Alison Nightingale LPC
Experiential Depth Psychotherapy
Solution by Irene Llopis
I love this image of the knitter. On her lap is a heap of undifferentiated snarls and tangles - easily overwhelming. Where does one even start! How will such a heap of chaotic raw material ever become something clear and beautiful and warming? But she has set herself to the task, teases out each thread and, with effort and commitment (those moons in her hair might be helping too), something beautiful has come flowing out of her hard work. This is a perfect image of what good therapy can lead to.
Most of the time we look into ourselves and are confronted with a loud, messy jumble of contrary emotions and desires. Most people look in for a minute only to turn their attention anywhere else! But eventually, through longing and suffering, we decide it is time, we will submit, we will hear all those loud voices and look into that dark nothingness. As your therapist, I will help you hold your commitment and courage by guiding you to move at a pace that is sustainable. I have tools to help you safely meet, with love, all of these neglected parts and old hurts. With these tools, the elements that make up your experience of life can finally learn new stories to live in and safely be released from chanting all the old rhymes of doom and shame and fear.
My goal is to help you become the knitter. Building trust with me and finding me trustworthy will help to create the safety required for you to build trust in yourself and find yourself trustworthy. When you live in that trust, you can hold all of your many stories, know them for what they are, see the pattern of what is right for you and commit to the immensely rewarding work of living from the center of yourself.
Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS)
Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy is currently my primary therapeutic framework and tool when working with any issue that a client might present. IFS is an 'evidence based practice', registered with the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP). This means that this method has been the subject of a rigorous scientific study that proved IFS's efficacy when reducing symptoms of psychological and physical distress in clients. One study shows a remarkable reduction in depression and pain from rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder. A recent study showed IFS to be incredibly effective with complex, treatment resistant PTSD, with the majority of clients no longer satisfying the criteria of a PTSD diagnosis at the end of the study period.
IFS, Jungian and Archetypal Psychology, Hakomi and RC-S (my primary modalities), all share two basic views about the structure of the psyche - that we are comprised of a multiplicity (sub-personalities, parts, complexes, organizing core beliefs, etc) and that there is a central core of each person, called Self, that is the natural leader of the personality when it can be accessed. These multiple parts are a completely natural, structural phenomenon of traits and abilities inside of us much like the instruments in a symphony or the members of an Internal Family. If all of these parts get to follow their development uninterrupted by burdening experiences of shame, trauma or fear, they play their parts beautifully, in harmony, under the guidance of the conductor (Self).
No one, however, makes it through the vicissitudes of the prolonged vulnerability of childhood without parts becoming burdened with beliefs and tasks that circumstances seem to require. A traumatic experience may keep our 'inner tuba' from the happy, booming base lines it was made for. The traumatic experience has now convinced the tuba that it's only job is to alert the system to danger. Now when the tuba catches even the tiniest whiff of fear it can't see the conductor or hear it's fellow instruments. Instead it rushes the stage and blasts the whole system with booming terror. Other parts may have learned to distract us or numb us for example and they all function out of protective fear rather than instinctual strength. When parts or instruments in our system are burdened with these protective jobs it forces other instruments to leave their natural and preferred parts to play in order to compensate for and protect us from the tuba's terror or the frozen chimes or the violin's sorrow, and so on and so on. The result is that many of our symptoms are part of an interrelated 'family' and addressing one part without addressing all of them, will not tend to produce lasting change or ever really get to the heart of the matter. IFS is a gentle and elegant, step-by-step process of accessing these parts, helping them release these burdens, come back into harmony with each other and restore the leadership of the conductor.
S.A.F.E. EMDR stands for Somatic and Attachment Focused Eye Movement Desensitization. This is a extensively researched therapeutic approach used to resolve trauma in the body and nervous system. Also an 'evidence based practice', EMDR uses some form of bi-lateral stimulation (taps on alternating on either side of the body, sounds in ears, eyes moving back and forth across the visual field) to help the nervous system access traumatic experience which has become fixed in the psyche, discharge stuck mental and physical shock, fear, paralysis, rage, etc. at a safe and contained pace and allow the nervous system's natural adaptive capacity to reintegrate the experience into a larger, more meaningful and richer context. The S.A.F.E. approach to EMDR uses tools that build trust and attachment with one's self and the therapist as well as cultivating deep resources in the body that prepare one to completely heal and let go of old patterns of survival. Working in this way does not mean you are going to come in and we will start doing bi-lateral stimulation right away. We will be building trust and resources - processing sometimes, integrating sometimes. I do EMDR work in conjunction with IFS work.
Many theoretical approaches inform my working style but the depth psychotherapy traditions of Jungian and Archetypal psychology have helped me to form the bedrock of my concept of how the human psyche is organized and what it wants for it's growth. Depth Psychology (psyche = soul + logos = speech) takes as it's premise that we must grow down in order to fulfill our work as humans. This includes developing our imaginations, engaging dreams, myth and image, respecting the unconscious and a fundamental belief that we are participating in soul making here on Earth, not merely getting by or being productive. Depth traditions walk in an alive, complex, participatory world which bring dignity and honor to human suffering.
Included in this orientation is the recognition that the relationship of the therapist and the client is the soil of mutual transformation - we are engaged in a many layers deep awakening and exchange out of which an entirely new awareness emerges that neither could have born/e alone. A depth psychotherapist, at their best, has learned to befriend unknowing, darkness, and disorientation - recognizing these states as the pillars at the entrance to transformation and healing. They know that the wound, and our relationship with it, is the wellspring of vitality and new growth. They have a cultivated enough faith and love for this process to lend these qualities to their clients while they embark on the night sea journey of actual transformation instead of the endless repetitions of our primal dramas. The depth orientation is like in internal posture that allows us to see the benevolent and grand landscape we are already in, more richly. I have spent an incredible amount of time deeply studying the rich academic and mythical world in the depth tradition.
Attachment and Interpersonal Neurobiology
While we are here to develop our souls and bring our conscious efforts into the world, we need to understand and respect the environments in which the human psyche thrives and in which it does not. Understanding that we develop our relationship to ourselves and to the world only through the relationships that have come before, most particularly during crucial time frames in our development and with our most important caretakers, allows us to understand and respect the assumptions and working models of life that may no longer be serving our happiness or even continue to be necessary. My study in these fields allows me to help you identify the origins of some of your core issues and beliefs, put them into their proper context as a child's best attempts to understand and cope with their circumstances, and to help you start to create a new narrative. Knowing the elements of how attachment forms and regulates emotions as well as how to hook feeling states up with parts of the brain that can help folks begin to regulate their emotions (or lack of emotions) informs how I am present in the room with you and allows me to share tools that can truly effect change in your life.
Duties of Gossamer by Michelle Kingdom
Hakomi and RC-S (Re-Creation of Self)
Hakomi and RC-S are both very beautiful, collaborative and non-violent approaches designed to access feeling states through the body in order rewire the neural maps that build identity. Hakomi intends to unfold our deep, body held stories through exquisite attention (mindfulness) and experimentation. Through these extremely powerful experiences (not concepts) we can both differentiate and heal internalized wounding beliefs though witnessing and adding the elements that were previously missing from these formative experiences, i.e. nurturance and attunement. RC-S uses similar methods to help us build in maps of our Organic Self - a whole, resourced, aliveness inside everyone as their primary or natural state. Both methods have taught me a lot about the value of the body in therapy and the power of paying close attention in a way that demands no outcome but is a simple invitation to be seen. I use many of these methods when working with clients but I do not work as a Hakomi or RC-S therapist primarily as I find the IFS (Internal Family System) model to be safer emotionally and more consistently effective in less time. I will say however that these methods changed me enormously and are very compatible with IFS.