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Mental Health and Spirituality in the Australian Context

Mental Health and Spirituality in the Australian Context

Spirituality has arisen as a major item on the agenda of the therapy and healing professions not because therapists or professors have had conversion experiences, but because suffering clients want to bring this important but often vaguely defined concept into the therapeutic situation. Today we can speak of a client-led or grassroots recovery of the spiritual, and it has taken many people by surprise. Up until recently, ‘spirituality’ was frowned on as an activity linked more to mental illness and delusional thinking, than to health and recovery. But some forms of spirituality, at least, can be said to be positive and life-enhancing, often playing a role in the experience of healing and wholeness. What is spirituality, and why does it have therapeutic or healing effects in clinical contexts?

Areas of Interest / Categories: PACFA 2014

PACFA 2014

Increasing effectiveness of counselling people with disability.

Effective counselling is tailored to meet the special needs of people with disability particularly those with intellectual disability and Autism. Including pictorial aids, drawing therapy and simple communication skills building exercises are helpful. Grief counselling can assist people to deal with their disability, family dysfunction or being raised in residential care. When there is disclosure of past abuse clients are entitled to accessible therapy. Increasing awareness of indicators of loving and safe versus abusive relationships, is also essential. 

Concealment and disclosure in a group of long-term psychotherapy clients.

This study reports on a group of 10 clients, who completed a long period of psychotherapy (between 1 and 5 years). The clients form part of a larger group of 35, whose course of psychotherapy is discussed in the book The Longest Journey: finding the true self.  Each client was interviewed a year after ending therapy and invited to write a response to the question: “What brought you to counselling and how did the process enable you to change?” The study aimed to identify for each client the core of the early disturbance/wound and the nature of the pathways and drivers for change. 

Intentional music listening and the active imagination.

There is significant evidence for the positive effect of music listening to reduce stress, enhance mood, celebrate, and mourn. The music psychology literature indicates that we listen to music intentionally throughout the day sometimes for many hours. Therapists therefore might include a discussion of the role of music in their client's lives, as part of a deeper understanding of how clients regulate affect. The Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) literature demonstrates that focused music listening enhances an active imagination, so that images, thoughts, memories and body sensations can be explored in a relaxed state. Music has a central role in GIM and elements of music influence imagery in myriad ways.

From lead to gold.

The therapeutic process was likened by Jung to alchemy, a metaphysical pursuit once dedicated to transforming base matter into precious substances. Psychotherapy does transform distress into resilience - lead into gold - but not through esoteric forces; rather, as a result of sound principles, theories and applied practice. This workshop presents Core Energetics Psychotherapy, a somatic therapy grounded in psychodynamic psychology. Seligman's (1995) five properties of practice-based psychotherapy will be addressed through vignettes of therapy with clients, supporting the contention that there are vast differences between results in controlled trials and what succeeds in the field 

The self, abandonment depression and the neurobiology of personality disorder.

Concepts of “self” are often bypassed, defined as fluid or deemed too difficult to validate, yet according to Gerald Edelman, any theory of mental function has to account for the centrality of the problems of consciousness and self. One model which has developed a rigorous and operational definition of self is one developed by the late James Masterson, M.D, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Cornell University. His original empirical research focussed on “what happens” to acting out behaviour in troubled adolescents as they transition to adulthood.  

Reparenting: The integration of head and heart.

Rob’s counselling work, especially with men, has led to developing skills to help clients understand the place of emotions in their day-to-day lives. Rob has refined his work by drawing on the work of many authors including Eric Berne (Transactional Analysis), John Bradshaw & Lucia Cappacchione (inner child), Brene Brown (authenticity, vulnerability & shame) & David Richo (trust & fear). The practical counselling techniques of Doug Southern (body-focus) & Genevieve Milnes (bears in counselling) furthered his work into developing techniques built on a person-centred approach.  

Working with offender populations: A framework for effective engagement and counselling

In providing counselling to offender populations, cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) is the model of choice, given the focus is on behaviour change and social skill development. Recent developments have incorporated mindfulness into a CBT framework, to raise awareness of what is occurring in the present moment by intentionally attending to and changing the relationship with, thoughts, feelings and sensations via non-judgmental observation. For many practitioners, the key issue in working with this cohort lies with the decision about where to sit on the continuum between rehabilitation and criminal justice goalhile general counselling practices make the clients' wellness the focus of the treatment process, within the forensic counselling sphere, the key goal in the treatment process becomes the protection of society and the client's treatment goals must be pursued within this context.