Dr Chris James - artist, writer, researcher, critical theorist and transpersonal psychotherapist.

Therapies
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Therapies.

Talking to Someone: 'Narrative Therapy'
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Mindfulness
Energy Psychology and the Transpersonal Journey
Emotional Freedom Therapy.
Writing as Therapy [Journaling]
Art Therapy
Dream-Work
Drumming
Latest Research
Sacred Theatre: The Art of Ancient Ritual as Therapy

Our Destiny.

Everything in life is related to consciousness. Our life-world is determined by the kinds of knowledge we absorb into consciousness and the unconscious.

We acquire this knowledge as we grow and build on it for the duration of our lives. This means that consciousness and the unconscious acts as a kind of reference book. We also acquire the abilities to sort the knowledge and make use of it. Some people acquire better abilities than others depending on their environments and cognitive skills. Our families, friends, communities, landscapes and our beliefs all contribute to the knowledge as do the mistakes we make and the pains we feel when things go wrong. The key to understanding ourselves is to unlock the sources of knowledge we have acquired and ensure it has been sorted and used appropriately and creatively. If the knowledge has caused us harm then we must re-sort the reference book of acquired knowledge and make sure all the references point towards positive outcomes.

Our brain patterning relies on repetition so someone who has had an abusive childhood is likely to use this as a reference in everyday events. Pain and abuse spirals into the outer world. In this respect we all have a responsibility to work on ourselves in order to improve the life-world for others as well as improving our own future prospects. Life is never an easy road to negotiate. No matter how good or how bad life appears now YOU ARE A SURVIVOR! This in itself is a great achievement and you can build on it. You have come a long way on the earth-walk now you simply have to make that road a bit easier so the rewards can outweigh the pitfalls. THIS IS ONE REASON FOR ENGAGING IN TRANSPERSONAL PSYCHOTHERAPY.

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Talking to Someone: 'Narrative Therapy'..

Here you can find someone caring and supportive to talk to. These are some of the things you may wish to talk about:

  • A traumatic experience, maybe an accident or perhaps violent or emotional abuse.
  • Stress: Work, relationships, kids, finances, poor health or not having a purpose in life can be some of the causes of stress.
  • Religion, politics, morals, ethics and/or your spiritual awareness. These issues often cause conflicts for people.
  • Feeling anxious, alone and alienated. These feelings usually affect our work and relationships as well as our health.
  • Discovering your needs and finding ways to have them met.
  • Discovering and realising your dreams in life. This often involves finding a level of realism and working towards what is achievable.
  • Learning how to become assertive in life; this impacts on motivation.
  • Taking risks, trying different things to see if they work or not. Weighing up the costs and the benefits is not always simple.
  • Feeling a bit off balance, unwell; maybe feeling you might have some kind of mental or physical condition that needs to be explored.
  • Becoming a parent.
  • Becoming unemployed.
  • A serious health crisis.
  • The fear of life.
  • The fear of death.
  • Losing a loved one.
  • Feelings of guilt.
  • Feelings of anger.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Needing love and being unable to find it.
  • Searching for a more ecological, spiritual and/or meaningful way of living.

'Spiritual' in this sense does not mean 'supernatural', it means 'super-cognition' or the ability to sort the knowledge and the relative emotions into the correct perspectives so we can move forward. Regardless of the barriers you may be facing at the moment, YOU CAN GAIN THE INSIGHT AND COURAGE required for resolving problems. Narrative therapies can be very useful in unblocking the channels that produce the right references for a better life. Narrative therapies offer a combined effort in working towards a different level of emotion, more rational thinking, freedom of choice and ultimate transformation.

Further, narrative therapies are very flexible, they can be utilised randomly or over a period of time. They can also be combined with other therapies.

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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy [CBT] is a very effective therapy for depression and anxiety related conditions. Cognitive behavioural therapy is a counselling technique that is used by many clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists to modify harmful behaviour. The CBT therapy is designed to help the client to understand, manage and change their thoughts [cognition] and actions [behaviour]. This methodology has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, it is expedient and it works. Some therapists will specialise in this form of therapy while others, like me, will prefer to combine it with other approaches. CBT on its own tends to prioritise a 'cure' rather than making personal growth something pleasurable and something deeply fulfilling. Also in many cases CBT is used to protect society not to advance the client. This can completely change the relationship between client and clinician to a relation where power resides with the clinician and the client has little choice in what takes place. CBT does not extend knowledge to the social setting nor does it allow for individual 'spiritual' beliefs. Transpersonal psychotherapy takes the best from CBT and rejects anything that suggests an unequal power relation.

Why Does CBT Work to Help Alleviate the Effects of Depression and Anxiety?

Depression has a strong effect on thought processes and the way people perceive their world. For example in situations, which could be positive or negative, people who suffer depression are more likely to think negatively. Cognitive behavioural therapy can help in changing these thinking patterns; it will help replace negative thoughts with positive ones. It also serves to reinforce positive language, learning and actions.

How Does CBT Work?

1. It helps you identify and change negative thoughts associated with depression and anxiety. If you are depressed you may feel a sense of helplessness and hopeless. You are likely to experience a lack of energy, feelings of emptiness and a deep level of anxiety. This means you could be short of breath, light headed with the heart beating fast and having regular cold sweats. There are a number of other psychical disabilities associated with anxiety and depression. These feelings add up to fear and insecurity, they make you feel bad about yourself, your life, your work [if you are able to work], they impact on your relationships with other people. Cognitive behavioural therapy will help you to look at situations from another perspective by reviewing how you manage everyday tasks and situations in your life-world. A therapist will help you examine events in your life; you will talk about them and consider all the possible situations that give rise to these events. You will also pursue the alternatives. Through this analysis negative or damaging thoughts are identified along with a possible positive reframing of the problems. Over time this process helps you to replace negative thinking patterns with more positive ones, which in turn makes for a more manageable life-world.

2. CBT helps to focus on the good things in life. Depressed people are often not engaging in the things they used to do, things that made life pleasurable. This can turn into a cycle where having nothing to enjoy results in you feeling more depressed, which in turn makes you feel less like doing anything at all. It becomes a vicious cycle. In this situation you need someone to help guide and motivate you. Using CBT techniques a therapist can encourage you to gradually increase your social networks and reinforce the positive steps that you are taking to improve. When CBT is combined with other therapies you can set goals and explore more creative processes in which to express your feelings. This acts like a map leading the way out of the depressed state.

3. CBT helps you to manage your problems. Managing problems is part of everyday life but it can feel overwhelming when you suffer depression. Cognitive behavioural therapy will help give you strategies for managing problems both small and large so they don't further reduce your capacity to cope.

What Happens When You Work With a Therapist who Practices CBT?

Cognitive behavioural therapy is structured so you need to have regular sessions with the therapist. It can happen online or by telephone. Weekly sessions are generally recommended to start with. Reviewing progress is a feature of CBT so the time frames could change dramatically. CBT is something you must commit to. You must make the effort to do the work, which can be daunting when energy levels are low and just thinking becomes a chore. This is one of the reasons I like to combine CBT with something lighter. Most therapists will also give you some tasks that you do between sessions. In my sessions with clients I always ask what their expectations are and together we decide on what is achievable in the time-frame and what kind of therapies they prefer. My clients and I work in partnership not a client/therapist arrangement.

Summing-Up

CBT works on the belief that our thoughts, our deeply held ideas and assumptions can influence our emotions and the way we view the world. When combined with a practical knowledge of how the political and social world works CBT offers a pathway for personal exploration and development. The mind with its constant clutter and analysis often distorts our perceptions and sense of reality. Consciousness is incapable of knowing the unconscious. When something triggers the unconscious it unleashes an energy that can cause us to become fearful and confused. Almost all mental illness is cause by unrelenting fears. In CBT we find where this knowledge has come from and we reshape it before putting it back in its rightful place. When the brain is well ordered we are generally happy.

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Mindfulness: .

What is Mindfulness?.

Mindfulness is a state where we are mindful of the present. We are in full consciousness or full awareness. It is a comfortable, relaxed state of mind where we are able to experience clear thoughts, sensations, feelings as well as being aware of our surroundings. When we surrender to this state we find peace and acceptance. Mindfulness implies a full appreciation of the moment without having to react. We can teach ourselves to control our unwanted behaviourisms with mindfulness

Mindfulness Meditation.

Try it

Sit and relax the body. Starting with the toes, tell each part of the body to relax; after the toes move to the feet, then the ankles, knees; thighs and so on. Relax the mind. Be as still as possible and imagine the world as an empty space with nothing to divert your attention. See it as black, see it as red, it doesn't matter as long as you see it empty.

Body Posture

Sit with a straight back and let the head rest naturally, not up or down but looking forward with the eyes closed. The body must be still and remain still for the mind to release its contents. Only then will the deeper states of awareness be experienced. It sometimes takes time to learn how to do this because we all have such active and busy lives stillness no longer comes naturally. With practice, prolonged stillness can be achieved without too much effort. Any mindfulness meditation technique will require time, discipline and persistence.

Thoughts

Do not try to stop thinking. The more we try to control thoughts, the stronger they become. Thinking about not thinking is actually thinking at a very intense level. Observe your breathing. If you cannot stop thinking observe the thoughts as images. Acknowledge the feelings and sensations that come with this. Don't engage your thoughts in an internal dialogue about your feelings. Just be with the mind's emptiness. Be like a flower in the breeze.

After completing this exercise it is useful to draw a picture that describes this experience. You will see how very difficult this is because once you have stopped the process the unconscious locks its door and you must use your imagination to get inside.

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Energy Psychology and the Transpersonal Journey.

Energy Medicine is the latest innovation in the field of modern psychotherapy. Energy psychology brings together traditional acupressure and other non-Western healing practices and current psychotherapies. As yet there is no accredited scientific evidence that this methodology works. However, there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence from uncontrolled studies and non-peer-reviewed research that indicates a positive outcome when using this approach and the American Psychological Association have endorsed it under a Division 12 criteria establishing a form of Energy Psychology as a 'probably efficacious treatment' for specific phobias and weight loss. Further research on the efficacy of Energy Psychology is taking place, in the meantime it appears to hold a lot of promise for a range of psychological conditions.

Energy Psychology techniques are easy to apply and have no negative side effects and they allow maximum autonomy for the client. By tapping on designated points on the surface of the skin as you focus mentally on specific symptoms, the nervous system is gently stimulated and the brain's electrochemistry is believed to shift. This simple process allows deep, instantaneous and usually permanent change to take place. Practitioners claim that unwanted emotions can be brought under control, destructive habits and behaviours can disappear, and the capacity to experience happiness is greatly increased.

Energy psychology appeals to the transpersonal psychotherapist because it works on the principle that we are fundamentally made up of energy. Energy healing acknowledges that pain, whether it is psychological pain or physical pain is a product of some dysfunction in the energy system. Energy psychology gives credence to what a number of transpersonal psychotherapists have been saying for a long time, that by restoring the energy balance we can restore health and well being. Many have used the term 'qui' energy. Further, if we can shift problems in this way for humans and animals imagine what we can shift for the preservation of the planet. Energy psychology targets the behaviours that cause the imbalance in the first place. It is preventative medicine. It treats the whole person not just the disease and calls into question a lot of conventional Western remedies that seem to promise a lot but fail to deliver.

Physical and mental illnesses often begin long before there are any visible signs of something being wrong. Energy Psychology takes a different perspective of illness and it takes medicine and psychotherapy to another level. Link to Energy Psychology http://innersource.net/energy_psych/epi_reviews_published.htm

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Emotional Freedom Therapy.

Emotional Freedom Therapy or Emotional Freedom Techniques [EFT] used to be called Thought Field Therapy and under this title it never gained very much popularity with anyone in the mainstream psychotherapy profession. Now many clinicians are claiming this to be the most effective, powerful tool there is for rapid resolution of psychological and psychosomatic problems. Further, it can be easily learned by the client and self-administered.

EFT involves tapping with two fingers on various acupressure points on the body while verbalising the problem. For example if the problem is obesity then the client will say, 'I am not hungry, I do not like cake' or whatever applies. What seems to happen is a freeing up of the energy allowing the original imbalance caused by emotion, pain, memory or other to quickly disappear. The advantage of this method is it avoids a lot of intense painful recall that comes with narrative therapies or CBT. Clinicians are claiming a high rate of success with EFT that far exceeds any other psychological techniques. In my view it is too early to make rash claims but I am certainly feeling positive that EFT works with the following disorders especially when combined with good diet and meditation. EFT can be good for:

  • Addictions
  • Anxiety
  • Fears and Phobias
  • Obsessive/Compulsive Behaviour
  • Headaches/Migraines
Link to Emotional Freedom Techniques www.emofree.com Download Free Manual.

Get Started Now by Learning the Basics.

The EFT Technique is easy to learn, but requires a little practice. Some issues are more complex than others and may require more time but anyone can do it. Your brain is made up of 100 billion neurons that each connect electrochemically in pathways. The brain can alter its pathways and create an infinite number of possible connections, which allows us to transform our lives. All we have to do is learn how to reprogram the brain.

Ancient healers have used methods like acupressure for thousands of years and they have worked to improve health and well being. Now we can combine these techniques with our own more conventional methodologies. The EFT Technique can be used by you in private or guided by a therapist. It is very safe and cost effective.

Try it.

Tap with two finger tips on one of the points in the drawing above and while doing this repeat the following: 'I can see this ------ [name the problem]' and 'I can remove it from my ---- [name the location]'. Repeat this as often as you can without feeling overburdened by the task.

The Routine.

Again, using two fingertips together, tap lightly, an average of seven times on each point and repeat the words as you did before. The chart above has been slightly modified. Here are the main tapping points. 1.Inside end of the eyebrow. 2. Outside corner of the eye. 3. Under the centre of the eye. 4. Between the nose and upper lip. 5. The dimple of the chin. 6. The collar bone point. 7. Under the arm. 8. The crown of the head.

When I was young doctors taught a similar method to avoid travel sickness. When the person [usually a child] began to feel sick the fingers of one hand were locked into the fingers of the other so all the knuckles were touching. Then came the affirmation 'I am not going to be sick'. The idea was the hand when squeezed together created pain in the knuckles. Not a lot of pain; more like stimulation. This served as a diversion to feeling sick. It worked. The may be some question as to whether EFT is shifting energy or shifting focus? The answer to this is that as far as the brain is concerned focus is created by energy.

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Writing as Therapy [Journaling]..

The brain is structured by language!

I generally ask clients to keep a journal of what is happening in their lives and how they are feeling about the events as they happen. This serves a number of purposes: 1. It is easy to keep track of progress. 2. Writing is a way of getting rid of painful experiences. 3. Writing gives us an opportunity for reflection. 4. Writing stimulates the brain and kick-starts motivation. 5. Writing can be fun. 6. Writing can be shared in group encounters.

Try it

Write a few words in your journal every day. Put down your thoughts and feelings. Imagine you are having a conversation with your journal. If you do this the brain will respond as if you are having a conversation and it will reveal insights from your unconscious. Narrative therapy works in much the same way. Always keep a journal of your dreams. Your dreams are the collective unconscious.

Poetry is the method we use to unlock the unconscious!

Writing can also be regarded as a form of meditation because when writing we are forced to contemplate what we want to write as well as our purpose in writing it. In this way writing helps us to sort our thoughts [knowledge] and put it in the correct place. We often see our faults and problems from what we have written. Moreover, by writing we learn about the finality of life because once the words leave our thoughts and appear on the page they are not longer truly ours. We must surrender them to the other external world. An inability to surrender emotions can often be addressed by writing. The written word replaces the void of lost emotions.

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Art Therapy..

Visions of a Changing Consciousness I welcome any submissions of art images that you would care to post on this page. Share your pain, your dreams and your transformations. Art like writing is a wonderful way of releasing harmful energy. It provides us with a form of meditation and a mirror of ourselves to contemplate. Art rejuvenates our spirit and it lifts us into another realm of consciousness. Art reveals a lot about the artist. Let me help you read and interpret your art.

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Dream-Work.

The brain stores all our experiences but we do not remember all our experiences, much passes through consciousness to the unconscious. When our brain is resting the door to the unconscious begins to open and some of what is stored inside is released but it does not present in a clear and comprehensible fashion, we must unravel it. Freud believed dreams revealed a lot about the person. Today, we use dreams as markers of fears, tensions, worries, our antagonisms and our aspirations. The interpretation of dreams works well as a component in other therapies or it works by itself. It is always useful to write about dreams or to draw what we think they might be telling us.

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Drumming..

Drumming Therapy taps into deepest areas of the mind and connects them to the body with a consistent rhythm that resembles a heart beat. No other therapy, to my mind, is as effective as drumming. Studies have shown that repetitive drumming changes brain waves and induces a state of calm and centrality. Drumming gives the most precise form of awareness.

Drumming reminds us of the sound of the heart beat as we first heard it in our mother's womb. It is a sound common to all life forms. This is nature at its most primal. Everyone is blessed with a natural voice and movement. Most of us hardly use these gifts outside of our usual routine, yet, even when we are sleeping this natural sound and rhythm continue to play their role inside us to keep the body alive and well.

Rhythm exists in every aspect of our daily lives, our circulatory system, our breathing; even our thoughts have a rhythm. Every atom, every molecule has a rhythm. Everything in the universe has a rhythm. Drumming taps into this cycle.

Drumming has existed in every culture. It has been used for centuries in religious rituals and ceremonies. Tribe's people have communicated over vast distances using drums. Drumming is both a celebration of life and a healing.

Drumming Therapy brings rhythm and sound to the process of healing. It can take place with individuals or in groups. Drumming in groups transcends the social barriers and produces a truly powerful experience. Drumming illuminates the real self; it excites the emotions and channels them into creative waves of brain activity. Drumming helps people with depression, anxiety, and stress, it boosts the immune system and contributes greatly to good health.

There is a growing body of research showing THE POSITIVE AFFECTS OF DRUMMING. Barry B. Bittman, MD et al have published some ground-breaking studies showing the benefits to the immune system, stress levels and mood. Problem behaviour Drumming is an excellent method for learning self-awareness, it improves our listening skills, and our ability to multi-task; it endows us with compassion and endurance. It is also a way of eliminating those energies that cause bad habits and difficult behaviour.

Drumming has worked very well with people and children with learning disabilities, attention deficit and hyperactive disorder [ADHD].

The repetitive rhythm has a calming effect. It also builds valuable skills for co-ordination, processing information and communicating.

Drumming is one of my cherished forms of therapy. The beat of the drum connects with the heart beat and the vibrations make us feel connected to the earth. Some years ago I used to live in the mountains and I would walk to a peak and sitting drumming for hours. It made me feel on top of the world. Drumming outside in the fresh air is particularly powerful. Sound waves travel and bounce off a variety of objects so the feeling we get is one of wholeness. Most cultures have used some form of drumming in their rituals. Drumming can also be accompanied by chant or movement. These practices significantly alter consciousness, which in turn allows us to release our frustrations and negative feelings and replace them with new and vital energies. Drumming makes a person feel refreshed and confident.

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Latest Research.

Composite Effects of Group Drumming

Composite Effects of Group Drumming Music Therapy on Modulation of Neuroendocrine-Immune Parameters in Normal Subjects Barry B. Bittman, MD, Lee S. Berk, MPH, DrPH, David L. Felten, MD, PhD, James Westengard, BS, O. Carl Simonton, MD, James Pappas, MD, and Melissa Ninehouser, BS

Context

  • Drum circles have been part of healing rituals in many cultures throughout the world since antiquity. Although drum circles are gaining increased interest as a complementary therapeutic strategy in the traditional medical arena, limited scientific data documenting biological benefits associated with percussion activities exist.

Objective

  • To determine the role of group-drumming music therapy as a composite activity with potential for alteration of stress-related hormones and enhancement of specific immunologic measures associated with natural killer cell activity and cell-mediated immunity.

Design

  • A single trial experimental intervention with control groups.

Setting

  • The Mind-Body Wellness Centre, an outpatient medical facility in Meadville, Pa.

Participants

  • A total of 111 age- and sex-matched volunteer subjects (55 men and 56 women, with a mean age of 30.4 years) were recruited.

Intervention

  • Six preliminary supervised groups were studied using various control and experimental paradigms designed to separate drumming components for the ultimate determination of a single experimental model, including 2 control groups (resting and listening) as well as 4 group-drumming experimental models (basic, impact, shamanic, and composite). The composite drumming group using a music therapy protocol was selected based on preliminary statistical analysis, which demonstrated immune modulation in a direction opposite to that expected with the classical stress response. The final experimental design included the original composite drumming group plus 50 additional age- and sex-matched volunteer subjects who were randomly assigned to participate in group drumming or control sessions.

Main Outcome Measures

  • Pre- and post-intervention measurements of plasma cortisol, plasma dehydroepiandrosterone, plasma dehydroepiandrosterone-to-cortisol ratio, natural killer cell activity, lymphokine-activated killer cell activity, plasma interleukin-2, plasma interferon-gamma, the Beck Anxiety Inventory, and the Beck Depression Inventory II.

Results

  • Group drumming resulted in increased dehydroepiandrosterone- to-cortisol ratios, increased natural killer cell activity, and increased lymphokine-activated killer cell activity without alteration in plasma interleukin 2 or interferon-gamma, or in the Beck Anxiety Inventory and the Beck Depression Inventory II.

Conclusions

  • Drumming is a complex composite intervention with the potential to modulate specific neuroendocrine and neuroimmune parameters in a direction opposite to that expected with the with the classic stress response.

    Alternative Therapy Health Med. 2001;7(1):38-47 http://rmm.namm.org/research/latest-research/composite-effects-of-group-drumming/

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Sacred Theatre: The Art of Ancient Ritual as Therapy.

Ritual is another way of teaching mindfulness and it can be a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable for people that simply sitting. In ritual you focus on the object of the ritual, a chalice, a cross, a pentagram, a Star of David, a goddess/god, a belief; whatever you choose. I like to use objects from nature because they are neutral and we should all be honouring and celebrating nature. Ritual helps to give people confidence because they feel in charge of their performance. We should be living our daily lives with a feeling of being in charge. Ritual is also something very familiar; we lose track of how much ritual actually happens in our lives but every time we sit down to dinner we partake in a ritual.

If you would like to know more about any of these therapies or would like to begin on a course of psychotherapy to expand and enrich your life please contact me. I would love to hear from you.

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