HeartMath® is a scientifically proven set of techniques that are easy to learn and use to reduce stress and anxiety while maintaining mental and emotional clarity in daily life. The HeartMath® system was developed by Doc Childre, a researcher and consultant, over many years. In 1991, he founded the Institute of HeartMath, an organization that teaches the techniques, develops new applications, and conducts scientific research.
In therapy and in your daily life, the HeartMath® techniques are helpful for gaining control of anxiety and for getting out of your head. When you become proficient in stopping the thoughts and interference of the ego, you will find that you can listen to the wisdom of your compassionate heart.
You might ask, “Why would I want to step outside the influence of my ego?”
The ego is the part of your mind that takes charge and gets things done in the world. Having a strong ego is a good thing; without ego strength we are easily crushed by criticism or the unexpected. However, the ego is not all of who we are. A strong ego can be like a tyrant or an authoritarian parent who gives orders without question or input. There are other parts of our mind/body that have useful information and observations about the world and our emotional wellbeing. Shutting off the chatter in your head can make it possible to hear from these other parts.
HeartMath® is also useful for anger management and we have worked with clients who have used these techniques to successfully overcome road rage and to step out of the cycle of argument, blame, and shame that can stalemate relationships.
The Institute of HeartMath (www.heartmath.org) has an excellent Website where you can find more information about the techniques, their programs, and their research.
Sandplay is a process in which the client is invited to create a scene—a world—in a tray of dry or wet sand, sometimes using figures and objects. In creating this world, a bridge may be created between consciousness and the unconscious that can be manipulated and understood on multiple levels to gain insight and understanding. Sandplay is a world of images, and image is the language of the unconscious. Thus, working with sandplay is much like working with dreams and active imagination: there is a concrete, obvious story and there are the subplots or hidden meanings that can deliver great gifts if we take the time to seek and find them. As play, sandplay can be fun as well as meaningful. As fun and creative, sandplay makes it possible to bypass defenses that seem insurmountable in talk therapy.
As a therapeutic tool, sandplay has been used since at least the late 1920s when Margaret Lowenfeld developed the World Technique. This was followed by the work of Dora Kalff and the development of Jungian sandplay. Although sandplay originated as a medium for working with children it is also often used with adults, couples, families, and groups. It may be used for healing, personal growth, problem-solving, and systemic communications.
Sigmund Freud who is usually credited as the father of modern western psychology called dreams the “royal road to the unconscious” and used dream analysis as a central part of his work. Carl Jung, who split with Freud, also worked with dreams and developed a technique called Active Imagination, in which the dream is pulled into the waking life for further work.
Dreams are image and symbol; image and symbol are the language of the unconscious. When we wake with the memory of a dream, our conscious mind immediately goes to work on the dream—making it into a story, linking it with the events of the previous day or week, looking for meaning.
In therapy, dreamwork goes deeper than the initial story-making step of remembering a dream. We can look at each component and character of the dream as a part of the dreamer and explore what comes to us from that perspective. In therapy we also look for themes that are carried over weeks or months of dreaming. Themes can help us navigate our journey; they can also help us to mark progress.
In active imagination we can live the dream forward by interacting with the characters or symbols of the dream, sometimes interrogating them, sometimes simply journeying until some insight is reached.
Even if you don’t usually remember your dreams, if you write down what you remember and work it, you will likely start to remember more. Dream journaling and therapeutic dreamwork are useful ways to establish and maintain a connection to the wisdom of the unconscious.
Brain Gym® and Education Kinesthetic are sets of movements developed by Dr. Paul Dennison to help integrate and optimize brain functioning for learning. Brain Gym® techniques have been effectively used in schools for many years and are based on the recognition that we are more than just a brain and that the body is more than just a vehicle for the head. As human beings we have a full body that can be used for learning and integration. Howard Gardner and others have recognized that some people MUST learn with their whole body; these kinesthetic learners need to move as they learn.
As a therapeutic tool, Brain Gym® is helpful for gaining mastery over one’s attention. It is also useful for reducing anxiety and increasing feelings of wellbeing.
Family Constellations, also called Systemic Constellations, were developed by a German psychotherapist, Bert Hellinger. Constellations were originally a group process but can be used in individual therapy using visualization and figures or objects to represent system members. Dawn Perry has been using the sandtray for constellation work with individuals and finds that the contained world of the sandtray and the rich symbology of the sandtray figures and objects adds another dimension to the work.
Each is us is a member of multiple systems: our family, our community, our country, etc. The systems of which we are part are our context and have a large impact on our lives. Thus, working with a system can make change in individual lives.
Systemic constellation work is phenomenological (embodied and experiential). While there are guidelines and rules, the work recognizes that each system or family has its own inherent rules. Setting up the system makes those rules visible. It also makes dysfunctional relationships apparent. Adjusting the system by accepting the initial picture and then moving the members with respect can over time bring deep insight and healing within the client and the system.
Constellation work is work that can be done once or taken up periodically over time. The systemic movement that is started in a constellation may take several months to complete in the actual system.
Simple art materials are frequently used in therapy as an expressive tool or means of expressing feelings in images. The act of doing the art is considered therapeutic and the art is also useful in exploring the self. The client might be asked to share what they see in the art piece or to give voice to various images as parts of the self.
Talk therapy is the classical style of therapy in which client and therapist have a conversation about the client's feelings and issues. In this style of therapy, the relationship is very important and the therapist interacts with positive regard for the client.
This type of therapy involves dramatic enactment of a clients issues. It is commonly practiced in groups with other members playing roles according to direction from the client. It is also used in individual therapy with chairs or pillows representing various characters in the drama. The client would play out all the roles. Psychodrama allows for the full expression of the whole person in his or her own play.
In art therapy the client is encouraged to express feelings and/or depict challenging life situations through art making, using a variety of art materials such as paint, drawing materials, clay, collage, objects from nature, plus many alternative materials such as found objects. Through the exploration of client’s personal symbolism unconscious, often self-destructive thought and feelings patterns can be revealed and healed. The healing power of making art in a supportive environment works well for all ages. Art therapy allows clients to tap into their innate creativity, facilitating creative approaches in daily life. No previous art experience is needed.
(Qi = energy, Gong = practice) Qigong is a holistic, self-healing system with a focus on deep breathing coordinated with slow movement and one point meditation. The movements are slow and gentle, allowing for the energy to flow freely, promoting increased well-being. Qigong reverses many chronic conditions by increasing the body’s electromagnetic field, stimulation to the endocrine glands, microcirculation to the brain, digestion, immune function and metabolism, oxygenation of the blood, as well as cellular repair and regeneration.
Qigong is appropriate as an adjunct to counseling for balancing emotions, anxiety, stress and pain reduction, and cancer recovery. It vastly increases the capacity to stay present in body and mind. Research has shown that it is particularly helpful with PTSD. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique
Methodology drawing on neuro-scientific research to release trauma, phobias, unwanted behavioral patterns and limiting beliefs. This method focuses on self-acceptance and disruption of neural pathways causing disturbance to the client. Useful with addiction and trauma release.
This therapy is based on the idea that psychological distress comes about because of the way that a person cognitively structures experience that is based on the consequences of past behavior, learning from our family and other important authority figures, our social environment, and expectations about the future. Cognitive-Behavioral therapy aims to change the way the individual processes information, which leads to more functional thinking and behavior.
Cognitive-Behavioral therapy is based on the use of highly specific learning experiences. These experiences are designed to teach clients (1) to become aware of their negative, automatic thoughts (cognitions), (2) to see the connections among thoughts, emotions, and behavior, (3) to look at the evidence for and against distorted automatic thoughts, (4) to use more reality-based interpretations for these biased thoughts, and (5) to learn to identify and alter the basic assumptions or patterns of thinking that predispose individuals to distort their experiences. This type of therapy uses both cognitive and behavioral techniques to help the individual reach these goals.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy can be used to treat many types of psychological problems, including: anxiety, depression, hypomania, panic disorder, phobias, obsession, compulsion, suicidal behavior, anorexia nervosa.
From Webster’s dictionary, the definition of dialectic is “any systematic reasoning, exposition, or argument that juxtaposes opposed or contradictory ideas and usually seeks to resolve their conflict.” The motivating area of concern where DBT is highly useful is when the individual is stuck in polarities and unable to move to a more harmonious synthesis or balance.
There are three polarities in particular that are addressed by DBT. The first one is the dialectic between the need for change while still accepting oneself just as he or she is in the moment. The second polarity has to do with the tension involved for the individual in getting what he or she needs (attention and life skills) and losing the attention, if he or she becomes more competent in the various skills. The third dialectic is for the client to see his or her difficulties as real (validating self experience) while at the same time realizing that the learning of new skills can begin to alleviate the suffering involved with the difficulties.
DBT operates under the assumption that process and change are fundamental to reality, rather than content and structure. With this in mind, DBT seeks to help the client become comfortable with change since both the individual and the environment are continually changing. This is done by teaching the client various psychosocial skills or abilities. These include cognitive, behavioral, and emotional skills working together to create a skillful response to life situations. DBT works particularly well for those persons diagnosed with personality disorders.
The body with its aches and pains and myofascial tension tells the story of our lives. From the moment we are born, and perhaps even in utero, we are expanding and contracting in response to our experiences. Over time we develop habits that make their way into our structure, posture, and body language. Stress leaves its mark on the body as well as the psyche.
For many people, the body is a more direct pathway into their inner world than talking, and touch can help them access it more easily. Here we're not involved so much in analyzing experience as being with it. Whether it be sensations in the body, feelings and emotions, memories, or deep, quiet states of relaxation, the process is one of opening to what is happening and increasing awareness.
By using conscious touch and presence, I contact the whole person, inviting them with my hands and being to drop into a state of relaxation and unwind from within. I focus in on the places where they have chronic muscle tension or where the breath is not moving, holding the space for whatever wants to emerge into awareness.
I share my impressions and encourage the person to deepen into and speak from their own experience. In this way, they can discover what is true for for them in that moment and access the deeper wisdom of the body.