Sunday, December 20, 2015

The United States of Therapy

As you might discover by noting the post dates - I am a feckless blogger.  Or else I am simply very busy (who isn't)?  Its been an interesting Fall season as I've taken a big bite out of my professional internship. As I've said, I'm an LPC Intern - which is a way of saying that my license is provisional and I need a certain amount of supervised practice before the state lets me loose on the world on my own. Part of this fall has been focusing in on my initial direction as a therapist.

Its funny how we get in our own way and refuse to let ourselves see the obvious choice.  This is certainly true of me anyway and I'll bet its true of a lot of people. We ignore the career staring us in the face, the lover, the passion or pursuit.

So, I've been noticing a confluence of several themes in my life and in my education as a therapist. I'm noticing many healing techniques that are built upon states of consciousness and manipulating them.  I know people practicing NLP and hypnotherapy.  I have been treated via Somatic Experiencing and EMDR.  I have a general background in mindfulness through my own struggles with anxiety and my studies in Wilber's integral theory. And I have a long personal interest in brain states induced through binaural beats - which an acquaintance and colleague of mine used in his own life to resolve deeply traumatized reactions.  So - in short - I'm going to focus on states.  Emotional states, states of consciousness. There's some kind of evolving practical knowledge in the therapeutic world that states really can be used effectively.

Its almost a rebound against a rebound against mindfulness.  For awhile last century it seemed like everyone (or at least a certain kind of West Coast therapist) believed that meditation leading to some kind of enlightenment would beat Western theories of psychology - that the Zen master or the Dalai Lama didn't suffer from the limits of our Westernized psyches.  It turned out that this was a pipe dream, which in retrospect seems pretty obvious.  But there are definite benefits to meditative practice and even to the experiences of the path to "enlightenment" in the meditative traditions. For the most part though, in therapy, we are using the early benefits of meditation to just loosen up our fusion with our thoughts and feelings and present experiences.  Paradoxically, by going mindfully into our present experience we can begin to tell the difference between it and us. So, there was this enthusiasm for meditation, then a disillusionment, and now a practical engagement.  Isn't there some kind of technology adoption curve that looks like that?

But another way of looking at mindfulness and different kinds of meditation, is that it induces different states of consciousness - literally different "modes" of operation in your mind/brain. Your brainwaves look different.  Your emotional responses and thoughts are markedly different.  Your sense of identity shifts out of your verbal, thinking self, and into something else, something open and witnessing, something bigger than our petty concerns and worries.

And there seems to be something about certain ways of reaching for these state changes that are healing in themselves - and they all seem to have something to do with cross-hemispheric stimulation - something to do with making your brain hemispheres talk to each other intensely.  EMDR seems to do this. Binaural beats seem to do this. "Tapping" or "EFT" seems to do this.  And I'll bet mindfulness does it too.  For that matter, I'll bet yoga, dancing, running, and any number of athletic flow states affect us this way as well. Probably music too.

So that's what I'm after.  Healing states - navigating them - invoking them - finding the underlying unity in all these approaches.

Its strange that this wasn't obvious to me months ago - and in some ways it was - but somehow over the past couple of weeks it all came together and I became sure.  Weird how it all comes together sometimes.