Types of Psychological
or Mental Health Healing
Human experience is a complicated affair and very little of what we think, feel, or do is entirely rational and self-aware. Depth Psychology is the term used to describe an approach to understanding human experience that takes into account unconscious (subconscious) motivations and influences. It was pioneered by Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, and Carl Jung.
The simplest example of unconscious influences may be the tendency of people to perceive threats to their situation without even being consciously aware that they feel threatened, and then to act defensively against that threat. This happens, for instance, when people take anger out at a different people than the ones they actually feel anger toward or when someone experiences something terrifying and does not remember it. Unconscious experiences can lead to lifelong patterns and sometimes changing those patterns is dependent on understanding them.
If you engage in patterns of behaviour that make no sense to you and you would like to understand why you do what you do, so that you can change it, Welling Centre has a trained depth psychologist that may be able to help.
Psychological trauma is any experience that overwhelms your capacity to cope with it in the moment and impairs your future ability to function or cope in some way.
Trauma “dysregulates” you whenever you are reminded of the event in some way, even if only unconsciously. You may not have any idea why you are so worked up, but suddenly you are!
Trauma can be broken down into what are sometimes known as “big-T traumas” and “little-t traumas.” Life threatening events are often referred to as “big-T traumas.” Sometimes big-T traumas can be single events, such as a car accident, or compounded events, such as years of abuse or neglect. We call single-event traumas, “simple trauma,” although they hardly feel simple for a person who has experienced one. Compounded traumatic events are called, “complex trauma.” Those that live with the effects of complex trauma often feel like they are “broken” or “damaged” individuals, and they often feel like there is no hope.
Not everyone has experienced big-T trauma, but “little-t traumas” refer to the everyday-kind of traumas that everyone has endured. These include such things as being bullied, teased, ridiculed, scorned, shunned, and rejected. Events such as these can have a lingering effect on people, even when the affected person insists that they “brushed it off” years ago.
The issues that bring people into our offices often have deep and surprising roots in earlier events like these from various stages of their lives. As psychology has come to better understand what happens to the mind and body because of trauma, therapies have dramatically improved, and now even for those who feel “broken” or “damaged” there is much hope. Many of the following therapies have been found to be effective with trauma survivors.
These trauma therapies are offered by different practitioners at Welling Centre.
In the scientific literature of clinical psychology, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has been shown to be effective in helping people heal from the effects big-T trauma described above. After being treated with EMDR, people who have suffered with Acute Stress Disorder, Post-Traumatic Distress Disorder (PTSD), dissociative disorders, and other trauma-related symptoms, very frequently report permanent changes in their reactivity to the triggers that remind them of the situations that caused them to feel afraid for their lives or the lives of others.
EMDR has also been shown to be extremely helpful in treating people who are coping with the effects of little-t trauma described above. EMDR involves the use of eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation to help people process experiences that overwhelmed normal coping mechanisms and ended up being stored in isolated, memory networks, leading to maladaptive functioning. When the experiences are adequately processed, they are not forgotten, but they no longer unnecessarily activate a person’s autonomic nervous system in ways associated with danger and threat.
Brainspotting is an offshoot of EMDR which involves locating points in the client’s visual field that are believed to correspond to subcortical neural networks associated with inadequately processed traumatic events. When the spots are identified, the practitioner helps the client to process and release the source of the trauma. Brainspotting operates as a neurobiological tool in support of an attuned clinical relationship that promotes healing.
Popular culture and the entertainment industry often depict hypnosis in inaccurate or even alarming ways, but in truth, hypnosis is simply a way to access a natural state of heightened focused attention. People often enter into hypnotic or “trance” states regularly, without even realizing it, such as when they daydream or when athletes get into the “zone” to prepare for a competition.
When a trained practitioner assists a person to enter into such a state for the purpose of healing, it is called hypnotherapy or clinical hypnosis. Hypnotherapy can be a powerful way to access thoughts, talents, and experiences that are often off limits to the conscious mind, and through it, many people have made positive changes in their lives. When used by trained clinicians to treat problems they are qualified to treat, hypnotherapy is completely safe. In fact, it has a long, well documented, scientific history.
Hypnotherapy may be helpful in treating trauma, anxiety, depression, athletic performance, smoking cessation, obesity and weight control, sexual dysfunctions, sleep disorders, concentration difficulties, and a host of other issues. Because the nature of memory is such that it can easily be modified by context and suggestion, hypnotherapy is not appropriate for trying to accurately recall forgotten events. You may recall things, but they may not be what actually happened.
To find out if hypnotherapy may be right for you, and to learn how clinicians at the Welling Centre may use it, book an appointment with one of these practitioners.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a thoroughly researched, short-term, goal-oriented, practical technique that aims to change the beliefs and attitudes people have about situations that lead to dysfunctional patterns of behaviour.
When the pattern of thinking is changed, the feelings and behaviour change with it, so that symptoms are reduced. Newer forms of CBT, called third wave CBT combine it with mindfulness and emotional acceptance techniques.
Some people connect with or are curious about deeper experiences, such as those described by mystics, yogis, and shamans. Transpersonal counselling is a field within psychology that focuses on the spiritual aspects of human experience.
It offers a way for people to heal by growing and developing themselves beyond the usual or conventional limits of identity. It’s not a religious practice; it is a way for people who feel open and interested in spiritual ideas and experiences to understand their own experience within a safe environment supported by a caring professional.
If you feel constrained by conventional approaches to healing, transpersonal counselling may be for you. Click here to find a Tranpersonal Counsellor at Welling Centre.
Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in the potential healing powers of psychedelic experiences facilitated through the use of hallucinogenic, empathogenic, dissociative, or similar substances. These can include any plant or fungal based medicines (i.e. magic mushrooms, iboga, ayahuasca, peyote, cannabis, etc.) or artificial psychoactive substances (i.e. MDMA, ketamine, LSD, etc.) used for healing, recreational, or spiritual purposes. When these substances are used for spiritual or sacred purposes, they are called entheogens (and, of course, some people would contend that spiritual and healing purposes are one in the same). Regardless of the purpose to which they are put, the outcomes can be varied, and not always positive. Many people have experienced harm (bad trips, etc.) through their use, despite the growing evidence that when used properly, they can be of incredible value. Often, people are naïve to the risks associated with combining different substances and unaware of the vital role played by the mindset of participants and the setting in which the substances are used. The profound, rapid changes many people report after a psychedelic experience may require careful reflection and integration. Put metaphorically, a pill may be far easier to swallow than it is to digest.
When a person is considering or has already had a psychedelic experience, it is often helpful to have a guide to alert the person to potential risks and benefits, and to assist them in integrating profound new insights (or challenging experiences) into existing patterns of thought, feelings, and behaviour. A person’s psychological history (including trauma, psychosis, and other mental health factors) has great bearing on the way that these experiences may be interpreted and integrated or not integrated. Brian Welling is a psychologist with special training and interest in this area. (See also transpersonal counselling as this type of therapy can, for some people, overlap with psychedelic integration).
Many people choose to use psychedelics and similar substances even though many of them are, illegal substances in Canada, or only available through physicians, who are often reluctant to prescribe. This may be changing. Research, which had been delayed for decades is now progressing at an accelerated rate, and we may well see many of these substances become more readily available for medical purposes, including the treatment of mental disorders, such as depression, PTSD, opioid and alcohol addiction. Already, ayahuasca is being used legally in some settings for spiritual purposes in Canada, and of course, cannabis is legally available medically and recreationally, here. Many psychedelic and similar types of substances are legal in other jurisdictions, and illicit use in Canada remains popular.
At Welling Centre, we do not advocate or endorse the illicit use of substances. We do, however, have an interest and responsibility to promote harm reduction. Our approach is to act within legal and ethical bounds to guide and support people who choose to make use of these substances by providing access to information and therapy in order to reduce the potential for harm and to promote mental and spiritual health and well being.
We do not currently offer psychedelic-assisted therapy, but will, within the scope of our practice, help people to prepare for and consider their rationale for future psychedelic experiences, and help them to integrate past psychedelic experiences. We will not give medical advice and our psychological services are not a substitute for the medical care of physicians or nurses or the spiritual care of shamans with years of dedicated specialized training and practice in the traditional ceremonial use of sacred medicines.