Psychosis and Paganism

I’m frustrated.  A friend (not patient) of mine has apparently been in and out of the hospital lately.  From her writings, she does not sound too well — likely a bit psychotic right now, jumping from topic to topic too much, and half-lost in references and delusions all her own.  But even more disturbing is that she may be right about something at least in part — that her fundamentalist parents and hospital views of her religion are combining to make this far worse for her than it actually has to be.

She complains about hospital questionnaires that she knows are designed to test for psychosis — but that Pagans answering truthfully would trigger.  I have not seen her questionnaires, but I have seen similar.  I can only hope the professionals handling her case have some compassion and insight on matters of religion and spirituality.

The possibility that parents or hospital staff might persecute her may be enough to make the delusions and psychosis all the worse since there could be a grain of truth to them.  I’ve observed on many occasions that upset people tend to become more unbalanced.

I’d really love to consult with that hospital on Paganism and handling Pagan patients.

Blessings to her recovery.

— Michael


Hypnos Painting in Progress

I’ve been steadily working on my hypnosis skillset over the past few years, although I mainly use it for age regression, guided meditations, and establishment of resource states at this point.  I’ve also trained in NLP.  It finally dawned on me that maybe I should, oh I don’t know, do something PAGAN and thank Hypnos for helping me master this skillset!  Anyway, I’ve asked Brian MacGregor — the really great artist who did my logo — to work on a painting of Hypnos.  His website of finished work can be found here.

I’ve attached below a very, very rough color sketch of what he is starting to work on.  I’m excited.  I’m also busy gathering notes about Hypnos and writing down any dreams so I can have them incorporated in the background and add some of my energy to the work.

Hypnos Rough Sketch


Touch Drawing in DC

Angela Raincatcher (aka my significant other) is running a 6-month class in Washington, DC doing Touch Drawing.  This is an art therapy modality with significant potential.

She states that:

“Touch Drawing is a simple yet profound process where your fingers take the place of pen or brush. Your hands become organic extensions of your soul, moving freely in response to the sensations of the moment. In this sacred space, you can open previously unused channels of expression, enabling uncensored feelings to flow forth. The act of creating with these feelings provides more than cathartic release: it unleashes vibrant healing forces which guide the psyche toward wholeness. Touch Drawing is a practice of creative, psychological, and spiritual integration.”

The first event is Saturday April 4th.

More information on the event can be found here and here.

More information on generally what Touch Drawing is can be found here and here.


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.


Light Therapy and Negative Ionization for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder in which persons experience symptoms associated with depression (sadness, low energy, weight gain, loss of interest in activities, & more) during the winter months when exposure to sunlight is diminished.

Several research studies have shown the effectiveness of full spectrum (mimics natural daylight) light therapy boxes in improving depression symptoms.  Users sit beneath the lights with the lights shining into their eyes at a slight downward angle.  They usually do this for about 20-30 minutes per day.  Some studies have suggested that early morning is the best time for this.  Research has also shown the value of negative air ionization therapy — especially at high density concentrations.   The Center for Environmental Therapeutics has information on environmental therapies for SAD and other disorders, including the use of light therapy boxes and negative ionizers.  They have a useful online self-assessment instrument instrument for depression, including questions for SAD, which can be found here. The results should be discussed with a therapist or doctor.  The criteria that therapists and doctors generally use when diagnosing SAD can be found here.

I have recently purchased a  Day-Light(TM) light therapy box by Uplift Technologies Inc. so I can show clients what these look like and start experimenting with it.  This looks like a good model given the adjustable legs, downward angle of the light provided, and the low cost.  It’s also recommended by CET — which is run by a group of doctors primarily out of Columbia University and Yale.

I have also purchased an ionization unit from Comtech Research (model IG-133DG). The various manufacturers fight back and forth as to how useful negative ions are for air purification (HEPA filter companies claim negative ions just cause dirt to cling to walls and surfaces) but that’s not the point — for help with SAD (and perhaps other forms of depression and some sleep disorders) high concentrations of negative ions are clinically indicated.

As I think I’ve said before, a high percentage of the clients who come to me seem to be adverse to taking medications.  While I’m not adverse to sending someone for a psychiatric evaluation for possible medication, OF COURSE holistic drug-free alternatives should also be explored.  These alternatives delight me.

They also delight the Pagan in me.  Most of the light therapy options work by providing bright light at colors close to or identical to natural sunlight.  Negative ions are found naturally at fairly high levels in forests and along beaches.  In other words, these healing alternatives help bring us back to nature and affirm its healing value.  Now, if we could all just get OUTSIDE more and go for a walk in the forest or along the beach more!!

Comments (2)

Pagan Leadership Skills Conference

This morning I agree to co-lead the Pastoral Care track of the Pagan Leadership Skills Conference this July in Richmond, VA.  For those of you who don’t know about this conference, it is a professional intensive training opportunity for Pagan clergy to beef-up their skills.  Past years have had tracks on counseling, finances, marketing & PR, group facilitation, and more.  If your Pagan organization is growing and you didn’t get to go to seminary and business school (and who did?), then please consider attending the conference.

I’m delighted to be co-teaching with Judy Harrow — a mental health counselor, present (or past?) President of the New Jersey chapter of ASERVIC (Association for Spiritual and Religious Values in Counseling), and Pagan elder.  She is also Chair of the Pastoral Counseling Department at Cherry Hill Seminary.

Here is the current generic write-up on the planned class:

More and more today, Pagan groups are being called on to guide the personal and spiritual growth of their individual members, minister to their needs, and counsel them through life changes. The Pagan community is a unique context for this ministry, and the PLSC Pastoral Care track will give you a base knowledge of common counseling techniques and tools to help you do so. The track will address the foundations and basic techniques of pastoral care, active listening, unconditional positive regard, reflective and additive empathy, appropriate confrontation, spiritual assessment, confidentiality and its limits, and specialized tools and techniques such as what to listen for and questions to ask. This track will equip you to develop a personalized action plan for pastoral care to bring back to your organization or group.


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.


Religion Tightrope Walk

I sent the following memo out to my staff at a psychiatric rehabilitation day program today.   What are your thoughts on the proper role of religion and/or spirituality in a state-funded psychiatric environment?  When does it help with recovery?  When does it hurt?  Does the presence of ANY religion pressure nonbelievers?  Does its absence leave believers with a hole in their heart?  What if they don’t have the means to get out to their religious or spiritual community?


Religion and spirituality has always been a touchy subject in mental health.  I’ve been sending strong signals lately that some religion and spirituality in the program is fine. Here’s why:

  • Our institutional population is often not able to get to church or other religious activities and so are missing out on the spiritual/religious aspects of their lives.
  • I believe in a holistic program approach encompassing mind, body, and spirit.  We bring in everything else the clients need.
  • There are now several studies in the psych literature that show a link between spirituality and recovery – especially for depression and for drug/alcohol issues. (See Keating & Fretz, 1990; Propst et al., 1992; Worthington, Kurusu, McCullough, & Sandage, 1996).

 However, at the same time this is a secular, state-funded program which provides equal services to all clients – religious or not. 

 So a balance is needed – a way to provide spiritual and religious programming but in a totally optional way that pressures and evangelizes no one.

Here are the rules I’m flying by for spiritual and religious classes and activities:

  • They are appropriate only if there is absolutely no pressure whatsoever on clients to attend.
  • They are appropriate only when there are other attractive activities in the same timeslot of a secular nature.
  • Spiritual/religious activities will usually be held in a side classroom rather than the community room in order to further emphasize that attendance is optional and so it does not by default grab up folks who just sit in the community room.
  • There must be enough client interest to justify the programming strictly on client need (not evangelism).   This is pretty clear for Christianity right now.  For other religions like Buddhism, etc. I’d theoretically be just as happy to have classes if there was a need.  I suspect given smaller numbers of interested clients, such could be accommodated by client-run clubs.

 This is verbose, but I hope clear – please feel free to hit me with questions individually or at staff meeting.


Why So Close?

The New York Times has an article entitled “Psychologists Vote to End Interrogation Consultations”.  That’s the good news.

The amazing news here to me is that the APA vote was 8,792 to 6,157.

Wouldn’t torture be a bit less popular?

I’m curious for insights into why the vote went this way.



Cherry Hill Seminary Fundraising Matched Dollar for Dollar

Cherry Hill Seminary has some great “pastoral” counseling classes for those interested in Pagan counseling education.  I especially enjoyed their spiritual mentoring, death & dying (“Call of the Dark Mother”), and rites of passage classes.

 They currently have a donor who will match dollar-for-dollar any money you send them.  See below for details.


Pledges To Match Every Dollar Contributed to CHS Between Now and Samhain!

An Unprecedented OpportunityA generous donor has approached Cherry Hill Seminary and issued a challenge:  for every dollar contributed by friends between now and Samhain, our donor will match those gifts, up to $5,000.

That means if you give $50, you will receive credit for having given $100.

Your coven, circle, grove or hearth can also use this wonderful opportunity to learn some basics of effective fundraising, while raising funds for both Cherry Hill and your group or favorite local cause.

Use this site to find resources and information to run your group’s best-ever fundraising project.

Or click here to make your gift now. 

Every gift is precious, and none too small to make a difference.

Questions?  Email us or call 888.503.4131 for more information.


« Previous Page« Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries »Next Page »