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In this issue of Alternative Voices, learn about our exciting new partnership with the Open Path Psychotherapy Collective (OPPC), enjoy an insightful interview with member Maureen Gilbert, an important discussion of masculinity with member Paul Dunion, and a fascinating exploration of sexual discourse with member Galen Fous.
If you would like to be included in the next edition of Alternative Voices, send your submission here and we shall be in touch.
Thank you again for being part of our global community, and here’s to an incredibly productive start of 2015!
Adam A. Neal, Managing Director
Alternative Therapists Directory
Psychology Tomorrow is excited to announce a brand new partnership with Open Path Psychotherapy Collective!
To accompany our mission of validating all forms of beneficial therapy, Open Path validates the need for therapy to be both accessible and affordable.
Open Path Psychotherapy Collective is a network of skilled therapists in private practice available to clients at affordable rates. Dedicated to helping individuals, couples, children, and families, Open Path matches clients with qualified mental health professionals in private practice. In addition to increasing access to affordable therapy, Open Path attempts to support therapists in private practice. We do this by providing free online advertising along with a bevy of other incentives found at the bottom of our clinician page.
There is no fee for therapists to join Open Path.
Already, Open Path is at work in major U.S. cities, including:
San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Chicago, New York, Miami, and many others.
At this time, we have over 1,200+ therapists signed on in cities and communities around the 50 states. Open Path is continuously expanding this network, reaching out to therapists nationwide.
Signing up with Open Path is an easy process. Clients complete a simple registration and provide a one-time fee to gain access to a user-friendly, searchable database of local therapists and affordable counseling. Therapists can find a similarly simple application page here.
MG: There are basically 3 things that I do, and they all tend to dovetail of overlap. The first is something called Bioenergetic work, which comes from the philosophy of Wilhelm Reich. He was one of the first pioneers to really figure out the integration that what is showing up in the physical body has a basis in the emotional, and also, if you’re interested in “going there,” a spiritual component. One of the reasons I’m listed as a pastoral or spiritual counselor is because I like to integrate that component as well.
For me, if someone says “I don’t believe in God,” that’s fine of course, but there still must be some meaning. That sense of something greater — why you do what you do. I don’t care what you call it, “divine” or not — one of my primary beliefs in dealing with clients is that we’re meaning-making machines.
Bioenergetic work takes aspects of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy — there’s that sense of ‘Something happens, then we create a story about it.’ When things are unpleasant, we find a therapist to work with. Bioenergetic work takes it one step further and accounts for what shows up in the body — in the major organs, in someone’s chakras — and it answers questions like: Where are you holding energy? Where are you letting energy go?
I’ve been doing this work now for about 10 years, and I’m constantly amazed about how accurate it is, and how often there is this profound connection.
When I look at someone’s lungs, for example, and there’s congestion there — the lungs tend be where we hold our grief. The liver is where we tend to hold our unexpressed anger and rage. For anyone who studies chinese medicine or acupuncture, that same basic understanding also exists in that medical field. It’s great to see these methodologies converging.
I tell people when they first come to see me — don’t tell me anything about you. There’s a profound catharsis when a therapist who doesn’t know you can say, without any talking needed, “Wow, what’s going on? I can see that you have a lot of fear or unexpressed anger.” Just someone being a compassion witness that validates for people — that in and of itself can be transformative.
The second way I practice is through Breathwork, which can be called Shamanic or Transformational Breathwork. The reason I got into that — well, I had done talk therapy for a lot of my life, starting in my twenties. I’m very cognitive-minded — I tend to attract clients that are good in their analytical mind. What I found profound about breathwork is — the place where you don’t want to go is where the gold is — it was so profound in being that release mechanism, that mechanism that takes that stuck emotional imprinting and bring it to consciousness.
Breathwork empowers the individual to really heal themselves; your psyche really knows how to heal.
I’ve come to have profound respect for this modality — it was easy to sit there like more traditional therapists who have a model. The kind of give off the impression of “I have my act together; let me fix you.”
What I’ve come to is a radical shift that tells the client, “I’m still working on my stuff too.” Whatever the client presents, there’s always that piece that’s self-reflective.
The way I approach my work is with the sense of — “I’ve walked this road, so let me shine a light that can help you find your way through the darkness.”
I consider myself a “midwife” – the midwife doesn’t birth the baby, but they’re there to guide along the process.
I mentored with a gentleman, Jeremiah Abrams, respected in the Jungian world for his shadow work. There’s a fabulous book called The Presence Process by Michael Brown. The basic premise — anyone who is triggering us in the outside world is acting as a messenger for what our inner struggle is. But it really depends on how it lands.
I can be really upset at someone who almost hurts me — for example, a bad driver who almost causes me to have an accident — but if I’ve worked through my stuff, it won’t need to have the same emotional ‘stickiness.’ When we get triggered, it’s because there’s that unintegrated piece of us that still hasn’t been healed.
My two kids are my most brilliant therapists — because, boy do they know how to trigger me.
ATD: Right (laughs) — so, how did you decide on your training?
MG: In terms of the classic “masters” or “certified,” etc., for a very long time, I had this split identity. I have my MBA, and used to work in the banking sector. I lived in seven different countries while in the international business realm, and then there was this other side of me that was studying Breathwork, and getting a Bioenergetic certification, and getting certified by a Spiritual Counseling association.
The gift in having an MBA is the practical — I have a profound ability to be able to say, “It’s great to be able to sit in a therapist’s office, but what do you do when you’re dealing with a boss who’s riding you, or when your mortgage goes under water?”
I’m able to bring that practical side to things — so I understand the financial piece to life. The people I work with tend to find that grounding and refreshing, since I can practice things in the healing, spiritual realm, but then also offer the practical.
You can have beautiful, spiritual experiences during a retreat or practice, but eventually the peak cloud you were on from a retreat or practice session starts to dissipate. So how can you bring these healing practices to the “mundane”? To your parenting? To your dating? To your living? — so you’re more authentic on the inside and you don’t get buffeted by what happens in daily life.
For the past few years, I was living and working in Indonesia — I was on the island of Bali. Indonesia is actually the country with the largest Muslim population by number. Bali, though, is a primarily Hindu island — and I feel that out of any religion, I’d most closely identify with Hinduism.
There are actually many Hindu underpinnings in Jung’s work. One of the beautiful things about the Balinese is that they make offerings three times a day. They have beautiful flowers, use holy water, and make offerings to the gods. But they also give offerings to the demons. If you think about it from a psychological standpoint — it connects to what shadow work is all about.
They give offerings to their demons, as if to say, “I know you’re there, you’re going to stay part of my life, so by acknowledging it I can integrate it into my life.”
ATD: How long do your sessions usually take?
MG: A minimum of an hour, but usually an hour and a half. Usually an hour feels too short — so an hour and a half is usually enough time to allow a client to get a full sense of closure for a session.
I work on a sliding scale — but there’s times when I know someone really needs what I can offer. Sometimes the people who need it most are the people who can least afford it. So I do sometimes take on pro-bono clients. Some of these modalities can end up saving people money in their effectiveness.
ATD: What prompted you to offer a specialization in money-oriented counseling?
MG: There’s a lot of debt problems people come to me about. The interesting niche that I have is working with couples on this issue.
We’re more willing as a country to talk about sex than about money. So when you have people who come together with different values, it’s not surprising that about 60 percent of divorces are precipitated by money-oriented issues.
One of my mantras is — “It’s never about the money.”
Money taps into the amygdala – it’s about survival. I’ve been struck by the healing that can happen between a couple — they think the issues are insurmountable, but once they work through the emotional underpinnings of the financial difficulties, the changes can be profound.
ATD: If you weren’t a practicing therapist, what do you think you’d be doing?
MG: I’d actually be a rafting guide. For a summer I was a rafting guide in California — I absolutely love being on a river, and exposing people to the wilderness. So yeah, that’s definitely what I’d be doing.
“Boy, it’s time for you to die!” proclaims an indigenous chief flanked by tribal elders dressed in their ritualistic garb, about to address an American boy whom they found lost in the jungle and raised (from the film The Emerald Forest, based upon a true story.) An unspoken tragedy of our times is that it is extremely unlikely that a teenager will hear the words of the chief, and then be mentored into manhood by elders. Instead, it is likely that the instruments of mass media will deliver a deathblow to the emotional maturity of many American males – “You don’t have to die as a boy. There’s no need for you to face the challenges of emotional maturation.”
A beer commercial depicts a male and a female, assumingly a couple watching television. The male answers his cell phone, with an expression of concern, accompanied by a simple “Okay”. He turns to the female explaining that his friend Bobby needs to vent. The female is immediately ready to sacrifice their time together, encouraging him to go support his friend. In the next scene he is toting a twelve pack of beer, high-fiving Bobby who is opening the door to his apartment, as both men exclaim, “Let’s vent!” Next, both men are seen drinking beer and watching a football game. The male’s phone rings and he answers the call, saying, “Yes Honey, Bobby is still venting”, with a look of triumph cast in Booby’s direction.
This commercial is loaded with invitations to males to remain boys. Teenage boys typically separate from their mothers by withholding information or lying about a wide range of topics varying from their sexuality to shenanigans they know would engender maternal disapproval. The commercial condones males lying to their female partners. It also advocates exploiting the female’s sensitivity to someone’s need for emotional support. Permission is granted to the male in the advertisement to feel no remorse regarding his deception. Instead, he is encouraged to celebrate the success of his caper.
We are not talking about males being innately damaged. The suggestion is that male maturation may be significantly sabotaged by a culture encouraging boys to remain boys. But why, why would a culture embark upon such a devastating enterprise?
We can only speculate. It may be easier to market products to the emotionally impaired, such that it becomes very difficult to access a depth and range of feeling. Such disability makes it quite challenging to inwardly draw a deep sense of self-esteem, self-trust, self-empowerment, and a capacity to develop close relationships with others. The alternative is to employ fabricated substitutes of genuine personal value, such as making material acquisitions, which become banners of significance.
Another possibility is that the media promotes immature males who are unable to envision meaningful, sustainable change to ensure that they significantly inhibit socio-economic evolution. Can it be that those who hold economic power understand that emotionally disabled males will remain impotent to transform and reform a socio-economic system?
Of course, some level of collusion from the opposite gender will be required in order to keep males in an adolescent holding pattern. In my counseling work, I have found that a vast majority of women settle for being needed in lieu of being loved. In the absence of solid emotional maturity, the males in their lives need them for domestic and emotional guidance. Within such a relationship, women serve in an advisory capacity regarding proper attire, how to celebrate holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, effective parenting, social plans, dietary needs, medical attention, and household expenditures.
Ultimately, the relationship is only guided by the female’s expectations and needs, and with a little mindfulness, she may become aware that she is attempting to have a significant relationship alone. And if it remains the only map she has of relating to males, she will likely continue to live with emptiness and loneliness.
My research regarding the cultural messages sent to males about being a man has revealed a startling and dangerous perspective *of just how distorted social standards of manhood may be getting. The following list represents characteristics of ‘Psychopaths,’ as described by Robert Hare in his book, Without Conscience:
1) Psychopaths suffer a kind of emotional poverty that limits the range and depth of their feeling.
2) Psychopaths have an ongoing and excessive need for excitement – they long to live in the fast lane or on the edge, where the action is.
3) Psychopaths are often witty and articulate. They can be amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with a quick and clever comeback, and can tell unlikely and convincing stories that cast them in a good light.
4) Psychopaths often come across as arrogant, shameless, and domineering.
5) Psychopaths seem unable to get into the skin or to walk in the shoes of others, except in a purely intellectual sense.
6) Psychopaths lack of remorse and guilt is associated with a remarkable ability to rationalize their behavior and to shrug off personal responsibility for actions that cause shock and disappointment to family, friends, associates, and others who have played by the rules.
7) Psychopaths are adept at being deceitful and manipulative.
8) Psychopaths do not weigh the pros and cons of their actions. They do not consider the possible injurious consequences their actions may have upon others.
It is not being suggested that all males are psychopaths. The danger is that the above characteristics have too much in common with alleged ‘real man’ traits endorsed by our culture. As long as the culture promotes these as a hallmark of manhood, we will continue to distort the souls and hearts of males. Our cultural story of adult men is in desperate need of expansion, allowing men to feel, imagine, dream, and love.
One of the most disturbing and saddest aspects of my clinical experience is when I receive someone in my office who feels deeply inadequate as a man because he does not muster enough exaggerated bravado to meet the cultural standards of manhood. And one of the most rewarding experiences is to witness that man eventually claim the right to feel all the vulnerability associated with an open heart, dare to make choices from that heart, and find the courage to have his own values define his manhood, resisting the cultural call to some caricature of manhood.
Is the Problem Sex/Porn Addiction or Sexual Dishonesty? – Galen Fous
Sex-Positive Therapist Galen Fous explores how our lack of sexual honesty is a broader cultural and personal issue with a bigger impact.
There is a long unending stream of national news reports about politicians, teachers, religious leaders, entertainers, sports figures and other celebrities, caught in some variation of sexual dishonesty. Pundits and experts often label the behaviors, and the fall from grace that follows, the result of sex addiction.
These highly publicized celebrity cases point to, but overlook a larger issue of rampant sexual dishonesty that is found at every level of the culture. These celebrity cases are just the visible tip of the iceberg of our collective sexual shadow, and the secretive ways we attempt to express our sexuality.
Imagine all the rest of the population that are indulging their sexuality in covert ways. The stats are astronomical!
Based on keyword searches for affairs, visits to hook-up sites like Craigslist ads and Ashley Madison themed websites, not to mention all the secret porning by men and women both, our level of sexual secrecy and dishonesty is off the charts. Pornhub.com a very popular adult pic and video portal reported about 1.7 million visitors per hour came to the site looking for porn last year. This is just one web site. In 2006, the approximate number of unique visitors to all adult websites worldwide was 420 million per month. Pornhub single-handedly brought in that many visitors in 2013 in about 10 days!
Many people exploring and opening to their authentic sexual desires are inclined to keep their sexual explorations secret due to tangible fears of being shamed, harshly judged or punished about their personally meaningful and normal sexuality. Many take risks, in some cases very high risks, to express their sexual desires in dangerous clandestine rendezvous’. When caught in their infidelity, the sad, ruinous, mythic drama – the fall from grace, gets played out over and over, individual by individual, celebrity and not.
Many of these people get labeled as sex/porn addicts or self-label as addicts after the fact, when they are discovered. I believe in many cases, the often vilifying, porn/sex addiction label, branded or grasped, misses a deeper dysfunction.
The issue is what I identify as Sexual Authenticity Disorder – an extreme and often life-long effort to conceal aspects of ones sexuality and the fear of revealing or having your authentic sexuality discovered, shamed, judged or punished by others. The primary symptoms of Sexual Authenticity Disorder are intense fear of discovery, sexual secrecy, dishonesty, and an attendant shame and guilt.
You won’t find Sexual Authenticity Disorder listed in the DSM-V manual, and this is unfortunate considering the pervasiveness of the problem, but neither will you find sex or porn addiction. Neither are currently recognized nor accepted as psychological disorders by the American Psychiatry Association, so my defining SAD outside APA sanction is not without precedent!
The reason people hide or are dishonest about their authentic sexual desires may fall within the sex or porn addiction model in some percentage of cases. If addiction is the model that makes sense to the one seeking support around their sexual expression, by all means, pursue therapy under the sex/porn-addiction model. But if the label does not seem to fit, even if you are a regular porn user or have a high sex drive, then consider that you may have not yet owned and honored what is sexually true for you. You have a right to be who you are sexually, and define your own norm in ways that are conscious, consensual and risk aware.
The sex/porn addiction model also falls far short of explaining the explosion of sexual activity awakening worldwide within a pervasively sex-negative cultural reality. It is clear to me, from the hundreds of men, women and couples I have worked with the last 14 years, and analysis of over 1800 people’s responses on my Discover Your Personal Erotic Myth Sex Survey, that these emerging sexual explorations are routinely conducted in clandestine, or secretive ways. My clients indicate this secrecy is due to fear of how partners, families, social, professional or spiritual communities may judge them, not because they are sexually addicted.
The narrow narrative about sexuality predominate among sex/porn addiction theorists, the scandal driven news media, and sex-negative fundamentalists of every stripe, brushes over the explosive, ecstatic depths of human sexuality emerging globally.
At the global scale the “normal” range of human sexual expression and desire has already shifted profoundly. Millions of people across the world have already crossed the threshold of previous cultural, moral and spiritual norms for acceptable sexual behavior. Millions more stand at the threshold, eagerly peering in. We are entering an era of sexual exploration and expression that is unprecedented in the history of civilization.
My concern is that the current psychological tools used to assess someone as a sex/porn addict, a hypersexual, or a sexual deviant, are inadequate and outdated. They do not allow for nor encourage this amazing range of emerging sexuality. Many assessed as having a sexual disorder may simply be men and women who have an alternative sexuality that is outside the range of those doing the assessment.
I am reminded of the poignant reply by sex researcher Alfred Kinsey when asked how someone can identify or diagnose a woman as a nymphomaniac. There was a similar over-the-top hysteria and handwringing about nymphomania in the 1950’s as there is now about hypersexuality, sex, and porn addiction. Kinsey framed it perfectly with his deadpanned quip, “A nymphomaniac is someone who has more sex than you do.”
In other words, Kinsey did not consider nymphomania a diagnosable psychological disorder. His implication was that normal sexuality should be considered as the personal sex-drive and style of the beholder.
The morally righteous, sex negative, inquisitional mentality that dominates the current cultural messaging around sex/porn addiction, is still focused on the control and repression of all but the narrowest range of sexual normalcy. For generations, the sex-negative messaging we have grown up with has created an internalized fear and shame that our sexual desire may be considered abnormal, sinful, sick or disgusting by the parent culture. There is a palpable fear that if revealed, our honest sexual expression may leave us outcasts from the ranks of decent citizens, and all the personal devastation that may bring with it.
These negative, judgmental, internal messages that many carry about their authentic sexual feelings, and the shame and fear of others judgment, has led to our cultural inability to be honest about our sexual desires. We have created a culture where sex is debased and pushed down below the surface. It is forbidden. It is unspeakable. We do not know how to talk with our partners about our sexual desires, to be honest about them, share, explore, or revel in them. We are supposed to aspire to be sexy on one hand of the cultural messaging and yet not look at others in a sexual way, or express our sexuality directly on the other.
The shadow of sexual dishonesty plays out just as relentlessly on our local and personal stages, as on the national. Partners cheating on their partners behind their back, secretly chasing after every perversity imaginable online or in real life, getting caught and having their lives thrown into tragedy, will be an ever increasing eventuality in the current sex-negative and dishonest cultural framework.
There is an implied sexual norm that we are judged by and expected to follow, that is setting an impossible standard in this era of emerging sexual expression. What normal is, is never defined. Normal is…you know…normal!
But there is a never-ending stream of opinion and even law about what is not normal. And if there is not a law there is a harsh fundamentalist social, religious or familial pressure, if not outright violence, to conform to this vague norm.
Any but the narrowest version of sexual authenticity can be and has at times been pathologized by institutional psychiatry and psychology and deemed a psychological disorder. This has led to profound injustices in real world battles in divorces, parenting rights, employment, housing discrimination, and many other areas of life. Witness, for example, the ongoing history of the LGBT community in their movements to fight for their legal rights in all regards.
Contemporary sexuality is tangled up in outdated, archaic, and irrelevant moral and religious doctrines designed for a cultural mindset equivalent to the Dark Ages. It is my opinion that humanity has reached a point in our evolution where our sexuality is busting loose from the ultimately flimsy bonds of fear- driven moralities about the flesh, and our more wild, instinctual dimensions of sexual behavior.
This fear about sex, and the fear about our partner or anyone else knowing the truth of our sexual desire on the one hand, and the astronomical rise in sexual interest and desire clearly emerging in the culture on the other, are on a collision course. We can’t be honest about our sexual desire, and we can’t stop our sexual desire from acting out. This is a recipe for psycho-dramatic mayhem at all levels of American culture.
It is clear the cycle of people getting busted for secretively and dishonestly acting out their sexuality is turning faster and faster. This is a great tragedy that is due in good part to married and partnered couples being unable to communicate honestly about their sexual desires. The covert sexual shadow can only be overcome by an honesty of communication that begins before partnering, ideally, and carries on throughout the relationship in a negotiated way that acknowledges and honors the authentic desires and boundaries of each partner.
The key to coming to terms with our sexuality is to learn how to express and experience our desires safely, honorably and consciously, in a way that is in integrity with the agreements we make with ourselves, and others, and that encompass our core values. We must also compassionately examine and resolve the unconscious but powerful sex-negative cultural messages, and real life traumas we’ve internalized about our sexuality and ourselves. This is why I believe aspiring to sexual authenticity is both an empowering and healing journey.
Moving the culture from where it is now, to a place where sexuality is a normalized part of our lives, openly talked about, learned about, embraced, and enjoyed is a monumental journey with no near term date of completion. But I am confident that it is the only path that can resolve the tremendous cost of our sexual dishonesty.