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Mind your healing ways

24/01/2006 © The Irish Times

Are we developing new healing techniques or simply repackaging old practices, asks Sylvia Thompson.

There is a whole range of new healing techniques developing across th

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e world which, through global culture and the willingness of practitioners to take on new tools of the trade, are arriving in Ireland with speed.

Many of these techniques are loosely gathered together under the term energy psychology. This term (although not widely recognised by clinical and counselling psychologists) includes many techniques which incorporate aspects of complementary medicine practices with theory and practices of psychotherapy.

“A lot of psychotherapists and hypnotherapists work with energy psychology methods and they have been used widely following war in the Balkans and following natural disasters such as the Tsunami in Asia and Hurricane Katrina in the United States,” says Sarah Bird, a Dublin-based personal development consultant who uses energy psychology techniques.

The techniques most widely known as “energy psychotherapies” are Tapas acupuncture technique, thought field therapy, emotional freedom techniques and guided self-healing.

Many of these techniques have been developed by psychologists and/or complementary medicine practitioners and rely a lot on the individual's intuition or so-called “deep wisdom” to heal himself/herself.

Guided self-healing, for example, was developed in the US by psychologist Andrew Hahn in 1994 and training programmes began in 1997.

It has been described as a “non-denominational spiritual psychology which has the ultimate faith in the self”.

Hahn suggests that the three standard models of understanding and doing clinical work – cognitive/behavioural (focusing on symptoms), psychodynamic (focusing on internal conflict) and existential (focusing on qualities of being) – are insufficient.

“We have to build a psychospiritual model based on consciousness and our experience of consciousness in our energetic field/body,” says Hahn.

Practitioners using guided self- healing techniques rely on kinesiology or muscle testing to find out what problem the client needs to work on.

Then the practitioner and client work together using various techniques including hypnosis, meditation, visualisations, movement, affirmations to identify the cause of the problem and what “energetic practices” are needed to help resolve it.

The technique sounds both vague and non-directional because it is.

At every stage, the therapist is “guided” by the client to proceed.

Tom Magill, a freelance drama facilitator, explains how he chose to use the approach. “I like the idea of being able to heal myself. I believe our mindset can either help or hinder our own healing and I believe we have the power to change our own mindset,” he says.

“I have noticed that since I started paying attention to my thoughts, I am more healthy. I think we have to look at problem areas in our life in a holistic way. What we do affects who we are.”

Practitioners of guided self-healing claim the approach has been successful in the treatment of chronic physical illnesses, emotional difficulties, relationship problems and spiritual issues.

James Jameson, a hypnotherapist based in Bray, Co Wicklow, uses energy psychology techniques in his practice.

“The client and the therapist have to trust the approach for it to work. Some people who are highly analytical will have difficulty with guided self-healing,” says Jameson.

Another problem with energy psychology approaches is that they remain outside the mainstream approaches used by psychologists.

Generally speaking, many practitioners of such techniques are also trained in complementary therapies and not through the accredited training of clinical or counselling psychology.

“Our main issue with these 'energy psychology' techniques surrounds the qualifications and training required by those who practise them,” says Ronan Yore, president of the Psychological Society of Ireland.

“For instance, the first year of training in guided self-healing involves four day workshops – which are also very expensive.

“Our job is to inform the public that this level of training is not adequate,” he says.

“Also, as far as I can see, the therapy [guided self-healing] is a mixture of Jungian and Gestalt psychology and addiction counselling. It's old stuff with a new name. Why take an extensive body of research, repackage it and give it a new name?

“This smacks of commercialism to me and confuses the public,” Yore says.

However, practitioners such as Sarah Bird and James Jameson are not deterred by such views.

Jameson says: “There is a paradigm shift going on in the world of healing now and a lot of new approaches are developing. There are techniques that work in practice which shouldn't be lost just because the resources are not there to test their effectiveness.”

Sarah Bird adds: “Doing the training in guided self-healing opened up a new level of awareness and intuition for me and my own personal development has grown tenfold since my training.

“Guided self-healing relies on a two-way energy exchange between therapist and client. When their levels of comfort, intention and integrity line up together, extraordinary things can happen.”

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