A psychotherapist opens up about why counselors and therapists need to look deeper than science…
A senior clinical psychologist and psychotherapist by profession and a meditation practitioner gives us five big reasons why people in the mental healthcare industry need to use tools like meditation, deep breathing exercises and other spiritual practices to prevent burn outs.
1) Meditation Manages The Counter Interference By Developing Balance And Detachment
Traditionally, the training imparted to psychotherapists urges them to cultivate an attitude of detachment such that one doesn’t get affected by the patient’s behavior. “But today,” according to Neha Singh, a senior psychotherapist and clinical psychologist with Sri Sri College of Ayurvedic Research and Science, “it is accepted that this is a myth. There IS a relationship between the therapist and the client, on a conscious, subconscious and unconscious level. We do connect on all these three levels. Also, that is how the therapy will actually work.” This association, which is admittedly unavoidable leads to what counselors call the transference and countertransference.
In transference, the client starts identifying with the therapist in the cast of relationship which is lacking or complicated, for example as a father figure or maternal figure or spouse or sibling. Transference in a therapy is important to identify the area that needs help or guidance. Counter transference is when the therapist starts responding to the transference.
Singh makes it clearer with an example. “A patient was very insecure, multiple phobias with panic attacks. She started addressing me and looking at me as an elder sibling. She would earlier call me ‘Madam’. Transference was the sign of the trust she showed on me as the counselor. There is a thin line that separates being nice to a patient and starting to respond to transference. Sometimes, counter transference as an indicator makes you aware that there is transference.” Practicing meditation over longer periods of time comes in handy here in developing the attitude of detachment without losing sensitivity, according to Singh.
2) Meditation Gives You Deeper Rest Than Sleep
Psychotherapy demands involvement of the counselor on all the three-subconscious, conscious and unconscious level. “We as counselors use individual, psychological and spiritual pool of resources in the process of psychotherapy, which makes our own strengths and weaknesses obvious to us. But because of our daily involvement with our subjects on a subconscious level also, sleep is not enough rest.”
With sleep only the body gets rest but mental activity doesn’t cease, “because at subconscious level, you are still dreaming and analyzing,” Singh proffers, “For giving total rest to your subconscious mind as well, meditation is necessary.”
2) “Talk it out” is a myth
In many hospitals and health centers in Britain, psychologists are required to go through weekend supervision sessions, where they sit with seniors or colleagues to discuss and vent about the happenings or particular patient case studies of the week. Counsellors are otherwise bound by oath of confidentiality. “The purpose of these sessions is sharing this load of information but it is still on a superficial level. It does not take away the subconscious burden of the information and the emotional charge around it. That only meditation can do,” Singh says.
3) Meditation Heightens Self-Awareness, A Prerequisite For A Good Therapist
“Often, as counselors we find that we might be facing situations very similar to our clients. There is a chance this could make counselors emotionally vulnerable,” Singh says, “The only tool to manage the situation is self-awareness. Spiritual practices help you be more self-aware. Meditation trains you to be more and more in the present moment and self-awareness is a by-product of it.”
4) Meditate. Don’t Burn Out
“Unknowingly or knowingly, we are drawing our strength from the spiritual pool to deal with burn outs. But if we are not aware of all our practices and this reservoir that we have within ourselves, we are likely to run out of it very soon. That’s a sure shot way to burn out.”
Quick De-stress Tips For Counselors
Singh suggest some simple breathing exercises and Yoga postures for counselors and mental health activists to take care of the stress and anxiety that gets built in the system-
- Nadi Shodhan Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing opens up subtle nerve channels for the life force to flow through it. The result is- a relaxed and clear mind.
- Here are some quick and easy to do Yoga postures that will help offload the stress from the various parts of the body. You can also perform a series of exercises called Sukshma Yoga or Subtle Yoga, which helps you feel the difference in your state of mind and body in only seven minutes. According to Sage Patanjali, the author of Yogasutras- the principal text on classical Yoga, Asanas should be practiced with commitment over a long period of time with sincerity and honor, for them to work. They should also be performed with a sense of effortless effort, that is, once you are in the posture, relax your breath and the muscles. Do not over-do it. You don’t have to punish yourself.
- Sudarshan Kriya, a rhythmic breathing tool for total mental relaxation is strongly recommended for therapists and counselors. Even the first session of Sudarshan Kriya harmonizes the body, mind and emotions, bringing into your experience total calmness, freshness and peace. This technique eliminates stress, fatigue and negative emotions such as anger, frustration and depression, leaving you calm yet energized, focused yet relaxed. Over 60 studies carried out on the neurological impact of Sudarshan Kriya on humans have shown the practice’s multifold physical, mental and spiritual benefits.