Understanding the approach and philosophy of the therapist helps you to better understand the foundation upon which your therapy is based. The specific approaches that a therapist uses are the ways in which they professionally identify and define themselves within their practice.
I am a humanistic, contemplative, narrative therapist. Ecopsychology and ecotherapy have an important place in my outlook, as part of the foundation of my clinical practice, and in my approach. I am also an intermodal creative arts therapist.
A humanistic therapist focuses on the individual and each person’s perception, understanding, and internalization of their experiences. Humanistic therapy believes in self-determination, that individuals actively make choices about their behaviors and their responses to events in their lives. Humanistic therapy is holistic, examining the whole person as greater than the sum of its parts, and encourages clients in self-actualization through self-understanding, self-mastery, and through their creative expression.
A contemplative therapist uses mindfulness, openness, clarity, and compassion to support their clients. Mindfulness, as defined by Thich Nhat Hanh, is “the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life.” Openness and clarity in contemplative therapy are the bringing of mindful awareness to everything we experience through our senses, including our thoughts and emotions, and not turning away from the experience because we are frightened, or because of its intensity, or in fear of pain.
Through our understanding of mindfulness—touching life deeply in the present moment—we can receive our life experiences and recognize our thoughts and emotions, whether positive or negative, as being thoughts and emotions. In this way, we are able to disengage and experience without fear. Contemplative therapy believes in each individual’s innate capacity for compassion, connection, brilliance, and beauty.
Narrative therapy is a way of understanding how problems affect people’s lives. In narrative therapy, individuals view their problems as separate from themselves. The client has a significant and active role in determining the direction in which their therapy will move. A narrative therapist is non-blaming, respectful, and sees the individual as the expert in their own lives. In narrative therapy, clients re-author the dominant stories and conversations of their lives to make new meanings of their relationships, their understanding of self, and how they live and form their lives.
We are creatures of relationship and live in relationship with ourselves, each other, and the natural world. Our relationships and the impact they have on us reach far beyond the systems of work, family, community, and significant others. All of these relationships exist within and are sustained by the natural environment. The Ecotherapy approach in counseling provides an opportunity to include the system of our natural environment, our relationship with it, and the impact of this relationship on our lives as part of the therapy.
Intermodal Creative Arts Therapy
Intermodal creative arts therapy is an approach in which therapists use more than one creative arts area in their work. An intermodal Creative Arts Therapist draws on multiple creative arts areas and moves among them with their clients. A Creative Arts Therapist has had formal training in an arts area, for example, music, the visual arts, dramatic arts, or dance. An intermodal Creative Arts Therapist has had formal training in more than one arts area, usually three different arts areas. In Creative Arts Therapy, the created artwork is equally as important as the process.
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