NPI Reflects Spring 2020

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Volume 10: Issue 1

The Other Side of the Couch – Staying Safe this issue

By Susan E. Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP This city’s mental health community was rocked to the core by the sexual assault and murder of a counselor last December. Melissa Hamilton, assistant director of Crossroads Counseling, was stabbed to death in her office minutes after the conclusion of her last group. For a time it was feared that her murderer was a client of the agency; this proved to be incorrect as within forty-eight hours an arrest was made in the case. The crime was described as random and opportunistic by the police; no known connection existed between the counselor and the man who is accused of her murder. Mental health professionals of all types work in situations that by their very nature are unsafe. Confidentiality requires that the identity of clients be protected. The work of therapy is done one-on-one in the privacy and seclusion of a private office. Many therapists work in solo practices and are often at their offices late into evening hours. This tragic death has brought into focus the struggle that all of us, not only counselors, face in the world in which we live today. What are the steps that we can take that can at least mitigate the possibility of harm? (I would add that these concerns are addressed to both men and women – both are at risk in these situations). First and foremost, be aware of your surroundings. Take a moment to look at the situation before you leave a safe place to go to your car. Have keys at the ready if you are going to a car in a parking lot. Have a loud alarm that you can activate at a moment’s notice. If possible, do not be alone in walking to a car in a parking lot. Don’t assume that because it is daylight everything is fine. Crimes happen in daylight as well as at night. When you are in your office at night, if alone, even with a client, lock the outside door. It is worth the trouble of being interrupted to let your next client in, if it prevents unauthorized access by an unknown person. Continued on page 2 1

What is NPI? The Nashville Psychotherapy Institute or NPI is a 501(c)(6) non profit, professional organization. Founded in 1985, NPI now boasts 300+ members.

Inside this issue: The Other Side of the Couch Susan Hammonds-White


From the Editor John Nichols


America the Dysthymic Cynthia Ezell


Making Sense of Prayers Paulette Jackson


Dutchman’s Curve David Sacks


Importance of the Therapeutic Relationship… Philip Chanin , Ed.D., ABPP, CGP


Farewell Thoughts to Combat Vets D. Kirk Barton


Ecopsychology Selove, Martin, & Moore


Board Member Spotlight Lindsay Vaughn


Cultivating Kundalini Barbara Sanders


From the Editor So my plan was to get up this morning and write a “letter from the editor” telling all the members of NPI who didn’t attend the retreat at St. Mary’s that y’all missed out (you did, by the way). Instead I woke up to the morning news informing me that a tornado touched down in Middle Tennessee and did about 200 miles worth of damage. I spent the rest of the day watching the TV news inform us all of roads closed; the buildings leveled; and the homes and lives lost. This is the story that I keep telling myself - We have over 325 active members, and we have an email blast and newsletter that reaches over 1000 clinicians. If each one of us were to take on just one client pro bono who was traumatized by the recent tornado, Holy Crap! Just imagine what a difference we could make as an organization!

John Nichols, MS, LPC/MHSP NPI Reflect Editor

I know that there are details and logistics to work out. Those members of NPI that are good at that, I invite you to help us figure this out. We have a huge opportunity to help our community heal and leave this world a better place than we found it. Since I opened up this can of worms, I suppose I’m in charge of it. My email is (I know, super original). Thanks for your consideration and all that you do,

John Nichols, MS, LPC/MHSP Safety (continued from page 1)

What if the situation in which you are with a client becomes volatile? Installing a security system of some kind that includes a panic button option may be a good solution. Have a plan. Rehearse the plan. One of the stories from the 9/11 tragedy focused on a company whose security officer went through drills with the employees. When a crisis happens, our bodies go on automatic pilot, and if that automatic pilot has been trained to respond in certain ways, there is a much better chance of survival. The people in his company for the most part survived because of their training. It is worth having a plan and practicing it.

We don’t like to think of these things. No one wants to contemplate the possibility of being harmed. However, not thinking about it results in putting ourselves in harm’s way. I don’t know whether anything could have prevented the tragic death suffered by Missy Hamilton. It seems the man had already entered the building before she had a chance to lock the doors. If her death can help anyone else by heightening their awareness of the need for security, perhaps a tiny bit of good can come from such a tragedy. I live in that hope. Susan is a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist as well as Level 2-EMDR trained. Her practice includes both couples and individuals. She writes a monthly column for .This article first appeared in December, 2019. 2

America the Dysthymic By Cynthia Ezell, LMFT My psychotherapy practice is comprised of couples who are having relationship problems and individuals with mood disorders, grief and loss issues, and life transition concerns. Those who disparage psychotherapy might label the people who seek my services the “worried well.” My patients are middle-class adults, urban and predominately white. They are not chronically mentally ill. They are not poor, or disadvantaged, and yet, the worried well are getting more worried. The worried well are getting sick. Dysthymia, also called persistent depressive disorder, is a diagnostic designation that describes a consistent feeling of depression that is less severe that Major Depressive Disorder. Some of the symptoms of dysthymia include a loss of interest in normal activities, sadness or feeling empty, hopelessness, irritability or anger. What many of us have been witnessing in our patients and in ourselves is a general malaise that, while not at levels that warrant a diagnosis, is growing more pervasive. America is becoming dysthymic.

The water torture drip, drip, drip of the negative environment created by the current political climate and our constant connection to media is literally making us sick. It doesn’t matter which side of the political tug-of-war you are one, whether you’re delighted about Donald Trump being president, or desperate for him to return to the penthouse at Trump Tower for good. No matter your political perspective, you likely feel set-upon and fearful. You are afraid that you will lose what you have now, or afraid you’ll be forced to accept something you find abhorrent. Ranging from despair to apathy, the specter of hopelessness from which my patients suffer has nudged me to inquire more often about their spiritual hygiene than in the past. Spiritual hygiene refers to what we feed our minds and how we nurture our souls. A steady diet of talk radio or cable news (no matter the flavor) is likely to lead to a spiritual sickness characterized by bitterness and anxiety. People who spend more time on social media, especially of a political bent, than they do talking to friends, spending active time outdoors, or enjoying their hobbies are more likely to feel less positively about their lives. Contemptuous rhetoric has a toxic effect. Our limbic systems are at the mercy of pings and vibrations and the clarion call of news reports designed for provocation. Our brains have become habituated to compulsively respond to every text, every call, every Facebook post as if they were important to our survival or functioning. Some of us even wear devices on our bodies (on our bodies!) that alert us instantly that someone, somewhere, wants our attention. The problem is that everyone wants our attention. Getting attention is the name of the game. The ability to grab the eyes and ears of people who don’t even know you is called “having a platform,” and has sadly become more important in some quarters than having something worth saying. Our bodies are the conduit through which all that data passes through: our spirits, our souls, our nervous systems. I’m not arguing for being uninformed. The question you need to ask yourself is “how much do I need to know? If you deplore Donald Trump, you aren’t going to deplore him any less by being constantly focused on news of his latest transgression. If you admire him, you probably aren’t going to admire him any less because of what you read or hear. Confirmation bias affects all of us, and the polarization of our political environment thrives on it. If activism is what turns you on, then march and write and organize and protest with your whole heart, but realize you will need to neutralize all that political acid with a big dose of poetry, and time spent in the woods, and hours holding and being held by someone who doesn’t give a fig about your politics. No matter who lives in the White House in 2021, the people you love will still need your attention. You will still need theirs. The poor will always need help from those who are more blessed. The maples will be magnificent again in the fall and you need to notice them. Your body will still be fragile and soft and temporary. Sleep. Eat real food. Visit with your neighbors and talk to the children in your life. If you don’t have any children in your life, find some to hang out with. Every child can use more adults in their lives who listen to them. The political slime fest is only going to get worse the closer the 2020 election gets. The world will go on after you are dead, people will be fighting, those in power will still be trying to get more of what they will just misuse. You have one short life. Use it for good. Guard your heart. Cynthia Ezell, LMFT, has been practicing psychotherapy in Nashville since 1988. She is a past chair of NPI. She holds a Masters of Fine Arts degree from Spalding School of Professional and Creative Writing and offers both creative writing instruction and clinical consultation. 3

Making Sense of Prayers by Paulette Jackson LPC-MHSP Have you ever considered … Prayers they taste like chocolate comforting and sweet to savor And how … Like snow They fall upon the chaos covering it with blankets of forgiving white And sounding like silence … They are the music of the soul birthing love’s heir And their resonance calls forth … A radiance untouched a hope the image of a rose filled with the fragrance of holy desire a reminder of eternal promise Yes … Prayers they taste like chocolate the flavor of a dream come true

In this day and time, it is not unusual for families to live considerable distances from each other. While many of us make treks to drive or fly long distances to see family, we have also had to accept the realities imposed by the miles – like foregoing the casual visits of dropping by, coming over for dinner, or hardest of all, not being able to be available to offer a helping hand or a listening ear, in times of stress. The above poem was inspired by such a situation. While phone calls, texts, and prayers offer support and connection, I wanted to do something tangible – so I sent chocolate truffles. And the image of the rose, is Rilke’s image, who was fascinated with the circling of the rose. He saw the petals as eyelids, covering a resonant silence, an alert sleep, because of the way the petals curve into each other. He also saw it as a contradictory little flower – both awake and asleep, not something, but neither an empty nothing. To Rilke, the rose was a world-inner-space, a term used to often speak of the essential space within the heart of a human being, or a “body of nothing but radiance.” Maybe the prayers we offer, really do wrap those we love and care for with the felt sense of a comforting blanket, music, resonance, the peaceful presence of hope and – the image of a rose. ~ Paulette Jackson 4

Dutchman’s Curve by David Sacks, PhD I first visited this spot during a historical tour commemorating the Great Train Wreck of 1918, in which more than 100 people were killed, when two trains collided at the area known as “Dutchman’s Curve.” At that time, I noticed some bass swimming in Richland Creek and resolved to return and try my luck. My second visit was on July 9, 2018, for a memorial ceremony beginning at 7:20AM, exactly 100 years after the moment of the crash. I was moved to hear stories from descendants of the victims and to participate by reading the name of an individual who had perished. The next time I visited Dutchman’s Curve, I brought a fishing rod and took a few casts but wasn’t successful. I was walking back to the Richland Creek Greenway when I got the call about Joe. I learned that Joe had taken his own life the night before. He was a psychologist and a friend and colleague. I had been his clinical supervisor a few years prior, when he was doing his internship in Nashville. Some time passed and I returned to this spot at the convergence of Richland Creek and Dutchman’s Curve. This time I caught a smallmouth bass. I released the fish, but it had been injured in the fight and struggled to swim away. I don’t think it survived. That’s when I actually started feeling the grief: for Joe, and for the fish I’d probably killed, and for Joe’s orphaned clients, for his family, and for myself. I came again, this time without a fishing rod. Fishing there felt wrong now. On that visit, I met a man who appeared to have some psychotic symptoms, as he was engaged in conversation with someone who wasn’t obviously there. I had a brief and pleasant conversation with the man. “Something always happens when I come here,” I thought. And I realized I had begun visiting this place, where so much death had occurred, as a ritual to pay my respects and to reflect about Joe. On the next visit, the psychotic man was there again, and he got into an argument with an actual, seemingly sane man. Rather, the “sane” man started the argument, accusing the “insane” one of rudeness and of being crazy, yet it was the supposedly normal person storming away, screaming curses into the air. I wondered what strange or unexpected event would happen on my next visit. My mind was occupied with thoughts of my two troubled clients. I thought of them the entire time I lingered there, when I watched the fish in the creek and climbed up the stone remnants of an historic railroad bridge. As I was leaving, I realized that I hadn’t thought of Joe once, which seemed notable, but even more significant was the realization that I had been thinking about his orphaned clients, who I now see in my therapy practice. This was progress, and yet another meaningful visit.

I came back again, wondering what other discovery or strange event might occur now. Only so much can happen in one place. As I climbed up the stone steps, I saw the rock. “Courage is Contagious” it claimed. Imagine that message landing in this place! Did Joe need courage? Am I showing courage? If I’m courageous with my clients, will it spread to them? Yes, it will. Should I show the courage to climb farther up this old stone bridge? It would afford an even better view of this hallowed place. I decided not to on this trip. I was a bit shaky from discovering this mantra on a rock, and the rocks and hill were slippery from recent rains. I left it there and headed home. On my most recent visit, the “Courage is Contagious” rock was still there. There had been some thunderstorms, and debris had washed up from the creek. The rock had fallen on its side. I picked it up and read the message on the back. I stuck it in a pocket and climbed all the way up the old bridge. The #rockmantra now resides in my office where I do therapy, spreading courage to those who need it.



Reflections on the Importance of the Therapeutic Relationship in the Era of “Evidence Based Treatments” By Philip Chanin, Ed.D., ABPP, CGP “In my early professional years, I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?” -- Carl Rogers

Recently I was having lunch with a young colleague, relatively new to psychotherapy practice. She was talking about how she had been taught in her graduate program that a focus of psychotherapy, especially given “managed care” guidelines, should be to help patients to complete therapy as quickly as possible. I responded to her by saying that my 43-year experience as a psychotherapist has taught me that I should not be in hurry to terminate a patient’s treatment. Instead, I want to offer the patient a therapeutic relationship that she or he can utilize, often over many years of therapy, to heal past trauma and develop a fulfilling life. Writing in the New York Times, on August 11, 2019, following the death of Toni Morrison, novelist Jesmyn Ward paid tribute to Morrison’s enormous impact on her life. Ward writes, “There was something about that absolute narrative presence that communicated this: ‘You are worthy to be seen. You are worthy to be heard. You are worthy to be sat with, to be walked beside. Even in your quietest moments, you are worthy of witness.’” Ward’s testimony to Morrison reflects one of my goals as a psychotherapist, which is to help my patients to tell their stories, as I bear witness to their pain, and assist them in developing—often for the first time—a belief that they have worth and value. Thinking of her own life, novelist Ward continues, “I was walking the desert, waiting for a word. A word that would sound out of the wilderness to declare that it was speaking to me, for me, within me. The sonic sear of that voice: a new knowing of not only the world I walked, but of me.” In psychotherapy, we help our patients to find their own authentic voices, that were often long ago drowned out by the expectations and demands of other figures in their early lives. Nancy McWilliams, writing in Psychoanalytic Case Formulation (1999), stresses the critical importance of the relationship between patient and analyst: “Although contemporary analysts consider understanding, especially the affectively charge ‘Aha!’ kind of understanding that has usually been termed ‘emotional insight,’ to be of immense therapeutic significance, they also credit numerous ‘nonspecific factors (e.g., the therapists’ quiet modeling of realistic and self-respectful attitudes, the client’s experience and internalization of the therapist’s stance of acceptance, the fact that the therapist survives the patient’s seemingly toxic states of pain and rage) with just as much power. In fact, over the past couple of decades, almost all psychoanalytic writing about what is curative in therapy stresses relationship aspects of the treatment experience over traditional notions of insight.” (p. 14). In elaborating on this point, McWilliams goes on to say: “The analytic emphasis on understanding is partly attributable to the fact that the two participants in the work need something interesting to talk about while the nonspecific relational factors are doing their quiet healing.” In his seminal article in the American Psychologist (February-March,2010), titled “The Efficacy of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy,” Jonathan Shedler writes about the focus in psychodynamic psychotherapy on the therapy relationship: “The relationship between therapist and patient is itself an important interpersonal relationship, one that can become deeply meaningful and emotionally charged. To the extent that there are repetitive themes in a person’s relationships and manner of interacting, these themes tend to emerge in some form in the therapy relationship.” Shedler concludes, “The recurrence of interpersonal themes in the therapy relationship (in theoretical terms, transference and countertransference) provides a unique opportunity to explore and rework them in vivo. The goal is greater flexibility in interpersonal relationships and an enhanced capacity to meet interpersonal needs.” (p. 99) In an NPI presentation I gave in 1996, at the end of my year as Chair of the Board of Directors, I spoke about the critical importance of the “non-anxious presence” of the psychotherapist in assisting the change process. To begin this talk, I mentioned Murray Bowen, one of the founding fathers of family therapy, who put a great emphasis, for both therapist and patient, on the differentiation process. In family systems theory, differentiation is an instinctively rooted life force which propels the developing child to grow to be an emotionally separate person, with the ability to think, feel, and act for him or herself. The further our differentiation process proceeds, the more capable we are of non-reactively participating in and maintaining relationships. Edwin Friedman was an ordained rabbi and family therapist who practiced in Washington, D.C., for more than 35 years. Friedman was an articulate voice for applying Bowen’s theories. My first exposure to Friedman was in his Family Therapy Networker article of May-June, 1987, entitled, “How to Succeed in Therapy Without Really Trying.” Friedman credits Bowen for helping him to understand that the key element in psychotherapy is the “non-anxious presence” of the therapist, functioning in a nonwillful manner. According to Friedman, Bowen “believes that if one can maintain a non-anxious presence in any system, that very style of functioning in itself will have a beneficial effect, no matter what the problem.” (p. 30) From Bowen, Friedman learned that it was his non-anxious curiosity about a patient or family which was most responsible for any change which might take place. He elaborates, “When the therapist’s primary concern is understanding the human condition, a natural patience emerges that enables one to out wait the resistance demons that, like the swiftest horses, can only beat humans over a short course…if you genuinely want to learn, you must not be willful about life, but rather let it teach you. That means you try not to interfere too much with what you are observing, except in Continued on page 13 7


FAREWELL THOUGHTS FOR MY COMBAT VETS Barely true. Human truths are often like that. Barely true is true nevertheless. Barely true is true enough. You are still here. Everyday is everyday. This is everyday. Real grown ups are showing up. You might find yourself in an unsafe space. Such as a combat zone. Here grown ups show up murderous and set aside their own safety and self-care. These are skills that can only be learned and improved through practice literally everyday. And the United States Military does practice every day. You will find the next chapter of your life in a peaceful space. Here grown ups show up calm and relaxed kind ready to help out and not wanting anyone to get hurt. These are skills that can only be learned and improved through practice literally everyday. And, in peaceful spaces, real grown ups do practice everyday. Right Now We are here together in a peaceful space. In a peaceful space, each grown up is responsible for acknowledging and maintaining the fact that he or she is not in a combat zone. In combat zones, We fight bad people. In peaceful spaces, Mostly we fight bad ideas, bad choices, and bad habits. Not bad people. In combat zones, You step on the ground and the ground explodes. In peaceful spaces, Someone else steps on you and you explode. After tragedy and trauma It is hard to know where the past ends and the present begins. It is hard to know where memory ends and the body begins. It is hard to control what one cares about. It is hard to know what is real. Here in peaceful spaces Questions about what is real can be relentless. Am I awake or am I dreaming? Is this now or is this then? Is this me or is this you? Did I find this — or am I causing this? Can I choose how I feel? Don’t be trapped by intoxicating misinformation or misinforming intoxication. Reality always arrives on time.


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Seek your best self. Serve your best self. Every step of your journey begins with a step in the mind. Be still in a still place. Take care of your thoughts before you demand that your thoughts take care of you. Take a deep breath. Take the breath that is true. Everything thinks for itself when the mind is calm. Everything takes care of itself when the body is relaxed. The goal is to settle down enough to understand. We are like that. Showing up calm and relaxed is the appropriate and proper comportment of a real grown up in peaceful space. This skill is learned by taking time to practice showing up calm and relaxed. For yourself. Everyday. Take care of your thoughts before you demand that your thoughts take care of you. This will teach you how to take care of other people before you demand that other people take care of you. In peaceful spaces As you move to make yourself fit For joining us in asking the question “Who am I?” Begin by making sure that whoever you are, that person is a good person. Be sure you are a good person By making sure that you are a real grown-up. Because a real grown up is a good person. By definition. It is hard to try to answer the question “Who am I?” Even here in peaceful spaces, Answers to this question are hard to find. However In peaceful spaces It is not hard to try to be a real grown up. Because responsibilities are always easy to find. The responsibilities never stop. The responsibilities start right now. If you want to be a grown up. And a real grown up is a good person. By definition. “Who am I?” For real. In peaceful spaces Follow after your best self. Learn and practice being a grown up. And you may come to know what is real. Because what is real will find you. Because reality always arrives on time. Be True. Be like reality. Be real and arrive on time. It is hard to trust other people when you have emotions And impossible when you don’t. Sincerely and respectfully. Your psychiatrist and devoted friend, D. Kirk Barton MD, Staff Psychiatrist BHIP-1 Mental Health Clinic, Nashville VAMC September 26, 2019 9

Ecopsychology: Recommended as part of every therapist’s approach By Rebecca Selove, Valerie Martin, Travis Moore Imagine this client walks into your office: Jen is a mid-30’s, middle-class mother of two, who presents with generalized anxiety and difficulty finding contentment in her overall “good” life. As she starts to open up, Jen shares her fear and grief about the overwhelm of plastic and other waste, climate change, the loss of over a billion animals in the Australian wildfires, and general distress about the world her children will inherit as adults. You also know from her intake that she experienced fear and disconnection in her family of origin, with a distant father and an alcoholic mother who never sought treatment. Where do you go with Jen? How do you conceptualize her presenting concerns? The unfortunate reality is that many folks like Jen have their concerns about the environment minimized or misunderstood by clinicians as either simply the way an anxiety disorder is manifesting, or as a projection of her wounding that is more tangible and less scary to address than the “real” trauma of her childhood. In this paper, we offer encouragement and support to NPI members to expand their perspectives, and to address the possibility that presentations such as these align with a broader framework that extends beyond the individualistic lineage of traditional Western psychology. If you don’t already, consider framing how you interpret and address concerns of contemporary clients as always developing within an ecological – in the broadest sense - context. An ecopsychological paradigm reaches beyond family of origin systems and into our larger family of the Earth. This means that, in addition to assessing whether Jen would benefit from certain therapeutic approaches to address her family of origin trauma and help her learn skills to better cope with anxiety, we would also validate her concerns about the environment on their own merit. We would acknowledge and hold space for her pain, love, grief, and fear about what is happening to the trees, rivers, cows, and air that are inextricably connected with her own being and vitality. In the 1990’s, psychologists and other clinicians began to wrestle with questions about how the continued destruction of and disconnection from the natural world was impacting the human psyche— and how, at the same time, that disconnection was fueling emotional distress, consumerism, and destruction of the environment. The field of ecopsychology was born. While Robert Greenway is usually credited with coining the term, 1 Theodore Roszak expanded awareness of ecopsychology with his books The Voice of the Earth2 in 1992 and Ecopsychology3 in 1995. Though the field has struggled to find a strong and cohesive footing, the increasing pace of climate change and environmental devastation at the hands of the human race has led to a recent increase in interest and need for researchers and clinicians to collaborate and explore how ecopsychology can support us in navigating the challenging times we and our clients are in. The American Psychological Association published a guide for psychotherapists4 describing relationships between climate-related disasters and more gradual changes in the ecosystem, psychological health, and physical well-being. In addition to noting ways in which people are suffering as weather patterns destabilize and intensify, the authors described the accumulating disastrous impacts of reacting to eco-stress by denying the impact of human behavior on the planet, or avoiding and withdrawing from situations in which our collective need to change and take action is discussed and facilitated. Counseling psychologist Bob Doppelt described the neurobiology of trauma as a way of understanding these dynamics in his book Transformational Resilience.5 His approach to psychological trauma associated with climate -related disasters has been to encourage a deepening awareness of and appreciation for the beauty and complexity of our natural world, and human society’s interdependence on human and planetary systems. With parallels to the work of eco-philosopher Joanna Macy,5 he has articulated the possibility of individual and collective transformation arising from our attention to these interdependent dynamics. Though we may not yet see a large number of clients like Jen in our offices, we have reasons to believe that number will increase as we see further consequences of the Anthropocene— the term some scientists use to describe the postIndustrial Revolution epoch in which human actions have rapidly changed the essential nature of the planet. Like the general population, clinicians likely fall across the spectrum of concern regarding issues of climate and natural world. As of late 2018, according to a Yale study,6 59% of Americans are either “alarmed” (29%) or “concerned” (30%) about climate change, with the remaining 41% ranging from “cautious” to “dismissive.” Of course, our job is not to validate our clients’ Continued on page 9 10

Ecopsychology (continued from page 8)

concerns in a way that intensifies fear or paranoia; but traditional psychology would have us err on the side of minimizing our clients’ anxiety: “Notice all the beautiful trees surrounding you; enjoy them instead of being fused with doomsday thinking that they may not be here in 100 years. That’s catastrophizing!” Our difficult job, which the work of ecopsychology can help us navigate, is to hold space for the pain and distress of the Anthropocene, while learning how to skillfully move forward, continuing to fully experience life at this time on the planet when we happened to arrive. Canadian ecopsychologist Andy Fisher offers one definition of ecopsychology as “being fully alive in a world that is fully alive.”7 Though this may seem fairly simple, it is actually associated with a radical paradigm shift when we consider how deanimated the natural world has become to many living in the Anthropocene: water, trees and animals are seen as commodities to be bought, sold and used rather than as dynamic, living beings, encompassed in systems within which we consciously live. From this perspective, ecopsychology is about more than just telling our clients to go for more walks in the woods (though that will certainly do them good). This type of intervention, sometimes called “ecotherapy”,8 is a useful category under the larger umbrella of ecopsychology, which calls us to shift not just the practices we use in (and hopefully, at times, outside!) our offices with clients, but the very lens through which we see the world and our clinical work. Although concerns about plastic in the ocean, species extinction, or the rising CO2 level of Earth’s atmosphere might not show up as clients’ presenting issues for therapists whose practice isn’t explicitly geared toward ecotherapy, we advocate that therapists ask questions as part of their standard intake to convey to clients that such topics are welcome in the therapy setting. Examples include asking what kinds of experiences a client had as a child out-of-doors, and current outside activities, as well as experiences with pets or other animals as a child and now. Such questions can be used to gauge the quality of an individual’s emotional connection with the trans-human world, and to identify potential opportunities for building resilience in response to climate change-related stress. In addition, for therapists and clients, having actual or representations of nature in office-based therapy can support awareness of the larger world from which we can draw strength. A basket of pebbles, a live plant, a photograph of a beach, and a therapy dog are commonly used to bring the outside in. Nature-based therapy is a specialized approach to ecotherapy for which there are a growing number of resources. 9 You are welcome to join NPI’s own Ecopsychology Reading Group, a monthly Meetup discussion of books and articles to support integration of ecopsychology into office-based practice of Middle Tennessee psychotherapists. Please contact us for more information about accessing the readings we are curating for this group. 1 ezine/ep_origins.html 2 Roszak, T. (1992). Voice of the Earth: An Exploration of Ecopsychology. Phanes Press, Grand Rapids, MI. 3 Roszak, T., Gomes, ME& Kanner, AD., Eds. (1995). Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, CA. 4 publications/americans-are-increasingly-alarmed-about -global-warming/ 5 Macy, J. & Brown, M. (2014) Coming Back To Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World. New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, Canada. 6 Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., & Hodge C. (2014). Beyond Storms & Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica. 7 Fisher, A. In-person training (2019, Valerie Martin) 8 e.g., resources/this-is-planet-pandora-introduction-toecotherapy/ 9 e.g., https:// ,

The NPI Ecopsychology Group meets the first Sunday of the month from 1:30 - 3pm. Join your NPI colleagues on Meetup to get more details.


Board Member Spotlight Our first board member spotlight features our Hutton Historian, Lindsay E. Vaughn, who first served on the NPI board from 2010 to 2014. After she took over the seat of a member who moved out of state, serving the final year of that term, she was elected to her own three-year term. During those years, Lindsay created what is now known as the Programming Committee, streamlined our educational event planning process, helped NPI events become more profitable for the organization, and authored a detailed document that would guide the actions of all programming committee members in the years to come. As thankful as we are for her service then, and the contributions she made, she is just as grateful for the role that NPI has played in her professional development. She states, “The people I’ve met through NPI, especially as a board member, have become not only trusted colleagues with whom I can network, refer to, and lean on for support, but in many cases, they have also become my friends. I really treasure the people I’ve met through my NPI involvement.” As we all know, being a therapist in private practice can be isolating, but Lindsay has relied on many of her connections within NPI to provide community. Furthermore, she reports that one of the highlights of her board membership was meeting Bonnie Badenoch, who presented at a spring workshop. By connecting with Bonnie while planning the event, and taking the speaker to dinner, as is the tradition after a workshop, Lindsay formed a relationship with Bonnie that led her to attend a five-day therapeutic retreat in Santa Fe, years later, hosted by Bonnie.

During her one-year term as the Hutton Historian, Lindsay will provide some historical context to the board discussions and also head up the committee that will nominate the next generation of NPI board members. She says that she is thrilled to be on the NPI board again, after taking some time away to focus on raising her young children and birthing and growing her new business, Hazel House Holistic Healing. Hazel House is a local integrative center offering a variety of traditional and alternative therapies, which complement each other, and are focused on helping people resolve trauma of all kinds. Lindsay says, “Our approach is deeply rooted in ancient wisdom, and in modern science, and we have a healthy respect for both.” Through individual and group psychotherapy, integrative bodywork, neurofeedback, integrative nutrition and holistic health coaching, trauma-informed yoga, breathwork, EMDR, brainspotting, hypnotherapy, somatic and experiential therapy, intensives and retreats, and more, Hazel House is able to offer clients a well-rounded body-mind-spirit approach. They welcome referrals from other therapists whose clients need additional support or help getting unstuck in talk therapy, and they are happy to collaborate with other therapists throughout the process. All treatment plans and programs are tailored to the individual, and treatment can range from one session per month to fifteen hours per week, can be long-term or short-term, and may include any combination of services, depending on clinical needs, budget, schedule, and the wishes of the client. Lindsay encourages her colleagues to reach out to her directly regarding any potential case collaboration, by emailing, and she invites you to view the Hazel House website to learn more.


The Importance of the Therapeutic Relationship (continued from page 7)

a manner that will bring it more into relief…When the task of the clinician becomes learning about life rather than imposing change, the challenge of therapy lies no longer in the contest of will with the client, but in satisfying one’s own curiosity about what makes people tick.” (pp. 31 & 68) In concluding his article, Friedman returns again to the central importance of differentiation, both by therapist and patient or client. He writes, “I am after one thing, no matter what the symptom—promoting differentiation throughout the system. This takes me totally out of the willful position of assuming I know what choices are best for my clients. For me, symptoms are not an enemy, to be eliminated, but pathways that lead me in my quest to understand the system. And I assume once people differentiate themselves, symptoms will atrophy.” (p. 68) For the past 28 years, I have been deeply involved in The American Academy of Psychotherapists, and it has been central to my growth as a person and as a psychotherapist. Under “Who We Are,” on the Academy’s website, it states, “With an emphasis on authentic ‘I-Thou’ engagement, we explore the relationship between the person of the therapist and the process of therapy, in an ongoing effort to develop the art and science of psychotherapy. We value the therapistclient relationship as fundamental to the psychotherapy process, and are committed to developing ourselves in relationship as authentic human beings. We see this as foundational to healing in therapeutic relationships…In an increasingly technical and manualized treatment climate, the Academy maintains a commitment to in-depth personal engagement.” Philip Chanin is a Board Certified Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. For more information, visit his website at or email him at


Cultivating Kundalini By Barbara Sanders, LCSW

Flaming inside my lower back Sacred root chakra, Tossing my body around Like a toy shaken by a dog. Burning me up Burning my chest and lungs Burning through and through Cauterizing every piece Of my broken heart. I am restored, Miraculously reborn Without scar tissue. It started with the Rapture When my old life ended And my new life began. Kundalini, a powerful Coiled snake seductress, Sprang to life, shockingly, Surprisingly Blasted through my pelvic area With such sanctimonious sensations, Ecstatic pleasure and pain Bursting hot energy Like boiling lava, or revving up Like a bull pawing the ground Racing to stab the matador With a sharpened horn. Not so silently or serenely these Clotted roadblocks clear away, Rotor rootered throughout, Cleansed for the first time Perhaps ever. Breathing out from my Open mouth, toxic air rushing out like High winds but doing no harm. Leaking out some of The intensity so as not To blow out the torch Of my life in one fatal whoosh. Divination afoot. The Breath of Life Breathes for me

Begs me to open up And become more alive Than ever before. The entire channel shatters As the sneaky snake Smashes through every membrane Muscle, bone and organ That stands in Her way. The gush opens up and I am for the very first time In my whole life An emptied, flowing channel Unencumbered by human Guts or goo, fully open To Divine Magic Piercing sighing, crying Laughing at the absurdity Of all of my former worries All those attachments to My body, my ego, Heaving, letting go, Finally Surrendering. Released into the Blackness, untethered from All I once knew and thought Was real. Floating unencumbered Comforted, blessed. Only slight fear but real enough: Will I let go of all human Connection one day Die Lose all I used to know? Yes, but, I will also remember and Know more than ever before. We will dance together In some space or time or Cloud, in light or darkness However it looks All together, One. 14


Nashville Psychotherapy Institute

P. O. Box 158626 Nashville, TN 37215

2020 NPI BOARD Cathy Yarbrough, PhD; Chair John Nichols, MS, LPC/MHSP; Chair-elect/Development/Newsletter Sonya Thomas, LCSW; Immediate Past Chair Lindsay Vaughn, PsyD ; Hutton Historian Glenn Sheriff, MA ; Treasurer D. Kirk Barton, MD Robert DeSalvo, LCSW; Website Bobby Bracks; Student Member Emily Ector-Volman, LPC-MHSP (temp), NCC; Communications Kristin Finch, LPC-MHSP (temp), NCC Linda Manning, PhD; Social Justice Patrick Nitch, LPC/MHSP; Fall Workshop/Speaker Research Hannah Reynolds, LPC/MHSP; Fall Workshop/Social Justice Rob Rickman, LPC/MHSP; Membership Melissa Vickroy, MS; Executive Coordinator

WANT TO GET MORE INVOLVED IN THE NASHVILLE PSYCHOTHERAPY INSTITUTE? We have several committees that you can join! If you are interested in becoming a more active member of NPI, visit our website at or email us at

NEWSLETTER CREDITS Editor: Layout & Design: Printing:

John Nichols, MS, LPC/MHSP Melissa Vickroy, MS PrintNetUSA

***Editor’s Note: The content and opinions expressed within this newsletter do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the Nashville Psychotherapy Institute, the Board of Directors of the Nashville Psychotherapy Institute, or the Editor of the newsletter. 16

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