Psychology and Complementary Therapies

News Updates

 

The Marriage of Psychology and Complementary Medicine: A psychologist’s perspective.

This may seem somewhat of a bold statement, but Psychology alone does not have all the answers.  To believe it does puts a lot of pressure on us as practitioners. This belief will drive us to overwork, to over explore and over burden ourselves to find answers that alone may be unachievable. Equally if our clients have this belief they too will put all the pressure and the responsibility onto us to solve their problems. One of the main areas currently crippling the health system is clients/patients not taking responsibility for their part in the healing process.  They often hand over full responsibility to their treating medical practitioners, pharmaceuticals and psychologists, wanting the answers but often not being prepared to do what is necessary to support themselves. This puts a lot of pressure on others to perform and would be a main contributor to stress, exhaustion and burnout in our profession. 

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a psychologist, however whilst studying I have to admit I became pretty disillusioned I couldn’t understand what statistics had to do with people and wondered where the love was.  There was so much theory about why people do what they do, what is hereditary and what is environmental but very little to do with one on one relating with people.  I stuck it out because I knew more than anything that is what I wanted and I figured I would find the missing pieces later.  18 months in I was ready to throw in the towel… I was the school psychologist responsible for the well-being of 600 students, their parents and teachers.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  I would refer to books and look for more and more theories to support me but I was sinking in a sea of emotions, not even my own, those of my clients, all of whom I cared for deeply and all of whom I wanted to support more than anything.  Yet somehow with all my training and all my knowledge I was missing something. 

It turns out I was missing me. Everyone thought I was doing a great job, I had students lining up to see me, unheard of right?  Whoever, especially young woman, really want to admit they are seeing a psychologist let alone line up outside their door where everyone can see?  Yet, I knew something was wrong.  I was getting more and more burnt out and more and more unhappy and dis-connected from everyone.  Irony was throughout all of that I was giving presentations on self-care; I was most definitely was not practicing what I was preaching.

A light bulb moment came for me when I heard of a world wide study that found  regardless of the modality used it was the practitioner and client rapport that made all the difference.  And although my rapport was good, or some would say great, I knew that how I was being with me was impacting on how I was with others, honestly how can you have rapport with another if you have none with yourself.

Thankfully not to far into my career I came across an organization specializing in modalities complementary to medicine that supported me to understand the major piece of the puzzle I was missing and that was my body and the vital role it plays in the healing process. These modalities fully supported me to let go and I found myself dropping into a level of stillness I don’t recall feeling since I was a very little girl.  From this space I found I had such strength and clarity and I found I was much more objective and less reactive to events and triggers that in the past I was very defensive of.  Today I understand that behaviours, emotions and reactions when repeated form configurations in the body that can be very difficult to shift.  The many different modalities used, including Esoteric Massage, Esoteric Connective Tissue and Esoteric Chakra-puncture all very gently and respectfully support the body to release held configurations and when combined with psychology clients are supported to look at these configurations and hence given the opportunity to re-imprint past behaviours, offering them the possibility of true healing.

Through all of this, what I have come to understand is my body is far wiser than my head.  My body tells me things my head would rather dismiss, drinking alcohol is good for me, yet my body tells me very clearly otherwise.  By working with the body clients are given a take home instructor, one that they can come to trust and listen to.  As psychologists we cannot nor would we want to be with our clients day and night, but if we support them to understand the value of their body we don’t need to because their greatest intelligence is always with them.

Today thanks to the connection I now have with my body, I live more vibrantly and joyfully than ever before. I can work incredibly long hours, see up to 8 or 9 clients a day 4 days a week plus I am involved in a great deal of research, projects and have a very solid family and social life.  I once struggled to see 5 clients a day and had little to nothing left for all else.

All of this has only been possible by the development of my relationship with my body and the understanding that without a body that is in tune and in connection with me I am unable to be there for others.  I no longer worry about rapport, I now know there is something far greater and deeper and that is the quality of presence and connection I bring to my clients.  The more connected I am the more deeply I am able to connect to others and instead of just waiting for an opening to tell another what I think, I listen very deeply to what they are saying and hear behind their words.  Our clients tell us so much without saying it in words, but without a body and mind in tune we miss the signals.   The body when connected comes with an innate wisdom and intelligence; the body knows things our head cannot.

Together, complementary medicine and psychology make a great marriage. Unfortunately at this time there seems to be a great deal of confusion between Modalities Complementary to Medicine and ones that are Alternative. Similar to the layperson not understanding the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist there is a critical misunderstanding between complementary and alternative medicine.  The vital difference being one is complementary to and supportive of conventional medicine and the other is alternative to it. In other wordsa client refuses all other forms of conventional medical treatment and uses only ‘alternative’ forms of treatment. This I do not endorse, true healing requires both forms of medicine and those only seeking the alternative have often been hurt by and or in reaction to our current medical system, they feel it has let them down somehow. This is another example of irresponsibility where we look for others to fix our problems and not be open to the part we play in our own illness and recovery.  As we would discern a doctor, lawyer, hairdresser or health practitioner so to must we discern what complementary medicine modalities and practitioners we use.  The key is always discernment.

Today I am a member of the Psychology and Complementary Interest group. This group was formed because it recognized that Complementary Medicine is presently the most rapidly growing area of medicine both in Australia and globally and, like mainstream western medicine, has overlapping areas of interest and professional activity with psychologists.  If you are interested in further exploring the benefits the marriage of Psychology and complementary medicine have to offer please feel free to contact the PsyCT committee via caroline@innermostcounselling.com.au