Bodywisdom: The Therapy Brief

By Nancy Ivey

Psychological theory has evolved from the psychoanalysis of Freud where aloof experts treated hysterical patients. The shift toward “humanistic psychology” centers on the “therapeutic alliance” between psychologist and client. The client is recognized as possessing the resources they need to clear the log jamming up their energy field.

“Brief Therapy” refers to psychotherapeutic outcomes reached in fewer sessions than the classical model requiring years of talk therapy. Effective innovation, fueled by brevity, inspires vanguard psychologists to present their research at the Brief Therapy conference held last month in San Francisco.

This conference attracted me because it featured experts in hypnosis. During “alpha- theta” training, my neurofeedback practitioner offers helpful suggestions. Since theta dominance is called the “hypnagogic” state, I am in a trance while hearing these suggestions. My therapist has a book on Mindfulness and Hypnosis by psychologist Michael Yapko on the bookshelf in his office. While I struggle to sit mindfully, I settle easily into a hypnotic trance. Curious about connecting both techniques, I searched Yapko online.

Yapko practices Ericksonian hypnosis which led me to the Milton H. Erickson Foundation in Arizona where its director, psychologist Jeff Zeig, organizes conferences including the Couple’s Conference, the Evolution of Psychotherapy and the Ericksonian Approaches to Psychotherapy conferences, as well as the Brief Therapy conferences.

Yapko is a well-regarded presenter in this genre and generously shares his research. In this Brief Therapy conference, he spoke on mindfulness and hypnosis together with Harvard psychology professor Ron Siegel who hosts a series on Mindfulness available on the Great Courses database. I found my way onto Siegel’s course several months ago and absorbed every lecture.

Since the mission of this year’s conference was “Treating Anxiety, Depression and Trauma,” it was fitting that psychiatrist and trauma expert Bessel Van der Kolk delivered the keynote on opening night. Van der Kolk inspired me to try neurofeedback after I read his book The Body Keeps the Score. I also took his trauma class online after discovering a link between trauma and addiction.

Luminaries like these assembled together in one place attracted me like gravity. There is much to unpack from the various courses, workshops, speeches, and interactive events I attended.

Upon returning home, I watched YouTube videos of my new teachers including psychologist Janina Fisher, an expert on “the living legacy of trauma.” Following up on psychologist Bill O’Hanlon’s perspective on depression was easy with Amazon’s “look inside” option.

Downloading the handouts from the brief therapy website fleshed out my notes. If you are interested in cutting edge psychology, then imbibe the assembled resources at brieftherapyconference.com.

Seeking the “mothership” of all this led me to the portal at Erickson-Foundation.org where founder Zeig orchestrates a profound forum for evocative psychotherapy as inspired by his mentor and foundational namesake, psychiatrist Milt Erickson.

Future articles will discuss useful strategies shared by the above experts to address trauma, depression and anxiety. As Shakespeare asserted, there are more things in heaven and earth than our philosophy has ever dreamed.

Nancy Ivey, MA, is a freelance writer who teaches yoga at CSUB and locally. Email shaktideva@mchsi.com for more information.