Q These days I hear of unusual therapies and ways of healing emotionally and mentally. Some are artistic ways of expressing feelings or issues and getting in touch with our inner selves. I have friends who use physical movement to change their state of mind. Of course, in India, yoga has been a big part of psychological and spiritual growth. As a teenager I used to make collages with pictures that reflected my vision or images that inspired me. You’ve talked about exercise and mindfulness in previous articles as approaches that help with different mental challenges. Can you explain how these approaches are different from and still a part of talk therapy
A Psychotherapy today is becoming more interdisciplinary and integrative. It is pulling from the visual arts, drama, dance, movement, and body work such as acupressure and Rosen method, meditation and spirituality, neuroscience, and eco-psychology. There is a recognition that the human being is so complex and multi-dimensional that each person will need and be drawn to different ways of growing and exploring. When so many choices abound, it’s also challenging to know where to go and what’s best for your issues.
There are three key processes that occur in moving towards mental and emotional well-being:
• Getting clarity: This includes knowing whether you are feeling depressed, anxious, have unexpressed anger, trauma, or a thought disorder such as psychosis. For diagnosis, psychotherapy and psychiatry are most suitable. It also includes tapping your strengths, talents, coping styles, and ability to transform.
• Having a way for the inner self to emerge and be integrated: This can happen in a variety of ways—someone asking you questions, listening and reflecting back what they hear; a safe and deep place for feelings to be heard and expressed; different physical movements like dance that allow your body to organically move without inhibition, reflecting the shifting of feelings, thoughts, and energies. It is a powerful way to access the unconscious without speaking and without edits or distortions of the mind. It’s best practiced in small groups or at least having one person witness and contain the experience for you. Painting without planning can also be quite powerful. Allowing your hand to paint gives the unconscious an open space to project. It’s also a powerful way to encounter the inner critic, which is often judging us and inhibiting us from genuine expression and exploration.
• Having our behavior and life reflect the inner changes: Sometimes this happens naturally.
At other times we need to set intentions, make workable plans, and take action. Life coaches, taking classes, hiring people to do certain aspects of our projects, and short-term counseling are very useful and supportive for this work. It’s by taking some risks and enjoying the range of tools and approaches available to us that we really begin to see what we like. This helps us grow in ways that change our inner and outer lives.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com