Mindfulness Based Psychotherapy
I do not fix “disordered" brains. I work in a collaborative relationship with you, a human being, and through the use of a variety of tools and techniques, offer an opportunity for you to re-establish a more functional connection with your self and your life.
We all experience suffering. Sometimes this occurs in the context of trauma, conflict, separation, grief; we each have our own stories. The apparent failures and painful disappointments in our relationship with family, friends, community, the loss of a loved one or unwelcome changes in our life situation (health, financial, job) can trigger painful fear based emotions, and reactive, self defeating behaviors which create a disconnection from our natural relationship with our selves and our lives. This pain can manifest as depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, compulsive, aggressive, addictive and avoidant behaviors, medical illness and so on.
In other words, our suffering has a context. We feel, think and act the way we do for really good reasons, despite how we judge those feelings and whether or not our behaviors are adaptive or functional.
And yet, thankfully, the story does not end here. Our natural integrity or inherent wholeness, remains present and, despite how things feel, we can reconnect with our heart, our true self, and heal.
My approach engages the healing process by establishing a trusting psychotherapeutic relationship with you and offering a core skill involving meditative practice or body-mind training. This can allow for the settling of body, breath, mind and return our natural balance and clarity.
When we are hurt emotionally we naturally feel danger and our fight-flight system kicks in as a mode of protection. But, negative fear based emotions obscure and displace our genuine painful feelings which understandably, are reflexively pushed away. However, these feelings are themselves vital pieces of information and energy that, when opened to in a grounded way, are essential to our lives. As we allow them back, they can, paradoxically become an antidote, and bring relief from our suffering. But when feelings are (unconsciously) pushed aside, they can become a great source of confusion, distress and illness. This is very much like an untended weed filled garden versus one where the weeds are pulled, composted and mixed back into the soil as a vital fertilizer. Through our intention to maintain and grow our garden, we pull the weeds, one at a time. Weeds are then composted and naturally recycled thus providing essential nutrients to our growing flowers and vegetables.
I have found that the first step to the recovery of your natural self, is to become sufficiently clear about the suffering in your life and a have a willingness to open to the possibility that things might be different. Secondly, if you are prescribed psychiatric drugs and have become disappointed in the results, you may find that you are open to an opportunity for growth and have sufficient motivation for establishing lasting change, change that does not require alteration of consciousness through psych drugs just to get through your day. You do not have to be defined by your given disorder. You can engage in a psychotherapeutic process and practice certain meditation techniques and through this you may discover that you will begin to open to and ground yourself through challenging negative impulses, emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Through this therapeutic life process, awareness, acceptance, understanding and insight results, leading to real and enduring change - if you are willing to take a chance, do the work and try something different.
Meditation is the most natural thing in the world. It can be described as a letting go and a rediscovery of our natural being. This is a kind of art form, in a sense, a naturally creative process involving body, breath, mind. We are all natural artists, whether we realize this or not. Meditation opens the door for us to experience our life as it already is, before we imagine it.
Meditation involves an opening to and release of body tension and resistance thus setting the stage for the natural settling and calming of body and breath. Through the settling of body and breath you may find that body and breath are actually unified with mind. Unification of body, breath and mind is expressed as simple awareness through body, breath, environment, sensations, feelings, thoughts and impulses and is naturally open and responsive within and as your life, thus affording a natural grounding and balance.
As you experience a more deeply grounded self, a readiness and openness to receiving painful and repressed feelings occurs, which can then be accepted and allowed to pass through your open and receptive body, breath and mind. This process can be practiced and increasingly relied upon as you reconnect with your deepest foundation which does not give way to the constantly changing thoughts, emotions and outer circumstances of life. This return to a grounded openness can eventually be experienced as an abiding sense of stability, inner confidence and loss of fear as well as a more genuine, creative and flexible relationship with your self, others and your life.
Mindfulness is a term that refers to the deepest dimension of our selves, our inherent natural wholeness, our integrity, which we all share as human beings. The term mind in the word mindful is more accurately translated as heart-mind. Heart-mind refers to our wholeness of being, the unity of body, breath and mind expressed as and through our life. This wholeness represents, at core, our most basic nature and is, therefore, present whether we are aware of it or not. To the degree that we lose connection with Being, we lose connection with our life, our right mind and we suffer.
This approach differs from the conventional psychiatric drug based brain approach which is based on a philosophy of materialism that assumes that human emotional suffering begins and ends in the brain.
The good news is that despite what we are told about a disordered brain being the source of the problem and a medicated brain the solution, there is not a shred of evidence that a “chemical imbalance” is present or causal.
The majority of scientific literature supporting the use of psychiatric medications is funded and written by the pharmaceutical industry. These studies are tailored toward marketing goals and profit. The narrative of a chemical imbalance necessitating a chemical cure has been skillfully entered into the popular culture and accepted by prescribing physicians and patients who are desperate for an answer.
Our medical system is oriented toward addressing problems that are acute and that have already occurred, such as lowering elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar or treating a heart attack. It is a sick-care system, not a health-care system. Likewise, our conventional approach to emotional distress is a reactive one and therefore, quite limited. Psychiatric drugs may be helpful in certain acute life threatening conditions, but for most people, are not answers for the long term.
I have found that therapy which encourages a meditative practice promoting the natural stillness and balance of body and breath, the gathering of attention and the opening and grounding of awareness as a core skill can be both healing and transformative. You may have heard of the popular Mindfulness and DBT (Dialectic Behavioral Therapy), which were adapted from the Vipassana practice in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. These approaches all offer valuable guidance and insight in opening and connecting positively with ourselves, our relationships, our lives.
I have worked with many people who have had many different diagnoses and have found that the psychiatric drugs can often be carefully reduced or even discontinued as they learn, through the course of therapy, to accept and process their suffering in positive ways. (Please heed Caution below)
We also address diet and lifestyle choices and may try “natural” or non-pharmacological remedies when appropriate.
Reducing the dose or suddenly discontinuing your psychiatric drug can be extremely dangerous, even life threatening. The brain is physically and functionally changed even after a brief exposure to a psychiatric drug. Your brain and body, therefore, need time to readjust to the reduction or absence of the drug. This should only be done with the careful guidance of someone with the proper training and experience in addressing this complex process. In general, unusual thoughts, dangerous impulses (including suicidal), altered mood states, and behaviors (including anxiety, mania, depression, and psychosis) may result if these drugs are withdrawn too quickly. These unbalanced conditions may be confused by some practitioners as the emergence of another psychiatric disorder. They may then add additional drugs in order to try to to control the symptoms of psychiatric drug withdrawal, thus complicating the situation.