Archive for Business of psychotherapy

California / San Francisco Pagan Therapy

I’d like to thank HPS and psychotherapist Beverly Ellison, LCSW for contacting me and letting me know about her services in San Francisco.  If you are in that area, and looking for a Pagan therapist, please look her up.

Beverly has websites at and ChangeIsTheOnlyConstant.Care .

She is a Dianic High Priestess with an undergraduate double major in Religion and Gender Studies, a Masters of Social Work, and an LCSW license in California.

Beverly works primarily with LGBT folks, people with trauma and/or psychosis, and from an Earth-based spiritual perspective whenever appropriate.



Association of Pagan Therapists

There is a new Association of Pagan Therapists forming — so far through the use of a Meetup group.  You can click here to see their webpage:

This group is growing out of the recent Pantheacon conference.

The initial focus would seem to be on growing an association of Pagan professionals, advocacy, and perhaps developing tools for other therapists and the community.  This discussion of what the association should be is ongoing.  I’ve joined to participate and check it out.

The focus of the separate and pre-existing Pagan Professional Counseling Yahoo Group has so far been more on case consultations, and peer support for fellow Pagan therapists.

Hard to say if these will remain separate in focus or come together in some way.

— Michael

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PCP Episode #108 is Online!

Pagan Centered Podcast (PCP) episode #108 is now online.  As I discussed in earlier posts here and here, we discuss several topics related to therapy and Paganism for a bit over an hour.  It’s been online for 3 days and already has 424 downloads — I’m psyched! (Bad pun intended.)

Amber and Dave at PCP also posted a nice outline of the show online so that if you are interested in a specific topic you can jump right to the portion of the show that it’s discussed.

The outline of the show is here.

The actual .mp3 file is available for download here.

This show is also available through iTunes.


Interview Went Well

Wednesday I got to hear an advance copy of my interview with PCP: Pagan-Centered Podcast.  I was very happy with it, apart from some sound quality issues.  They did a good job cleaning up my “ummm..” and awkward pauses.

Self-promotion aside, I think this is a worthwhile interview to listen to if you are hesitant to see a therapist and want to know how to approach a therapist with Pagan beliefs.  I also cleared up misconceptions on being involuntarily hospitalized, drugged without consent, labeled schizophrenic for paranormal experiences, and a host of other concerns.  I was quite happy with it.

I believe it will be posted as episode #108 in a few weeks.  You can get it off of iTunes, or visit their website for other methods.

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BLUEWAVE Light Therapy Units from Philips/Apollo

This is supposedly my “Pagan Therapy Blog”, and it is, but my interests lately have been with easy-to-use gadgets that can help my clients with stress and depression.

I recently scooped up 10 little portable light therapy units in a cheap eBay auction!  I now have 10  goLite P1 “BLUEWAVE” light therapy units for use with seasonal depression and sleep disorders.

The nice feature about these units is that they are very small and portable.  They can run on battery — so clients can move them around from place to place and carry them from work to home.  Recent research seems to show that only certain bluelight spectrums of sunlight are required for benefits — and so smaller LED portable units like these have been developed.

More on BLUEWAVE and it’s research claims can be found here and here.

I suppose if I really stretch I could make a link to Paganism… these units were originally manufactured by Apollo Health before Philips bought them… Apollo is the Greek God of the Sun and Healing… his son is the Greek God of healing Asklepios… his daughter is Hygeia — the goddess my counseling practice is named after…

I’m very good at stretching things.


Biofeedback for Stress, Anxiety, and Sleep

StressEraser PictureI have been training some of my clients for the past few months in the use of the StressEraser — a biofeedback device proven to assist with stress, anxiety reduction, and some sleep difficulties.  I’m constantly on the lookout for devices that will assist clients in a natural manner without the use of drugs — especially since so many of the clients I seem to get are resistant to taking medications.

The StressEraser uses heart rate biofeedback to teach you to learn how to breathe right.  Heart rate biofeedback is when you see a graph on the device screen of how your heart rate is rising and falling between breathes.  Biofeedback is a treatment technique in which people are trained to improve their health by using signals from their own bodies — in this case by looking at the graphic display.StressEraser Screenshot

Proper balance is primarily achieved through proper breathing. Your heart rate goes up and down with your breathing. When you breathe in, your heart rate tends to go up. When you breathe out, your heart rate tends to go down.  Relaxation and stress are also tied to these changes in heart rate.  More in-depth information about how StressEraser and biofeedback works and the science involved can be found by clicking here.

I have one client whose primary improvement has been linked to this device.  I have a few others who say they are seeing gains.  A few have quickly brought it back.  The issue in these cases is that people who are anxious occasionally get more nervous when they view the device as like a test or a critic.  I can sometimes move them beyond this and sometimes not.

The devices are retailing for $179 on the StressEraser website.  I’ve been picking them up used off of eBay for less.  Good gadget.


Dual Relationships

There’s an old argument in the counseling community regarding how to restrict dual relationships between therapists and clients — that is, any sort of relationship between the therapist and the client outside of the therapeutic context (like running into each other at Pagan events, shopping at the client’s store, having sex, etc.).   Certain activities (like sex) are universally condemned while others (like attending the same large event or going to a client’s wedding) attract a variety of opinions.

There are LOTS of good arguments why dual relationships are generally a bad idea.  Why this is important to Pagans is that periodically there are attempts to make the various professional society ethics codes more rigid so counselors can not knowingly have dual relationships.  This is a BIG PROBLEM if we want Pagan therapists to be able to see Pagan clients given the still small size of our communities.

Anyway, someone with alot of clout has been advocating the rigid position lately on a widely-read Yahoo Group for therapists and got my dander up.  Here’s my response, with some references for those interested in learning more towards the end.  I’ve edited it slightly since the whole discussion thread is not reproduced here so it makes more sense:


I tend to think the dual relationships ethics debate in counseling is not dissimilar to the abortion debate in our society.  You end up with good people on all sides of the debate, and after a while they can scream all the facts and arguments at each other they want – no one is going to change their minds.


I could point out that relationship boundaries between healers and their clients have varied widely throughout history as the various healing professions have sought the right balance between closeness as a healing tool versus distant and boundaries as a defense.   To my thinking, the wide variance of opinion on this topic amongst good quality counselors argues for some latitude in the ethics guidelines.  This, however, won’t persuade someone who believes there is an absolute right and wrong – an absolute professional standard – that must be upheld.  (Similarly, I tend to see abortion as a personal choice, but choice is no acceptable compromise to those who see it as murder.) 


Rural counselors who can’t avoid dual relationships have been pointed out as a reason for some latitude in the ACA ethics rules.  This can be extended to any small community – even nestled in the middle of a large city – when clients from that community believe that there is an advantage to seeing a counselor who is also a member.  I’m thinking specifically of religious communities.  There is some research showing that evangelical Christians and Jews often prefer or demand counselors who are of the same faith and worldview.  These groups are not so small, so dual relationships are not a common problem, but I suspect future research will show the same preferences amongst members of smaller religions as well.


So what are potential clients from smaller, little understood religions like Ifa, Umbanda, Santeria, Neo-Paganism, Wicca, Voudun, Asatru,  etc. supposed to do when they want a counselor?   These religions have unusual worldviews compared with mainstream Western culture.  They believe in spirits, magic, direct communication with the dead, and a whole host of other beliefs that they (rightly or wrongly) fear will get labeled as psychotic by counselors from a mainstream orientation.  Their religions tend to have only a few hundred to a few thousand members in any given metro area.  Religious gathering draw as few as 5-10 people to as “many” as 50 or 200 at large events.


A strong argument can be made that a disservice is done to clients if counselors from these alternative faith paths (or any small distinctive community) can’t see people from their own community for fear of an absolute ban on dual relationships.  Harm to such clients may include: 

a)      Never seeking counseling at all for fear counselors will misunderstand them,

b)      Inferior quality of counseling relationships if in fact mainstream counselors do have some trouble relating to them,

c)      Failure of knowledge about these small religions (and other subcultural groups) to reach mainstream counselors.  If counselors from small, distinctive communities can’t help their own community, they will be unable to develop expertise in what the unique concerns of that community are from a mental health standpoint.  They will then be unable to raise awareness of such and/or train the rest of the professional community.

There are many arguments (and research papers) regarding how to best handle the complex subject of dual relationships other than enacting tough, nearly absolute bans on them.  I believe the best known author in this area is Dr. Ofer Zur.  His website can be found at Another (and rather rare) article on this topic, entitled “The ethics of a dual relationship, psychotherapist and Wiccan clergy” by Ellen C. Friedman can be found at  It has references as well as a discussion of choice-making decision models on this topic.   Another version of it (as well as some materials on how counseling members of a small religion (Wicca) is different) can be found at Thanks,Michael

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Mystickal Voyage Holistic and Yoga Center Opens

What does this have to do with Pagan therapy you may ask?  Other than me now having Saturday office hours there?  Well,  Mystickal Voyage is Pagan-owned – making it one of rather few holistic centers to have that distinction.

It’s really nice office space and I always run into interesting people there.  They have amazing classroom space, yoga space, a large store, and a coffee shop too.  Check them out if you are in the White Marsh, MD area.

More info at:

They recently bought some of my wife’s artwork for resale too!  More on her wonderful digital colleague and altar box construction at


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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