Yoga-Psychotherapy and Mental Health: Why It Might Be the Right Approach for You

September is National Yoga Month, a month-long observance designated by the Department of Health and Human Services to educate the public about the health benefits of yoga and to inspire a healthy lifestyle.  In recognition of this event, rtor.org asked one of its Family-Endorsed Providers to write a guest blog on this subject.

Pamela Tinkham, MSW, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Yoga-Psychotherapist, and a Certified International Yoga Therapist.   As Pamela mentions in this guest blog, yoga-psychotherapy might not be for everyone, but if you are looking for a mental health treatment that combines healing of the body, mind, and spirit it may be the right approach for you.  In her book Healing Trauma from the Inside Out: Practices from the East and West, Pamela describes what yoga-psychotherapy is and how she integrates it in her clinical practice. 

You can find out more about Pamela on her website, www.pamelatinkham.com

 

Yoga-Psychotherapy: Why It Might Be Right for You

Many people familiar with yoga therapy might assume that yoga-psychotherapy is the same thing with another name.  But as I point out in my book Healing Trauma from the Inside Out they are actually different.

Yoga therapy is a widely based yoga certification that can be used for treating many mental and physical conditions.  It is primarily done on a yoga mat and facilitated by a yoga professional.

Yoga-psychotherapy is more clinical in nature and must be done by a licensed mental health professional.  It is facilitated in a clinical therapy setting and can be used to treat a variety of mental health disorders, including trauma-related disorders.

The Top 5 Reasons why you should consider Yoga-Psychotherapy

  1. A body-centered approach is a highly effective way to treat and heal trauma and usually works more quickly than traditional talk therapy methods.
  2. It is more fun than traditional talk therapy. Using the mind/body connection takes you into a physical realm usually not addressed in traditional therapies.
  3. Trauma is stored in the body. Therefore, a body-centered approach such as yoga-psychotherapy can directly get to the source and root of the trauma, mental health condition or addiction.
  4. The future of therapy is a mind/body approach. The mental health field is moving in this direction as more and more research is available from trauma and mental health experts Bessel Van Der Kolk, Peter Levine, Daniel Goleman, Rick Hansen, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Marsha Linehan, and others who are bringing meditation and mindfulness practices into therapy rooms.
  5. Yoga-psychotherapy can include mind/body/spirit practices where belief of a power greater than oneself (for clients who are open to this) can assist in healing trauma. As an example, I have been a guest teacher at the New York Theological Seminary and I often pray with clients, offering coping strategies from different theological orientations.

Is All Therapy heading in the direction of a body-centered approach?

The short answer is no.  Many people cringe at the thought of checking in with the internal sensations of their bodies.  This especially applies to clients with eating disorders.  However, yoga-psychotherapy is an approach that focuses on true healing, rather than just the soothing of symptoms.  This is an issue I address in greater detail in the book and on my website.

Yoga-psychotherapy incorporates practices from over 4000 years ago.  The practices from Eastern philosophies such as the Chakra System help clients utilize and tap into the areas of the body from an energetic perspective as well as a physical one.

Briefly, the Chakras are wheels of energy in the body that extend from the tailbone to the top of the head or crown.  I have found that the colorful diagrams on my office walls mapping these centers have helped my clients turn inward to their bodies and psyches in a way that feels comfortable and safe for them.

This approach has been used in yoga and Hindu traditions for centuries and is now becoming more popularized in the West.  Teachers such as Amy Weintraub and Anodea Judith have written beautiful books to assist clinicians in learning how to incorporate Chakra work into the yoga room and clinical therapy setting.

In Conclusion

If you have never tried a body-centered approach to treat your mental health conditions, addictions or traumas, it may be worth giving a try.  The future of therapy is a body-centered approach according to many recent theorists.  Start with the body, and the mind and spirit will follow!

For more information on these approaches, see the reference list below.  Stretching outside of your comfort zone can be scary but may ultimately make the difference between coping and healing!

Namaste (The Light in me honors the Light in you),

Pamela

 

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc.

 

References

Anodea, J. (2016).  Chakra Yoga.  Woodbury, Minnesota:  Llewellyn Publications. Goleman, D. (1988). The Meditative Mind: The Varieties of Meditative Experience. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, Inc.

Hanson, R. (2009). Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Hachette Books.

Kabat-Zinn, J, Segal, Z, Teasdale, J, Williams, M. (2007). The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Levine, P. (2015). Trauma and Memory: Brain and Body in A Search For The Living Past, A Practical Guide for Understanding and Working with Traumatic Memory. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

Levine, P. (1997). Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

Levine, P. (2010). In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

Linehan, M. (1993). Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. New York, NY: Guilfore Publications, Inc.

Weintraub, A (2012).  Yoga Skills for Therapists: Effective Practices for Mood management.  New York, NY:  W.W. Norton & Company.

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6 thoughts on “Yoga-Psychotherapy and Mental Health: Why It Might Be the Right Approach for You

  1. Avatar
    Denise Vestuti, Resource Specialist says:

    Pamela thank you so much for your wonderful post. I believe our readers will benefit greatly from learning more about Yoga-Psychotherapy and the many benefits of a body centered approach.

  2. Avatar
    Pamela Tinkham says:

    Dear Jay,
    I’m sorry I didn’t see your reply until now! I appreciate your superb editing and it was my pleasure! I love the bullying blog that just came out too. Wonderful work! THANK YOU for making a difference in this world!

  3. Avatar
    Pamela Tinkham says:

    And Denise I thought I had replied to you so forgive me as well! I just rented on office on High Ridge Rd. so it’s been crazy but I am so grateful to have met both of you and very much honored to be a part of your organization. You poster was hanging at the printing place on High Ridge and I said “Bravo!”.

  4. Avatar
    Sarah says:

    Amazing article!

    I admired with the reasons, especially number 3 which said
    “Trauma is stored in the body. Therefore, a body-centered approach such as yoga-psychotherapy can directly get to the source and root of the trauma, mental health condition or addiction.”

    Thanks!

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