Spiritual Healing

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Clinical psychologist and psychotherapist James Carpenter has written an interesting article in Aeon addressing the scourge of the misuse of antipsychotic drugs in developed countries. In so doing, he opens the conversation to points I often make to medical audiences about the fundamental role of spiritual healing, and of deeper understanding of spiritual disease, in healing of all types (physical, mental and emotional).

Dr. Carpenter points out, as have others before him, that the successes of psychotherapy over the last few decades have been buried under the current paradigm of defaulting to antipsychotic drugs without addressing the fundamental mental issues. Although these drugs can be very useful in the initial management of acute psychosis (when combined with appropriate psychotherapy), they cause great difficulties when used over longer periods of time without any corresponding psychotherapy.

At the heart of the matter is the conventional tendency to view the hallucinations of psychosis as a lifelong brain disorder that can only be managed through long-term antipsychotic medications that have significant and problematic side effects. Yet there is no evidence that the brain in acute psychosis is different from the normal brain (unlike the situation in chronic psychosis which often has some underlying brain abnormality). He points out that in fact the most dangerous aspect of their use is in trying to wean people off of them after months to years of dependence on such medications.

Given the classical psychotherapeutic approach that Dr. Carpenter and colleagues used decades ago, acute psychosis treated with good psychotherapy led to rapid and stable recovery (without the use of brain chemistry-altering antipsychotic drugs). This is contrary to the current script in managing acute psychosis that labels the brain as abnormal and the psychotic condition as lifelong and in need of ongoing chemical manipulation.

Dr. Cameron observes that the people most afflicted by such acute psychotic illness “have generally been badly hurt, usually early in life, often by people upon whom they were vitally dependent.” Their disorder is fundamentally one of their soul’s primary spiritual journey, manifested through their personal story. Long-term drug treatment may not be necessary, or as effective, if the core causes of a “spiritual emergency” are addressed through therapy. And, an accurate assessment to distinguish between this and the long-term disease states requires our more careful observation of these potential underlying causes.

Dr. Carpenter concludes that the powerful antipsychotic drugs change the brain and makes it profoundly more drug-dependent, which is what makes the use of drugs so dangerous over the longer term. But it is much easier to prescribe and adjust medications in trying to damp down the patient’s undesirable symptoms and behavior, than to actually delve into psychotherapy in an effort to address those early childhood traumas and the psychic repercussions from them that contribute to the symptoms of acute psychosis. Such effective psychotherapy is an endangered species, when one views the current dominant modes of training for psychotherapists, especially in the developed world, with its heavy-handed dependence on antipsychotic medications.

Adopting the broad interconnected view of modern concepts of transpersonal psychology, Dr. Carpenter reiterates Dr. Stan Grof’s belief that “the healing must involve a new integration of deep, inner parts of the person and deep, transpersonal forces beyond the person. It involves new connections between the secret self and others – between the conscious self and the self beyond consciousness nowadays referred to as ‘spiritual’.”

Dr. Carpenter’s views are in alignment with those of the American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences (ACISTE.org), a collection of certified mental health professionals and spiritual guidance counselors who train to address the psychiatric issues of those who have undergone profound spiritual awakenings.

I believe that this discussion is just the tip of the iceberg, and that, in fact, all of Western medicine will morph into a more powerful and effective system for well-being (not just “healing”) when we come to acknowledge and develop the skills to address the spiritual aspects of all disease and take that much larger view of the patient as a spiritual being in an existence that is fundamentally spiritual. Some traditional healing practices could be integrated or affirmed, including the power of prayer and of energy, healing touch, etc. From my point of view, our greatest work as healers will emerge from this far more comprehensive worldview embracing our spiritual essence.

Those who hunger for more in realizing this far grander view of our spiritual existence and how it opens profound channels of healing can join Karen Newell (co-founder of Sacred Acoustics) and me at one of our upcoming workshops listed on our Events page.

We will cover territory such as harboring a much grander view of ourselves, of our universe, and of our possibilities for healing, that touches on the eternal and the infinite. This personal knowing is available to us all through direct experience by slipping beyond the veil that normally obscures the full view of our existence.

9 replies
  1. Kathy Snipes
    Kathy Snipes says:

    Many times in our parish community in Chapel Hill we have experienced and participated in faith healings, as sometimes called today, or “the laying on of hands,” and chrism oils. In the Catholic Church what was once called “Last Rites” is now not reserved for the near dying or those passing out of this life. The rite of healing is offered at the churches where the priest both prays over the individual and uses blessed oil to anoint the sick or those who need rejuvenation.

    Also some of the healers from Asia are using the breath and sacred sounds to offer healing techniques to individuals with both failing physical health or psychic tiredness (failing mental health). See MVVT.com.

    It’s important for all of us to realize help can come to us from within and without – with supportive communities. I think many people were praying for Dr. Alexander when he revived from his intensive care unit bout and returned from “heaven.”

    I practice a healing technique anyone can do: rub your hands together until you feel warmth and friction while you breathe in deeply. Then place your hands over your nose and mouth and breathe out onto your hands. Then place your warm hands with your breath on them over any spot that ails you or your forehead or top of the head.

    We need to learn self healing and how to easily heal others without too many RX’s and OTC meds or expensive procedures. All work together, but if we can heal at home while waking up or taking a break in an office or [standing] outdoors under a tree – all the better! I do like modern medicine and science as well as some of the ancient ways. Love and prayers….k

    Reply
  2. Kristi Borst
    Kristi Borst says:

    I am a spiritual healer and have witnessed mind body spirit transformations when individuals are allowed to see themselves and their lives from a spiritual perspective. This “new” perspective allows them to [see] through eyes of love and forgiveness, not only for those who have “wronged” them, but also for themselves … something that previously seemed impossible or unattainable. I had one client who was told by a counselor that she could have therapy every day of her life for the rest of her life and she would never feel better. She was encouraged to take drugs which she did for some time. She heard me on a radio show and “Knew” I was the one to help her. She planned a vacation for the first time in her life after her first one-hour session (“I never wanted to think I would be still living in this ‘throw away life’ at any point in the distant future.”). How can we not embrace our spiritual nature because we are more than mere bodies with an expiration date. We (the essence of what makes me me and you, dear Doctor, you) are eternal. And, despite what can happen in our lives, we are here to live in joy. Spiritual healing allows individuals the vantagepoint from which to see that we can be happy In Spite Of what has happened at any point in the past or fear-based place or circumstance anticipated in the future. Life is for living, right here in this precious now moment. Thank you for your acknowledgement that an integrated approach is worth considering. Drug therapies do not take us anywhere toward Self Mastery. Spiritual healing can and does! I applaud your ability to suggest healing the non-physical as a means to healing the physical. I hope you had a wonderful program in Sedona (one of my most favorite places in USA). I am thankful that I came across your writing. Love and light, Kristi

    Reply
  3. Catherine
    Catherine says:

    I have been waiting for you touch on the severe psychiatric disorders! A much loved relative has had severe mental health issues despite having had a very loving and stable upbringing. Interestingly the person in question was adopted at birth, which I know you feel to be a trauma…..
    I feel the person in question has very much been let down by the ‘system’. We must not shy away from these difficult topics. I am not completely against the use of prescription drugs, they can save people in crisis. We should not, however, be completely relying on them.
    I am an avid follower of your story. Thank you for all you do.

    Reply
  4. Bernie Santa-Coloma
    Bernie Santa-Coloma says:

    Extremely interesting, apropos article which truly gets to the core. The core is the cure! The transpersonal approach in therapy is the most appropriate modality for optimal healthy well-being – we’re truly body-mind-spirit entities or continua & have to be treated as such! As Maslow said, to dichotomize is to pathologize.

    Reply
  5. Tom Mayer
    Tom Mayer says:

    Dear Dr. Alexander

    Thank you again for these very special messages. I have a brother who was given chemical therapy for years by professional caregivers. This led to a different personality that made him into something I did not recognize a couple of years ago on his own volition against Doctor’s orders he took himself off of Risperdal. The change has been remarkable. Great physical damage to his body due to this chemical has taken it’s toll. The above article is so very true. Thank you. Tom

    Reply
  6. Laljee Verma
    Laljee Verma says:

    I agree that there is much more to psychological healing than dependence on medicines. Spiritual dimension of a being is uncharted ocean where the self finds confused and at a loss. Human mind, that is a part of universal consciousness, has much to offer provided one trains to capture the vibrations.

    I have recently published a book on karma doctrine and philosophy entitled “Karma its Applicability and Relevance in Day to Day Life”. I would very much like to get associated on the subject.

    Reply
  7. al Farthing
    al Farthing says:

    Hi — I have read both of your fine books Dr. Alexander, and this atop a long life of reading and practical experience in the realm of which you speak.
    I will be entering the 80’s in a little over a year, and most of my life has been spent as a Presbyterian Minister, Pastoral Counselor , a lifelong reader of excellent material relating to Psychology, Philosophy, and Spirituality.
    In retirement I have spent a lot of time doing woodcarving-art, but also have and still do, spend a lot of time keeping up with the exciting research such as you and others are doing.
    My precious sister who passed away some 10 years ago was a painful example of gross damage inflicted over her lifetime by early shock treatments, and a barrage of medications that would stupefy an entire army.
    Anything that you and others from your years of influence and experience and learning do , will be a blessing to the Earth, and particularly to the individuals and their families who have suffered so much by their years as “guinea-pigs” of the “medication solves everything” point of view.
    Many thanks,
    Al Farthing — Nova Scotia Canada

    Reply

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