Archive for January, 2008

Pagan Clients as a Marketplace

I did an interview yesterday with the editor of an industry newletter.  He basically wanted to know what is Paganism, how can therapists work with it, and how big of a financial market opportunity does it represent.  I’d say the emphasis was on the last question — are Pagans a big enough market to warrant specialized attention from psychotherapists?

I’m going to refrain from reposting most of what I wrote and told him because I want to see what he publishes first — it would be uncool of me to undercut his article by posting the interview contents here first.  But this does raise all sorts of interesting questions for the Pagan community and for psychotherapists.

One of the tenets often heard within psychotherapy is that an accepting therapist, who is basically familiar with a cultural group, can service all clients.   So do you think this is true?  Can a therapist who is non-Pagan, but willing to see our Paths as valid and willing to learn a bit about Pagans, service Pagan clients adequately?  Or, does the therapist need to be religiously Pagan themselves in order to understand Pagan clients?

I’d love to hear opinions.  I’ll throw out my own opinion here for what it’s worth.  At the moment I think therapists who are doing secular therapy on standard mental health problems can service Pagan clients adequately if they take some time to learn about us.  I think therapists who specifically market to the Pagan community or who want to engage in something like pastoral or spiritual counseling as well need to be religiously Pagan themselves.  One possible exception might be a counselor on a somewhat similar personal path (like say Pervian shamanism) who chooses to spend LOTS AND LOTS of time at Pagan community events and trainings really getting immersed in our culture first.

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The Gods & Ego States — How Comparable are They?

I’m struck by how many Pagans I know who are good at going into Aspect (divine possession) during rituals also have a traumatic childhood background.  Trauma in childhood is linked with all sorts of trauma disorders and dissociative experiences including PTSD and leading up to Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder).

Now I’m not saying that all instances of divine possession in Pagan rituals are not real.   That they are only an artifact of trauma.  Several times lately I’ve heard the idea batted about that children who have experienced trauma are more open to otherworldly communication & more psychic.  Of course I’ll never be able to prove this through any scientific or professional means as a psychotherapist.  Still — as a Pagan and a psychotherapist I’d really like my religious and professional worldviews to mesh and complement each other.

For more information on this idea, see all of the articles from the Spring 2007 edition of the Journal of Heart-Centered Therapies – especially the one entitled “The influence of childhood dissociative states from sexual abuse on the adult woman’s spiritual development“.

Another interesting article touching on dissociative states and otherworldly communication and creativity leading towards health can be found at a recent “Searching for Imbas” blog posting. 

I’m mulling over an idea right now that I hope proves true — because it would make my world alot easier.  I’m hoping that a parrallelism exists the paradigms of divine possession and psychological dissociative states.  In divine possession, there are “rules” — the gods are supposed to behave certain helpful ways at certain times.  They are of course unperdictable and Themselves, but the farther their behavior strays into what is considered inappropriate or destructive, the more this is discouraged and a means sought to end it.  The more its questioned if it’s really a god or something else. 

In a somewhat similar fashion, psychology usually seeks to integrate the different ego states — the different alters — of a person suffering trauma.  They are all thought to be a part of the same whole person.  They all have strengths as well as weaknesses.  Generally speaking, even the scary ones hold energy and abilities that the whole healthy person needs.  Only occasionally when an alter is too dangerous or the person is not ready does psychology seek to keep that alter — that ego state — walled off and seperate and forgotten.

So, as I work with clients who seem to fit both paradigms simultaneously, what I’m hoping to find is the following:

  • That divine possession states that seem scary actually need to be embraced and worked with, just as scary alters need to be integrated into the whole person
  • That divine possession states that must be discouraged corrispond with ego states or alters that should not be integrated and should be weakened

 I’m indulging in some hopeful thinking here because it will be difficult when I find situations where Pagan religion calls for rejecting at the same time that psychology calls for integrating (or vice versa).

 Whatever the level of divine or otherworldly communication actually present in Paganism, I do tend to think of modern Paganism, and ancient shamanic and magick systems as definitely servicing a mental health purpose as well.  So I’m hopeful the systems will mesh.

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Financial Counseling Service

From time to time I look (usually in vain) for financial counseling services to refer my clients to. Some of them are very expensive, others require ALL credit cards to be cut up, and others you wonder how much they are working for the credit industry versus the consumer. All in all, not an inspiring situation.

I have a friend who used to do excellent quality financial counseling as a senior manager with a financial counseling firm in Frederick, MD for many years before he moved to London. Before that he was an investigator and collections expert for a law firm, so he knows what’s he’s doing. He now works for Myvesta — a financial service company that helps people get back on their feet and otherwise manage difficult financial situations.

I just found out that he still does financial counseling in the United States via Myvesta’s service at There is a requested donation for the service, but it is voluntary and you can donate whatever you can afford.

He says “Once I am notified they have signed up, I will email them for details of how and when to phone them and their circumstance, we schedule a time to speak and the counseling is done via the phone, in most instances in 1 call with some email follow-up.”

This makes it sound like he’s the one counselor, but if you try this I’d specifically ask for Jon Emge to make sure you get him.

If you try Myvesta’s financial counseling service, please write me back and let me know what you think of their service.

I know this sounds like a paid commerical endorsement — it’s not. I’m just happy to have what looks to be a good referral option for clients in financial difficulty.