Saturday, December 22, 2018

One Mothers' Pain of Loss ~ Red Flags When Choosing A Holistic Therapist

Red Flags to Look Out for When Choosing a Holistic Health Therapist

A client at our clinic who we had not seen in a while came in the other day, who did not look like her normal cheery self.   She experienced one of the hardest thing anyone can experience ~ the loss of a child.  Worse, her daughter, the youngest of three, took her own life.

What could cause this beautiful young woman ~ the daughter of our client ~ who had a huge, gorgeous smile feel like her best option to dealing with her ongoing internal conflicts was to opt out of life?

As the story unfolded, I began to feel my own blood begin to boil.

This woman had seen two different 'holistic' health therapists ~ one an author with a YouTube channel, and the other seemingly indicating that she was well trained in every kind of shamanic practice imaginable ~ prior to taking her life.  She paid each a lot of money too.  So what went wrong?

Well, it began with the author.  As it turns out, the daughter of our client is on one of her YT videos of who I will call Therapist #1.  She has a video that 'shows what it looks like when someone reclaims their soul' or something along those lines.  Several women (and one guy) are gathered in a beautiful setting outdoors, and the practitioner is speaking to each in turn, having them bring their focus from their minds, into their bodies, and pay attention to what they are feeling.  She highlights a few of the women who appear to be experiencing emotional pain at first, then are magically transformed, with a big smile replacing their frowns, as if they just had a major ah ha, break-thru moment.  It appeared to be a beautiful, touching, transformative healing process.

Apparently, what happened off camera is where the story begins.

Therapist #1 told the young woman a bunch of things about her mom.  She convinced her to sever her ties to her mom.  She proceeded to charge her a lot of money to be her stand-in mom/mentor.

I know the mom.  She had been painfully hoping and praying to re-connect with her daughter for months.  She could viscerally feel when this therapist was 'severing cords or ties' between she and her daughter.  It left a void in her own core, that never resolved.

After seeing that particular therapist who helped her 'reclaim her soul' while also encouraging her to cut all ties with her mom, the daughter grew more and more silent and distant from her mother.  Despite what appears to be a smile coming to her face on the video, her ah ha's were no doubt followed by some 'uh oh's' as she pondered this poison that had been fed to her about her mom ~ all conjectures taken out of context, or flat out inappropriate and out of line comments and suggestions.

Months later, she ended up in another state, still soul searching, and landed with the second female I'll call Therapist #2 at her home/retreat area.

I read the About Me page for Therapist #2 on her website.  Here is how it begins:

As a natural born, initiated and formally trained shamanic ceremonialist, sound healer, spiritual counselor, pipe carrier, Andean mesa carrier and wisdom keeper, teacher, guide and bridge between the worlds, I blend years of cross cultural study and indigenous practices to assist people with self-healing and mastery from around the world and of all walks of life.
I'm not at all wanting to dispute that she may have many natural-born gifts.  We all do.  What I want to draw attention to is the clever way that this is worded, and why I had red alarms going off after reading just this first paragraph.

First off, it's a lot of interesting talents to be 'natural born' with!  She was a 'natural born' pipe carrier, Andean mesa carrier, wisdom keeper, spiritual counselor, sound healer, and bridge between worlds, among a few others.  I personally think most of these qualities are cultivated after years of enduring challenges, self-study, one-on-one mentoring, and life experience, rather than naturally born, but that is just my opinion.

Secondly, notice 'formally trained shamanic ceremonialist.'  A casual reader who is not aware enough may quickly ascertain that this woman is a 'shaman,' however, being a shamanic ceremonialist could mean just about anything.  She gives no further detail about it at all.  Shamanic is being used as an adjective, describing a style of ceremony that she relates to as being shamanic in nature, (whatever that may be to her) and that is all.

She continues to share that since the 1980s, she has devoted her life to helping awaken consciousness and liberate the soul.  Her initial training was in exercise physiology, and the classic holistic arts fields of massage, polarity and cranio-sacral therapies.  It is highly commendable that she knew since the 1980s that she was on a mission to help awaken consciousness.  However, looking at her picture, I'm wanting to ask, are you really that old?  She looks like she could have been born in the 1980s.  She is a pretty girl, and the photos depict her outdoors in the beautiful setting of her Colorado home.

The rest of her bio explains all the myriad 'callings' she had, and countries she traveled to for extensive study, some of it with well-known authors and spiritual teachers of South American healing traditions.  She studied here and there, seemingly for long enough to accrue great mastery, while being soon after called by the plants themselves, and study in yet another area.  She claims the "ultimate awakening" of her soul's calling began to unfold through "dreams and spirit visitations in the night, reminding me of a time once passed, where I lived the indigenous way and healed others with herbal medicine."

Please note, when stating towards the end, "where I lived the indigenous way and healed others with herbal medicine" is an inference ~ not necessarily something she has done in this present life time!  She somewhat implies that she dreamt that she did this before, yet does not even specifically spell that out.  She did this before?  When?  Was it her, or just her imagination of a "time once passed?"

Hence, we come to the meat of the message I hope to get across, to help other mothers and vulnerable young adults be cautioned when on a personal journey of self-discovery, or if and when seeking therapists for help.

The holistic health fields have been booming over the last several decades, especially since I first jumped in during the 1990s.  This was pre-internet.  Pre-social media.  Pre-websites.  Pre-email collection for newsletters.  We advertised by paying for ads, and possibly writing articles related to our field of study.  Things have come a long way since those days!  With the advent of technology, an increasing variety of therapies, and therapists has also emerged, along with an increasing demand by those who are searching for help, and not always finding it in traditional settings.

Given the growth of both technology, and the spread of a myriad of methodologies, with a growing number of practitioners, everyone is doing what they need to do to stand out from the crowd, or uniquely position themselves, as we are taught to do.

This can create a challenge for would-be clients.

Those who are especially vulnerable, or dare I say desperate can get lured into carefully written descriptions of one's services, bio, and list of credentials, and/or promises of the be all end all quintessentially most powerful, cutting edge, transformative miracle whatever ~ and unwittingly find their bank balance much leaner in no time, or worse, their mental states in worse shape than when they started their search.

I've been vulnerable and desperate.  And I've certainly learned these lessons the hard way.  Despite being a practitioner myself, I am highly cautious when personally choosing an energy healing practitioner or other type of therapist.  I am feeling oriented, or very kinesthetic.  I need to feel good about the person.

Over the years, I've become aware of a certain style of writing, and/or manner of presenting one's  self and services on websites, videos, or other media outlets in which they can trigger the reader to make a lot of inferences and suppositions, without directly lying or misrepresenting themselves.

 A great example is the bio that I shared above.  To a casual observer, the woman is attractive, looks grounded, down-to-earth, and trustworthy.  She has a lot of symbolism on her website: she is dressed in leather skins, is shown with a big Native looking drum, and pictures of wolves, raptors, and a tee pee which I assume is on her property.  In fact, by the end of her bio, she claims after her extensive travel being called all over the place to study here and there (which I'm guessing was not cheap), her 'Native American roots' called her back to work with indigenous people of America.  Upon re-reading her bio, I could not find anywhere where she explicitly claimed to be Native American.  She has blonde dreadlocks, and looks predominantly European.

Many people are wooed in by anything Eastern or Native American.  They believe these external cultures are superior, or offer something their own native culture and spiritual traditions does not.  They will empty their pockets to take seminars or do retreats with non-Native American folks claiming to be trained as shamans, and performing sweat lodges, and other ceremonies.

For those who do not relate to organized religions, and/or who feel disconnected from their own ancestral heritage, and spiritual or familial lineages, it can create a void, or deep sense of disconnect.  Our rootedness and sense of belonging is an important aspect of our human experience.  Many people with depression may not realize how much they may be missing out on these important connections.  One may search for years trying to find something to fill the void without knowing the true source of their internal pain and sense of alienation or emptiness.

Since we are not taught tools to help us cope in life, especially if we are more empathic, introverted, or highly sensitive relative to most of our family and peers, it can feel quite overwhelming.  This was my own life experience.  I made my way through the maze of self-help books, intuitive readers and/or medical intuitives, and other health care providers and counselors over the years, attempting to help me overcome my own emotional struggles and challenges, and find a direction in life.

As one who has been on both sides, both a client/student, and a practitioner/teacher, I write this post with both sadness and concern.

As my client said, "No mother should ever have to go through this."  She is so right.  I know the pain I endured in my earlier years.  Thankfully, I finally found the tools to right myself.  My client's daughter did not.

What to look out for when looking for a holistic health therapist

Here a few of my top 'red flags' to look out for when choosing a therapist, and common traits of the best therapists I've ever met at the end.   

  1. If someone (or any ad) is promising you miracle results with little effort required, be very suspect.  There is no real life-hacking that can be done to allow us to skip steps in life.
  2. The more that someone promotes or boasts about all of their seemingly incredible credentials and training, especially in every indigenous or exotic field that people are impressed by, question and research more deeply.  Re-read or listen to their history carefully.  Are they making direct claims, or mere inferences about who they are and what they did.  Does their story make logical sense?  Is it as impressive or meaningful as they are making it sound?
  3. How do you feel in someone's presence?  Whether friend, peer, or practitioner, it is good to pay attention to how you feel in various people's presence.  If you feel weakened, nauseated, suddenly have a headache, or suddenly feel insecure or off in some way, pay attention!  Take note.  Keep observing.  If it continues each time you are in this person's presence, it may be helpful to put up a psychic shielding around yourself, or dissociate with that person.  
  4. If anyone begins to speak to you about how you should do this or that, run away.  Fast.  If they begin to poison your mind about your parents, partner, or others in your close circles, and you feel twisted up inside just hearing it, run away.  
  5. If they are wanting you to invest a lengthy amount of time and money, without being clear what you will receive, and/or being insistent about anything, question question question.
  6. Anytime you feel you are being pushed beyond your comfort zone, assert yourself, and share your feelings.  You are the one in control here, not the therapist.  You are hiring this person to work for you, not the other way around!
  7. Any situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, either talk it out, ask questions, or delay your commitment to begin working together until you have had some distance, and can at least sleep on it.  
  8. Remember, what you see on a video is one thing.  It is what you don't see that is often more telling.  Videos and all of Hollywood, sitcoms, and advertising cast spells, using just the right imagery and symbolism to trigger your emotions.  Women are especially vulnerable to this, and marketers know it.  
  9. The best therapists tend to be the most low-key about who they are, and what they do.  Often, they have been in your shoes, and can teach and guide you from the heart, having compassion for what you are experiencing.  They don't come across as bragging, or trying to persuade you to believe they are the end-all.  A good therapist trusts you to discern if it is a good fit, or not, without attachment.  You should feel comfortable and at ease in their presence.

People who dress slick, who have slick zen-like centers, or who make a lot of inferences about who they are and their training may still be good practitioners, but worthy of further investigation.  The appearances don't make the therapist.

Always pay attention to how you are feeling internally when watching any videos or television shows, and when reading about a particular therapy or therapist.  

Remain grounded, think rationally, and realize that there is always more than meets the eyes!  We can't always believe everything we see or think, as our eyes and minds can trick us.  That is how the ego works, and that is why these advertising methods are so successful!  

There simply are no quick fixes and life hacks to help us circumvent what we are here to learn and experience.  The sooner we get that, the sooner we can dig into the trenches to get the real work done.  This is the type of work that while challenging, pays the greatest dividends.  You may never discover your true treasures otherwise!

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