Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Explaining my Practice

Besides being an emotional eating expert, professional speaker and author, I have a private counseling practice. I am often asked to explain my clinical practice and so I am sharing my philosophy and practice with you in this blog. I hope you find it useful.

My practice is atypical. I function both as clinical psychologist and doctor of holistic health. The combination of roles provides a unique opportunity to incorporate a naturopathic philosophy into my overall practice. I tailor my course of action with each client depending upon their needs as they present them. I will outline many aspects of my work but first the most essential is the concept of respect – for the client, for the process and for myself as helper. This is the cornerstone of any successful practice.

When anyone inquires about my services, I engage them in a collaborative conversation. I want to know how they perceive their needs and what their perceptions are regarding the situation for which they are seeking help. This must be a mutual process. It will unfold through a combination of efforts – their’s and mine. I have great respect for my clients’ objectives. They know what they want and are looking for ways to achieve the goals they set. I function as a resource and facilitator. My training and experience is used to assist them along the path they have chosen.

Sometimes through the process of our work together a client might feel the route they are taking is not serving their best interest. This may happen many times throughout the course of our meetings. I encourage clients to revisit their goals and then we discuss the new options that manifest themselves. This often results in a change of direction and movement towards something more fitting and productive. When it occurs, this is a positive step and leads to greater understanding and more vibrant health. Each person has the opportunity to reevaluate and rethink former decisions and become more focused and flexible. These are necessary life skills and enhance the client’s self-esteem.

I am interested in a person’s entire being. It is vital to know how they are caring for themselves physically, emotionally, intellectually, environmentally and spiritually. It is also important to know some things about their socialization process and the forces that have shaped their ideas of how to perform in the world. I inquire about expectations they have based on their gender, skin color, age, sexual orientation, level of education, etc. and I ask about their lifestyle in general and how closely connected they are to other people and to nature.

It is important that I use my skill and knowledge to help clients assess how they are caring for themselves physically. We discuss the importance of a nutrient dense diet that is as natural as possible. I tell them about different vitamins, herbs or food that may be helpful to them. I stress the benefits of sunshine, fresh air, moderate exercise, rest and play. I never prescribe anything. Instead I make them aware of alternative options. I talk about helpful services they may not be familiar with, such as Reiki, Polarity, Massage, etc. They choose what modalities sound interesting and decide what they would like to explore.

Some clients benefit from consulting a nutritionist. Others engage the services of a personal trainer or schedule acupuncture treatments. My role is to educate and to provide as many resources and viable options as I can. I do not presume to know exactly what my clients need although I do believe in educating them and introducing them to relevant books and publications so they can enlighten themselves further. In this way they make clear, informed choices and take full advantage of the healing modalities available today. I help each client explore various courses of action and assist them in making a plan for themselves and in refining that plan from time to time. Ultimately it is their responsibility to choose the options they wish to explore and to follow through.

If they report they are having difficulty, we address their resistance to change and examine some of their self-imposed limitations. We also discuss their feelings about making life-style changes. As a psychologist I again enlist the client’s aid in this process. It is never “I the doctor” and “you the patient”. It is always “us”, engaged in a respectful, mutual process of exploration where we combine our energy and insights to promote movement toward optimal health. We become a team. This creates a more open, relaxed and trusting atmosphere in which to explore all possibilities.

This inevitably results in more choices for my clients – choices about available options, possible directions to head in, services to seek and ways to increase their knowledge. My goal is to listen closely, to help each person move towards greater awareness of themselves and to discover ways to access and utilize their personal healing power. It is my role to encourage each client to assume responsibility for themselves which includes their choices in the present as well as how they have operated in the past. I urge them to look at themselves with gentle eyes -- not feeling judgmental, ashamed or guilty. I explain that the past is gone and choices made then do not prevent us from making different, healthier, more self-loving choices now. I encourage them to let go of the past and remember there are no mistakes, only lessons. I urge clients to be mindful and to stay in present time as much as possible. I encourage each to focus on making as many self-loving choices as possible in each present moment.

I also ask clients to pay close attention to their spiritual selves and to nurture the spiritual light within. I urge them to spend quiet time each day going inside of themselves to discover their peaceful center. I teach meditation, deep breathing or some type of reflective practice if they are open to it. I also encourage them to pray. This helps them quiet the incessant chatter of daily living, notice their true feelings and to discover what they really want.

I offer suggestions to help people uncover and strengthen their spiritual, creative and playful natures. For example, I might suggest starting a journal, spending more time in nature, taking an art class, dancing, singing in a choir, writing poetry or joining a cooking class. It all depends upon the client’s abilities, motivation and interests.

As a clinician I realize the importance of maintaining my own attitude of curiosity and am constantly educating myself. It is vital that I keep up with what is going on in the fields of psychology and holistic health in order to disseminate current, accurate information and offer the best service to each client.

It is also imperative that I model the healthiest lifestyle possible for my clients. I take the best care of my body, mind and spirit. Of course, I cannot do this perfectly at all times, nor can my clients. I share this with them, letting them know that what is important is not that we are perfect but that we do our best. There are no mistakes -- only lessons and no one can expect to behave perfectly in every moment. It is the human way to make less than self-loving choices at times. The road to optimal health is to recognize when we drift off course and to make our best effort to reset our compass in a healthier, more self-loving direction.

I also create a peaceful atmosphere in the office for my clients and myself and talk with them about the importance of freeing their chi energy. We discuss the principles of feng shui and ways to make changes in their home and work environments to help their movement towards greater, more vibrant health.

As I continue to educate myself and to evolve, I share myself freely with clients. This is humbling, sacred work and each time I sit with a client I ask spirit to guide my words and actions. I remind myself that each person is entering my space with their own agenda and it is their agenda that is important – not mine. I love this work. I feel blessed and I silently salute the spirit within each person whom I serve.

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