I work with clients in my role as a Shamanic Minister. Most clients who come to see me are spiritual seekers. Often they seek out my help when they are feeling stuck, alone, or going through a 'dark night of the soul'. Meeting and walking with adults who are on a conscious journey of spiritual exploration gives me great hope for the future.
My background includes a Master of Arts in Theology and Spirituality from the College of St. Catherine, and a Doctor of Ministry in Shamanic Psycho-Spiritual Studies from Venus Rising University. In 2014, I began a Master’s degree program in Adlerian Counseling and Psychotherapy. The following post is adapted from a paper I wrote for a class at Adler Graduate School called “Theories of Personality and Psychotherapy”.
View of Human Nature
My view of human nature begins in alignment with Person-Centered Therapy (Corey, 2013). I agree with Maslow, that when a person’s basic needs are met, self-actualization can occur. Most people, whose basic needs are met, are capable of introspection and self-direction. Providing a safe container is my most important job. When a client feels safe, he or she is able to begin to move beyond facades and discover the true self.
However, my work with clients in a holistic, multidisciplinary clinic over the past 20 years has shown me that this is only the beginning. Oftentimes, trauma becomes trapped in the body, keeping a person from truly changing. Because of this, one’s past experiences can cause a person to feel unable to make difference choices, even when they are cognitively aware of the changes that need to be made. Forces that may be understood as stemming from one’s childhood, or even one’s ancestral lineage, often have an effect on one’s ability to choose freely. I find the theories that focus only on the present, like person-centered therapy, reality therapy, and behavioral therapy (Corey, 2013), lacking in the depth that is necessary for deep transformation to occur.
Jung’s work with the unconscious informs much of my understanding of what leads to, and acts as a barrier to, change. The way to get behind, or below, one’s façade is to slip below the ego mind and work with the unconscious forces that limit a person’s options. Dealing with one’s shadow is a key part of helping clients make deep, permanent changes.
My personal theoretical orientation includes elements of person-centered therapy, Jung’s analytic psychology, Adlerian therapy, and feminist therapy (Corey, 2013). The clients I work with initially come to me because something in their life isn’t working. They may be in a job or relationship that no longer fits them. They may be having dreams, visions, or experiences that make them feel alone and different from the mainstream. Or, they may be ready to move into a deeper level of spiritual exploration on their life’s journey.
As a shamanic minister, I believe that we travel a spiral path. Rather than the stereotypically masculine path of a straight line (from here to there in the most direct route possible), or the stereotypically feminine path of the circle (moving through the 4 seasons over and over again), the spiral path is a combination of the masculine and the feminine. When we do our personal work, it may seem like we are moving forward, only to realize we are again meeting up with a block or trauma from our past that we thought we had already dealt with. However, on the spiral path, we recognize that even though we may meet up with our core wounds more than once, if we are doing our healing work, each time we are meeting them at a ‘higher octave’ (Star Wolf, 2009).
Person-centered therapy teaches that, given the right conditions, people will become who they were born to become, much like an acorn will develop into an oak, as long as it has all the necessary conditions for growth. Jungian philosophy recognizes that human beings have both a conscious mind, and an unconscious mind. Limiting beliefs from the unconscious must be brought into consciousness for integration to occur (Corey, 2013). Talk therapy alone is not enough to reach these unconscious beliefs and energies. Dreams, visions, art, and breathwork are all doorways to the unconscious.
Jung spoke of the anima and the animus, or the feminine part of a man and the masculine part of a woman. Feminist theory takes this a step further. Feminist theory conceptualizes gender on a continuum, with each person expressing varying degrees of traditionally masculine and feminine traits. Further, it emphasizes the inherent equality of both men and women, while taking into account the effects of socialization on all people in a historically patriarchal society (Corey, 2013).
Finally, Alfred Adler’s social interest is correlated with mental health. People who express a high level of social interest are also have greater life satisfaction and are mentally healthier (Foley, Matheny, & Curlette, 2008). My focus includes working with people to help them increase their level of social interest, thereby creating a world that is much more satisfying to live in.
My approach to developing an integrative perspective is one of theoretical integration. I believe that, given the right conditions, people will become the person they were born to become, a person-centered stance (Corey, 2013). However, an important aspect of having the right conditions includes taking a look at one’s shadow and bringing the disowned parts of oneself back into the light, in Jungian terms (Jung, 1989).
As part of our shadow work, feminist theory encourages us to look at the way our feminine has been disowned, discounted or diminished through our cultural conditioning (Corey, 2013). Finally, in alignment with Adler, a person must develop a high level of social interest in order to achieve the highest level of mental health (Foley, Matheny, & Curlette, 2008).
The Client/Helper Relationship
Studies indicate that the therapeutic relationship is more important than the specific techniques used in therapy (Corey, 2013). I agree and believe that my first role as a helper is to create a safe space for my clients to do their work. This is the perspective of person-centered therapy. Feminist therapy aims for an egalitarian relationship, with the therapist as a teacher, aiming to make the client his or her own expert. Adlerian therapy and modern psychoanalytic therapy tend toward a more therapist-centered approach. Adler’s encouragement, Jung’s assistance in interpreting a client’s dreams and symbols, and feminism’s role as a teacher are all aspects that I bring to the client/helper relationship.
I am able take the lead as teacher or encourager, as needed in a given situation. However, it is up to the client to determine what changes they want to make and how deep they want to go. I provide encouragement, and support people in releasing the beliefs that are holding them back. I may offer an interpretation of what they bring to a session, with the caveat that they are the expert regarding their own journey. I also offer opportunities for energetic and somatic release. If a client takes part in one of my groups, the group also provides encouragement and modeling from the other participants. In both individual and group work, I encourage people to dream their biggest dream and manifest their highest vision for themselves and humanity.
I use a wide variety of techniques, borrowing from many different theories, to support my clients. My primary modality is shamanic breathwork (SBW). This is a journeying technique that allows people to shift into their subconscious or unconscious mind (Star Wolf, 2009). In order to help clients bring forward what they discover during their SBW journey and integrate it into their conscious awareness, a variety of Jungian techniques are used. Art in the form of mandala creation, painting, mask making, and collage may be utilized. Narrative therapy, journaling, role-playing, and storytelling are also sometimes used. Somatic release, chair therapy, dream work, and visioning are often a part of this process, as well.
One of the greatest strengths of my approach is my stance that each person comes with their own inner wisdom and is the expert on their own life’s path. I have a broad background in a variety of spiritual paths and encourage my clients to share their personal path. Each person’s story or myth is important. If a client has specific rituals or teachings they would like to share with me or with a group they are a part of, I try to give them an opportunity to do so. In this way, we all learn more about the variety of paths that are available.
I am a competent and experienced shamanic minister and shamanic breathwork facilitator. I have been recognized by my teachers and by my peers as a leader in my field. After 20 years of working with people who are on a spiritual path, I am confident in my abilities as a spiritual guide.
At the same time, I know that human beings are complex, and there is always more to learn. My interest in pursuing an MA in Psychology, stems from my desire to continue to expand my skills and knowledge in the realm of pyscho-spiritual studies. Refining my philosophy of helping has been an interesting part of this process. I look forward to completing my classes, as well as my Master’s Project on social interest and universalism, as a way to continue to deepen my understanding of the intersection between spirituality and psychology.
Corey, G. (2013). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (9th Edition). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Foley, Y. C., Matheny, K. B., & Curlette, W. L. (2008). A Cross-Generational Study of Adlerian Personality Traits and Life Satisfaction in Mainland China. Journal of Individual Psychology, 64(3), 324-338.
Jung, C. G. (1989). Memories, dreams, reflections. Jaffe, A. (Ed.), (Winston, R, & Winston, C., Trans). New York: Random House, Inc.
Star Wolf, L. (2009). Shamanic breathwork: Journeying beyond the limits of the self. Rochester, VT: Bear & Company.