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Alternative Psychotherapy
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A drum circle
A drum circle


From time to time each of us can feel "stuck" in situations or behaviors which are unsatisfying or seem to lead nowhere. "Alternative Psychotherapy" can help us develop meaningful alternatives when we've lost a sense of direction in our lives.

"Alternative Psychotherapy" also means using alternative approaches in therapy that help us focus on strengths and resources we already have but may overlook in trying to regain control in our lives. Recognizing and beginning to employ these assets can mean the end of living in the face of overwhelming obstacles and the resumption of a life of purpose and achievement.

Approaches that can help include ritual, music, body-oriented methods such as Hakomi, and empowering therapies such as Narrative therapy ~ some of these are described below. For web sites which can connect you with alternative therapies, see our Resources page.

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Body, Mind & Spirit

By emphasizing "body, mind and spirit", we remember that all aspects of health ~ physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual ~ are important elements in regaining the sense of satisfaction and purpose that are our birthrights. When we only address the mental or the emotional, as traditional psychotherapy often does, we leave ourselves vulnerable to the stresses and imbalances in other areas of our lives; this can limit our sense of wellness.

Diet, lifestyle, connection to family and community, and even spiritual practice play a role in being healthy and living well, especially at times of challenge or change. In alternative psychotherapy, in addition to working with a psychotherapist, we also often work with other healing professionals as are indicated, such as a nutritionist or exercise coach.

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Body-Oriented Therapy

Many therapists consider human experience to be composed of conscious and unconscious aspects. There are many roads to our unconscious mind ~ for example, Jungians favor dream analysis. Body-oriented therapists view our bodies and physical behavior as well as our experience of having a body as avenues for discovery of our unconscious beliefs, feelings and memories. By directing our attention to our full experience in the moment, body-oriented therapies help open our awareness to more aspects of our selves.

Among the therapies we provide to our clients, the Hakomi Method of Body-Oriented Psychotherapy is a safe, gentle, yet powerful approach that can help clients learn about themselves in a short amount of time. Hakomi encourages mindfulness ~ a clear, non-judging awareness of whatever is happening ~ as a method for self-study that opens us to ourselves. Nonviolence, the unity of mind and body, and similar principles guide the client and therapist in discovering the client's core beliefs and strategies by developing awareness and self-knowledge.

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Many people begin therapy focused on persistent problems. But over the past 40 or 50 years, pioneers in individual and family therapy, including Milton Erickson, Steve de Shazer, and Michael White, have discovered that many people can be better helped by focusing on, envisioning and realizing client strengths and the solutions they lead to.

Empowering therapies emphasize that each person who's made it to the entry door of the therapist's office comes with their own set of skills and resources. Those talents are honored by considering with the client what's working in their life already. What exceptions are there to the story that we tell of our struggle with a problem? What would our life look like if we solved our problem? Are there ways in which we're working on and solving our problem, at least in part, right now?

By using empowering approaches in therapy, we can engender a greater sense of self-sufficiency and self-respect in each other than when we spoon feed others with our supposed wisdom. People come to therapy already possessing valuable knowledge about how to live their lives well. Alternative therapy helps clients to recognize this knowledge and put it to use, while also developing new resources.

One of the most helpful of the empowering therapies is "Narrative Therapy", so called because it places at its center the stories we tell about our lives and the influence they have over us. Narrative Therapy also considers the cultural mesages that constrain us from developing healthy alternatives for ourselves. Men, for example, often find in narrative work that they can confront and overcome the social programming that leads them to express anger in destructive ways. By working with the therapist to create inspiring and empowering narratives, clients can rewrite, not just whitewash, their life stories and begin to live again the lives they prefer.

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Expressive Arts

Vocal expression ~ Movement ~ Drawing ~ Music ~ Sculpture ~ Writing ~ Etc.

Almost all of the arts we engage in and appreciate in our everyday life can support us in therapy to express and explore ourselves. In therapy using the arts, we learn first-hand that, rather than "musical talent" or "artistic ability", the sole requirement for expression in art is simply the willingness to experiment. Wonderful worlds open for us when we play ~ with our bodies, with our imaginations, with others. Who said "play therapy" is only for kids?

"Talk" therapy is an important part of the healing process for many of us. But there are other tools in the psychotherapy toolkit ~ ones which help us fix the parts of us that cannot be expressed in words. Sometimes healing happens in a silent place that, at the same time, need not only be a still one.

The words "emotion" and "express" have a similar root ~ to send out, to share with others. There are magical creations inside each of us when we can explore life and ourselves in a safe and nurturing environment. Without anyone's critical gaze, even our own, we find that we each can express quite a lot.


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