Monday, August 24, 2015


One of our roles as psychotherapists and counselors is to be a source of peacefulness in the lives of our clients. I don't know about you as my reader, But I know that this aspect of our work was never mentioned to me in my training or any supervision I received. And yet, my clients who come to me with their anxieties and fears need to feel that my office and my presence are a reliable compassionate source of peacefulness. They periodically comment,"It's so peaceful here."
It is important for each of us to find our own pathway of becoming more peaceful within ourselves and then bring that peaceful presence into our sessions with our patients. For me,that pathway has been a combination of many years of psychotherapy exploring the "river of anxiety" that used to flow through me, thirty five years of meditational practice and many years of contemplative walks in nature. As I reflect back upon myself at earlier stages of my development it feels to me that this combination has gradually produced a palpable psychophysical "rewiring" - a significant change in my inner life and my presence with my patients. I also speculate that it has created new neurological patterns.
One nature setting in particular, a beaver pond two miles from my home, has become especially symbolic of the sense of serenity I now feel most of the time. I have a watercolor painting of a pond in the woods hanging on the wall of my office diagonally across from where I sit. In preparing for my morning's work I take a few moments to look at the painting, recall the sense of peace that I feel at my local pond and ask my Higher Self,"Help me to be a source of peacefulness for my patients." During session I will periodically look at that painting and imagine myself with my in-breath tapping into the serenity that I feel at the pond and with my out breath letting go of any anxiety that my patient may have triggered within me or transmitted to me.
I would encourage each of you to discover your own pathway to inner peacefulness that uniquely fits you. You then can bring that presence into the therapy work and become a source of peacefulness for your clients and find a way to tap into it during sessions.
We also need to help our patients find a way to develop a sense of peacefulness for themselves. This usually necessitates that they do some work between sessions. I usually ask my clients "Can you remember some physical place where at some time in your life you have felt a sense of peace?" It is striking to me how often they recall places in nature. And how frequently these natural settings also tap into memories of natural places of refuge during difficult episodes of their childhood and adolescence.
Bart remembered a lake in a park near his childhood home where he used to go as a refuge from his mother's alcoholism. Richard described climbing out of his bedroom window to escape his father's abuse and the sense of safety he felt sitting under a huge oak tree in nearby woods. This is a brief blog entry,otherwise I would cite many more examples. I suggested to both Bart and Richard,as I have done with many patients, that they explore some local nature setting that reminded them of those childhood sanctuaries. Bart found a bench alongside a pond in his local suburban park; Richard felt drawn to a grove of trees in a nearby state forest. I encouraged each of them to develop a regular practice of going to these places between sessions and while sitting down to "Imagine that with your in-breath you are taking in the peacefulness of this place and with your out-breath are letting go of your anxieties and fears." Yearning for more inner peace in their lives they eagerly embraced this suggestion and visited their places a couple of times each week. Gradually they began to report that they brought the peaceful feeling into their everyday lives. When things became difficult Bart would imagine sitting at the bench and Richard under the big tree, focus on their breathing and say to themselves,"Let go of the fear." They were increasingly amazed and grateful how quickly they felt more peaceful.