(Printed in July/August CAMFT online magazine)
Shamanic Counseling (as conceived by Michael Harner of the Foundation of Shamanic Studies) is a six-session methodology for clients interested in learning how to conduct shamanic journeys on their own behalf for support and wisdom. Journeying with the sound of the drum is considered by the Foundation of Shamanic Studies as “core shamanism”: underlying near-universal shamanic principles and practices. By not imitating any specific cultural tradition, but rather by emphasizing the underlying cross-cultural principles, this practice is suited for non-indigenous practitioners who desire a relatively culture-free system that we can adopt, integrate into our contemporary lives, and have a way of relating personally to our spirit helpers. Looking at them as archetypes, in the vein of transpersonal psychology, they would be considered aspects of our inner most wise person. Shamanic journeying is not faith-based, but experience based. No specific religion or spiritual belief system is necessary to experience the benefits of this practice, which makes it a perfect adjunct to psychotherapy, or a complete process on it’s own.
Before fully diving into the topic of Shamanic Counseling and how it can serve someone who is interested in tapping into deep wisdom in this way, I’m compelled to glimpse into the recent upsurge in alternative healing modalities. I’d also like to posit that some psychotherapists are beginning to inhabit the role of the western version of the shamanic healer. Since much of what we do is talk therapy, we know there is much power in words (and dreams and hopes and body sensations). It’s important to look at the origin of how our profession is named. “Psychotherapy” has it’s roots in ancient Greek: “psyche” meaning soul/spirit/breath and “therapia” meaning healing. We are healers of the soul.
The human species is speeding ahead with technological, scientific, and medical advances and making the world a “global village” with internet being ever present in even the smallest towns around the world. Yet, there are a growing number of people who are interested in and feel the benefit of ways of life adopted from our ancestors. This is evidenced by the advent of the Slow Food Movement and sharing economies, as well as more people turning to Earth-based spirituality, raising chickens and growing their own vegetables, practicing yoga and mindfulness, and the rise of DIY projects in lieu of buying something pre-packaged.
We’re also seeing this evolution of consciousness in the rise of alternative healing modalities. While many energy healing practices are considered “new age,” the origins of the movement are adaptations of ancient ways. Most energy healers have honed the skill of tuning into subtle energy fields in order to tap into the information and wisdom that resides there. By first becoming conscious of the subtle field, practitioners and clients can begin to shift the subtle energies to make choices that lead to a fuller and more satisfying life.
I believe that most psychotherapists are already attuned to the subtle energies. We observe and track, we intuit, we’re interested in what is not fully conscious, we’re open to discovering that which was there before but was previously unknown, we help clients attune to their inner (more subtle) states, and support clients to have more choice and power in their lives. Much like a tracker, who is attuned to nature’s rhythms and uses the art and science of observing animal tracks, we follow patterns that lead to a greater understanding of what’s driving the behavior. We also act as an Intuitive. We do this by attending to our own sensations, gut feelings, and sudden insights (the last two definitely residing in the category of subtle energy). We’re curious about all that is reported by our clients, as well as the unknown and unspoken realms of our client’s experience. We also support our clients to do their own investigative work by making inquiries that will support fuller states of consciousness of their own process. Supporting clients to step into their personal power in balanced ways is a core component to healing.
And the Shamanic Counselor supports the client to access their most wise, intuitive, loving self for knowledge and support with journeying, while the psychotherapist supports the client with the integration of mind, body, and psyche/spirit/soul through the journey of the therapeutic process.
Please stay tuned in the next CAMFT newsletter for more information about Shamanic Counseling, it’s applications for healing, and similarities to transpersonal therapeutic interventions.
Diana Halfmann, MFT (MFC 45031) provides Play, Filial, Family and Psychotherapy in her private practice in San Francisco. She also provides Shamanic Counseling to individuals interested in conducting their own shamanic journeys for wisdom and clarity. (415) 857-3901. www.DianaHalfmann.com
As the weather turns from San Francisco’s beautiful Indian Summer to the chill reminding us of the coming of winter, people may start to feel “under the weather.” This idiom could have derived from the commonly held belief that bad weather can make you sick or from an old sailor phrase. When sailors were sick, they would rest below deck and thus were literally "under" the weather on deck. As I started to feel “a little under the weather” myself, I’m reminded that the weather, just like any other cycle in life, can affect our mood and our physical and spiritual health. So, yes, we are indeed under the influence of the weather, as well as the influence of the transitions between the seasons. So if you’re starting to feel “under the weather,” whether it’s related to the seasonal changes or to a shift that’s happening in your own life, it’s a time to go inward, be reflective, welcome in those times of rest and darkness.
Transitions in life, whether it’s a change that invokes fear or it’s a move towards something you’ve been inviting into your life, can be challenging. Getting that new job you’ve been searching for, or making a healthier lifestyle choice, or deepening a relationship can be inherently tough. And it’s because we’re entering into the mystery. And the ego has a hard time living in the mystery. "What will happen? Can I do it? Will this go horribly wrong?" Honor those times as you’re making that shift or feeling the change of seasons, and take care of yourself in a way that is different from your day to day choices, as they are reminders to slow down and give good attention to your inner life. Maybe the part of ourselves that have our best interest at heart is telling us to go to bed earlier, take a bath, lay in shavasana longer, spend some time with our journal, give gratitude for what we have, and maybe even eat with less distractions and more attention to the food (that’s what I’m working on!).
The dark time of year is also the right time for reaching out to your family (chosen and blood relations), for warmth in the form of physical contact and support. It doesn’t have to be the frenzied kind of holidaze activity that is now somehow seems customary for this time of year, but the kind of 1:1 support that can really warm the soul. Humans need extended community. So, if you’re “under the weather,” or “feeling blue” (another old seafaring idiom), take time for yourself to go inward if that’s the skillful choice or reach out to loved ones for some extra attention.
--Diana Halfmann, MFT