Spiritual Threads in Psychotherapeutic Work

With Module Speakers:
Dr Alexandra DentDr Angela CotterDr Paramabandhu GrovesDr Tim ReadElizabeth Wilde McCormickIsabel ClarkeDr Judith PickeringLes LancasterDr David LukoffProfessor Jeremy HolmesProfessor William WestRabbi Howard CooperRuthie SmithViv Fogel,

Freud described psychoanalysis as “…the science of the soul”, a phrase which suggests a healer’s concern with integrating the experience of suffering. Traditionally, the search for meaning, and solutions to existential anxieties has been the domain of theologies, with psychotherapy taking a peripheral interest in those concerns. But in increasingly consumerist societies, where fewer people define themselves as religious, patients increasingly bring transpersonal and spiritual concerns to their sessions. How should we respond?





Dr Alexandra Dent
Example of Introducing Heart Led Psychotherapy to a Client

In this audio recording, Dr Alexandra Dent explains and explores her Heart Led approach with one of her clients.

Audio with slides – 35 mins

A discussion of the Heart and Soul Led Approach to Psychotherapy.

In this video talk with slides, Dr Alexandra Dent discusses the ideas and techniques in her recently published book and argues that working with the heart and or soul enables clients to speed up their trauma processing and also make more rapid shifts in troubling relationship patterns.

Video with slides – 1 hour

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Dr Angela Cotter
Dreaming the Dream that is Dreaming Us. The Lived Experience of High Intensity States in Practice

In this video talk, Dr Angela Cotter explores the lived embodied experience of high intensity states from the therapist’s perspective. Her first experience of high intensity states occurred when she was a nurse, often when people were dying or very seriously ill. It was in part these experiences which led to analysis and training because there was little discussion of them then within the nursing arena. Negotiating these states – deciding whether to stand on the borders of them or enter the country, if and when there is a choice, has been a major aspect of Angela’s clinical work and research since then. Arguably, in some ways these states are unique to each individual client and therapist but there are common threads. The paper is illustrated with theoretical material from the Jungian world, Celtic shamanism and energy psychotherapy. Angela also looks at these states as experienced within a group setting – drawing on systemic ritual, a combination of family and systemic constellations and shamanic approaches.

Video with Slides – 38 mins

How Shamanism Can Offer New Therapeutic Perspectives While Respecting Older Traditions

In this video presentation, Dr Angela Cotter starts with Jung’s discussion of shamanism and why he saw this focus as important for our time. She will then move on to her own training in Celtic and other forms of shamanism, where the former is one of the approaches in the UK nearest to an indigenous tradition and speaks to her own heritage. Her paper traces her personal journey through working with dream-like trance states of consciousness with specific clients to a more integrated approach within her clinical practice. Drawing on these insights, focuses on how other psychotherapists can use shamanic approaches, and the training that is needed to do this.

Video – 42 min

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Dr Paramabandhu Groves
Mindfulness for Mental Health and Well Being

Dr Paramabandhu Groves’ audio presentation with slides covers the Buddhist origins of mindfulness, its integration into western psychiatric treatment from the 70s onwards and contemporary research that shows its particular effectiveness in helping with treatment-resistant depression and addiction.

Audio talk with slides – 39 mins

A discussion of Mindfulness-based Treatment of Mental Health Conditions

Dr Paramabandhu Groves discusses how his interest in Buddhism and mindfulness developed. He explores in depth how some of its concepts can be used by clinicians to understand human suffering and also how to reduce and heal it. He also gives an overview of the extensive research assessing the effectiveness of mindfulness in supporting people with a range of mental health conditions, including psychosis.

Video with slides – 53 mins

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Dr Tim Read
The Numinous, the Shadow and the Unborn

Expanded states of consciousness are found in everyday life, in crisis, in psychiatric emergencies and in spiritual emergence. These states can be beautiful or terrifying, sacred or dread-filled. They can cause breakdown but, if carefully negotiated, they carry enormous potential for accelerated psychological development. We may enter such states spontaneously or we may choose to enter them to seek psycho-spiritual growth. Any serious work with expanded states of consciousness must be fully committed towards supporting any problematic manifestation of the numinous towards its natural conclusion. Dr Tim read discusses the implications of the new era of clinical research using psychedelics and describes holotropic breathwork – a non-drug method of inducing expanded states of consciousness developed by the psychiatrist Stanislav Grof.

Video with slides – 36 mins

The Healing Power of Non-ordinary States of Consciousness

This video talk with slides looks at the non-ordinary states of consciousness that are also found in everyday life. Traditionally shamans have walked between the two worlds of everyday and non-ordinary consciousness; nowadays we have a range of techniques available to assist our explorations. But where do these journeys take us? The parallels with shamanic journeying and the potential of modern psychotherapy are considered by Dr Tim Read

Video with slides – 45 mins

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Elizabeth Wilde McCormick
Interview with Elizabeth Wild McCormick on Working Transpersonally with the Wounded Child

In this video talk, Elizabeth Wilde McCormick discusses her approach to psychotherapy, which incorporates the spiritual practice of contemplation. Elizabeth explains how her approach can facilitate work with clients whose life experience and or faith has brought them to a point where personal growth is needed in order to re-establish a sense of safety, agency and purpose in the world.

Video interview – 30 mins

A Supervision Demonstrating the Contemplative Approach

Elizabeth Wilde McCormick supervises Vanessa Murphy demonstrating how a contemplative approach can help therapist and client move beyond language and towards sharing what emerges between them in the present moment.

Video talk – 28 mins

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Isabel Clarke
Across the Threshold. A New Way of Understanding Psychosis (and Spirituality)

In this audio talk with slides, Isabel Clarke explores why it is that some people adjust to life transitions whilst others find themselves in a different dimension, one often labeled psychosis. From her extensive clinical frontline NHS experience, psychologist Clarke argues that all humans possess two modes of experience that she calls shared reality (everyday) and non-shared experience (transliminal). Her talk offers a non-judgmental way of understanding people who hear voices and have other unusual perceptual beliefs, as well as recommendations on how to keep them safe and support them through what can potentially be a growth experience.

Audio with Slides – 42 mins

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Dr Judith Pickering
Spirituality and the Apophatic Way of Unknowing in Wilfred Bion

In this audio talk based on her recently published book, Dr Judith Pickering introduces the influences on Wilfred Bion’s theoretical advances in psychoanalyzis. Influenced by his childhood in India, and subsequent experiences of separation, trauma and loss, Bion became interested in the healing power of a knowledge that was beyond words. Judith outlines the founding spiritual schism in psychoanalyzis and traces the parallels between Bion’s thinking and the Christian Mystical Philosophical tradition.

Audio lecture – 59 mins

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Les Lancaster
Through Darkness to Light: On Suffering and Authenticity in the Psychospiritual Journey

In this audio talk Professor Les Lancaster shines a light in the esoteric wisdom of Kabbalah and the extent to which the ‘talking cure’ of psychoanalyzis is founded on the way this spiritual tradition creatively uses words to go beyond language and create dynamic meaning.

Audio talk with slides – 48 mins

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Dr David Lukoff
What Aspects of Spirituality Need to be Addressed in Psychotherapy and in the Larger Arena of Healthcare?

In this video with slides, Professor David Lukoff shares his personal experience of spiritual emergence and details how his lived experience propelled him into a life researching the distinctions between psychosis and a spiritual crisis, work that eventually led to the DSM-IV accepting the new category of ‘Spiritual Emergency’.

Video with slides – 32 mins

Spiritual Competency and Q & A

This Q and A covers Professor Lukoff’s research into psychotherapeutic spiritual competency, and how this skill is actually an aspect of more accepted professional ethical obligations, such as respect for diversity and working with the client’s own agenda.

Video with slides – 24 mins

A Live Spiritual Assessment

In this live assessment with Confer’s producer Louise Smith, Professor David Lukoff demonstrates how broach the subject of spirituality with clients and how to explore with them what aspects of their beliefs might be a source of resilience and comfort during the psychotherapeutic process. Accompanied by a detailed assessment Pdf.

Video with PDF – 16 mins

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Professor Jeremy Holmes
Secular Spirituality: An Attachment/Psychoanalytic Viewpoint

In this video talk with slides, atheist Dr Jeremy Holmes reflects on the human impulse towards religion and spiritual belief and discusses how God, as a reflection of a good internalized object, can be a great source of support and solace during life’s inevitable losses and trials. Other concepts of God, as punitive or all seeing, could reflect adaptive attachment responses such as anxious or insecure and result in phenomena such as fundamentalism that Holmes refers to as ‘defensive spirituality.’ Holmes is an advocate of what he calls ‘secular spirituality’, a form of being in contact with the self that is beyond words, but that can embrace not just the concept of God but also nature, art, music, literature and dance – anything that is sensed as beautiful and not of the self.

Video Talk with Slides – 1 hour 15 mins

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Professor William West
discussion on Spiritual Experience and the Value of Spirituality in the Therapeutic Encounter

This video with slides features a wide-ranging discussion with Professor William West about the nature of spiritual experience, the personal roots of his own therapeutic interest and how to work with one’s own and clients’ spirituality. The conversation also touches on language and definitions and the extent to which mainstream psychotherapy, through its use of scientific terminology, may be unhelpfully pathologizing universal (if unusual) human perceptual experiences.

Video with slides – 55 mins

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Rabbi Howard Cooper
Spiritual Trauma: A Jewish Perspective

In this wide-ranging audio talk, Rabbi Howard Cooper discusses how a natural and intrinsic yearning for attachment can cause us to seek meaning and security from a God figure. However, he argues, that whilst monotheistic religions can offer some measure of meaning and security, the price believers pay is the demand to exclude all other Gods. Cooper believes this inevitably leads to a cycle of alienation and violence, a cycle that also merely mirrors the internal split in our own psyches, which is forever straining under the competing command to love and hate. Cooper aims to guide his clients beyond a simplistic, childish and fearful idea of God towards an exploration of other possibilities that might then prove useful to our own growth and capacity for connection.

Audio lecture with slides – 40 mins

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Ruthie Smith
Spiritual Trauma and the Abuse of Power in Cults

In this extensive video presentation Ruthie Smith details her own experiences within a now notorious Buddhist organization. She provides insight into the techniques that cults use to exercise control over their members and explains the psychodynamics that operate between leader and members.

Video interview – 87 mins

Ruthie Smith Interviews Cult Survivor Magdalene

Video interview – 1 hour 25 mins

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Viv Fogel
Portals and Pathways: Accessing the Messages from the Unconscious

In this talk Viv Fogel reflects on how high intensity states, often arising from early trauma, can be experienced as either life-negating or life-affirming, and containing a struggle between them. They can manifest in the dream-body, somatically, energetically, interpersonally, creatively and transpersonally – embodied, or dis-embodied, ancestral, transgenerational or archetypal – and often holding encoded messages which can be accessed without re-traumatization. Weaving stories from clients and her own journey Viv demonstrates ways of engaging with these energies whether internal or archetypal, also touching upon how clients can create energetic boundaries and the portals through which the ‘wise unconscious’ or the numinous can be discussed.

Video lecture with slides – 40 mins

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  • To be able to describe how different thinkers and clinicians have followed or diverged from theology in understanding the human search for meaning.
  • To be able to identify the personality disorders and attachment issues that underpin the destructive dynamic between cult leaders and followers.
  • To understand how and to what extent mindfulness can help in the treatment of serious mental health problems.
  • To be able to discuss the different features of psychosis and spiritual emergence and why the stigmatization of people who experience non-shared reality is unhelpful to their recovery.
  • To be able to describe why working with spiritually informed approaches can promote more rapid and deeper healing of trauma.
  • To be able to describe how a person’s concept of God may be influenced by their early attachment experiences and their internalized good or bad objects.
  • To be able to list the 8 elements of Robert Lifton’s Thought Reform and to be able to consider the psychodynamic reasons why these elements combine to control groups.
  • To be able to undertake a brief spiritual assessment of a client.
  • To be able to reflect on your own understanding of spirituality and your own spiritual beliefs and to use these to inform your work with spiritually-inclined clients.