Clouds, Mountains & Sky - Lakewood, CO Photo by Lisa Anselme
Mental Health and Healing Touch
You may recall from my ezine in July my synopsis of the online Zoom session that I had with folks in June. During that June session, the conversation turned to mental and emotional health because we met following the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, who died by suicide. We talked a lot about mental health, the latest statistics from the U.S. and other countries, and what we could do as students, practitioners, and instructors of Healing Touch to support individuals who may be struggling with depression or other mental health issues. Given that this is not my bailiwick, I wanted to rely on the professional expertise of instructors and practitioners in my personal network who are also mental health professionals on what might be most useful and appropriate. As president, a concerned human being, and someone with a history of depression, I wanted to be sure that we did our best to get it right.
So I reached out to Lucrezia Mangione, Pat Cheeks, and Denise DeForest Pastoor to help me pull together some resources for our community on the topic of mental and emotional health. As Healing Touch students and practitioners, we often work with clients who experience mood changes or have been diagnosed with clinical depression. As the seasons change (e.g., affecting the amount sunlight we experience) and calendars fill up with personal and professional responsibilities and the arrival of holidays, the needs of our clients or patients may increase with respect to depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and related mood shifts. Hopefully, the information in this ezine will be useful in your practice of Healing Touch or your own self-care.
Before delving into any of the information, it is essential that we be reminded of our scope of practice. Our Standards and Scope of Practice are the ethical and professional foundation of our Healing Touch practice. None of us want to do more harm than good. Scope of Practice is the first code and standard of practice. As students and practitioners of Healing Touch, we "integrate and practice Healing Touch within the scope of [our] education, training, current licensing and credentialing." We also are bound by code and standard two, which is about collaborative care and working within "the limits of [our] professional competence...Referrals are made to appropriate health care professionals as needed." If you do not have the appropriate training, credentials, and state/provincial licensure to provide mental health services to your patients, refer them to someone who does. Being in alignment with our standards ensures safety for all concerned.
Information and Resources
Overview of depression
Depression can become very familiar. It can be simpler to choose familiar when we know how to exist there and it feels safe. At times, especially when grieving, feeling good can bring on feelings of guilt and the grip on feeling good can become slippery or lost.
One can believe (consciously or unconsciously) that the illness is keeping one safe from something. There are many who speak of generational patterns that can include depression and anxiety. Certainly, negative emotions of parents and/or grandparents can imprint one with reactions of grief, depression, or anxiety. Gabor Mate, MD, speaks to this in his book, When the Body Says No. The Body Keeps the Score, a book by Bessel van der Kolk, PhD, discusses the storing of emotions in the body. One of Pat Cheeks favorite quotes from the book is the following: "Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives."
Limitations of Talk Therapy
There are limits to talk therapy. That's why Pat, Denise, and Lucrezia integrate Healing Touch for those clients who want it. As therapists, it's clear to Pat, Denise, and Lucrezia that talk therapy may not offer the healing we hope our clients would have. When a therapist (or provider) hears "I don't deserve this," "I'm being punished," "I am wrong," "What am I doing wrong?", or "Danger is everywhere", it is obvious that the client has internalized messages that are damaging.
Coming from a heart-centered place and holding sacred space are healing by themselves. Describe our Healing Touch work so that the individual can embrace the concepts of connecting, opening, balancing, and repatterning. Describe how you prepare for the work so that they will understand the loving place the energy is coming from. Ask the client what brings them joy and encourage them to revisit joy to bring a sense of hope while they are experiencing Healing Touch. Your heart-centered presence also will help you to follow the energy, which is the best way to support the healing process.
Initial or Follow-up Intake
Your initial visit and intake is your opportunity to understand an individual's holistic health history and why they are seeking Healing Touch. This intake includes a little about their medical history and current medical issues, too. Most people will be honest about their mental health history and current diagnosis. If the person indicates that they are depressed or have been diagnosed with depression, it is essential to ask about previous or ongoing treatment for depression. A general question you can ask during your intake is "Have you ever been given a diagnosis related to your mental health?" If the individual answers no, then continue on with understanding what brings her or him to seek Healing Touch. If yes, follow up by asking "Are you under the care of a licensed professional right now?" and, if yes, "How frequently do you see him/her/they?" If the individual isn't seeing anyone, ask them "Are you willing to see someone if need be? Do you know someone? How about your primary care physician?" and make a referral, too. It is very important to encourage seeking professional help if you suspect that your client might be experiencing depression. An easy referral that is non-threatening to most people is to their primary care physician. Additionally, consider closing your intake with a statement that explains that you work collaboratively with others when a situation is outside your training and expertise. Invite them to consider signing a release form so both you and their chosen licensed clinician can connect and collaborate together in support of their mental health. The initial visit is your opportunity to learn about your client and why they want Healing Touch, as well as to identify what's within your scope of practice and with whom you'll need to collaborate when it's outside your training.
If the individual expresses thoughts of suicide, harming themselves, or harming others, seek immediate assistance from their mental health provider and/or a suicide or crisis hotline.
During your assessment, the focus is two-fold: what the client says they need help with and what is presenting energetically. If the client shares any indication that they may be suffering with prolonged, long-term sadness, loneliness, moodiness, low energy, thoughts of hopelessness, or anything that flags you as a concern, take note of it. At the end of the session you can make referrals as needed. Assessing the field is your biggest window into how to support their aims for Healing Touch. The energy field will serve as guidance regarding the techniques to choose. Following what presents in your client's field and addressing those energetic disturbances will yield supportive outcomes.
What energetic patterns might you find when working with a patient who is experiencing depression? What Healing Touch techniques might you use in response to those energetic findings? Energetic patterns are as varied as people. Consequently, using Healing Touch techniques is a flexible process. Below are some suggestions about potential energetic patterns and findings you might encounter, as well as techniques you might use to balance, clear, and energize in response to what's presenting in the field.
Keep in mind that everyone is different. When working with someone who has disclosed a diagnosis of depression or other mood disorder, you have an opportunity to learn how an energy field is affected by an ongoing medical condition. Keep good records of what the energy field disturbances are. Over time, you will begin to see what their presenting pattern is. This along with their short- and long-term goals will enable you to identify different Healing Touch techniques to help their system repattern itself gently into a more functional patterning. Follow the energy, set mutual goals, and set your intention, as always, for the person's highest good and make referrals for collaborative care.
Potential energetic patterns observed in individuals who report they have a depressed mood or have been diagnosed with depression or other mood disorder are outlined below.
- The root chakra may be compromised. Grounding meditations, body based movement (e.g., yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong), and encouraging connection to the Earth and nature (e.g., walks and getting outdoors) may help support this imbalance.
- The sacral chakra may be compromised. A mutual goal may be to shift emotions and create more joy. In addition to Healing Touch, journaling, pranayama breathing (i.e., slow diaphragmatic breathing), and physical movement may also be of support.
- The solar plexus chakra may be compromised and related to a loss of a sense of self, boundaries, and control. Energy leaks at this chakra may be occurring and draining. Support the individual with affirmations, encouragement to tap into support systems, and meditations on safe spaces.
- The heart chakra may be compromised, which may be related with feelings of grief and loss. Support the individual in their ability to focus on self-compassion, the attributes of the heart, and connecting with those who they feel love and care for them. Centering meditations are useful in supporting the heart chakra.
- The throat chakra is connected with the sharing of our story. Be an active listener, grounded in mindful, compassionate presence. Provide your patient with a space to be heard free from an expectation or need to "fix" them.
- The brow chakra is our connection to intuitive wisdom. Affirm for the individual the courage to listen to their own inner wisdom rather than the inner critic and limiting beliefs.
- The crown chakra may be compromised. Reinforce connecting to an inner source with guided meditations. Encourage mindfulness practices that allow for being present without judgment. This often leads clients to let depressive symptoms "flow" through them.
Choosing which techniques to use during the session is unique to your assessment of your client's biofield. That said, as a general guideline, when in doubt, choose techniques from Course 1. These techniques are typically hands-on or near enough to the body that most individuals will feel a sense of connection with the provider and the work they are providing. For example, based on your energetic assessment along with what they say, one might use Course 1 Healing Touch techniques such as full or modified sequences of Chakra Connection, Modified Mesmeric Clearing, or Chakra Spread. Energetic siphon over the chakra that is the most compromised may allow for a gentle release of overwhelming feelings. Further, Noel's Mind Clearing is a technique that addresses the biofield at the head, which in Lucrezia's practice she's observed is wonderfully effective for balancing emotional and mental states. Pat shares that Field Repatterning can offer such hope and a new way of being to clients. She's had clients report feeling so much lighter and comment, "I feel as though I've had a reset."
Recommendations and Referrals
Denise suggests exploring somatic awareness after a Healing Touch session to deepen body awareness, which may be profound in the healing process. People with a history of trauma, depression, or anxiety are often disconnected from their body or focus on negatives. Invite them to identify areas in which they feel comfort or ease and to follow those patterns and place a hand on the area. It is within the scope of practice for all Healing Touch providers to share any Healing Touch techniques for daily self-care. Techniques from Course 1 also have the additional benefit of being easy to learn, especially the self Chakra Connection. Additional suggestions include acupuncture, which is often covered by insurance, restorative yoga, qigong, or tai chi. Movement and meditation can be very soothing and healing.
In addition to Healing Touch, a focus on nutritional support or modifications (e.g., low carbohydrate and sugar intake), sleep hygiene, exercise and physical activity, and other self-care are important to support healing. How do you identify these when you're not trained? Use your common sense. We all know the importance of sleeping well, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. During your intake or follow-up chats, ask them what they do to take care of themselves. Depending on their answers, encourage them to bolster steps in improving an area. You can always ask, "What's one step you can do to improve your sleep, exercise habits, or diet?" Also, make a referral, encouraging them to see a dietician, functional medicine doctor, or sleep expert as needed.
Other Ideas and Resources
Here are more suggestions and resources that Pat, Denise, and Lucrezia recommend:
- Bring your laptop to your session. Pat brings her laptop to the office some days to show clients' Dan Seigel's "Brain in the Hand" video. Both Pat and Lucrezia send their clients to the HeartMath Institute website to do their own research.
- Consider sharing this lovely blog post by someone who lives with suicidal thoughts
- Know the Warning Signs [of Mental Illness]: An excellent synopsis of signs and steps to help for mental illness created by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- Risk of Suicide: An excellent synopsis of signs and risk factors for suicide created by NAMI
- Want to Know How to Help a Friend?: This infographic by NAMI tells you how. Written for students, it also applies to the general adult population.
- Other useful infographics by NAMI
- What is Mental Health? Here's a short article about mental health and resilience that shares highlights of what mental health looks like written by Lucrezia, who is a Board Certified Counselor
- Books for your education:
- Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith
- Soulcraft or Nature and the Human Soul by Bill Plotkin
- How People Heal by Diane Goldner
- Avalanche by Brugh Joy
- The Subtle Body by Cyndi Dale
- Wheels of Light by Rosalyn Bruyere
- Hands of Light, Light Emerging and Core Healing by Barbara Brennan
- When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
- The Noon Day Demon by Andrew Solomon
- Feeling Good by David Burns
- Yoga for Depression by Amy Weintraub
- Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat Zinn
- Medicine, Mind, and Meaning by Eve Wood
- Out of the Blues by Jay Cleve
- Unstuck, Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression by James Gordon
- The Mandala of Being by Richard Moss
- This is Your Brain on Joy by Earl Henslin
- The Chemistry of Calm and The Chemistry of Joy by Henry Emmons
Finally, here is a link I've shared before to a literature review that Lucrezia Mangione, Diane Swengros, and I wrote on biofield therapies and mental wellbeing that was published in Issues in Mental Health Nursing in November 2017. The article was chosen by the editorial board of the journal as the practice paper of the year for 2017 and has been made freely available.
Many, many thanks to Lucrezia, Pat, and Denise for their input, insight, and expertise in pulling together this information. Our hope is that this ezine is a great resource for your practice and healing.
Joel G. Anderson, PhD, FGSA, CHTP
President, Healing Beyond Borders Board of Directors