What is Integrative Psychotherapy
and how might it help?
I start with the premise that we are body, mind and spirit. There are many forms of psychotherapy that address only the mind. If we take a more holistic view of the human being, a more integrated approach would be to also include the body and the spirit into the healing process, hence the term, Integrative Psychotherapy.
With the latest advances and discoveries in neuroscience (that is to say, how does your brain work), we are realizing that we can’t separate the body and mind and be as effective as the old medical models would have once believed. We know know that the body and mind are inextricably interwoven into an organism that we call the human being. This interconnection can sometimes have us feel elated and on top of the world, or deeply anguished, sad or angry.
It can also be confusing when we have these instinctual pulls that may come from our animal (physical) body, even though may have beliefs about these pulls being morally or ethically wrong. We may feel thirsty and think nothing of getting a drink of water to satisfy that thirst. And there are times when we may get angry and feel the impulse to hurt someone, even though we may know we’ll regret it later, or it may be illegal, but the desire is there nonetheless.
How do we come into alignment with our thoughts, feelings and impulses? How do we reconcile one part of us saying “yes” while another part is saying “no”? One of the other fascinating discoveries about neuroscience, is how the brain stores memories, especially traumatic events, and how those memories can stay with us and affect many aspects of our lives, especially relationships. They can produce intrusive memories, anxiety over small things, nightmares, inability to concentrate, seemingly unfounded fears, hyper vigilance, and psychosomatic complaints. Somatic (body oriented) psychotherapy is an extremely effective way of dealing with old traumas. Traumas get lodged in a portion of the brain that has very little neural connectivity from the “thinking brain” to the traumatized area of the brain, and therefore, getting access to them through thinking is difficult; although there are many neural nets between the traumatized brain to the thinking brain, which is why old, disturbing memories can intrude on us and are resistant to cognitive efforts to stop them. However, there is a close relationship between the area of the brain that holds trauma, and the body. By accessing the body, we have a far greater ability to access the area where trauma is stored, and hence, a greater chance of unraveling the neurology of the trauma.
Since somatic psychotherapy is relatively new, not many people have heard of it. It can bring up some questions like, “What does my body have to do with my thoughts?”, or “Is there any touch involved – is it like massage therapy?” To answer these questions specifically, science has discovered that we, in most cases, make decisions based on how we feel, not just on what we think! In regards to touch: there is no massage used in somatic psychotherapy (some of you may be disappointed!). Somatic therapy, if we choose to work that way, will include your body, so paying attention to those little (or big) urgings are frequently useful. For example, if we listen closely to our bodies, we may notice that our jaws get tight if we are angry, or our stomach will turn into knots when we recall painful memories. Working with the body is a very quick and effective method.
There may be, at times, some people who may benefit from safe forms of touch, like pulling on towel or pushing on my hand. This is done with the utmost sensitivity to the clients needs, and is only done with the clients consent and permission. Note however, that effective therapy can certainly be done without any form of touch!
I work very collaboratively with my clients, honoring their process and trusting where that process may take us. I intend to engender a trusting relationship that one can feel safe with sharing at whatever level they wish to.