Somatic Psychotherapy

Therapeutic interventions for anxiety, depression, anger management, mood disorders and the whole gamut of DSM 5 disorders, in essence, should be  multifaceted.  Since the human being is a complex process, psychotherapy is enjoined upon a deep inquiry into our fight and flight responses, our childhood history, our subconscious minds, our lifestyles, our diets, our social relationships,  our dreams, our movement patterns  and our energy levels. In short, to work with anxiety and depression or any DSM 5 disorder effectively, the therapist should take a holistic approach  that engages the subtle and gross aspects of the self.  So where would one start in this jungle?

The body. The body is what  holds the various strands of our life experience together. Working any psychological issue demands a deep delving into the mystery of the body. Since the body is the subconscious and storehouse of repressed memories, thoughts, emotions and experiences. The body is pregnant with implicit meaning. Life literally inscribes and imprints  itself on our bodies through our posture, our gestures, the tone of our voice, the quality of our eye contact and the grip of our handshake.

The  body is the temple of our consciousness, the ground of our experience and the barometer of our felt sense. We know ourselves and the world through our bodies. We experience pleasure and pain through our bodies. Since its inception,  somatic psychotherapy has emphasised the import of the body mind connection. Today we are reaching even more subtler understandings of the interconnected nature of the psyche soma in the world of psychotherapy, where Cognitive Behaviour therapy and other talk therapies are acknowledged to not be as effective as body oriented modalities. Ground breaking discoveries in contemporary  medical research regarding the enteric nervous system, the gut -brain connection,  polyvagal theory and psychoneuroimmunology  have underscored that we have more information coming from the body to the brain then from the brain to the body. Bearing this in mind, any psychotherapeutic modality that does not take  the body into account is limited in its efficaciousness.

I teach all my clients how to settle, ground, feel and reconnect with their bodies and to bring psychological awareness to their muscles. Somatic awareness in combination with Dialectical Behaviour and Cognitive Behavioural techniques along with insights from Existential, Psychodynamic and Transpersonal psychology influence my therapeutic repertoire. Ultimately,  I believe that psychotherapy in itself is an art form  at the end of the day and  is not a one trick  pony phenomenon. Different individuals have different needs as one size does not fit all. Having said that,  I have found, in keeping with current understandings of the body-mind, that  for most clients, the first place to begin is by  engaging the physiology of our bodies so as to facilitate the unleashing of  the power of the unconscious. Working with the body is a powerful phenomenon that facilities the client in their own healing process. Ultimately, when  clients can begin to  feel their bodies more they  get more insight into their  histories and experiences and in turn improve their cognitive, behavioural and relational outcomes.

 


Refining mental health

Mental Health today is a very expansive concept and there are a plethora of ways to work with the mind ranging from psychotherapy to mantra meditation to herbs to mindfulness ,pranayama and yoga to exercise to nutrition to hypnosis to entheogens to reiki  to quantum healing  to dance therapy to sound therapy etc etc etc…. the list goes on.

Its therefore no surprise if  we get overwhelmed and fall into something called decision fatigue where we don’t know the best way forward for us. Also within the list above there are many nuances and sub types of all the methods listed….for instance in therapy we have somatic therapy, dialectical behaviour therapy, psychoanalysis, Hakomi…under yoga we have power yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Iyengar yoga, the choices and types are ever growing . . .there are thousands of medicinal herbs and substances that are being marketed from açai berries to moringa powder as well as numerous schools and modalities of meditation  from Vipasana to Kala chakra empowerments . . . . so what’s the best thing for us?

Often taking care of the Self requires a multifactorial, holistic approach which stimulates us on a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual levels. So one would need to work with oneself in a balanced and disciplined way that is intelligible to one’s own psychophysiological constitution. What I mean is the right type of exercise, the right type of meditation, right type of food, right amount of rest etc. for oneself . .  Otherwise our efforts are counterproductive and we have limited results. As we say in Ayurveda that one can eat like a king, but digest like a beggar if one’s gut flora  or digestive fire, known as  Agni  is not working properly.  What is meant by this is that one can avail of the best groceries, trainers, yoga studios but if its the wrong type of practise for us in whatever field, we will not be able to contain it in our bodymind and will not receive the benefits from it. So if a very skinny person decided to do an intense cardiovascular work out then it would be extremely destructive for their nervous, endocrine and immune systems . . . similarly if someone who intellectualises and rationalises defensively undertook solely CBT they would not learn to recognise, feel and work with their emotions in the body. Hence it is extremely important to see what suits us . . . so this leads us to exploring our Prakriti or constitution. I now mandatorily conduct Prakriti analyses with my clients  in order to complement  their therapeutic process by giving them the sui generis  nutritional, lifestyle and self care advise that is customised coherently for their unique needs.


Managing Intense Emotions with DBT

Sometimes life feels very difficult, almost unbearable and we are left desolate and helpless. Dealing with the intensity of one’s emotions can be challenging and this might lead one to take extreme measures by over consuming alcohol and drugs, having a lot of sex, self harming, having suicidal ideation and loosing our boundaries with other people, to the point of one’s own self destruction. In such instances, we cannot handle the sensations and feeling that are coursing though the bodymind and we don’t want to feel them.  Our nervous system is fraught with arousal and we do not have the necessary psychological skills to self soothe and self regulate. We attempt to  drown out or change the feelings we experience be it anger, jealousy, sadness  or frustration, often with very unproductive and temporary methods.  Yet, while tragically these coping strategies bring us limited relief, the underlying problem continues to be with us, haunting us and goading us to continue in our self destruction.

Often cases of trauma constrain an individual’s  ability to tolerate distress and the  DSM V psychological disorders known as Borderline personality disorder, Bipolar disorder and other Mood disorders that show a constraint in managing  grief or rage effectively  have traumatic experiences underlying  them. In such instances, it is extremely important to get the right  psychotherapeutic support where the therapeutic work does not remain at the level of talk only. It is important to be able to tolerate emotions by feeling them in the body and being mindful of our experience where we can balance our emotions with our thoughts, our mind with our body, our internal world with the external world and ourselves in relation to others.  Dialectical Behaviour Therapy  (DBT) is a therapeutic modality to work with intense emotions and  low levels of affect tolerance to enhance mood management, prevent self harm and promote well being. DBT was founded by Marsha Linehan and is, at its a core, a set of self soothing and self regulating skills that help individuals gain their equilibrium in the most trying of circumstances. It is  noninvasive and medication free, premised on refining an individual’s self awareness, reframing thought processes and birthing new wholesome behaviours.

DBT is a progression from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy where the contemplative side of the individual is engaged through integrating a mindfulness practice along  with cognitive and behavioural therapeutic practices. In its essence,  DBT consists of 4 dominant skills- distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. It teaches one to live in the present moment while moving through very disturbing and difficult emotional states. DBT  primes individuals to draw on their higher minds and radically accept circumstances they cannot change while not feeling victimised by them. My clients who have persevered with DBT show remarkable progress in managing the stresses and contingencies of their life, it is not that they do not feel sad or angry or hurt anymore but they have the ability to make space for these emotions and utilise their energies in ways that are productive and beneficial as opposed to ways that are self destructive and malefic for themselves.