Piggybacking off the post I shared a few weeks ago, I wanted to expand upon the statement that there are many ways to heal. What I see in the field of psychotherapy, as I see in many other fields and areas in our lives, is that at we’ve divided the mind, body, and soul into “modalities”: CBT/ERP; family systems, depth psychology; psychodynamic; psychoanalysis; trauma healing; somatic psychology. While I understand the need to categorize as the field is too broad to place every approach under one umbrella, there also seems to be a subtle competition between modalities, a way in which depth psychology turns up its nose to CBT and a way in which CBT consider “psychoanalysis” to be a dirty word, as Pete Weiss recently said in this interview.
That said, most therapists do draw on multiple modalities, and I’m also seeing a willingness in the field to refer out when a client needs something in addition to what the therapist is trained to address (more on this at the end of this post). So, as in other areas of our lives – from culture to gut health to farming practices – we’re recognizing that diversity is more effective than one approach. Diversity, it seems, is the name of the current game.
In this vein, when it comes to the healing of the psyche, we may find that:
Sometimes we need a cognitive correction.
Sometimes we need to learn how to feel our feelings, process trauma, and attend to early wounding.
Sometimes we need to balance our physiology.
Sometimes we need to make behavioral changes.
Sometimes the soul is dry and needs to be watered.
Let’s take panic attacks as an example. I’ve seen panic attacks recede quite quickly with a cognitive correction, by which I mean somebody is struggling with depersonalization, for example, and once they learn what depersonalization is – that it’s a thing – they’re no longer afraid of it and it goes away. As a significant element of anxiety and panic is fear of the fear, it makes sense that a cognitive correction that tells you what’s happening, explains that a panic attack can’t hurt you and that it’s normal, can quiet the fear of the experience, which allows the experience itself to diminish.
I’ve also seen panic attacks be resolved with behavioral changes, what we call Exposure and Response Prevention, or as Barry McDonagh teaches in his brilliant book Dare, to learn how to run towards fear. Through this lens, we can talk and talk and talk about a panic attack, but until we take the action that dissolves the fear, panic will still retain its power.
Continuing along through the realms of self, I’ve seen panic attacks resolve when the root cause and the trauma elements are addressed. This means recognizing that, for some people, in order to make behavioral changes, they need to understand where the panic attacks are coming from and place them in a greater context.
I know I speak for many of my clients and course members when I say that without the element of meaning and the understanding of root source, it’s much more difficult to make the behavioral changes. From a depth psychological perspective, we understand that symptoms emerge from the unconscious and carry important messages. Not everyone needs to understand the messages in order to make the changes, but many do.
Furthermore – and this is not true across the board but it is true in many cases – without addressing and resolving the root cause embedded inside the symptom of panic, for example, you can resolve the symptom only to find that the root cause finds another way to express itself. This is why I say that when we seek to reduce anxiety only through symptom reduction a game of whac-a-mole often ensues.
Lastly, we come to the spiritual realm. I have seen panic disappear when somebody commits to and embodies their spiritual practice. Why? Because seen through one lens, panic attacks are opportunities to learn how to surrender into groundlessness, move toward existential terror, and make peace with uncertainty. Fundamentally, these are spiritual tasks.
For most people, different interventions will be required at different stages of life and with different symptoms. This is why therapists who are trained in a holistic model are most effectively able to help their clients. If a Jungian-trained therapist is attempting to treat compulsions exclusively from a depth perspective, they may overlook that what’s actually needed is a cognitive correction or a behavioral change. Similarly, if a CBT-trained therapist is unable or unwilling to explore a client’s emotional and psychological background and possibly trauma, the symptom reduction may be ineffective or short-lived.
This is why I believe that a community or collaborative model of psychotherapy and healing is emerging, one that recognizes with humility the limitations of an individual clinician or healer. When a client comes to me, for example, and is needing to do a round of EMDR, I am in full support of that person seeking the help of another therapist since I’m not trained in EMDR. The mainstream model of psychotherapy teaches that it’s a conflict of interest for a client to work with more than one therapist. I don’t see it this way, nor do many of my colleagues who have been working in the field for decades.
Again, it comes down to one of the precepts that I often teach in relationships: one person cannot be all things. This is true in romantic partnerships, in parenting, in friendship, and in our work lives. Just like one or two parents cannot fill all of the needs of their child and, thus, the phrase “it takes a village”, so one therapist cannot meet all of the needs of their clients – nor is it their job to meet all of the client’s needs. Ultimately, good therapy, as good parenting, teaches the client or child to take responsibility for their own well-being and learn to accept the imperfection of any one person.
As we see the patriarchal models and mindsets crumbling all around us, I believe we are going to see this in the healing professions as well, for it is an arrogant mindset that stems from the masculine principle gone awry that expects a therapist to be all things to all clients. The collaborative approach is the feminine approach in all areas of life. This is what is needed, and I believe that this is where we are headed.
Note: I very much value your comments as they pertain to each post and I love hearing about your insights and breakthroughs. However, if you’re struggling with relationship anxiety, I know it’s tempting to ask for reassurance or guidance, but unfortunately, I’m not able to offer advice in this format. I encourage you to read through this Collection, consider the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety course, and, as always, work with a skilled and loving therapist who can be a guide and witness for your healing. If you’re struggling with other anxiety themes, please see my book, The Wisdom of Anxiety, and read through my hundreds of free blog posts on a variety of topics.