Dynamic Healing - Working at the Interface of Subtle Energy Healing and Psychotherapy
by Delcia McNeil
listed in holistic psychotherapy, originally published in issue 151 - October 2008
Positive Health online
The Basics of Metaphysical Energy Work
Metaphysical energy work therapies have developed out of spiritual and esoteric traditions. These therapies are firmly based on the concept of the existence of vital energy or life force. Throughout the ages, peoples of all cultures have felt and believed that we have subtle as well as physical bodies. Evidence of this is found in the spiritual and philosophical writings and teachings of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Greeks, the indigenous population of North America, many tribes of Africa, the Polynesian Kaunas, the Incas, the early Christians, the Vedic seers of India and the mediaeval alchemists and mystics of Europe.
Practitioners of metaphysical therapies, myself included, know that we do not stop at our skin. We believe that, as well as the physical body, we have subtle emotional, mental and spiritual bodies, which most people do not see. We also believe that reality is multi-dimensional, and that we can develop our senses to pick up information or impressions that are regarded in this culture as not normally available. This is often referred to as the sixth sense, although who knows how far the human mind can really develop as our consciousness evolves, or indeed just how many dimensions may exist within the universe. My belief that everybody has the capacity to develop this sixth sense if they wish is supported by research (Benor, 1993), and I am convinced that there is a conscious intelligence running throughout our bodies and minds which, with awareness, can be tapped into.
How Healing Can Help
As a form of treatment, healing today refers to several modalities, such as Subtle Energy We now have discoveries in quantum physics that not only back up these metaphysical concepts, but also verify the application of what the logical mind views as bizarre paradoxes. Quantum physics demonstrates that, at the sub-atomic level, one particle seems to know what the others are doing (so-called ‘non-locality’), and this offers us a worldview in which energy, thought and matter are all interrelated with ‘reality’ being co-created by the individual and their perception of their outside world.
Energy work is an integral part of many of the complementary and alternative medicine approaches to health, e.g. vibrational medical systems such as Homoeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine (which refers to this energy as chi), Ayurvedic medicine and Yoga (which refers to it as prana). It is also integral to various types of Body Psychotherapy, such as Biodynamic Psychotherapy, Bioenergetics, Hakomi, Formative Psychology and Gestalt (McNeil, 2000). Healing, Spiritual Healing, Reiki, and Therapeutic Touch. All involve laying-on-hands. Healers have a fundamental belief that human beings are part of something transpersonal, a ‘higher’ source of life energy, something much greater than themselves. They work to connect with a source of unconditional love and so create a sacred space in which to treat clients. They also believe that energy follows thought, so how they are thinking on a transpersonal level is very important. Although the receiver does not have to believe that healing works, it does help if they are open to receiving.
The healer is concerned with the spiritual wellbeing of the receiver, not just helping with their physical difficulties. Although some healers work simply with channelling energy and do not form a relationship with their client, all healers that I know of who work professionally take some time to talk and listen to their clients. Just as in Counselling or Psychotherapy, the focus is likely to be on helping the client uncover the negative beliefs they have about themselves on a deep core level, and to use this information to aid the healing process. Or it may be helping the client come to terms with their situation so that they can live with a greater sense of inner peace. Indeed, many healers work with the dying, to help them end their lives in a meaningful way.A
Dynamic Healing Session
My Personal Approach
After talking with the client, they are invited to sit or lie down. They will be fully clothed. I prepare myself through grounding, centering, protection and attunement. All these are meditative processes through which I focus on my own body, making sure I feel solidly connected with the ground and with my own centre of gravity. I then open my mind to the ‘higher’ sources of life energy. Protection is rather like putting on a metaphysical coat – a way of reflecting negativity that may come into my energy field. Attunement involves going into a light trance state, an altered consciousness that is balanced with an alert awareness of how the client may be responding to the interventions. The Healer’s intention and compassion is important, especially as she is acting as a kind of transmitter or catalyst for life force energy.
I lay on hands either on or off the body, working with my own learned and developed styles of channelling, modulating, and transmuting universal life force energy. Channelling energy refers to the phenomenon of allowing oneself to be a vehicle for life force or universal energy – the healer uses their own body and mind to be a focusing agent and transmitter of this energy. Modulation refers to the way in which I check in with the vibrations I am picking up in the energy field between myself and my client, through my hands in the field (aura) or on the client’s body. My hands feel as though they are highly tuned sensors with intelligent minds of their own. I allow them to guide me, as they seem to recognize qualities of vibrations, which I consciously tune into. Transmuting energy is a process through which, once the connection is made, there is a change – a kind of smoothing out of what often feels agitated energy, or there may be a ‘filling up’ of a depletion. Excess energy can leave the body or field in a number of directions and ways. Sometimes I use my hands to ‘break up’ or ‘pull off’ energy that is stuck; or I may hold still in one place, waiting for a feeling of peace to come, trusting that whatever shifts or rebalances of energy are needed are taking place. It seems that vital energy quite naturally goes to the places it is needed. Eventually, the field feels balanced and the client has relaxed, may even have fallen asleep. After the hands-on work the Healer will use techniques to clear their own energy and ‘close down’.
The Healer usually has a knowledge of the chakra system and the aura or human energy field. There is a great deal of metaphysical knowledge and beliefs available from many spiritual traditions, particularly ancient Hinduism. In the West, some modern psychologists have developed the concepts of chakras and the human energy field with rigour and effective use (Judith, 2004, 2005; Davies, 1996; Brennan, 1987). Healers also often have skills in the therapeutic use of colour and sound, clairsentience (feeling sensations or emotions through one’s body), imagery (using one’s inner eye), clairaudience (using one’s inner listening capacity), claircognizance (receiving guidance or wisdom from their higher self or discarnate spiritual beings).
The beneficial effects of healing are far reaching, including physical pain relief, long-term help with chronic conditions, and reduced anxiety. At the least, laying on hands healing offers the recipient the experience of relaxation, being cared for just as they are and being ‘held’. Relaxation in itself is known to strengthen the immune system.
My Background and the Development of Dynamic Healing
It took approximately 15 years of my own personal and professional development, in both the psychotherapeutic and subtle energy healing fields, before I became clear enough to name a way of working that I had dreamed about since first discovering healing in 1980. I had already begun my own journey in psychotherapy in 1976 because of my emotional problems (depression, bulimia nervosa, night terrors), but a serious back injury in 1979 led me into the field of complementary therapies. When I first received healing from a trainee Healer from the National Federation of Spiritual Healers I experienced a kind of ‘coming home’. I had already learned about my own sensitivity through receiving cranial osteopathy, but when I could feel all kinds of changes within my body with the Healer standing a few feet away, and not even touching me I was intrigued. More than that I ‘knew’ that I should be doing this too – for myself and for others.
A major lesson for me in recovering from back pain was the intrinsic connection between my emotional states and my subjective experience of physical pain. Without knowing anything about creative visualization techniques, I had been imagining it and allowing my mind to give me symbols and images that would influence the pain and help me cope.
I had worked for several years in psychiatry and child care as a casework social worker. In the early 1980s I retrained in spiritual healing with the National Federation of Spiritual Healers, and also qualified in holistic massage. Combining these skills with the counselling skills I already had, I began a private practice. I also began teaching healing in adult education in central London. In 1985 I discovered the Association for Therapeutic Healers – a group of professional, pioneering healers who combined the practice of healing with other therapies. I had found a professional healing home.
In 1988 I began training in Humanistic Psychotherapy at Spectrum, a centre for humanistic and integrative therapy in North London. I was keen to develop relationship skills and learn more about psychological processes. I had experienced psychoanalytical, neo-Reichian, and now humanistic psychotherapy for myself, and I very much wanted to combine humanistic psychological processes with subtle energy healing.
Also I wanted the Psychotherapy profession to embrace the value of the sixth sense, to develop a more theoretical basis for those hunches that so often get a corner turned in a psychotherapy session. Another of my concerns was to help psychotherapists take seriously the effect of their clients’ energy on them: to recognize that they are unconsciously immersed in transference and counter-transference on an energetic level, as well as on levels that are understood and worked with in training and supervision. Psychotherapists could employ various techniques that practising Healers do to clear their own energy field after giving sessions.
I have given the name Dynamic Healing to the way I integrate Subtle Energy Healing and Psychotherapy – I view it as working at the interface between them.
In Subtle Energy Healing the client is usually passive, receiving the laying-on of hands treatment, and relaxing – often very deeply. In Psychotherapy the client is usually sitting and consciously speaking with their therapist throughout the session. Although in regressive Psychotherapy work and Hypnotherapy the client is in an altered state, generally in Psychotherapy there is an emphasis on the conscious cognitive part of ourselves. And touch remains rather a minefield within Psychotherapy. In Dynamic Healing the client receives laying-on-hands healing but is not passive. They co-direct the session and at times are actively engaged through talking or expressive movement. At other times they are silent, in a relaxed or meditative state. The work takes place within the exceptionally supportive and loving context of spiritual healing – working within an energized field, a sacred space in which the vibration and power of love has been consciously evoked.
In a session we begin by talking about what the client is seeking help with, and we get clear about what our intention is for the session. Intention is a key ingredient – it is as if the universe can support a person energetically once they have made a commitment to themselves.
I then invite the client to lie down on the treatment couch or sit in a chair. I start by giving laying-on-hands healing. After a while I ask them what they are experiencing – usually there is a thought process going on, a memory, dream, a feeling or a physical sensation, such as a pressure in the chest or discomfort in the gut. I will ask them to describe this, to focus on it and bring it into fuller awareness; maybe ask them to give it a shape, a colour, a voice. I follow whichever way the client is able to connect with the issue. I may support them through a creative visualization process that is generated by them, or they may get in touch with grief or anger that needs time and space to be expressed. When appropriate I may challenge them or support them in taking a risk. Where there is anger they may need to get off the treatment table to do some expressive work, such as beating a cushion with a bat, or stamping their feet, at which point I stop using my hands and support them to move. After this kind of expression, I usually, although not always, suggest they return to lying or sitting; we may continue with hands-on work, or I complete the session in a meditative way. In all sessions the work generally continues until a satisfactory resolution is reached. This may not be total, but is the point that is appropriate for the client at the time. I often complete with asking them to choose a colour that feels right for them, and together we visualize this entering each cell of their body.
After we have completed the hands-on work, usually we spend some time reflecting on what has happened and looking at what may be needed to help with the integration of the experience. However, there are occasions when it is not appropriate for verbal reflection – it may be more important for the client to remain with their felt experience and not go back into thinking.
While I am working with my hands on and off the body, I sense the subtle energy of the client flowing and changing in a fascinating way, like an invisible dance. I am interacting with the client verbally and empathically, at the same time as ‘tuning into’ their life force and ‘picking up’ psychic information that may be useful. There is often a feeling that we are being helped by something or someone greater than ourselves; one client said of her experience, “I worked through different emotions culminating with my sensing a very special presence at the end of the session”.
Occasionally, a client coming for Dynamic Healing actually needs a straightforward, silent healing – sometimes because they need to integrate the work we have been doing, and sometimes because they are prone to overwork their mental faculties and need an opportunity to move beyond thought. They may be using ‘waterfall’ verbal content as a defence against feelings. On the other hand, someone may choose to receive healing in silence as a way of avoiding, or distracting themselves from the painful emotional issue they have come to work with.
Sometimes I ask the client’s permission to share what I am picking up. I always sense something while working hands-on; an image, thought or feeling that the client may connect with. I support them while they explore it with their own words or images. Such images often seem to be associated with a very early experience – the birth process or intrauterine memories or even a past life. There are other deep experiences that cannot be named. Sometimes at the beginning I feel strong resistance with my hands – the client’s energy field pushes me away. It is really important to share this. The contact the client thinks they want often is not the contact their body or energy field wants or can tolerate. Once this is acknowledged, I usually feel a major change in the field and their energy starts to flow more freely.
In these sessions I use myself as both Healer and Psychotherapist, interchanging the skills of both disciplines. I use the experience of somatic resonance all the time, as my own body picks up clues and tunes in to the client. For example, I may feel a moving sensation in my gut or around my heart; I may notice a change in my breathing pattern; I may suddenly feel sad or angry. An image may come to my mind, which stays with me, so I take it seriously as it is often a clue, or key that helps the client find their way into what is hidden and awaiting healing. In my experience different possibilities come with being in a more meditative state of mind. As a Dynamic Healer, I move between the ‘attuned state’ of my mind to the cognitive, interactive state.
Often clients reach the core of their issue more quickly than with general Psychotherapy, although I do not understand why this happens. One client describes this: “At the start of the session it’s like I’m trying to find something in a room at night with no light on and the curtains closed. Soon after the hands-on work has started, I will become aware of a word, phrase or image percolating up from a very deep and otherwise inaccessible place. I can’t really tell where the idea percolates from, my mind or body, as it feels like both at the same time. It feels as though it comes from deep within me and makes its way up into my consciousness… a shift of energy occurs and if I just stay with what is happening and the hands-on work continues, sometimes silently and sometimes with gentle questioning, I come to an understanding.”
Case Study 1
Geraldine suffers from a primary immunodeficiency disease and polymyalgia rheumatica. Her condition means that she has severe muscle stiffness, exhaustion after the mildest exertion, gets herpes/chickenpox type sores on her skin and is very sensitive to the sun. The immunodeficiency disease produces affects similar to HIV/AIDS. Side-effects from the corticosteroid drugs she needs to take have included sleeplessness, agitation and anxiety, and weight gain.
Geraldine has had several road traffic accidents, and was both physically and sexually abused as a child. She had been unwanted – her mother had tried to abort her up to five or six months of the pregnancy.
She came for Dynamic Healing because she wanted to approach her medical condition in a holistic way, i.e. to explore the emotional, psycho-spiritual, and subtle energy aspects.
Our sessions have included talking through issues, safe expression of anger, and visualization processes during which I worked with the energetic shifts on and off her body using my hands as sensors. In one session she ‘saw’ a tin bath of coal which she interpreted as the burden of her family history she was unconsciously carrying. In another session when I picked up agitated energy in her solar plexus chakra, she said she felt there was an unhealed, raw wound there. I encouraged her to dialogue with this wound, which said ‘leave me alone’, ‘soothe me’. She related this to the abuse, and in honouring this wound, she imagined a protective fabric to cover it.
Geraldine came to view her illness as a way through to a better life, one in which she can put her own health first and not override her own needs ‘to keep everyone else happy’. She has learned to trust more and be open to receiving, and our therapeutic relationship has been a ground through which she has been able to work through some of her projected fears.
Case Study 2
Brenda was feeling too unsafe emotionally to sleep; she was experiencing tremendous fear and didn’t know where this was coming from. She also suffered from both claustrophobia and agoraphobia. She experienced the feelings of fear mainly in her solar plexus area and wanted to be able to understand and manage this discomfort better. When I began to do the energy work part in one of our sessions I became aware that I felt no edge to her energy field. Usually I can pick this up with my hands at a distance of anything from approximately two to five feet off the body. After verbally feeding back to her what I felt was missing, she was intrigued and said this made a lot of sense to her. She then created an edge in her own mind. I felt able to move closer to her and, with her permission, lay my hands on her solar plexus area. After we completed this session she felt more grounded, with an understanding that her symptoms reflected the loss of a boundary to her energy field. With this awareness, she has reported that she feels safe and able to sleep. She regularly checks her own energy field and makes sure she has an appropriate boundary in place.
Not all Psychotherapy clients are going to be open to the idea of laying-on hands healing, and it would be completely inappropriate to suggest doing Dynamic Healing with those who are not. Many clients with histories of serious abuse may not be able to tolerate closing their eyes and going into a meditative state while their therapist touched them. Some people may find it impossible to use non-verbal communication without disassociating or splitting. On the other hand, sensitive, aware touch can sometimes help to prevent disassociation. I am also extremely careful if the client has a borderline personality, where there may be strong transference issues in the therapeutic relationship.
Holding awareness of both the intra- and the inter-personal relationships in the session is part of the Psychotherapist’s skill; there is an added dimension in Dynamic Healing of client and therapist possibly relating to transpersonal beings – spirit guides, angels, deceased loved ones. Such experiences lift the therapeutic relationship beyond the ego or personality level. Many clients understandably would run a mile from such phenomena.
For me Dynamic Healing feels natural and satisfying. Surrendering myself to a ‘higher’ loving energy and being engaged in allowing a process to unfold phenomenologically in an unseen way frees me as a Psychotherapist from relying solely on my own senses and cognition. As a Healer I can use my psychic abilities and impressions in a sensitive and appropriate way, feeling comfortable with knowing but without knowing how I know.
McNeil D. Bodywork Therapies for Women. Women’s Press. London. 2000.
Benor D Dr. Healing Research. Helix Editions Ltd. Oxfordshire. 1993.
Judith A. An Eastern Body Western Mind. Celestial Arts. California. 2004.
Judith A. Wheels of Life. Llewellyn Publications. Minnesota. 2005.
Davies B Dr. The Rainbow Journey. Hodder & Stoughton. London. 1998.
Brennan BA. Hands of Light. Bantam Books. USA. 1987.
The Association for Therapeutic Healers www.healers-ath.org
Spectrum, 7 Endymion Road, Finsbury Park, London N4 1EE. Tel. 020-8341 2277www.spectrumtherapy.co.uk
An altered version of this article, entitled Metaphysical Energy Work & Dynamic Healing: Exploring the Interface of Subtle Energy Healing and Psychotherapy, was previously published in the magazine Self and Society, a forum for Contemporary Psychology, Vol. 34. No. 4, Jan-Feb 2007.
About Delcia McNeil
Delcia McNeil Energy Healer & Psychotherapist with 45 years experience working with the public in a variety of settings, including social work. UKCP Registered Psychotherapist (1996-2014) and a Registered Healer (Association for Therapeutic Healers, member 1985-present day). She is a teacher and trainer, and co-founded the Rowan School Network – promoting healing and personal growth (1992-2003). She published Bodywork Therapies for Women in 2000 and has produced a CD entitled Opening to Self Healing. As well as continuing with her Dynamic Healing practice (in North London & South Cumbria), she now specialises running Chakra Psychology CPD courses. She is also a practising artist. 015395 62093; 07515 807366 [email protected] www.chakrapsychology.co.uk delciamcneil.artweb.com