. Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion and the Making of Consciousness (New York: Random House, 2000) 28
  • K. Holzel, et al., “Mindfulness Practice Leads to Increases in Regional Brain Grey Matter Density,” Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 191, no. 1 (2011): 36-43.
  • K. Holzel, et al., “Stress Reduction Correlates with Structural Changes in the Amygdala,” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 5, no. 1 (2010): 11-17.
  • W. Lazar, et al., “Meditation Experience Is Associated with Increased Cortical Thickness,” NeuroReport 16 (2005): 1893-97. Pesso
  • N. Demos, Getting Started with Neurofeedback (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005).
  • J. Davidson, “ Affective Style and Affective Disorders: Prospectives from Affective Neuroscience,” Cognition and Emotion 12, no. 3 (1998): 307-30.
  • J. Davidson, et al, “Regional Brain Function, Emotion and Disorders of Emotion,” Current Opinion of Neurobiology 9 (1999): 228-34.
  • Bittman, M.D., Barry, Karl T. Bruhn, Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC, James Westengard, Paul O Umbach, MA, “Recreational Music-Making, A Cost-Effective Group Interdisciplinary Strategy for Reducing Burnout and Improving Mood States in Long-Term Care Workers,” Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, Fall/Winter 2003, Vol. 19 No. 3/4.
  • Winkelman, Michael, Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing. Westport, Conn: Bergin & Garvey; 2000.
  • Bittman, M.D., Barry, “Composite Effects of Group Drumming…,” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine; Volume 7, No. 1, pp. 38-47; January 2001.
  • Winkelman, Michael, Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing. Westport, Conn: Bergin & Garvey; 2000.
  • Friedman, Robert Lawrence, The Healing Power of the Drum. Reno, NV: White Cliffs; 2000.
  • Mikenas, Edward, “Drums, Not Drugs,” Percussive Notes. April 1999:62-63.
  • Diamond, John, The Way of the Pulse – Drumming with Spirit, Enhancement Books, Bloomingdale IL. 1999.
  • Winkelman, Michael, “Complementary Therapy for Addiction: Drumming Out Drugs,” American Journal of Public Health; Apr 2003, Vol. 93 Issue 4, p647, 5p
  • Mikenas, Edward, “Drums, Not Drugs,” Percussive Notes. April 1999:62-63.
  • Friedman, Robert Lawrence, The Healing Power of the Drum. Reno, NV: White Cliffs; 200

 

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Using Meditation to Tame this Mind of Ours

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 Using Meditation to Tame this Mind of Ours

family yoga on the beach at sunset

 

By Nicolina Santoro, MA

Mahayana Buddha, the progenitor and prophet of the middle way, had encapsulated an entire philosophy into short, clear directives. “Commit not a single unwholesome action, Cultivate a wealth of virtue, To tame this mind of ours; this is the teaching of all the Buddhas” (Rinpoche, 1993). Meditation is part of the practice of taming the mind. Often described as the still mind, or still waters of the mind, meditation appears to be a kind of martial art for one’s thoughts. To even begin to feel the stillness of mind that comes with the practice of meditation, one must endure the onslaught of thought as it runs through the beginning meditator’s mind rampantly. Even more interesting, is the realization that this pattern of thought is a regular occurrence in the mind. Meditation highlights the never-ending barrage of thought, as the student tries to negotiate the noise to a place of quiet within the mind (Fontana, 1992).

Meditation is actually a common practice among many different platforms of faith, although called many different names throughout time, but the goal of calming the turbulence in the mind remains the same. The practical applications of meditation have far reaching benefits to those who suffer from a variety of illnesses. Mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and manias have all shown to be positively affected by the regular practice of meditation. Some of the therapeutic benefits of regular meditation practice include enhanced self-esteem, reduction in feelings of hopelessness and depression, and a sense of spiritual connection (Lindgren & Coursey, 1995).

Since the mind, by its various sense mechanisms can create and maintain a subjective reality, one seems to be at the mercy of the mind and its myriad of emotional states of being. Thoughts create emotional experiences based on the electrical impulses that send messages to various chemical centers to whip up recipes for certain emotional states. These emotional states hold tremendous power over self-efficacy, and emotional well-being. Most people have had the experience of having a “bad” day, or a lack of desire to get out of bed. These types of feelings and their sources are often overlooked by people experiencing them, as the emotional tide they create has a strong influence in coloring one’s perceived reality. Over time, the continuing pattern of similar emotional states can create long-term relationships between neurons in the brain. In other words, relationships between a thought and the subsequent emotional state that the thought triggered become a learned response with different chemical markers for different emotional states (Berger, 2006).

Meditation is the act of awareness, noting a thought as it travels through the mind’s eye, rather than grabbing on to it for dissection. It is in the act of dissection that the emotional response is created. A sort of fixation then occurs, making it very difficult to regain a sense of calm detachment which is the focus of the meditation practice. Observe, but be not of the waves of thoughts that roll through the ocean of conscious awareness, and breathe which is certainly not as easy as one might think.  Buddhism imparts that suffering, and dis-ease are certainly inevitable in life however, there is an opportunity for personal transcendence in the observation rather immersion in this state of suffering  (Rinpoche, 1993). A meditation posture is grounded, comfortable yet deliberate. One may elect to sit on the floor with legs crossed in front of them, arms relaxed and poised comfortably in the lap, eyes closed. One then begins to notice their breath, every inhalation and exhalation is noted in the awareness space. As this practice begins, the mind seems utterly flooded with thoughts, worries, randomness, and chaos. However, through each breath, the subject becomes accustomed to the flow of thoughts which become a sort of background noise, and the central focus of breathing creates an altered or trance like state in the consciousness of the meditator. This altered state of being allows the meditator to observe self from a place of detached compassion which is the place of mindfulness that the Buddha described (Rinpoche, 1993).

Common mistakes that people make when entering into the practice of mediation exists in the misapplication of the quiet mind concept. The term is slightly misleading. The mind, it seems, is never truly quiet. Thoughts run constantly because the mind is always taking in information, processing it, encoding it, retrieving it, and deciphering it. The stillness of mind exists in the unfettered observance of this process. Unfettered meaning that one never holds on to, or tries to single out the thoughts as they steadily move through conscious awareness of the subject. As meditation becomes familiar to the mind itself, the thoughts no longer control the emotional state of the meditator, and stillness is observed by a state of total acceptance, and symbiosis  (Fontana, 1992).

The meditation process has been reported to be difficult, and even frustrating to those who are new to the experience, but long term benefits have also been relayed by those who were able to get through the frustration, and experience the trance-like state where feelings of calm and clarity exist. Meditation as a response and treatment for stress is now common advice from health practitioners even in the west because of the positive impact it has on the central nervous system (CNS), (Fontana, 1992).  The effect that mediation has on the body is noted further in the American Psychological Association’s book entitled Integrating Spirituality into Treatment. Meditation lowers respiratory rate, heart rate, and brain wave states, placing the body in a state of rest which is very helpful in dealing with chronic anxiety. Meditation has also been used frequently in the redirection of addictive behavior because of the altered state that it can enhance bio-chemically. In behavioral and cognitive behavioral types of therapeutic interventions, meditation is also useful in the reprogramming of negative thinking, through the natural change in thought patterns that are facilitated by the practice (2006). 

Research conducted by Lindgren & Coursey, published in 1995 shows a strong positive correlation between the use of meditation practice and increased feelings of well being among those who suffer from severe forms of anxiety and depression.  Those who are being treated for more severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have also reported positive cognitive effects on mood and self-esteem (Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, Vol. 18(3), pp. 93-111). These trends can enhance the level of care that practitioners bestow upon their clients, giving them the tools to help alleviate some of the distress associated with negative automatic thinking, placing some of the control back in their hands with regard to better self-care.

Self-care is something that even mental health practitioners overlook for themselves. In the mental health fields, burn-out among therapists and social workers is high. The culprit seems to be a lack of self-care and over extension according to the (APA). Regular meditation practice can also help alleviate the stress that in the field of mental health seems almost inevitable to its practitioners. Self-care processes that the (APA) advocates include the awareness of the levels and types of stress in the practitioner’s environment, case load management, outside support networks, and extra-curricular activities that promote a sense of health and well being. A professional support network, boundaries, and realistic expectations upon the self are also highlighted as areas to which the practitioner should attend for optimum results. The clarity that accompanies regular meditation can also invigorate a flagging practitioner, providing a sense of calm and clarity toward the greater good of all concerned (American Psychological Association, 2006).

 

References

American Psychological Association. ed. by Miller, W.R. (2006). Integrating Spirituality into Treatment: Resources for Practitioners. Washington: American Psychological Association.

Berger, K. S. (2006). The Developing Person. New York: Worth Publishers.

Fontana, D. (1992). The Meditator’s Handbook. Rockport: Element Books, Inc.

Lindgren, K., & Coursey, R. (1995). Spirituality and Serious Mental Illness: A Two-Part Study. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 18(3), 93-111. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Rinpoche, S. (1993). The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

 

 

 

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A Series of Writings for Clinicians on Common Factors Research and What Promotes Change in Couple and Family Therapy Part 2

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A Series of Writings for Clinicians on Common Factors Research and What Promotes Change in Couple and Family Therapy

Part 2

by

Jason Briggs, MA

JBII

(photo credit: www.shutterstock.com)

What motivates a client to change and what are the processes therapists can use to help?

 

In the last writing, in this series on Common Factors research, the discussion was on aspects of two Common Factors used to promote effective outcomes in therapy.  They were client factors and therapist factors. These two Common Factors will be addressed in this second writing as well, along with how they interrelate with a third Common Factor called the therapeutic alliance, all within the Stage of Change known as Contemplation. I will also discuss what some of the change processes I use are and how they are also supported by Common Factors researchers. I will begin with what Common Factors researchers find is essential to Motivational Interviewing, since this was not discussed in my last post. Again, as with all my writings on Common Factors, I am reviewing three Common Factors researchers’ work, authored by Douglas H. Spenkle PhD, Sean Davis PhD and Jay L. Lebow, PhD, referencing information found in their book Common Factors in Couple and Family Therapy, The Overlooked Foundation for Effective Practice.

Motivational Interviewing has elements that when brought together in the context of our clients’ lives, can help therapists join with clients, inviting them to engage in and explore change in whatever Stage of Change they might be experiencing. Common Factors researchers contend and I agree with them, that “within the Motivational Interviewing approach there is no such thing as an unmotivated client. There are only therapists that are out of sync with a client’s motivation” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). So, working systemically, it is often the case that each member in an individual, couple or family system, is in varying Stages of Change and thus motivated at different levels with the different issues they might wish to address. Common Factors suggests part of the therapist role is to shift homeostasis within an understanding of each person’s motivation and the there are five principles to consider, to help us form a better connection with our client and help them move through whatever Stage of Change they are in. We can “(1) express empathy, (2) develop discrepancy, (3) avoid argumentation, (4) roll with resistance, and (5) support self-efficacy” (Miller and Rollnick, 2002) (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). These five principles are suggested to fall into three broad therapeutic alliances, which therapists can use three interventions within each stage and they are: “(1) building motivation for change, (2) strengthening commitment to change, and (3) the follow-through (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). So what exactly do Common Factors researchers know about the value and importance of these five Motivational Interviewing principles?

“Unpacking” what these Motivational Interviewing principles ignite in our clients, is a great way to motivate therapists to learn these concepts both intellectually and experientially with their clients. As noted above, these Motivational Interviewing principles inherently ask each therapist to embody a sort of attitudinal stance in therapy that helps facilitate a client’s movement toward change. They are (1) expressing empathy and is particularly effective with client ambivalence and is promoted by a listening stance and abandoning a superior/inferior stance, typically embodied by telling a client what meaning we give to their story. Common Factors researchers describe the Therapists’ Alliance in this way: (to be) “a supportive companion and knowledge consultant, (rather) than a forceful instigator of change” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). (2) Developing discrepancy, the second Motivational Interviewing principle is reflected in understanding that most, if not all humans’ emotional and psychological pain exists in direct proportion to the disparity/discrepancy between where they are now and where they want to be, “and when they know better, they will do better” ( BJ Davis, 2012). Common Factors researchers point out, “Depending on which Stage of Change the client is in, the therapist focuses on gently amplifying the discrepancy that is already there (for those in contemplation or preparation stages) or developing a discrepancy (for those in the pre-contemplation stage)” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). Here, we see an emphasis on the therapist knowledge about the Stage of Change in general and needing to know where one’s client is in terms of each Stage of Change and on differing issues, exploring the likelihood of a client having varying levels of motivation to change depending on any given issue and the Stage of Change the client is in with each issue. (3) Avoiding argumentation is the third principles used in helping a client experience the motivation to change. Expecting a client to embrace a certain protocol type therapy, a label, etc. is one way an unsuspecting therapist can invite arguments  against, instead of for change (with us or within the client and likely both). Helping to understand a client’s point of view regarding their preferences in therapy, how they have experienced labels, even “mental health issues” can be one way we can allow their meaning to be held up to unequivocal predominance and then join with the meaning our clients make about how they identify this meaning, amplifying, and reflecting it to them. Closely related Motivational Interviewing principle (4), rolling with resistance, which is an essential facet of Motivational Interviewing and the idea of accepting and not rejecting a client’s ambivalence to change. Emphasis is placed on joining with the client not on any particular interventions, trusting a solution will, if acceptance is present, naturally emerge within the client in the space created for them to explore their problems. This assumes an intention on behalf of the therapist, which trusts the client has their own answers within them, assuming a stance of psychological and emotional safety around any issues the client is considering facing. If the therapist achieves this stance and creates emotional safety for a client to explore what they need, want, and are willing to do based on the clients view, their therapist is seen as an “enlightened witness” (Alice Miller, 97). Supporting this safe emotional and psychological space means supporting the next principle in Motivational Interviewing, (5) supporting self-efficacy, the belief that a client can change and unless this empowering attitudinal stance is demonstrated by the therapist in relationship with their client, “a discrepancy crisis is likely to resolve into defensive coping (e.g., rationalization, denial) to reduce discomfort, without changing behavior” (Miller, 1995, p.5) (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).  

The therapeutic alliance, another essential Common Factor, will be given its proper weight in understanding how client and therapist factors unite within the processes of change during the Stage of Change known as Contemplation. The therapeutic alliance is defined by Common Factors as both/and, what it is, and what it is not. “It is collaborative. The alliance can be misunderstood as a quality that the therapist brings to the client. However, the alliance is fully interactional and systemic, an operation between one or more clients and the therapist (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).” This is a foundational therapeutic Common Factor. It establishes emotional bonds between a therapist and a client to form a connection and assists with providing effective outcomes in therapy. So, helping a client see choices for healing that the therapist sees the client may identify with and find helpful is only half of the picture, the other half is seeing what our clients are contemplating and helping them negotiate the changes they seek to make within all the Stages of Change and processes of change they are in and viewed as meaningful. Stated in another way, “On more careful examination, (our) successful alliance formation is better viewed as a dance in which everyone participated as the alliance co-evolved between the clients and the therapist” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). I will add that a felt understanding by the therapist of the clients’ worldviews are essential, along with a sense of therapist “okay-ness” about the clients’ interactions within the therapy room. These perceptions and interactions the therapist has in turn, will impact the client in therapy, whether the client is in therapy with their family, in a couple, or individual unit of treatment. When the therapist creates psychological and emotional safety in the relationship to their clients’ ambivalent interactions, and helps the client contemplate what it might be like doing inner work using certain stage specific processes of change, the client will reveal more of their ambivalence and ideas to contemplate that which will promote change.  

In the Stage of Change known as Contemplation, clients are intending to act “within the next six months.” (Prochaska, 1999) (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).  Clients seeking to make a change in this stage are expressing discontent with their problems, want to overcome it, want to see themselves living a life without their problems, but also see why they shouldn’t try to change. Clients in Contemplation “are not very good candidates for behaviorally focused, action-oriented programs. Their motivation is not yet at the level where they will put all of their heart into behavioral change efforts. They are better suited for more passive insight-oriented approaches that help them explore their problem, weigh the pros and cons of changing and so forth” (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009). Like in the previous Stage of Change the suggestion for this stage is to continue to weigh the pros and cons of changing and decrease the number of cons. The only additional processes of change aside from three mentioned in Pre-Contemplation is self-reevaluation, to assist in transitioning to the next Stage of Change Preparation. So, the therapist is supporting the client in evaluating themselves without the problem. Aside from active imagination, guided imagery, self-acknowledgement of healing and growth, help consolidate steps the therapeutic alliance has made and clarify steps one still might make in the therapeutic alliance to successfully transition to the Preparation Stage of Change. “Values clarification, encouraging congruence between one’s own values and behaviors and the like can be helpful in this stage” (Prochaska, 1999) (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).

A therapist being willing to build a foundational relationship with their client depends to a large extent, on a therapist’s ability to listen, explore, and respect the worldview of their clients, not as an intervention, but more as an attitudinal stance toward their shared humanity, a facet of which was addressed above in the therapeutic alliance discussion. Understanding Common Factors research is important and then applying it in our therapeutic practices can help our clients regain a sense of connection often ruptured in their past and current relationships. Common Factors research can help therapists and clients move through change in their own and their clients’ lives in a much more empathetic and meaningful way. Remembering there is always motivation present is essential, and it is the role of the therapist to identify what motivates our clients to bring about effective change, and to “stay with them” as they contemplate ways to move forward while having a timing and pacing that works for them. See the first writing in this series on Common Factors (CF), wherein I discussed what CF researchers suggested as helpful processes of change in the Stage of Change Pre-Contemplation. Doing so will enhance your focus on the processes of change you can use to help clients focus on increasing insight about moving from Contemplation to begin working in the next Stage of Change known as Preparation, our next blog topic.

Acknowledgements

Douglas H. SprenkleSean D. DavisJay L. Lebow. Common Factors in Couple and Family Therapy, Guilford Press, Aug 10, 2009

Alice Miller. 1/7/1997. http://www.alice-miller.com/en/the-essential-role-of-an-enlightened-witness-in-society-2/

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A Series of Writings for Clinicians on Common Factors Research and What Promotes Change in Couple and Family Therapy

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A Series of Writings for Clinicians on Common Factors Research and What Promotes Change in Couple and Family Therapy

by

Jason Briggs, MA

jb-blog2

(Photo saved from nubbsgalore.tumblr.com)

What motivates a client to change and what are the processes therapists can use to help?

If you’re like me, most therapists have a period in their learning curve where they have spent countless hours being ahead of their clients’ abilities to promote effective change because we aren’t seeing what stage of change our clients are in, and aren’t sure what processes could help motivate our clients in therapy. We (therapists) can also be less skillful about being transparent with each other about our own work with clients and how we promote change and challenges to this process we call psycho (mind/soul) therapy (treatment used to treat issues, problems and symptoms one feels conflicted about). This series is  an homage to Common factors research (CFR), that points to common factors which underlie all therapy models that work together to promote change in therapy. The three Common factors researchers work I will be summarizing are authored by Douglas H. Spenkle PhD, Sean Davis PhD and (last but not least) Jay L. Lebow, PhD, which can be found in their book Common Factors in Couple and Family Therapy, The Overlooked Foundation for Effective Practice. Sean Davis is in private practice, a supervisor in the Roseville, CA area, and a local Professor at Alliant International University, Sacramento Campus. Dr. Davis was my past academic advisor and admittedly an “at a distance” self-selected role model.

In the age of having many models of therapy to choose from its helpful to know two Common Factors (CF) that help promote effective change in Common factors research (CFR), that being the ‘client factor’ and ‘therapist factor’ both, in connection with each other. What is it specifically about the client that lends itself to change and what is the role of the therapist in supporting this change, that both the therapist and client might have an effective therapy outcome?  Many therapists and clients assume it is what the therapist does that is the most important aspect of therapy, but Common Factors Research asserts that it’s not only what the client does in therapy, but what the client does in response to the therapist, or how a client uses and focuses on the information the therapist presents. Ultimately it’s a collaborative venture.

As is often the case, I will invite my clients to share in what is called a “here and now” time, at the end of our sessions to explore our shared experiences in the session. In the “here and now”, I invite my clients to share what they found was helpful, worked or what didn’t work, or just to relate their experience in our session and in particular, with me; their answers never cease to amaze me, often citing something I felt was just a passing comment, experience or interaction or some other very important aspect of their experience. Using this “here and now” time, it is a both/and way of interacting, the focus is on the client but the therapist is wise to find ways to work with clients’ perceptions, being curious about them, and helping them identify what works for them. This should include what they struggle with in sharing their own experiences, cultivating a focus on what a client may feel is “ok” in therapy according to their worldview, and then seek ways that help promote a motivation to expand their worldview and promote change.

The Common Factors researchers do note that an extreme view of Common Factors research may engender a therapist to say “even a poor therapist can do therapy” but in their book they actually say quite the opposite and tend to place great value and importance in their role, but not by placing their own role above the clients’ role. They note, that the therapist who places such extreme value on client factors, to the exclusion of the therapists’ own involvement and development, may run the risk of discouraging themselves to think they have nothing to offer to help the client change and a thus engender a “why try” attitude that could encourage therapist laziness and a lack of a sense of accountability to clients (p71).” The Common Factors research discusses the nature of clients’ and therapists’ factors as being reciprocal (giving and receiving in balance) and further discusses how the therapist can motivate a client to change also asserting that a client motivated to change can then impact the therapist’s motivation and behavior! That’s reciprocity! So, it is clear that their emphasis is on the value and importance of matching our own behaviors as therapists with the client’s motivation to change, and what processes will help them engage in such a change.

It seems all humans pass through Stages of Change (SOC-a common behavioral health model) and have various levels of motivation. Known by therapists as Motivational Interviewing (MI), MI has typically been thought to be helpful to only substance abusers, but it has been used successfully with individuals, couples, and families with other issues as well. Motivation is always present according to the researchers (Miller & Rollnick’s (SOC) and Prochaska’s (MI), but that it looks differently depending on each stage, and that each client is motivated by different things. There are 6 stages of change (SOC) and they are Pre-Contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance, and Termination. There are 9 processes of change which are Consciousness Raising, Dramatic Relief, Environmental Re-evaluation, Self-Re-evaluation, Self-Liberation, Contingency Management , Helping Relationships and Counter-Conditioning and finally Stimulus Control (Prochaska, 1999) (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).

This will only focus on clients in the SOC called Pre-contemplation, the helpful process and interventions that Common Factors research has shown will help clients at this particular motivation level in their process of change. These clients it would seem are not intending to change anytime in ‘the next 6 months’ and they are either unaware of or uninformed about the severity of their problems. Clients who wish to successfully move from this stage to the next, Contemplation, “need to increase the number of pros (versus cons) they see in a life without the problem.” The Common Factors researchers suggest helping clients focus on increasing insight, suggesting that using the Consciousness Raising processes are ideal during this (SOC). A couple of Consciousness Raising processes offered that I find effective in my practice are, bibliotherapy (book therapy) and psychoeducation (education of the psyche, and how it becomes rigid and flexible in its structures). Another is making a list of what the positive effects of living life without the problem and envisioning a life without the problem.  Another I enjoy is helping clients experience guided imagery that focuses on adaptive information they may need to make a shift or change.

Another process of change that may prove helpful during the Pre contemplation SOC is Dramatic Relief, which much like guided imagery, it activates emotions that are felt during the problem. Interventions using this process could be role plays, guided imagery that focuses on a life with the problem in the future, and experiential interventions, such as empty chair/Gestalt, sculpting, inner dialog, etc.

The last process of change Common Factors researchers note that is helpful during this SOC is Environmental Re-evaluation. These interventions include helping the client to accept the perceptions of their family members by carefully exploring each person’s readiness to give and receive feedback, and when ready (can manage emotions), preparing the client to lean into the perceptions of their family, and helping the client experience understanding (not necessarily agreement). Another process is to use any experiential technique that will allow the client to cultivate empathy for those impacted by their behaviors, how it affects the system’s environment, and to see how those behaviors are experienced by others in the system (Prochaska, 1999), (Spenkle, Lebow and Davis, 2009).

Being willing to explore, understand, and apply Common Factors research can help therapists and clients move through change in life in a much more empathic way. There is always motivation to be found and it is the clinician’s role to see what motivates our clients so they can bring about effective change in their lives.

Coming soon,  my next writing in this Common Factors blog series is on Contemplation, the next stage of change following Pre-contemplation and helpful processes for the therapist to help clients embrace their own limitless potential for healing and growth.

 

Acknowledgements

Douglas H. SprenkleSean D. DavisJay L. Lebow. Common Factors in Couple and Family Therapy, Guilford Press, Aug 10, 2009

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World Sickness and the Thirst for God

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World Sickness image

By Nicolina Santoro, MA, IMF 77972

Once upon a time, in the vast kingdom of the helping professions, there lived a therapist whose thirst for knowledge and desire to aid in the process of personal and interpersonal change was unrivaled in all the land. This therapist had taken it upon herself to rewrite the story of her own history in a manner that changes the context of painful past experiences from blockages into tools that create a larger understanding and empathy for those she has chosen to serve in her work.

This constantly evolving therapist became immersed in theory and work of great minds such as Carl Rogers and William James. Realizing that human potential is vast, she wanted to understand how important stories and fairy tales were to constructing the memories that colored the landscape of reality, a reality that seemed to have the power to dictate how people see themselves and live their lives.

These dominant fairy tales permeate the fabric of our perceptions which also bump up against the lives of others we come into contact with out in the world. Personal narratives or “life styles” are filled with characters that are archetypal in nature, influencing us to play out repetitive sequences in life. These characters tend to take on the personas of stereotypical themes that are reinforced by learning them at a young age, or by the social referencing effect of our dominant culture.

William James calls the mental fatigue effect of living in an environment laden with unrealistic scenarios or fairy tales “world sickness.” It appears as though living in a world dominated by stereotypes and fairy tales could be implicated in the aggravation of many types of mental health issues.

How can we address the fatigue, depression, anxiety, and thought distortions that world sickness creates and impacts?

Let’s start with being gentle with ourselves. When we imagine a supreme spiritual being, the embodiment of certain characteristics seems to be present across many cultures. Some of these characteristics include unconditional love (a love that exists beyond judgment), a superconscious presence that never dissipates or abandons, and the ability to create out of seemingly thin air. For the scientists who have a different path, god could also be described as the picture of what we theorize as the highest human potential. We have the potential to express this in our own reality by living our lives in accordance to our deepest and strongest values while moving away from comparing ourselves to the unrealistic standards or “fairy tales” woven into the fabric of our society, loving ourselves and others through the lens of acceptance and vulnerability, a gentler version of happily ever after.


References
James. W. (1902). The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study on Human Nature. Longmans, Green & Co. London, UK.

Miller, W.R. (2006). Integrating Spirituality into Treatment: Resources for Practitioners. Washington: American Psychological Association.

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Between Religion And Science, The Soul Gleefully Swings

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Soul Food...we all need it.

Soul Food: We All Need It! (Photo Credit: Dollar Photo Club)

By Nicolina Santoro, M.A., MFTI

Humans have contemplated the origins of the soul, and its connection to some sort of divine, omnipotent source for thousands of years. This post is not an advertisement for religion; it’s an exploration of the theme. Religion is a comforting, human way to personalize and categorize our universe. It is also the ghost in the machine, impossible to ascertain, or even quantify. The matter of divine connection as a collective species is the fire that forged worship, mysticism, philosophy, psychology, and eventually transpersonal psychology. Transpersonal Psychology is a school of thought inspired by the pioneering work of American psychologist, William James, one of the forefathers of modern psychology. It is the exploration of the highest potential of man, as defined by the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology.

According to James, the religious experience has four key components:

  1. It is short in duration
  2. It is hard to describe in words and very emotional
  3. It leaves the subject feeling as though they have learned something significant
  4. It happens to the subject usually without conscious manipulation, though the environment has shown to play a role.

Imagine a feeling that at once dissolves the individual into a place of complete connectedness and love. The religious experience is so moving that it can affect an individual for the rest of his or her life. The memory of the experience is so charged, it seems it can be recalled at will for years. A normal physiological occurrence that feels similar, albeit usually shorter, is the human orgasm.

There is nothing modern about this experience or this longing. Ancient cultures all have their unique brand of religious experience. Deep trances, speaking in tongues, dancing frenzies, and altered states of consciousness, in various forms, were common to indigenous people of almost every continent. Their purpose was to bring whole tribes of people into communion with the divine force. As time went on, this unseen force acquired many names, was worshiped in many languages, but the only constant in the matter seemed to be this shared drive to find, and have a communion with this force.

The religious experience has been known to have long-term effects on the subjects who have had them. Modern science has become increasingly interested in studying these effects, which include a new appreciation for life, better moods, inspired creative activity, increased levels of tolerance, patience, and empathy. The subject feels a part of something special, like a divine force took a moment out of infinity to validate them. We all know how good validation feels. Validation is like high performance fuel in the gas tank. The engine of the car is going to run better.

Science has some very interesting conclusions to bear on what is happening to the subject of a religious experience on a neurological level. In The Neuroscience of Religious ExperiencePatrick McNamara and collaborators describe how the neurotransmitter dopamine, when produced excessively, has been correlated with increases in religious inclination, hallucinations, and dramatic shifts in the subject’s perception.

Positive correlations between religion and health have also been noted in the research on dopaminergic neurons, and their managerial properties in relation to the autonomic nervous system. A subject in the throes of a religious experience shows high activity in the frontal and pre-frontal cortex of the brain, suggesting that higher order functions are at work, rather than the evolutionary biological reaction that would reside mostly in the limbic system. Some of the noted positive health effects on the subject include reduced anxiety, blood pressure, and pain symptoms. Subjects reported more positive mental well-being, and confidence. The lasting effects of regular spiritual practice are positively correlated to improved mental and physical health.


At Healing Pathways Psychological Services, we work with people of all faiths, backgrounds and cultures. We all have the same goal: to live a happy and purposeful life! Call us if you’d like to meet one of our talented therapists.

 

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