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Skin-encapsulatedego

The Life Purpose of an integrative counsellor

13 posts in this topic

User @Jude_  recently made a post to the forum, which included details of his occupation / life purpose as an integrative counsellor.  I recommend reading his original post. 

It seems there are numerous individuals on the forum whose goal is to have a life purpose as a spiritual counsellor / psychotherapist.  Be it a non-dual therapist, integrative counsellor, psychedelic-assisted therapist etc., there seems to be quite some commonalities.  

I'm making this new post to compile some information on these life purposes.  User @Jude_ answered some of my questions, which I will post below.

 

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How much of a part does having your own existential understanding, through psychedelics and spirituality, play in your job?

It depends on the client, and on the session.  Sometimes it plays no role at all, other times it comes into play.  I have all sorts of clients that I've got through different avenues, so it's hard to generalize.  I will say though some clients it's been totally essential.

Is there any psychedelic involvement (functioning as a guide for psychedelic usage / integrative assistance / something similar)?

It's not yet legal where I am so I'm not taking this risk.  I have done some integration work with clients.  I've also done breathwork sessions (holotropic/primal style) which have been pretty psychedelic.  Even some "normal" sessions have turned psychedelic when doing guided depth practices for clients.  Again this really depends on the clients...

Are you at all restricted by Counselling / Psychotherapy regulatory authorities in which approaches you take with clients?  

Where I am psychotherapy is a newly regulated profession, and if I went that route I would have limitations.  That being said, the limitations aren't really enforced unless you're operating irresponsibly. 

Also they don't allow you to mix practices, like if you do bodywork or tarot, you couldn't do with the same clients. (I don't do these things anyways)

I've decided to be a counsellor which is unregulated (in my region, it varies region to region).

What might you regard as pillars of mastery in your occupation?

This is a big question.  There are so many styles of therapy that are effective, or effective for certain people.  I am very well rounded, where I have an idea on how to work with most things that come up, as people are complex and rarely come with one issue, and also in training we don't get to choose our clients, we just work with who is assigned to us through the student clinic, so we need to learn how to work with that.

For me I can think of a few pillars that inform my practice and I think are foundational:

Humanistic - essentially seeing the good in people, being compassionate, forming a genuine connection, making them feel save to open up and be vulnerable.

Psychodynamic/Depth/Archetypal - Understanding the broader forces what are working through an individual and the collective.  Taking people into the psyche, into the feelings, confronting and integrating shadow parts.  Exploring and integrating all the parts of psyche, incomplete past events, etc..

Existential - What is meaningful? Growth, discovery and transcendence of identity and values.  Purpose.

Somatic - Understanding trauma, dissociation, embodiment...

Mindfulness - deepening experience of clarity and equanimity.

Relational - Exploring relationships, healthy boundaries, communication, vulnerability, emotional needs

What do you regard as your personal impact statement and zone of genius?  That is, if you've come across these terms.

No I'm not familiar with the terms but I'll take a stab at it.

Personal impact statement is to be what the client needs.  Not to put my agenda onto them, but to attune to their needs, to support them in them figuring out what's best for them.  Some clients I push and challenge, some I don't.  I'm always attuning to what's in their best interest and not assuming I know.  What's in most people's best interest is them being empowered in their own life, and not relying on others for direction (though also being able to receive support and guidance when appropriate). 

I really don't like therapists or spiritual teachers that foster dependence on them.  My goal is to get each of my clients to the point that they don't need me anymore.

I guess that's my impact statement: empower clients to walk their own path.

I think my zone of genius is pretty dynamic.  Part of it is being able to meet people where they are at.  Part of it is being able to see the big picture, to reflect that to others, to bring more clarity and insight.  I think I am still discovering my zone of genius, but I actually think it's more in teaching than it is in therapy.  I love doing workshops and teaching small groups.  Love group facilitation in general.  Still more to discover though.  

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@Jude_ Thanks again for your input.  

It seems you really enjoy the combination of therapy styles. 

Do you think this occupation has lent you opportunities to further develop spiritually? 

What would you regard as ideal character strengths and personality types for the occupation?

What courses have you studied?  What courses might you recommend if one wishes to become an integrated counsellor?

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Hey so the reality is that most therapists integrate different therapy styles.  Even if you train strictly in one modality, it's inevitable that you pick up some other things and start to expand your skills.

I also want to advise those that are interested to first look at the regulations in your region.  Where I am a psychotherapist is a regulated profession, and there are certain requirements you must meet (I mostly meet them but ended up deciding not to apply for a host of reasons).  Counsellor is not a regulated term, and the main limitation is that we can't practice psychotherapy with people with severe disorders.  I'm OK with this, and I actually do practice with one or two people with severe disorders, but I've been advised that they are stable enough that I don't have to worry.  The regulations are kind of vague and my understanding is that they are meant to be enforced with people practicing unethically, either misrepresenting themselves or taking advantage of vulnerable people.

I would also encourage people to check out the smaller independent training programs.  From what I've seen, these produce better therapists as they are more experiential and hands on.  Each program is unique so check them out.  Many are part time programs.  Many are deeply experiential, where essentially you have to walk through the fire yourself.  Gestalt therapist training programs are notorious for being challenging and pushing people to grow.  I would highly recommend, I did 2 years and learned so much.

2 hours ago, Skin-encapsulatedego said:

Do you think this occupation has lent you opportunities to further develop spiritually? 

Oh there's no doubt about this.  In so many ways. 

First is that you will get clients who have similar issues as you, and when you help them work through their feelings, you are inevitably processing your own.

A big one for me is that it allows me to practice presence.  Just being present with another human for an hour at a time, a few hours a day, it's an amazing practice in being with someone, putting yourself aside and just attuning to them, feeling into their situation, supporting them in what they need.  It is undoubtedly a powerful practice, a form of meditation.

Another is talking on responsibility, being responsible to others in a really meaningful way.  This is rewarding and forces one to grow up and mature.

And then of course there's just the fact that you are constantly contemplating healing and growth.  These things seep in much deeper.  I actually wrote meditations for an app for a while and I found that writing meditations ever day brought about a lot more mindfulness in general.  Same with therapy, doing this everyday and thinking about it has made me much more aware of so many subtle things.

Do go back to your original question, I wouldn't necessarily say that practicing has led me to develop spiritually, I'd say it's more allowed me to mature and be more embodied and integrated.  Just pointing out the different emphasis.  That being said, I have some intuitive colleagues who's intuition hit new heights as soon as they started practicing.

2 hours ago, Skin-encapsulatedego said:

What would you regard as ideal character strengths and personality types for the occupation?

I think the main thing is that one has overcome difficulty in their life and is willing to face themselves, their shadow, etc.  Overly confident people who don't question their assumptions and beliefs are the most dangerous therapists.  It takes humility, to not assume you know what's best for another person, to not project your values or goals or desires onto them.  You need to respect that everyone has their own unique path, and support people in discovering that and not choose anything for them.

I introduce ideas all the time to clients and sometimes the client is interested, sometimes not.  You have to let the client find their own way.  They need to discover their own sense of sovereignty, independence... it's called self-actualization for a reason, it must be done by you, no one can do it for you.

I have seen all sorts of personalities who have become great therapists, so it's hard to say that some traits are better or some are bad.  Being able to be empathetic, to put yourself in someone else's shoes.  Being willing to try things out, explore without knowing where things are going.  Always wanting to learn, and always looking for new ways of doing things.  These are things that come to mind.

2 hours ago, Skin-encapsulatedego said:

What courses have you studied?  What courses might you recommend if one wishes to become an integrated counsellor?

I studied a Transpersonal Therapy course that was a mix of Gestalt, Jung, family constellations, and that sort.  I studied a Gestalt program, which is a form of therapy where you are bringing awareness to all the different parts of self and integrating them.  Gestalt programs are very challenging, they will challenge you to be honest with yourself and others and be present with the impacts of such honesty.  Some of the best therapists I've ever met, who were very sharp and very clear people, were Gestalt therapists.

I studied at an existential-integrative program, which was a mix existential therapy (looking at meaning, purpose, what it means to be human), Jungian / James Hillman (looking at archetypes, individuation), psychodynamic (making the unconscious conscious), somatic (body oriented work)... It had a lot of elements.

The reality is that at least half of my learning was done on my own time.  I've always been reading on these topics, and especially once I get a client with a certain challenge, there's a big motivation to learn more on that.

The really important thing to learn as foundation is how to work with trauma.  Nearly everyone has trauma, so it's relevant with every client, but probably half are really coming to do trauma work, even if they don't know it at first. 

Trauma resources that I found helpful:

The Body Keeps Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk

Books by Peter Levine (Somatic Experiencing)

Sensorimotor Therapy by Pat Ogden

Work by Janina Fisher (Parts work for trauma)

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker (this book is amazing)

Psychology in Seattle Podcast (you need to subscribe to get full access, but this is an amazing podcast for learning.  The guy is an atheist, it's not spiritual at all, but he has a real understanding of how therapy works and he's a great teacher, he cuts through the bullshit and gets straight to the point)

Existential/Meaning/Big Picture Resources

Honestly I think Carl Jung is really the guy here.  Viktor Frankl is seen as the originator of Existential Psychology, and he's amazing, but Carl Jung is absolutely existential and amazing in so many ways, and there's a big emphasis on transformation, letting the old self die to make way for a more authentic Self.

James Hollis is probably the most straightforward way into leaning this stuff.  He has about a dozen books.  A great start would be Living an Examined Life, where each chapter is one idea to contemplate.  He also did an audiobook called Through The Dark Wood which is amazing, so dense with wisdom, one of my favourite resources for understanding life and psychology (I can send this to anyone who wants, just PM me).

James Hillman is remarkable, and has many talks on Youtube.  A really interesting character, he is so wise and sharp minded.

Rollo May is also amazing, he's done a lot of great work, many great books.

Irvin Yalom is maybe the most fun to read, and he has so many great books. He's a mix of Existential, Psychodynamic, and Gestalt.  He's written all his books as teaching resources, even though half are fiction, they are always communicating and exploring some questions around therapy, and usually sex and death too.  Love's Executioner is a book of true short stories about clients and how he helped them.  A lot of lessons and leaning in this book.  He also wrote The Gift of Therapy which is an open letter to young therapists, giving advice on therapy.  It's just a bunch of little pieces of advice, things to contemplate.

Michael Meade is a mythologist and teaches through stories.  He's great and his books are great.  Same with Robert Bly.

Also for Transpersonal therapy, Stanislav Grof is the king.  His book The Adventure of Self-Discovery is probably the best, most concise intro to his work.

 

These are the big ones for me.  I've also learned a good amount from Gabor Mate, who does compassionate inquiry training.  His book on ADHD is great, and I think things like ADHD are really important to understand, because I got a lot of clients with it, and many of them were undiagnosed, and helping them understand ADHD was a relief for them as they had a lot of shame around certain ways of being.  To know that this is a common thing that many people suffer from can be good, but also we don't want pathologize, for people to say well I have this so there's no point in trying to change.  The idea of understanding diagnosis is to understand where the challenges are and be more forgiving with oneself, and learn what works.  For example, for people with ADHD, trying to focus harder often shuts down the part of the brain that is responsible for focus.  This is what's so frustrating.  We feel weak willed or weak minded (I have ADHD).  So learning how to shift focus, how to roll with it all, this is really helpful, and also learning about structuring time, sitting with discomfort, etc.

 

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@Jude_ What a goldmine you’ve shared here 🤤 Invaluable perspectives of numerous items, too. 

I want to understand it all!  

I really look forward to getting further along the process of starting to practice as a therapist.  It feels fitting and authentic alongside my spiritual path. 
 

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@Jude_ I feel a lot of gratitude for your help. I’ve stumbled upon your letter to Leo firstly and found a great guy. It was a feeling that I often catch when read some genuine and heart-driven posts. Like “Damn, I wish we’ll be friends” 😊

 

I’m also have a Life Purpose similar to Skin-encapsulatedego and finding your answers very valuable! I’ll be pleased if you also answer some of mine, when you’ll have time and desire to do so:

• How do you keep yourself in check?

This question especially important because we are here have a visions, which are quite radical for mainstream culture a psychology community, therefore it’s not that easy to find some supervisor-therapist which will be radically openminded and experienced in spirituality, psychedelics and holotropic states.

• How do you balance Teaching and Psychotherapy? Is there any great examples of therapist/teacher?
Stan Grof seems like very knowledgeable guy. I’ve find that I’m very passionate about not only in coaching, but in educating. I’m enjoying in expanding clients perspectives and showing them the bigger picture, new concepts. Interestingly, I’m enjoying in when its done one on one, but not in the groups, because the atmosphere is more intimate and deep + the quality of explanation is better, because it’s personified.

• What is the role of the Humor in psychotherapy?

I’ve found that Humor and Playfulness are my biggest strength and I’m enjoying making people laugh and become more liberated with the help of playfulness during the sessions.

• Why therapy usually is only 1hour long? Can you do it more? What’ll be the consequences?

• What you thinking about Online Therapy vs Offline? Do you find it very different or it’s kinda the same?

• Who’s your role models are?

• How do you reassure the the client has become independent and haven’t slippered off the track after your work is done?

• What is your biggest struggles in your work?

• When you find yourself judging or frustrated by the client, what do you do?

• How can you politely interrupt the client when he got off the track during the therapy?

• How many time it took you to have sustainable income by doing therapy? What has helped you the most do that?

• What do you do, when you yourself got off the track and not embodying the things towards which you trying to navigate your client?
 

@Skin-encapsulatedego Thanks for your passion man! You’re inspiring me to do the work even more!

Edited by Ar_Senses

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2 hours ago, Ar_Senses said:

How do you keep yourself in check?

I am very lucky to have found some amazing mentors.  Truly remarkable people I share with and check in with regularly.  They absolutely keep me in check and I've had them question a lot of my ideas along the way.  One of these people is Jeff Warren (you can google him, but the articles on his website are really what you want to dive into).  The other person is a woman who practices as a naturopath but she's a very realized being, really hard to describe her but she's given me more wisdom and insight than anyone else in my life.

I will also say it is possible to find open minded supervisors, or at least where I am in Toronto.  It may not be easy, you have to look, ask around, find the right circles of therapists.  I have spent a long time exploring the local community and over the years have found some amazing people, but I make a point to look, and I look into every recommendation I get.

2 hours ago, Ar_Senses said:

How do you balance Teaching and Psychotherapy? Is there any great examples of therapist/teacher?

I just teach in workshop type atmospheres, not necessarily to clients.  With clients I sometimes catch myself teaching, when they are asking for it especially, but mostly I'm there to ask them questions, to guide them to be more aware of different parts of themselves.  A good therapist helps the client uncover the truth for themselves, and doesn't necessarily tell them what is going on, more so helps them see for themselves.

2 hours ago, Ar_Senses said:

What is the role of the Humor in psychotherapy?

I think it depends on the therapist and their personality, and also where the client is at.  I think it's important to be genuine, it's important to built a trusting relationship.  The trust in the relationship is what makes the client feel safe enough to unravel.  I have many clients and sessions where there is no humour, you just have to attune to what is helpful in the moment.  

 

2 hours ago, Ar_Senses said:

Why therapy usually is only 1hour long? Can you do it more? What’ll be the consequences?

Good question.  I've done longer sessions and I will say it can be pretty exhausting.  Also you can go pretty deep in an hour and that gives the client a lot to integrate, if the session is too long they might forget what happened earlier, too much to process.  But I do know a very established therapist who does 1.5 hour sessions.  Again it depends where the client is at, what they're processing, if a longer session serves them.

Also I'm a big fan of retreats.  I have clients who are ripe to do deep work, but we can only get so far in shorter sessions.  They need like a 5 day retreat that involves a mix of therapy and integration and meditation, but I don't know of many that offer this sort of thing (though I do know some, they don't happen very often).

I do think 1 hour sessions are really limiting the depth of the work, but for a lot of clients it works, it's all they can manage to integrate given where they are at.

2 hours ago, Ar_Senses said:

What you thinking about Online Therapy vs Offline? Do you find it very different or it’s kinda the same?

For some things it's the same.  But when doing real depth work, working though childhood trauma, in person is better, so long as the client feels really safe to be there.  Some clients feel safer over the phone, and that works better for them to open up, but if they can feel safe in person, it's much more powerful.  I've had very powerful sessions over the phone, but in person always has more intensity.  Right now I'm seeing all my clients either over zoom or phone, and it works well for a lot of them, but a few that are able to go really deep, it's not quite as powerful.

2 hours ago, Ar_Senses said:

Who’s your role models are?

Peter Levine because he revolutionized therapy, the way we understand and treat trauma.  He's a PhD and highly respected, but also brings in more transpersonal ideas like soul loss.

Pretty much everyone I mentioned in the previous post: Rollo May, Carl Jung, James Hillman, James Hollis, Gabor Mate... Also people like Chogan Trungpa.

I think the biggest of all is actually Krishnamurti.  He's been the biggest influence for me, about not having any beliefs or ideology, about discovering things for ourselves.

Also Bill Plotkin and the book Soulcraft have been influential.  I really love his approach and love that book.

2 hours ago, Ar_Senses said:

How do you reassure the the client has become independent and haven’t slippered off the track after your work is done?

I don't.  I'm a resource for my clients, but I'm not their parent.  They have to make their own choices and learn for themselves.  Understanding the boundaries here is important.  The client is always choosing what they want to do.  My job is to help make the choices they have more clear, but I can't choose for them.

2 hours ago, Ar_Senses said:

What is your biggest struggles in your work?

This is always changing.  Sometimes there is one client or one issue that is challenging.  Mostly it's ok.  Figuring out how much to do, finding the right balance with each client.  There is always learning and checking in to be done.  At this point I don't find this work particularly challenging.  Some of my colleagues find it challenging to find new clients, but I have good networks and have as many clients as I want right now.  When I had a lot of clients the biggest challenge was energy, having the energy to see so many.  This is why I have fewer clients now.

Maybe the lack of challenge here is why I'm moving on and focusing more on teaching, as that is more challenging, or at least a new challenge.

2 hours ago, Ar_Senses said:

When you find yourself judging or frustrated by the client, what do you do?

This doesn't happen very often anymore.  It's quite easy to be compassionate to clients when you know the context.  I have definitely had difficult clients but I just ask myself what they need in these moments.  I think therapists get annoyed at times because they know what the client needs to do to heal, but the client won't do it, they are too stuck in a story.  So it's practicing patience, just understanding that these people are this way for a reason, and for some people change is slow.

But I will admit it is great to have clients who are open, who are ready to go deep.  But you can't get mad at the ones who aren't there yet.

3 hours ago, Ar_Senses said:

How can you politely interrupt the client when he got off the track during the therapy?

It depends.  This is a big one, as it happens a lot.  You have to understand the context of the client.  Sometimes what they really need is just someone to listen to them and validate their experience.  I've had clients like this, that no one will hear them out, so interrupting them is not a good idea.  Just let them get it out.  Let go of the idea of what therapy should look like, of how fast the work should go or when the healing work should happen.

That being said, there are some clients who can greatly be benefited by being interrupted and being brought back on track.  You just have to get a sense of if there is enough trust between you two and if their ego can handle it.  I wait for a break in the conversation and I say "let's just pause for a second... what's happening in your body right now?"

I bring them into their body, their feelings, taking them out of their head, out of the story.  Notice the activations, what are the feelings underneath?  What are the emotions?  What are the fears?

Sometimes the rambling is processing feelings, and if that is happening I let it go a bit before bringing them into the feelings directly.  It's just getting a sense of these things and asking how the talking and ranting is serving them.  Is it processing emotions, or is it avoiding them?  What's being avoided?

3 hours ago, Ar_Senses said:

How many time it took you to have sustainable income by doing therapy? What has helped you the most do that?

There are so many factors here.  I am lucky in that I've been involved in local meditation community for years before becoming a therapist.  I get referrals from meditation teachers.  I also did workshops and referrals have come through that.  I think it depends on your networks and how outgoing you are, and also marketing, and skill (I get clients referring their friends).  From what I hear it takes usually 1-2 years to start to fill up the practice, and after 5-10 years, if you are good, you will never need to market yourself again as you will have so many referrals coming from clients and old clients.

All the therapists I know who are good and who have been practicing for over a few years have full practices and usually waiting lists.  This is in Toronto, so may be different in your area.  I think the most valuable thing is if you are involved in community events, whether it's meditation or the art scene or you do workshops or whatever.  Anything that gets your name out there and where you're in contact with people and they know what you do.

3 hours ago, Ar_Senses said:

What do you do, when you yourself got off the track and not embodying the things towards which you trying to navigate your client?

I just do what is appropriate at the time.  Use the skills I have.  Talk with my friends and colleagues.  Having trusted friends in the same line of work is great for support.  Me and my old classmates offer a lot of support to each other.  Also it's normal to be challenged by things, and this is helps us better relate to our clients.  The best therapists are the ones who have been the most challenged.  That's how you learn.

 

This is fun.  Cool to talk about this stuff.  Appreciate all the questions.,

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On 06/06/2020 at 7:02 PM, Ar_Senses said:

You’re inspiring me to do the work even more!

Same to you my friend!

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@Jude_ As a counsellor, do you reckon it is possible to predominantly work with individuals on the spiritual path?  
For example, to market yourself as a spiritual counsellor/coach.  Activities performed with clients might be traditional talk therapy to work on “Cleaning Up” and leading the client to contemplate their existential assumptions to deconstruct the self as part of “Waking Up”?

Edited by Skin-encapsulatedego
Clarity

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16 hours ago, Skin-encapsulatedego said:

@Jude_ As a counsellor, do you reckon it is possible to predominantly work with individuals on the spiritual path?  
For example, to market yourself as a spiritual counsellor/coach.  Activities performed with clients might be traditional talk therapy to work on “Cleaning Up” and leading the client to contemplate their existential assumptions to deconstruct the self as part of “Waking Up”?

Hey I will say in general yes but it depends.  Depends on where you are, your marketing, your general skills... I think it won't be easy to make a full time gig of it, but if you are good then over time it becomes more possible.  I did have a friend who did this and ended up taking a programming course and getting a full time job because he wasn't making enough.

So it really depends.  You can't count on a steady stream of clients, but it could definitely happen.

I would definitely encourage you to try, just expect it might take a while to become a full time thing and have other work to keep you supported financially.

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On 09/06/2020 at 7:07 AM, Jude_ said:

Hey I will say in general yes but it depends.  Depends on where you are, your marketing, your general skills... I think it won't be easy to make a full time gig of it, but if you are good then over time it becomes more possible.  I did have a friend who did this and ended up taking a programming course and getting a full time job because he wasn't making enough.

So it really depends.  You can't count on a steady stream of clients, but it could definitely happen.

I would definitely encourage you to try, just expect it might take a while to become a full time thing and have other work to keep you supported financially.

Awesome.  Thank you!

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13 hours ago, Skin-encapsulatedego said:

Awesome.  Thank you!

Yeah if you try to do it, even if it doesn't work out as you are hoping, I can't imagine you regretting it.  There is so much learning, you should definitely pursue it.

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On 11/06/2020 at 5:52 AM, Jude_ said:

Yeah if you try to do it, even if it doesn't work out as you are hoping, I can't imagine you regretting it.  There is so much learning, you should definitely pursue it.

I most certainly am going to pursue it.  I can’t think of anything better I’d like to be doing.  
 

I’ve combed through some of the resources you’ve suggested.  Really excellent stuff.  I’m personally navigating some of my own trauma with a psychotherapist right now, and the Peter Levine recommendation is top notch.

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