December 2020 Issue
A Note from the Editors:

From an outside glance, psychotherapy, spirituality and social change appear as very different animals. But if one looks beyond their operational veil, they all have the same compass: human happiness, alleviating suffering, compassion for all beings, and creating a more sane, enlightened future for our children.

The human evolutionary journey has two main approaches: transformation and healing and secondly liberation and enlightenment. Psychotherapy provides the strongest platform in the West for healing emotional wounds and trauma, while purifying our perceptions to see the truth more clearly, providing the ground for spiritual liberation.

As transpersonal psychotherapist John Welwood said back in the early 1980s, we would be spiritually bypassing “to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.” As the saying goes, you need a healthy ego before you become selfless.

Fundamentally, psychotherapy is working with compassion, whether that is being modeled through transference or taught in practical skills. Compassion opens our eyes to our own suffering, which can then expand and radiate to other beings. Working with compassion is deeply spiritual work. Similarly, social change originates with caring about other people, and becoming alive to the suffering of others. The world religions all point to examining our own actions and results such that they cause no harm. Self love provides the seeds for compassion.

When we invited our community to join in this conversation, we were not sure what to expect. We know that we are passionate about the intersection between psychotherapy, spirituality and social change, but it felt vulnerable to ask others why it mattered to them.

Specifically, we asked:

  • Why does the intersection between psychotherapy, spirituality, and social change matter to you?
  • How do you see the field of psychotherapy being influenced by spirituality and social change, especially in light of the dramatic events of 2020?
  • How has the intersection between those three shown up in your office?

We have been delighted by the response. The essays, stories, and heartfelt reflections in the pages that follow are by turns provocative, hopeful, critical, simple, beautiful and full of nuggets of wisdom. They are grouped very (very) loosely by common themes, and otherwise arranged in no particular order. Our hope is that you will take your time to read and digest each one.

As Abhishek Dutt reminds us, “To be a therapist is to be an expert in the process of change.” And to be a therapist witnessing the extraordinary change unfolding in our world today is a thrilling responsibility.

Thank you for all that you are holding; thank you for being a part of this community.

Download your copy of the December 2020 Wise Therapy Spotlight now >>

May we all be of benefit.

Brian Spielmann & Ian McPherson
Co-leaders of Academy of Therapy Wisdom

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Below, is a very brief and wholly inadequate summary of each submission in this issue.

Adekemi Oguntala calls on the field of psychotherapy to take the lead in social change. From political systems to racism to sexism, mental health influences physical health in a very real way.
Soltahr Tiv-Amanda shares from the perspective of a woman of color therapist about the killing of George Floyd and its aftermath in the U.S., and encourages us to get creative with our processing of traumatic experiences.
Keenan Mosley describes empowering young black women through community and spirituality. Oftentimes, therapeutic work happens out of the office--whether on social media or at conferences.
Jeff Pincus explores a couples therapy dynamic through the lenses of attachment theory and Buddhist psychology, unpacking how one points to the other.
Phyllis Wakefield enjoins us to go deep within ourselves to be resourced during challenging times, and to step up and take responsibility in the face of social change.
Peter Barraclough teaches from a Christian perspective on being ‘available and vulnerable’ as a therapist.
Macauley Cliffe makes an ally of the feeling of powerlessness and calls out the difference between ‘white guilt’ and ‘white shame’ as it relates to taking responsibility for racism.
Sandy Sela-Smith narrates a deeply personal journey with cancer and chemotherapy using Dr. David Illig’s understanding of IFS.
Aude Castagna writes of the revolutionary power of virtual mental healthcare and the liberatory agency offered by IFS therapy.
Sherry Rubin sheds an important critical light on the dark sides of psychotherapy, spirituality and social change.
Rebecca Vicente offers a reflection on the synergy between psychotherapy, spirituality and social change.
Sejal Acharya explores what happens when therapists are forced to confront social issues in the therapy room, and how spiritual practices can help.
Maria del Carmen Rodriguez reminds us of our connection to the natural world and its cycles, as well as the ever-present climate crisis, and implores us to focus on rebirth.
Justus Lewis asks a series of penetrating questions about what our capacity and responsibility is to respond to the global changes of 2020.
Abhishek Dutt meditates on change: that which happens in psychotherapy, in culture, and within each of us.
Julius Peterson shares experiences of the limitations of healing when traumatic past events have not been addressed.
Susan Andrien reports on working with schoolchildren in Oakland, CA, and how fighting oppression is spiritual work.
Lisa Arrigo offers a beautiful, poignant narrative of spending time in lockdown while the world was changing so rapidly.

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